It’s a Dream Come True - Hear about Brandee’s Journey

This summer, a brand new yoga studio, café and resort opened up in Gili Air. This magical little place called Kenza, has already turned into one of our favourite go-to spots for coffee and delicious food in the island of Gili Air. But what’s even more exciting is that soon their new yoga shala will open up, where Brandee Leigh Johnston will be in charge of hosting amazing yoga classes and island retreats. We are proud to announce that Brandee will also be one of the yoga teachers at Slow Food & Yoga Festival in October 2019. We asked Brandee to tell us a bit more about herself and her journey:
”I'm from British Columbia, Canada - born on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, and raised in 2 different towns; Victoria and Kamloops. I ended up moving to Bali one year ago in a spontaneous kind of way. I began my journey in Nicaragua, where I hosted a yoga retreat, and from there I went on a solo mission to the Amazonian jungles of Peru for 5 weeks, to diet master plants. From Peru I flew to Istanbul for 6 months to teach at Cihangir Yoga and assist one of my teachers - Chris Chavez.”
”At the end of my stay in Istanbul, my dear friend, Meghan Currie, came to teach a workshop out of Cihangir, and we spend the week together. I expressed I was feeling ready to shift from Turkey, but was not feeling the pull to go back to Canada. And after talking it out, I decided I would go to Bali for a bit of time to assist Meghans 200hr TT, and take some time to decide what my next step from there would be. It turned out that next step was staying put, and calling Bali my new home!”


An ideal location for yoga retreats and teacher trainings

Brandee was introduced to Gili Air through her friend and business partner, Larbi, who had the
idea to set up Kenza Village on Gili Air. Larbi invited Brandee to come see the project as it was developing, and to see if she could envision herself living there and setting up a yoga studio and retreat center as part of the Village. When Brandee arrived to the island and checked out the Kenza space, she immediately fell in love:
“I adore how incredibly peaceful and beautiful it is. I instantly felt very grounded and right at home there. I feel it's an ideal location for yoga retreats and teacher trainings, and a tranquil sanctuary to practice and teach out of. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to bring Kenza Yoga to life, and to call Gili Air my new home.”
At Kenza Yoga, different varieties of yoga will be offered. Everyone will be welcome, and each day will offer different types of classes. We asked Brandee to tell us a bit more about, what types of yoga they will offer at Kenza Yoga, and what values so the place will embody:
”We love people from all walks of life. Everyone is welcome at Kenza. We embody love, compassion, kindness, connection, gratitude and generosity. We hold a sacred and safe space for people to come and experience their truth, a sense of freedom, a place to cultivate balance, empowerment, self love and self awareness. Giving back is of high importance to us - giving back to the earth, to the local communities, and to youth and families living in poverty.”
Classes which will be offered at Kenza Yoga:
Power Yoga:
A merging of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. A dynamic and invigorating practice to ground, strengthen and stretch.
Alignment based Vinyasa yoga. A breath focussed slow-flow with creative sequencing to awaken and revitalize.
A grounding and well rounded Hatha yoga class encompassing the fundamental poses, without any flow.
Ying / Yang:
Begins with 30 minutes of active Hatha yoga postures, followed by 60 minutes of passive Yin stretching to nourish and soothe.
Goddess Flow:
A fusion of yoga, sensual movement and devotional dance, to unleash the divine feminine.
Candlelight Yin:
Deep relaxed stretching, in a peaceful and quiet space to connect and reflect.
Devi Tribe:
A beautiful Sunday morning gathering for women. A space to dance, meditate, journal and discover new tools for self love and growth.
Karma Yoga:
Every Saturday morning we offer a donation based yoga class. All offerings will be given to a local humanitarian or environmental cause.


It began with me not knowing why I was there

Even though it seems like Brandee’s yoga journey has been pure and pleasant, it was not always easy for Brandee. Her first experience with yoga was not planned, and her decision to try out yoga, came out of the blue. At the age of 21, after returning home to Vancouver after two years of working, travelling and partying her way through Asia, she randomly decided to step into her very first yoga class - 90 minutes of Bikram Hot yoga. Brandee was in pretty rough shape on this particular day, and this class challenged her to the max, on all levels. It took everything out of her not to walk out of class. Before that day, it had been a difficult journey for Brandee, but this particular class did something special to her:

“From my teens to my twenties, I struggled with addiction in the forms of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as bulimia. I was a heavy binger for many years. That day, I decided to pick myself up out of what felt like rock bottom, and walked into the yoga studio, not having any idea what to expect. I had just recently experienced withdrawal from the uppers and downers I was addicted to. I felt lost and lonely and incredibly sad, desperately trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and how I could have possibly messed my life up as badly as I had. I was filled with shame and embarrassment and struggled with looking at myself in the mirror. Self love was a foreign concept to me.”
”That day, in that class, I quite literally wanted to die. All 90 minutes of it felt like torture. I thought about running out of there almost every minute that went by. But I didn't. Somehow I found some resilience and a stronger pull from within that urged me to stay. To stay and be with it. So I did.”
”I got home from yoga and crawled into bed and slept for 24 hours. When I woke up the next day, I went back to yoga. And again the day after that, and so on. This is how my yoga journey began. It began with me not knowing why I was there. I had no intentions of becoming stronger or more flexible or more loving. I had no intentions at all. At that time, I wasn't aware of the transformational effects of the practice. I just kept going, because it felt like a safe place for me to be.”
”It eventually became easier. I became stronger and more graceful in my movement and in how I carried myself. I saw positive qualities in myself I had never seen before. I was blown away that I could sustain class and hold challenges postures with ease. This brought me a sense of joy, connection, and feeling of belonging. I was delighted that others recognized my strengths and gave me praise. My confidence slowly began to grow. And so did I. I began to grow into a more compassionate, aware and inspired woman. My ambition and love for myself and the world around me, began to flourish.


Aside from yoga, my passion is to help other people

Once Brandee made it this far, no one could stop her yoga journey. After practicing steadily for about 4 years, her teacher Steve, strongly encouraged her to go to her first Teacher Training with his teacher in Hawaii, Baron Baptiste. Brandee was not feeling ready.. not at all. Mainly, she went because she adored her teacher, and she trusted him.
”Reflecting back now, I can see that he saw my potential way before I could ever see it in myself, and I'm so grateful he gave me such a strong push to move in a direction that would change my life in such a positive way. After my first teacher training in 2007 with Baron, I continued to indulge in the study of yoga with some of my most beloved teachers.”
”Completing 200hrs with Baron, a 200hr TT with Ana Forrest, 250hr TT with Chris Chavez, 300hr Advanced TT with Christine Price Clarke. And countless workshops with some of my faves - Patrick Creelman, Stephen Thomas, Janet Stone, Sianna Sherman, Darren Rhodes, to name a few. I carried on to assist Chris with his TT and advanced workshops while in Istanbul, and most recently assisted Meghan Currie's TT in Bali.”
”And here I am now on Gili Air about to open a beautiful yoga centre. It's a dream come true. With deep gratitude, I honour all of my life experiences. I feel so blessed that I'm now in a position where I can help facilitate others to reach a place of truth, freedom and love. Aside from yoga, I have a huge passion for helping women recover from disordered eating, and a huge passion for helping and empowering youth, and people living in impoverished conditions.”


Embrace the uncomfortable moments

Brandee is teaching and sharing her passion at Slow Food & Yoga Festival, in October 2019. She has been to Gili Air twice, and will be moving there at the start of October to stay at least one year. What she absolutely loves about the island is that there are no motorized vehicles. Brandee loves the peace and quiet and feels very grounded being there. She loves the swimmable, crystal clear water and the gorgeous beaches. One of her favourite things to do is go for a jog around the whole island at sunrise. It’s pure magic!
“The people are very kind, they're welcoming and generous. It's also amazing to have a variety of wonderful yoga studios, cafes and restaurants to choose from.”
We are very excited to welcome both beginners and advanced yogis at Slow Food & Yoga Festival in Gili Air. We asked Brandee what advice she would give someone who is just starting our on their yoga journey:
”My advice would be to simply stay as open as possible. Explore many styles and teachers until you discover what resonates. And then stay steady and enjoy the practice. Embrace the uncomfortable moments and practice deep listening. Slow down enough to feel every little moment. Stay curious, and be easy on yourself.”


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