An international yoga centre emerges on Gabriola

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, January 24 2017

The Vijnana Yoga Centre is an international school for the art of yoga, complete with weekly classes, workshops and retreats for every level of experience and interest. People are coming to this centre from all over the world and from across Canada, bringing international attention to a place that offers radical life changes for people who want to connect with their inner potential. 

The centre, which is a collection of two small buildings, including a yurt with a wood stove and an 800 square foot cottage called the “wee house” by students, along with gardens and solar panels, is completely off the grid so there is no hum of electricity. Her children, two 17-year-old twins, call it Yurt Land - not Disneyland - Yurt Land. 

The yurt, where all the training and classes happen, overlooks a serene meadow. This is Flo Dedame’s vision and her purpose. On the wall hangs an enlarged photograph of a child kissing the head of an elephant. She loves the beauty, the simplicity, of this image, and in many ways it reflects her own nature that radiates a calm, ageless wonder.

“All we do is offer a practice that leads to insights into the mystery called yoga,” says Dedame. “The centre had actually been my first building. It was a barn that burnt down in 2007. There was a humungous drawing of people in the community that raised $7,000 in one day toward the new studio. There was nothing left. This place, born of loss and a chaotic period in my life, came because of positive energy around teaching,” says Dedame.

“The energy of pain and sorrow built this. I invested every cent I had and hoped for the best. In 2009 I opened the yurt and there was literally a flood of up to 80 people coming a week. I presented something, a place of serenity close to nature, for people who wanted simplicity in exploring their path of yoga.”

Dedame herself chose to study Vijnana yoga because of the strong contingent of women teachers she found in the practice. She became certified as a teacher in 2008 in Jerusalem, Israel. The petite beauty says she has done her yoga practice for four and a half hours a day, for the last twenty years of her life. She says her father was a “yogi in a cupboard,” meaning she watched him do yoga, but he never turned it into a profession. Dedame says that he was born in Lebanon and is now retired in France. 

Dedame herself, originally from France, came to Gabriola in 1994. “I was a French rock star, a recording artist there for many years.” Dedame says her father actually suggested to her while she was living in Australia, that she should visit Vancouver. She liked the name “Gabriola” because she thought it sounded Latin. Half an hour of being on the island she found the property that has now become the Vijnana Yoga Centre. Her parents couldn’t believe it when she walked away from her former life to pursue yoga but Dedame says when she started devoting herself to the mystery of yoga, the music went silent. She says she still has a recording studio but now she puts poems to music to use with her teachings. 

“It’s synchronicity because as the album was released it allowed me to buy the property. The irony of life is that when I look back, everything was constructed with inspiration and there had been a bigger plan that at the time I was unaware of.”

With her teachings, Dedame travels every year. “I have taught the last five years in Finland, Germany, Netherlands and France. I’m leaving in a month for Helsinki [Finland] and Munich for two weeks then I will have a month in France. In Helsinki, I brought my teachings there and they’re being taught at a centre for abused women.” 

Dedame says international students come to the centre to study from the United States, the Netherlands, and Germany. Last summer, two women came from France and this year she is expecting a Brazilian person to come. “In 2018, we might see an international retreat for Europeans. 

“They are coming one by one and now in bigger groups,” says Dedame.

“Next week, 17 people will be here to take part in an immersion retreat from Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Vancouver and up north.” People who come on retreats take their meals at the main house. Others come and stay in the wee house, chopping their own wood and carrying it inside. For those people, it’s a one-on-one experience with Dedame. Dedame believes in the idea of taking care of the land and keeping her teachings pure. “The land holds an aliveness. There is utter beauty on this island.”

Dedame says people come and give donations and she is in the process of building a fund of scholarships and working with teens and yoga. “With my own children we have endless conversations about life and the future.” She offers a young people’s yoga apprenticeship as well. She says that she has students that she started teaching in their teens, and they are now teachers themselves.

In July, 2016, the first cycle of students, those who had completed a three-year, in-depth study, were awarded an 800 hour international certificate for teaching Vijnana Yoga. Dedame speaks glowingly of the 10 graduates who ranged in age from 27 to 68 years old. 

“I hosted 50 Vijnanis for five days; some stayed at Pages [Resort and Marina] and people came and stayed and we tried to organize what the island had to offer.” 

Dedame also has another group of second-year students continuing the Immersion Teacher Training program. 

When asked what Dedame hopes for the future she had this to say: “I’ve given up hopes. I’m content to be where I am right now. I’ve realized that too much security about the future breeds insecurities.”

“Years from now, I will come and retire in the woods. The world is a wonderful place to grow and my later years will be a more reflective time. Yoga means the bringing together of the divine and the human and we are all deliciously human.” 

Dedame says all are enlightened. 

“We are just remembering a state of coherence that existed [in us] before conflict.”

To see more of Dedame and her yoga centre, go to You Tube to see a short film by Jules Molloy called Vijnana Yoga with Flo.