A Word With… Kaeleigh Doherty

The founder of the new Banff Yoga Festival on why the mountains are the best place to practice.


Kaeleigh Doherty grew up in Banff, but instead of spending all her time on the slopes like many of her peers, she took to the rink, going on to play hockey for Concordia University in Montreal. An injury led her to yoga, which she initially found too slow-paced compared to her primary sport. But after experimenting with several different styles she clicked with jivamukti yoga (a rigorous practice that is often set to music) and kept at it, doing her teacher training in 2011. During her time in Montreal, Doherty also worked as a “community leader” for lululemon (a marketing position that involved her visiting studios to promote the company) while finishing her degree in anthropology and marketing.

Photo courtesy Kaeleigh Doherty

Doherty returned to Banff three years ago and these days she can be found teaching at Rocky Mountain Yoga, the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Banff Centre, as well as organizing the first ever Banff Yoga Festival at the end of May. We caught up with her for a chat about coming home, giving props and why the mountains are the best place to practice yoga.

What was it like to grow up in Banff?

“I have to be honest, I really didn’t enjoy it when I was younger. I always dreamt of the city. Then, when I left for university and went to Montreal I found myself craving the mountains. I took it for granted when I was younger. Now I love it here!”

What attracted you to jivamukti yoga specifically?

“I’ve always loved music and I found with ashtanga yoga I just had trouble focusing. [With jivamukti] the music was a helpful tool to just let go of my thoughts. Even though you would think it would distract you, it actually does the opposite.”

Do you have a personal yoga philosophy?

“It’s so important to acknowledge your teachers. I have so many different teachers and they’ve all inspired my own practice and my own teaching. So when I’m teaching and someone comes up and says to me ‘that was a great class,’ I remind myself that it wasn’t necessarily me. That’s really important because if you don’t acknowledge your teachers then the lineage gets lost. Also not to take yourself too seriously!

Is that a common misconception about the yoga community, that people take themselves too seriously?

“Yes! It’s what I did my thesis on, actually. I did an anthropology thesis and paired it with marketing because of [my experience with] lululemon. Their marketing is very anthropological – find the middle of the community and then work your way outward. I actually interviewed people about this and people think yoga is pompous and that you have to be flexible to do yoga, but it’s really not the case. In fact, if you’re not flexible, that’s the biggest reason to do yoga.”

Where did the idea for the festival come from?

“Being back in the Rockies, I realized how incredible the teachers are out here and how authentic they are and how unique, so I started calling people up to see if they were available. I wanted this festival to be really sensitive to place and I wanted the business owners in Banff to see the benefit of it, so we decided to have it in a shoulder season, but one that is leaning toward nicer weather!

“I called it a ‘festival’ versus a ‘conference’ because it really is a celebration and a light-spirited event about yoga and keeping yourself healthy and being good to yourself.”

How do the mountains inspire your yoga practice?

“Well the mountains always remind you of how small you are, so it’s very humbling. Throughout my life, even when I was an unappreciative teenager, the mountains always take your breath away. They’re just stunning – powerful in their size but totally grounding. Just kind of reminds you what’s important.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

The Banff Yoga Festival is May 27 to 29. For more information, visit banffyogafestival.com

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