Understanding Mindset and Body Through Movement: The Story of Clare O'Donnell

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Montreal. I grew up playing sports, I am a curious person by nature, always willing to step out of my comfort zone to try something new. When I was about 8 years old I fell in love with basketball and it slowly started to become my life up until I was in CEGEP. Once I finished CEGEP I decided to stop playing basketball and move to Nova Scotia to do my Undergrad. This is when I really started to discover who I was without basketball and I finally felt free to be whoever I wanted to be without any restrictions. Since then I have found my love for travelling while working on board cruise ships for 5 years before returning back to land to complete my Masters in Kinesiology from the University of Toronto. 
Now I dedicate my time to helping people find ways to move their body in a way that feels good for them. My teaching is heavily based on human variation, recognizing there is no perfect way a yoga pose or movement should look. Encouraging my students to use the pose or to get into the body rather than using the body to get into the pose.
Clare O'Donnell, yoga teacher, doing yoga outdoors in Montreal

How did you first fall in love with yoga and what keeps you coming back?

I first fell in love with yoga after moving to Toronto to do my Masters. I was an anxious and stressed out student trying to find an outlet to help me deal with everything that comes along with being a student. I remember going to my first class and instantly falling in love with the way it not only made me feel during the class but also for hours after. It’s a feeling I can’t even really put into words, a feeling of being so present it is almost euphoric. That same feeling has not diminished and keeps me coming back years later.  

Clare does yoga outdoors in Montreal, she likes arm balancing poses

How do you use movement to understand your body on a deeper level?

Movement has always played a large role in my life. Growing up I played different sports that always kept me active but I never felt like I was truly connected to my body. In my experience when playing sports everything is determined by your level of performance both as an individual and as a team, which does not always allow you to pay attention and listen to your body. Now years later I am finally beginning to understand my body on a deeper level through yoga. Yoga has given me the opportunity to slow down and not focus so much on performance but the way each movement feels in my body on and off the mat. This is something that I really encourage in my class to do, not pay so much attention to how the pose looks but rather how it feels in the body. 

Yoga outdoors in Montreal with Clare O'Donnell

Talk to us about the mindset someone adopts in order to enjoy the process of developing their practice.

Through the process of developing a yoga practice you have to be open, open to learn,open to explore and most importantly open to receive. There are so many different paths you can take once you start a yoga journey and the more open you are the more you will be able to get out of the practice itself. Yoga isn’t just a movement practice, it is so much more. Everything being offered is done with intention so pay close attention to those details because they will totally change the experience.

Clare O'Donnell, yoga teacher for Grove Campus pay-what-you-can classes

What made you want to share your practice with others?

There was a moment when I started practicing regularly that I knew that it was no longer just a practice and I had to share it with others. I felt so embodied, like I finally arrived home in my body and the space around me. Which is a feeling that I knew I needed to share with others, focusing on providing them a space where everyone is welcome and everyone is seen and where I can hopefully create a space where they can feel at home in their body.


“I felt so embodied, like I finally arrived home in my body and the space around me.”


Clare O'Donnell, yoga teacher, meditating outdoors in Montreal

Talk to us about your transition to veganism?

I was vegetarian for a really long time before I became vegan. Initially going vegan was an opportunity for me to learn more about nutrition and cooking while improving my diet through whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables but now it is so much more than that. Being vegan is a really big part of who I am now and not just based on the food I choose to eat but also based on the way I want to treat the world around me. I’ve learnt a lot in the past few years by not being so caught up in the label of being vegan but just doing what’s right for myself and my body.

Follow Clare O'Donnell on Instagram to learn more.

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