Meet Kanami Anderson, Founder of Powder Yoga
Kanami's journey from practitioner to instructor and the creation of Powder Yoga.
Kanami Anderson has lived an amazingly colourful life, one which matches her calm and warm nature! She has lived much of her life overseas and has been on the move more than most people could even imagine. With all of her amazing travels and adventures, yoga has always been an important part of her life, helping her to "keep grounded, keep focused, and keep connected with herself and to what is important."
While always on her radar, it wasn't until the winter of 2010/11 that awesome stories of Niseko powder snow finally brought Kanami here to Niseko. It didn't take long for her presence to be felt in the Hirafu village as she sought to try and satisfy the demand of the budding yoga and wellness community in the area. It has been a tough number of years, but her hard work and determination have paid off enormously as Powder Yoga has become the largest and most well-known choice for locals and travelers alike during the winter season.
We were able to sit down with her to get the inside scoop on who she is, what drives her, and what helped her to power through while Powder Yoga was coming into its own.
Experience Niseko: Could you tell us a little bit about your journey with yoga? What initially drew you to the practice and where has your journey taken you so far?
Kanami: I was pretty lucky to start yoga really young. I came across it straight out of high school, at the age of 18, while backpacking and traveling around Thailand. I had always played sports growing up and I was initially drawn to the challenging power poses of yoga. Right after returning from Thailand, I found a great teacher in Vancouver and she really got me into it. I liked it so much that I made it a consistent thing in my life.
I definitely loved the physical challenge of the practice, but I kind of brushed off the mental and spiritual aspects until after my father passed away when I was 23. I had a really difficult time dealing with his passing since we were very close and I kind of closed myself off to family and friends at a time that I really should have been opening up about what I was going through. Instead, I turned to yoga and that really helped me get through the tough times. The meditation, being in touch with yourself, committing to a consistent practice, breathing through challenge, these things which I had initially viewed as unimportant suddenly became the most important things in my life and practice.
EN: It sounds like your father's passing had a pretty large impact on both you and your practice. Do you have a personal philosophy that you apply to your practice and how has it evolved over the years?
Kanami: During that time in my life, my philosophy was to just get on my mat no matter what; even if I didn't have the motivation, even if all I wanted to do was cry, even if everything else in my life didn't make sense–all that mattered was getting on my mat. I traveled a lot at that time in my life–actually, I still do! (laughs)–since I worked seasonal jobs, I was moving around all the time and yoga was my one constant.
I became a whitewater rafting guide when I was 21 and did that for 10 years working in Canada, Ecuador, Colombia, Australia, Uganda, and Japan. At the end of each season, work was over so I had to move on to the next destination, the next job, the next season. Being so transient was a lot of fun, but I was also all over the place. Yoga kept me grounded, kept me focused, kept me connected to myself and to what was important.
EN: Sounds like you have gotten the chance to wear many different hats along the years! When was it during this journey that your interest shifted from simply practicing yoga to a desire to teach yoga?
Kanami: Through outdoor guiding–I did a bit of kayak and snowmobile guiding along the way as well–I figured out that I really loved teaching people how to do something new, fun, and challenging. I took a lot of city-people into the outdoors, which has its challenges. I loved making them feel comfortable, teaching them how to paddle, stay calm in the rapids, and to show them there is so much more in the world than just our cities.
As my yoga practice deepened over the years and as I started to enjoy whitewater raft guiding less and less, I started to make the transition. I did my first yoga teacher training six years ago with a teacher from Whistler that I loved–Julia McCabe. I had known long before that time that I had wanted to teach yoga, but I was just waiting for the right teacher and the right time.
EN: As you were making your transition into being a full-time yoga instructor, did you continue to move around as you had in the past? When along your journey did you first come to Niseko and what was it that brought you here?
Kanami: It takes many years as a yoga teacher to build up enough experience to easily teach at a studio. During my transition, I had to do a bit of everything for a few years. I did get super lucky along the way, though, and that might have sped the process up a bit. Shortly after finishing my teacher training, I came to Niseko for the first time. I had started to tire of rafting and was slowly getting more and more into winter sports; while I had been snowboarding on and off my whole life, I wanted to be able to focus more attention to it. Having heard so much about Niseko from my Japanese friends while rafting in Minakami and Shikoku, I thought it was time I finally go and check it out.
When I first arrived in Niseko, I noticed that no one was teaching any yoga classes so there were no studios to apply to as a teacher. I just had to figure it out myself. I found a space in the basement of the J-Sekka building and started teaching classes. I was really nervous at the start, having had little experience running a studio on my own, but I went for it anyways. It's funny because I had had this thought in the back of my mind before I first came to Niseko that one day I would love to open a studio there, but I never dreamed of actually doing it!
EN: Could you tell us a bit more about your first few seasons as a yoga teacher here in Hirafu? How did this lead to Powder Yoga becoming what it is today?
Kanami: That first season, the winter of 2010/11, it was just me in the basement of J-Sekka. The season went well enough that during my second season I started working with a friend, Marika, and we did classes together. Marika and I both had full-time jobs at the time and running the yoga classes on top of this totally exhausted us. I can't count the number of times we must have said, "if only we could just teach yoga for a living!" All this time, I just kept picking up random jobs, thinking it was the only way to pay the bills in the winter.
In 2012/13, I hit a bit of a rough patch. I had been doing the same thing for 10 years, travelling and living the seasonal lifestyle, and I wasn't sure if I liked it anymore. I was uninspired and feeling very down; I wanted to make a change in my life, but didn't know what to change. Marika had stepped back from teaching, as she was starting a family and I was only able to put together a weekly class at Gyu Bar. During that not so awesome time, I had to face myself and really ask myself some hard questions. "What do I want to do with my life? What if there were no boundaries and I just went for it? What would 'it' be?" The answer I came to was none other than yoga!
At that time, I wanted so badly to start a yoga and wellness community in Niseko, but I didn't really know how to do it. As it happened, Julia McCabe, whom I had done my first level teacher training with had just released that she was doing a Level 2 Yoga Teacher training that year. On top of this, she was offering a scholarship program for it called "The Passion Project" and the recipient would receive a full ride to her $4000 one-month training program.
The project required that you pick something you are passionate about and create a one-year business plan. It was at this time that I created and wrote my first official business plan for Powder Yoga. The plan, Powder Yoga, was my way of making yoga into a full-time job for myself. By the time she had picked me as the recipient, I had already talked myself out of it, telling myself it wouldn't work and that I didn't have enough money to see it through. Then I got the call from her, and I decided then and there that I had no choice but to step it up and make it happen!
EN: How did the first season of Powder Yoga go and how has it developed over the years?
Kanami: The first season, the winter of 2013/14, was a bit tougher than I had anticipated. In the end, I did have to pick up some other jobs to make it happen, but I was able to offer 1-2 daily classes which was a big step up from what I had been able to do prior to that point. That season Powder Yoga moved into the old Yotei building that was next to Chalet Ivey (no longer standing). In 2014/15, Powder Yoga was housed in the tiny restaurant extension of Chalet Ivey. With a maximum of 14 students per class, we were up to two daily classes as well as a number of workshops over the season. This past winter, we were in the fifth floor conference room of the Hirafu 188 building and it was our biggest and busiest season yet.
EN: Powder Yoga really has transformed a lot over the past few years! This year, Powder Yoga is set to grow even bigger than last year. Could you tell us a little bit about some of the changes and additions to this coming winter's line up?
Kanami: This year we have a new studio! I am renting the yoga studio in AYA Niseko and it is what I've been dreaming about from the very first Powder Yoga class. Students can expect a spacious room, even bigger than the Hirafu 188 room. As AYA Niseko is located at the base of the Family Lift, you'll be able to have ski-in and ski-out yoga classes! There will also be change rooms, lockers, private bathrooms, surround-sound, and a lot of privacy.
We are going to boost up classes even more, to three classes daily, with a new early pre-mountain class running from 7:30 am to 8:20 am–so you can warm up with yoga before you catch the first lift! Locals will be able to expect the season's pass once again, and we will be adding even more discounts for season's passers that we will release closer to winter. We will have special events running each month this winter, too, so it would be good to keep an eye out for news as it comes!
EN: With all of these new classes and programs being added how many instructors are you planning to have over this coming winter?
Kanami: I am planning on having six to seven teachers this winter, all with very different styles and backgrounds. We are also preparing to have a large number of guest teachers coming through, teaching a class or two or assisting with various workshops. I am trying to ensure that Powder Yoga is a great studio where students can experience all kinds of yoga styles, classes, and teachers.
EN: What would you say were some of the biggest challenges you faced when setting up and maintaining your Niseko-based business?
Kanami: I think the biggest challenge has been finding space. Niseko is still such a new ski town, in its adolescent years. Most buildings were never designed to have a studio space for something like yoga. In the past, as you've seen from how much we have moved around, I really just taught classes anywhere I could. I had to look really hard and to look everywhere! It was and still is a challenge. I wish I could show you photos of some of the rooms I have held classes in. Quite funny, now in retrospect.
EN: Aside from the scholarship from Julia McCabe, what was the biggest surprise that you have encountered along the way with Powder Yoga?
Kanami: I think the biggest surprise was the amazing response and turn-out to the classes. I knew people were interested in yoga, but the amount of students who came, and came consistently, really blew me away. Even a lot of seasonal workers, who don't typically have a lot of cash to throw around, would sign up with a season's pass and come almost everyday! Really inspirational to see people doing that even when they are so busy.
EN: Have you ever thought about expanding into the summer months and turning Powder Yoga into a year-round operation?
Kanami: Yes, I would love to expand to a year-round studio, but I am still waiting for the summer months to become a bit busier so that I know that they can support it. If a summertime mountain bike park ends up being passed to be built in Hirafu, I think that would be the push to draw enough travelers interested in yoga to keep us open for summer as well.
EN: Last, to end on a fun note, what is your favourite Niseko activity and do you have any recommendations to go along with it for our readers?
Kanami: My favourite thing to do in Niseko by far is snowboarding! My favourite run is Mizuno no Sawa and I'd recommend it to anyone seeking some good powder. I live in Higashiyama during the winter months, so it is really amazing to be able to wake up, go for three or four laps of Mizuno and then begin work at 10:30 am. The terrain is so diverse there, you can almost always find a powder stash through the amazing tree runs!
For more information on Kanami and Powder Yoga, visit powderyoga.com.