What do women’s economic development and canoeing have to do with yoga? Everything, Just ask yoga teacher, Martha Whitney.

Years ago Martha was instrumental in developing Burlington’s Women’s Small Business Development Program. She was also the engine behind Step-Up for Women, a trades training program that empowered women to earn livable wages by taking on trades jobs traditionally held by men. The thing that she loved most about this work was watching women in transition open up to who they really are. As in yoga, women in this program learned to be respectful and kind to themselves.

For the last 30 summers, Martha has taken extended canoe trips in Northern Quebec. “Yoga helps me out there. It certainly helps my body prepare for the exertion of the trip, but it also helps my mind be ready for the unknown as I meet my edge skill-wise. Yoga helps me know how to be with that fear.”

Martha canoes 600 miles northwest of Sept-Isle. It was not that long ago that Sept-Isle was called The End of the Road – Route 138, the main highway in that part of Quebec ended at Sept-Isle. Here, the environment tests your mettle and demands that you rely on inner resources. Yoga can do this, too. It demands that we show up as ourselves.

It is fitting that Martha will be leading a yoga workshop this September at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro: Yoga and Nature Retreat: Connecting with your inner and outer landscape. I asked her about it. “I want to do Common Ground because being out in nature is where I most connect with myself. Beyond asana, the outdoors wakes us up. We are not just visitors to nature, but part of it.”

A few days after our interview, Martha sent me this note: As I thought about our conversation I realized that what I receive from yoga and hope to support in others is the experience of genuine and satisfying connection with ourselves, each other and the natural world. For me, this is belonging. What more could I ask for?