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Bobbi Paidel and the Importance of Practice

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Bobbi Paidel is a Hatha Yogi & Sadhak who spends most of her days traveling or living in northern India studying meditation & the wisdom of the vedas. Bobbi grew up on a second generation cattle ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, had a promising career in the global fashion industry and was continually struggling with addiction & mental health issues. That all changed when Bobbi met her Guru in India, devoted her life to yoga, sadhana & sobriety, became a compassionate, animal loving vegan, and left her fashion career to found a charity for children living HIV+ in India. She accredits her transformation to the way of ahimsa as demonstrated by her Guru and the power behind a daily, personal practice.

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Alex: Hi friend this is Alex McRobbs founder of the Mindful Life Practice and you're listening to the Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world to the Middle East at age 23 and I never went back. I got sober in 2019 and I now live full-time in Bali, Indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking, start yoga and change their lives through my online sober girls yoga Community. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling, let me show you how.


Alex: All right, hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of sober yoga girl. I am really excited to be sitting here with Bobbi pedell and Bobbi is a yogi. She is also sober. She has just passed her four-year sober anniversary and also is from Canada but lives in international life overseas. And I'm really excited to hear more about your journey and your story and how you got to this point in your journey so hey Bobbi thanks for being here.

Bobbi: Thank you so much Alex. I am super excited to be here and just love connecting in this kind of yoga sober high vibe space. So thanks for having me.

Alex: Thanks for coming on the show. It's awesome to have you and so you are currently in Calgary you said?

Bobbi: Yeah, my parents live on a Cattle Ranch like a couple hours outside of Calgary. So I've just come back to the ranch and sort of re-sussing out the Canadian life after quite a while away. So it's nice to be back but like I know we're similar in that way. It's good to bounce back but then it's always priority to get back out on the adventure.

Alex: Yeah, oh that's so amazing and is that where you grew up? Did you grow up on um the Cattle Ranch?

Bobbi: Yeah, so actually this was my grandparents ranch so my mom grew up on this ranch and then when my grandparents passed on my parents moved back to the ranch. So it's definitely been in our family for a long time and it's something that I never appreciated as a young person but now as an older person and now it's a more simple person in a sense than someone that seeks more nature and peaceful environment. I'm so thankful to have this little landing pad like near the rocky mountains just to Really check out when I come back because sometimes traveling or being in India or being abroad it's so hectic and then it's such a blessing to have this space in Canada that's also reflective of that peaceful life that I aspire to so I love it it's great yeah.

Alex: Oh that's amazing, that sounds like it's very different from uh I grew up in the city of Toronto. So when I come back here it's like very concrete and busy and fun. It's really fun to be back here but it's definitely not like a mountain Cattle Ranch.

Bobbi: Oh yeah, I totally know the Toronto vibe. Actually like right when I went sober, I moved back to Toronto. Like I had lived there maybe five years before and I had gone sober I had really started like jumping into the yogic lifestyle and I decided to move back to Toronto and I was like oh my God what have I done the concrete jungle it was so intense when you start to live a more subtle life and your your energy becomes more refined to live in a city like toronto excuse me it's really intense.

Alex: Yeah, intense is a good word for it yeah. So I'm curious to learn more about your journey. So your journey leading up to um the point you got sober like what was your childhood your life like?

Bobbi: yes, so I mean I had a pretty like average Canadian upbringing in the sense of like you know working class family. I grew up in a small town um but I always had a sense of like real dissatisfaction. My biological dad passed away when I was really little and I struggled growing up with just feelings of unworthiness and feelings of you know trauma that never got dealt with as I got older and as a preteen I developed really early. I started depending on attention from boys, relationships I started experimenting with smoking and drinking like being from a small rural area drinking is so normalized. Like by the time I was 15 16 I was going to parties with like 20 year olds and just getting so drunk and passing out and that behavior just continued going on into college and university and it led into drugs and just more and more numbing and numbing and naming and I was so discontented. I was working as a wardrobe stylist in Toronto for a long time and like I was like building my this identification of like who I thought I wanted to be like so far from like the small town that I grew up and I wanted to be this big city girl. This fashion girl but like inside I was so unhappy and so dependent on alcohol and drugs and sex and anything that would make me feel that sense of like wholeness and I ended up moving to Australia in 2011 and I thought oh this this is gonna make everything better like just you know leaving everything behind like so unhappy so dissatisfied but of course I got to Australia and my problems came along with me. And my dependency on substances and behaviors became so much more intensified because I was way out of my comfort zone and I was like struggling with my mental health and it was just like snowballing. It felt like and I knew like something had to change. So I actually started going to the Buddhist Center in Sydney and I was like I need to learn how to meditate. Like this is going to help me. I was really like grabbing at any straw like you know I was working in bars and my whole life since I was 16. I worked in restaurants and I worked in bars always working in bars and just in that environment and so I started learning how to meditate or trying to. I was like it wasn't really going very well because you know when you have substances in your system it's so hard to like be able to sit with yourself. It's too much agitation so in and I guess that would have been in 2014. Then a friend of mine was living in India and she, I was like expressing to her like oh my god I'm so unhappy like I just I need to like be in an airport where I don't speak the language and I just wanted to like remove everything and just kind of start over. And she's like why don't you come to India? I was like oh my god no like I am not going to go to India. I was like such a city girl at this point I had like such a fear of going to a place like India. But I was also so desperate and I had been practicing yoga for like probably seven or eight years. I studied dance in university so it just kind of was like more of a physical thing. I did love yoga but I didn't have a desire to go to india. I didn't know what an ashram was I didn't know any of that stuff. But I was like you know what I gotta go. I just gotta switch things up. So I went to India like way northern India like so far off the track and um I met my friend there and she's like well actually I spend most of my time here in an ashram. I have a teacher we're studying meditation, we're studying yoga, we're studying non-dualistic philosophy like ancient Indian wisdom and I just got like totally turned on to what was being taught and this like call of like oh my god I'm so happy here. When I don't have any distractions around me there is no temptation for alcohol there is no party lifestyle. It's like you surround yourself with this kind of environment and then I just saw myself flourish and even my mom like right away when I was there she was like you're like a different person like she could just see it on over like a video call. So I started going to and from India like every year. I would spend like three months six months there just to be in the ashram and I would be totally immersed in the yogic lifestyle and then I would go back to Toronto or go back to Calgary and eventually I would you know be like oh I'm not gonna drink I'm not gonna party and then you know you go for a glass of wine and it's like a bottle and then you know it's like throwing up you know. It's just like was such extreme that like and then it made me want to go to India even more. I became so reliant like I can only be happy when I'm in India because I was so unable to resist all the pain and the habits that I had cultivated in the west. And then finally in 2018 my best friend and I going back we in 2014 we started a non-for-profit raising money for kids with HIV in India and we raised the majority of this money through selling jewelry that we designed in rajasthan so we were traveling around in the summers with wanderlust the yoga festival and we were in this like.

Alex: Amazing.

Bobbi: Oh yeah, it was so fun we were in this 1980 camper van like cruising through the States having the best time ever selling the jewelry raising money for the kids. But like we were partying so hard and I was like like things were not aligning because in one way my life was like starting to shift into this really beautiful flourishing environment where I felt like so true to who I was meant to be. But in this other way, I was just still had so much darkness and shame and embarrassment with the drinking, the partying all of that. And then we were in Chicago I had like this night out that was like not planned and I woke up in the morning it was just like enough is enough, like I'm 34 years old and I'm still like waking up like this a day after and and and I thought it was so interesting after so many people be like oh you quit drinking you weren't that bad you weren't that bad and I'm like I was in misery. And like just so much shame and embarrassment and like regret and I like it just something snapped inside of me. I was like I'm not gonna live like this and I was like I'll just you know I took support I took resources but I just something switched inside of me and I haven't had a drink since and it was so hard to transition from that person that was the party girl life of the party to then like having less friends and not going out on the weekends and like re-identifying in that way. But like it's so so worth it because now the things that I was working towards that I saw were possible for me are now. Like coming to fruition which they wouldn't be coming to fruition if I was still drinking. If I was still partying doing drugs and having those dependencies on things that are not elevating my consciousness so that's the long story short you know many sub stories in there but.

Alex: That's so incredible.

Bobbi: Yeah.

Alex: And so what was, if you had to say it like what would be the big thing that shifted for you?

Bobbi: I would say like be this that shifted to go sober that's shifted since going sober?

Alex: Well, I mean both you could save the shift to go sober and then what's shifted since yeah two-part question

Bobbi: Yeah, I think it's like you know eventually I like I love the metaphor of the butterfly. Like it's so cliche but so true like you feel so compressed like like at some point like something dramatic almost has to shift. And I think from what I've seen like so many people that struggle with addiction um are inherently spiritual. Because like what is a yogi it's a seeker there's a word in sanskrit called Jigyasu it means the one who seeks freedom the one who questions and so many spiritual people we have this innate questioning. We have this desire for oneness for unity for yoge but there's no outlet. There's no place to put that dissatisfaction in the world so we grab the lowest hanging fruit right? Usually from a young age which it's usually alcohol or drugs or behavioral dependencies. So yeah, I just like that desire inside of me to be truly free and not free. Because I spent most of my adult life trying to get free on the relative field like moving cities, moving countries, moving jobs, moving relationships. Like I gotta get free I gotta get free and at some point. I was really I realized nothing external is gonna get me free. Getting high and drunk isn't gonna get me free. It's relative experiential freedom but what is true freedom that's like the inner work and and I knew I couldn't do that work well. Like having the fog of substances inside of me or even like the behavioral fog of dependency on people relationships. So yeah, it was like that was what inspired the shift and then that's what's opened up. It was like, it's kind of you know in hindsight so obvious but at the time you're just like trapped in your suffering. And it's like why god you know and then you come out of it and like you get through the discomfort of like switching your identity. And then and then it's like ah like why I why did I see that earlier? It's so obvious, that like so much of the depression and the sadness was because of that and like you know they're intertwined of course there's more healing to be done. But I couldn't start healing myself truly until again I had the clarity and the courage and the strength to like deal with what was like so pressed down right?

Alex: Wow that's so amazing. And now tell me about okay how did you end up then living? So you're living sometimes in India partially in Sweden. Like tell me about all of this and how you've ended up in this phase of your life?

Bobbi: Yeah, it's been like really amazing the last eight years. And like extra amazing the last four. Because they've been sober but it really did start to shift in 2014. Once I went to India, I met my teacher um and and I started doing the charity. It's called tribe of lands, so every year I was going back and forth to India to do the work with the kids with HIV to spend time in the ashram it's like a pilgrimage. Like if I don't go for like more than six months, I can like I feel it in my nervous system. I'm like I gotta go like I gotta just like be in that environment. Um but in 2019 and like so I've been doing this for like it was five years going to. And from I was living back in Toronto, something back in Calgary you know here and there and we were still selling the jewelry doing big festivals like wanderlust and stuff. And then in 2019 we decided like okay this is becoming like so much work we were not like getting hardly any personal gain from it. And we thought okay we, what do we want to do with this project? What we really want to do is support these kids. That after the last six years now eight years we've watched them grow from elementary now some of them are going into university. Like these kids we love them and so we decided let's stop selling the jewelry. I was like, I am finally gonna get to go to India for a whole year. I'd wanted to do a Yoga Teacher Training for like six years but I didn't have the time because I was doing the um I was just going back and forth and my teacher he's passed away in 2017 but he was alive. So I was like I'm not going to do a 200 hour when I can go be with a realized bee. And that's like in his 90s. So I was just it was the perfect timing. 2020 was like my year of sadness. I was like I didn't have to sell jewelry anymore. I could go be with the kids in India and just like be in the ashram for a year. And then so I did my Yoga Teacher Training in Karnataka. And I met my boyfriend there. He's Swedish so we started traveling together and then of course we all know what happened in march 2020. So my year of sana got stuck short. I got locked down in Jaipur in Rajasthan for six weeks. Six very sweaty weeks and I was like resisting. I was like nope, I'm not going back. I'm not going to Canada like this is, my year of like spiritual expansion but eventually to go back and then um spent the summer in Canada. And then my boyfriend and I, so we just like had this blossoming romance and he's so amazing you know. We're so similar, he's a yogi, he doesn't drink, he's a vegan, like he just and he's also a brilliant person and we have this wonderful connection. But like we were trapped apart, like I couldn't go to Sweden. He couldn't come to Canada so we went to Mexico. We traveled Central America for eight months. And now in the last two years we've been, he's been coming to India because I was there for the last eight months. And so we're just kind of like doing this back and forth. But I think slowly it will start to be more time in Sweden a little less time in India. But it's like it's kind of like I don't know the possibilities of life are so expanded. But I know you can't see that when you're living such as in a in a small way. And it's so exciting now to just move forward in life and yes I have a partner but more so for myself that like I know these possibilities would not have been possible for me if I had stayed stuck in that old way of being, you know?

Alex: Right? Wow, what an amazing um yeah what an amazing like inspiring journey and story.

Bobbi: Yeah, so it's been it's been fun it's been exciting.

Alex: so how do you teach yoga now like do you teach um do you still teach you teach in person do you teach online like where can listeners connect with you and um do you have anything that you offer

Bobbi: Yes, so I have been teaching online like right since Covid began and started teaching in person again at the ashram in India. So that's was so amazing to go back to teaching in person. And most of the the devotees that are living in the ashram are like 65 plus. But they're yolk. They're like yoga practitioners who have been doing yoga for like 40 and 50 years. So they were actually so sweet to let me teach yoga to them. Because they're actually just so the pros. But it was very inspiring to see like okay if you you know live this yogic lifestyle, you're gonna age really really well. Like these people are like some are 70 and they have bodies and agility of like 50 year olds in the west. So that's incredible that was a good good attest to uh to the power of yoga. But yeah, I'm teaching now a little bit here in Canada. I've got a big retreat coming up on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia in September. So I'm not sure when the episode will air but if it's before then it's going to be a really magical happening that I'm co-hosting with two other friends that I met in India that studied in the ashram with me. So um, we're doing that and then in September. I'll start doing online classes again as I head back to Sweden. So yeah, it's like just you know one of those things I think you're in the same boat where we're traveling but how much of a blessing actually. It is to be able to have the online yoga and like my asana teacher is in London. I've been studying with him for a year just zooming and it's so cool that we can like have these opportunities to practice online together.

And of course in person when we can. But definitely online and then I have a few courses available online as well so my style is definitely more traditional based. I bring a lot of the vedic wisdom in that my guru in India has taught a lot of Sanskrit. A lot of chanting so that's really what I'm inspired about and also I'm really really inspired about helping yogis or people that are moving on their spiritual path or even a sober path. Which eventually does have some kind of spiritual element is to building a daily self practice. Because for me like the first step was meeting my teacher, the second step was going sober and the third step which I'm sure they'll probably be like eight, nine and ten steps as life goes on. But what's been really powerful for me in the last two and a half years is having that daily self practice and having the courage and the commitment to just do sit with myself every morning it doesn't necessarily mean asana it can mean the pranayama, it could mean all the other elements of a yoga practice but how important it is to do that every day for yourself. And especially when someone's going sober. Because it can be such a like a uprooting like discombobulating experience where you're like, I don't even know who I am anymore. But to just give yourself the gift the moment like even 15 minutes a day to just sit with yourself and remember that whatever I'm feeling on the sensory level. Like it's not who I am my true nature is is already perfect and pure and free. But we can't see that when we're so like in the external and especially when we're shifting lifestyles which can be so extreme when one goes from sober from maybe not addicted but dependent for sure.

Alex: That's so true, and that was such a big. I remember that the time period in which i first got sober was my first time of actually managing to do self practices in the morning. i just remember it being the most beautiful time of my life. like because I was getting up early and I was getting on my yoga mat and practicing and I had this beautiful view of like the ocean in Abu Dhabi. And it was something that I just could not even though I had been teaching yoga for a long time and practicing and attending classes. Actually honoring that daily morning routine was something that I had not ever been able to cultivate or do for myself. And there's something about the sober phase it's like it's like a time for like coming home.

Bobbi: Mm-hmm that's so true. And it's like I think too because when you're in that more drinking party like experiential phase, like the nervous system is so like high frequency. Like external so it's almost like it's like um you know, like when you shake a jar and like it takes a minute for like the sediment to settle and that's kind of like what the daily practice is. Especially when you know you're even withdrawing or going through those like intense. Yeah, like I love how you said it the coming home. It's like to have that it's like a reprieve, it's like oh like here I am here I am. And then you know, you might forget it later but just to know every day like that it's there for you. Ss really powerful. And it's not the easiest habit or thing to bring into your life but I always tell my students, I do a lot of workshops on cultivating self-practice because I'm like super passionate about it. But you know, I always say to my students like little by little like you know. We don't if you want a quick fix like yoga is not it. You know, like sobriety is the first step, yoga is another step. But like, it's just it goes on and on and on. Like the self, it never ends. The yogi is the one who keeps seeking who keeps questioning. So you know, if one comes to yoga practice thinking like this is going to bring me some result, it's like the results will happen anyways. But that's not why you come to the practice for the result we come just for the daily um just for that daily coming home like you said yeah.

Alex: Yeah yeah. So tell me about your retreat. You mentioned a retreat in bc and September. What is that all about? What does that involve? And if people are interested how can they find out about it?

Bobbi: Yes, we're very excited. This is our first retreat we're offering together with two of my very wise and brilliant friends. It's yoga self-care and meditation, so I'll be doing the yoga, hatha yoga and then my friend she lives in Davis California. She's a really brilliant meditation teacher and then my other friend Sarah who lives full time in India. She's a graphic designer and art director living there and she's gonna be bringing all these wonderful masterful self-care practices. It's fully vegan, we've got a beautiful chef coming from Vancouver. It's on the sunshine coast like right on the ocean and it's just gonna be a really beautiful coming together. And inspired mostly around satsang because that's what brought us together as friends, as devotees of, as lovers of oneness. So, it'll be a really beautiful experience for people to nourish every part of themselves in a really sweet way. Like someone had just recently asked me like oh like I, it's gonna be hard yoga and it's like it's actually not a yoga retreat. It's a whole experience retreat and it really comes from like such a place of love and appreciation for our teacher for what we learned in India. From studying there like Sarah my friend, she's been living there for 10 years. The other girl devin. She lived there for five years so really we've immersed so much of our lives into the study of non-dualistic philosophy and true yoga. Which when I went to the ashram, I had only really done studio classes in vinyasa and suddenly my teacher is like speaking of like true yog. Which like I had no idea about, like the Bhagavad Gita or the yogic scriptures yoga Shisht. And the like actual depth of Indian philosophy of vedic philosophy so that really is and like Satsang is the prime pillar in most ashrams. Which is the daily coming together the discussion of oneness the discussion of truth. So that's the spirit of the retreat so yeah. It's coming up um September 2nd and all the information is at the self retreat. It's called the self reunion which pretty clever title I think.

Alex: Oh, I love that. I wish I could come. I'm gonna be uh gone from Canada by that point but that sounds phenomenal. I am I was speaking to a retreat leader. I led a retreat in Mexico last month and I was speaking to another retreat leader while I was there and she was saying how she makes sure to gift herself a retreat every year as a participant. And I'm like okay I need to start doing that. Like I need to start blocking off a week and being like this is my retreat week. So um as you talked about that I was like well maybe I should go on that one. But I won't be in Canada. So next time I'll keep my eye on the next one you're offering.

Bobbi: Okay, but I love that piece of advice. It's really so true you know. Like I think about that often when I'm talking about like a self practice. Like I just um led a workshop and there was a yoga teacher in there she said like oh like I have the hardest time when I'm teaching yoga to have myself practice. But it's the same with retreats like you give so much. It takes so much time and energy. You put so much love into creating a retreat making it happen that like oh you're right. We should give it back to ourselves as well. And like speaking of that like I don't know if you've used um the any apps for your sobriety? But I've been on the app called I am Sober. Have you heard about it yet?

Alex: Is that the one where it is that the one where it takes track of your sober days?

Bobbi: It takes track of your sober days but also keeps track of how much money you've saved.

Alex: Oh that's amazing.

Bobbi: That's like you know so anytime I'm like oh like you know should I do a yoga retreat then I can just go on that app and see in the last four years. I've saved 20 thousand dollars by not drinking. And I said I would spend ten dollars a day. That's like the amount they did. Which I thought that's like seventy dollars a week which is like a night out maybe like two bottles of wine. But like you think about how that adds up. Like where do we put our value when someone says to me like uh I don't know you just see like it's literally spending. I could have spent the last two years spending twenty thousand dollars literally poisoning myself. Or I could have lived this clear, powerful life. Save this money and be able to invest in my well-being at something like a yoga retreat you know. It's like such a shift of perspective. But it's so amazing, you know. If you think about it like that. It's so money motivates some people so they should check out that app I am Sober and just put in even like gauge it less and you'll be so shocked at how much money you can save.

Alex: Yeah, I used to have an app like that and then I deleted it off my phone. I think because I had a smaller I had smaller storage. And it was like I was trying to clear my storage you know. What I mean but I need to put it back on. Because I have a big phone. Yeah, like I've invested in the big storage because you need it when you're like making videos and everything and I need to put one of those apps back on and put it down and see you know if I quit in 2019. I think I was spending more than ten dollars a day um because I have to think about like I mean I was drinking every night but I was paying for taxis and paying for you know the hangover food and um I was like going out for drinks in Dubai which is not cheap and so I bet if I added that all up, it would be like I bet it would be more than twenty thousand. I'll let you know.

Bobbi: Yeah, you should it's crazy. Like you don't think about it and then it's like oh my God it's so silly. Like it's so silly and I used to always be like, I was making so much money and I was like how come I don't have any money. And it's like hello? Or it's like you know like I don't want to budget, put a budget drinking budget into my life. Like it's so such a counterproductive thing especially when you're like I mean you know people that are probably listening to this podcast. They're listening because something about sobriety and yoga is speaking to them. Which means that they're dissatisfied and you know and unhappy and it's like if you're gonna. If you know and we're always seeking for solutions to like pacify the mind to absorb the feelings of uneasiness that we feel but it's like the first thing that to do. Is just to remove that like just to take it out of course. It's not easy for everybody. It's probably not easy for really anybody but you know when you can see the little like beacons of light. Like for some people money does the money motivator does help and it's like yes what is money. It's actually not about the money, it's like how hard you had to work to get that money to then just blow it to wake up looking like you know. Remember like back in the day so like there probably still is ATMs in the bar. So you know where you wake up in the morning your big you find like the ATM withdrawal for like a hundred dollars but you have like five bucks in your purse. And it's like just so much regret like I spent so much money last night. And I've worked so hard and then you have to go to work and like earn that money that you're just literally you should just like light a match under it and like it's.

Alex: Yeah, it's unbelievable and having that investment that money that you can now invest in yourself. I love that way of thinking about it. Because that's really what it is you know.

Bobbi: Yeah, and also like the traveling and the exploring and like I'm sure you've heard this from so many people that are like Alex. Your lifestyle inspires me so much. I wish I could live in Bali. I wish I could travel the world and it's like you literally can but like money can be such a barrier. And I know it's been a barrier for me in my life, but when you start to put your priority on l