vancouver aquarium

Yoga with Belugas in Celebration of World Oceans Day

(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

[2016 UPDATE: Wednesday, June 8 is World Oceans Day! Visit for worldwide events and information, and for activities presented by the Vancouver Aquarium]

I love the ocean. As a little girl growing up on the Alberta prairies, I dreamed of being a marine biologist. Many magical childhood experiences informed that desire, including family vacations to Galiano Island where my parents entertained my brother and I during countless hours of ocean discovery.

With net and bucket in hand, we’d head down to the shore at low tide and see what weird and wonderful creatures we could find. Then we’d hop in the row boat, in search of a tangerine-orange ling cod (I stand corrected, my dad says they were blue) or to check on the crab trap, with my father, the expert fisherman and outdoor educator, taking advantage of every teachable moment.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m participating in another form of ocean discovery, with ocean-loving yogi, surfer, and blissologist Eoin Finn.

Yoga with Belugas

(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Finn is leading a yoga class in the underwater beluga whale viewing area at the Vancouver Aquarium to kick off World Oceans Day – and taking advantage of every teachable moment.

World Oceans Day is an annual global celebration with over 600 events in 55 countries held this year.

The Vancouver Aquarium celebrated the day by organizing a series of events which included co-hosting the yoga class with SeaChoice, and co-hosting a dinner at YEW restaurant + bar in the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver marking the venue’s launch as a new Ocean Wise partner.

Thea Gow-Jarrett, in blue tank, leads a lively dance session. (Image: Flickr | eoinfinnyoga + blissology)

For the Yoga with Belugas event, over 75 eager participants packed the underwater viewing area, the floor tiled with a rainbow of yoga mats, and we began with a dancing warm-up led by Thea Gow-Jarrett, founder of Just For Fun Dance Party.

We grooved, bopped and shimmied to Big Blue Wave by Hey Ocean!, which has since become one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s impossible to listen to it and not be happy.

We Are Deeply Connected to the Ocean

Eoin Finn, in blue wig, leads an evolutionary-inspired yoga class. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Next, Finn led a yoga class where our movements symbolically evolved from that of single-celled organisms to crustaceans to mammals, and he pointed out the universal connections of all beings and the staggering importance of the oceans.

“I have a longing to merge the teachings of yoga with the ecological movement,” says Finn. “I wanted to create a yoga class with a theme that we have animals, and especially ocean animals, in our DNA. Where do we end and where does the ocean really begin? Every drop of sweat and every tear comes and goes from it. Our cells are made largely of water.”

And water is only one of the ways we need the oceans. According to National Geographic, about 70 percent of the world's oxygen is produced in the ocean, much of it by phytoplankton – single-celled organisms that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.

“The ocean is a shrine of interconnection, worship there often,” says Finn. “Feel that everything is connected. The key thing is to feel this and not just think it. This comes by accessing the still place inside of us daily.”

We Protect What We Revere

(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

“There is a wisdom centre in all of us that takes the focus off us and our own selfish desires and connects us more to other people, the land, the ocean, and all the creatures that inhabit them," says Finn. "It's the essence of the sustainability movement that isn't talked about too much.”

“Cultivate a sense of awe for the ocean. If we can develop awe for the ocean, we will make choices to protect it. Ultimately, we protect what we revere.”

Yoga was a powerful conduit for the message of connection to our oceans, and Finn’s sentiments agree with David Suzuki’s. In fact, Finn shared a few quotes from Suzuki's book, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature, which inspired me to read it – it was excellent.

In an article for the David Suzuki Foundation announcing the launch of their 30×30 Challenge, Suzuki says, “with more than 80 per cent of Canadians now living in urban settings, many of us lack a meaningful, regular connection with the natural environment that sustains us. Getting in touch with the outdoors has another great benefit: those who know and love nature work harder to protect it.”

What Can You Do?

SeaChoice national manager Lana Gunnlaugson, left, and Blissology founder Eoin Finn. (Image: Flickr | eoinfinnyoga + blissology)

So, what can you do to protect our oceans? The Vancouver Aquarium’s president, John Nightingale, says that overfishing is currently the number one issue for the world’s oceans.

“One of the key messages we hope guests took away is that Canadians can be part of the solution by choosing their seafood responsibly,” says SeaChoice national manager Lana Gunnlaugson, who worked with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and Finn to create the Yoga with Belugas event.

“By creating a demand for sustainable seafood from coast to coast, together we can ensure that fish are caught or farmed in ways that don’t harm the ocean,” she says.

Finn adds, “Be responsible for what goes on your fork and learn what fish are sustainable and which ones aren't.”

If you missed this year’s event, don’t despair – when I asked Finn if there will be Yoga with Belugas for the World Oceans Day celebration in 2013 he said, “Of course! The vibe has been created and who can stop it now?”