'just a little hippy" in around 1972

Who is Laine Hoogstraten?

I suppose this doesn’t really address the question, but I thought I’d post up a bio I wrote for the International Day of Yoga. It didn’t get used, but maybe that’s a good thing.


“Each one of us has access to Divine Wisdom and Infinite Creativity. This is the basis from which I teach, and the ground upon which my students stand, as we begin every Kundalini class with this mantra. I believe that every human being has Knowledge of the Sacred rooted within their DNA. Consciousness is the fabric from which we are spun. All we need are the correct inputs to awaken that understanding. This is one aspect of the ancient practice of Yoga, a realization of self for all. The practice of Yoga is like inserting a key into a lock. It is what our bodies were designed for, the liberation of our consciousness.”

Raised by hippies in the wilds of Canada, Laine Hoogstraten is a self-realized healer and teacher practicing Hatha and Kundalini yoga at Chaya Garden Ashram in the Cayo District of Belize. She established the ashram in 2012 with her husband and partner, Evan Anderson, Co-Director of the ashram.

 'just a little hippy" in around 1972

‘just a little hippy” in around 1972

Laine was introduced to yoga as a child, and was immediately drawn to study the practice on her own through books and television. She began formal yoga classes in 1985 at the age of 18 while attending Emily Carr College of Art and Design in the city of Vancouver, Canada.

Moving to Winnipeg in 1997, Laine started volunteering at an Iyengar studio in return for classes. She studied the precise asanas of Iyengar practice under the teaching of Val Paape for the next five years, becoming an advanced student with an innate sense of alignment. At this time Bikram yoga was being introduced in Winnipeg. The heated studio, (110 degrees Fahrenheit), was very attractive as Winnipeg has temperatures below forty for many months of the long winter. A renegade studio had been set up by a private practitioner, as at the time there were no teachers available. People were doing the practice entirely from an audio tape of Bikram’s voice. Within the next few years, teachers were certified and an official Bikram studio opened. This is where Laine started an intensive daily practice in 2002.

“I felt the years of training in alignment with Iyengar yoga were a wonderful foundation for Bikram, who places greater emphasis on effort.”

Laine opened her home as a heated studio in 2007, doing a daily practice with friends and family. Moving to Belize in 2010, and discovering a perfect location near the village of Cristo Rey in the Cayo District, it seemed the most natural thing to open an ashram.

“I had been teaching hatha vinyassa classes in Bullet Tree to guests from the Parrot Nest, as well as doing healing massage. We were located at what is now known as Raw Spa. I began to paint the sign for Chaya Garden Ashram on a whim. Higher Wisdom was directing me.”

Chancing upon Kundalini yoga teacher Caroline Barnes, Evan and Laine began to study Kundalini yoga according to the teachings of Yogi Bhajan in 2011, and three months later arranged to study in residence with Caroline for the next five months.

“I had been hungering for mudra and mantra for many years before I found Kundalini Yoga. I didn’t know that was what I was looking for. Eventually it found me.”

Laine took to Kundalini yoga like a fish to water. Everything began to expand. The instinct for alignment combined with the strength built by years of Bikram yoga were a perfect preparation for Kundalini Yoga.

“Having played the didgeridoo for twenty years, the Breath of Fire was already natural to me. States of altered consciousness had been familiar ground since childhood, and had been flowing through the arts of healing, music and yoga consistently in my life.”

Early experiences with hallucinogenic metabolites opened pathways for psychedelic knowledge of the glands, what Laine calls “the Exploration of the Innerverse.”

Yogi Bhajan says,

I am not here to teach students, I am here to teach teachers.”

Laine began to teach Kundalini yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, at the founding of Chaya Garden Ashram in 2012.

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Laine Hoogstraten today, in residence at the Chaya Garden Ashrm

Laine Hoogstraten today, in residence at the Chaya Garden Ashram





Chaya Garden Yoga Ashram is the place for yoga for any pilgrims visiting the Mayan ruins in Belize. We are dedicated to presenting a beautiful practice in a fun, friendly, and fabulous atmosphere. Belize is a wonderful and vibrant country full of natural beauty and power. Join us on our journey of awakening as we tune our body and spirits to the frequencies of joy and happiness.


Yoga blog 8/20/2013

Yoga blog 8/20/2013

Okay, just laughed our asses off watching the worlds weirdest movie, Dinner for Schmuks. With all that hilarity pulsing through us, we did a Yogi Bajan meditation for prosperity and abundance, very simple, striking first the inside of the sides of both hands together, and flipping the hands to strike the outside of the sides of the hands together, while chanting HAR at each hit.

I felt so abundant already, the joy of the laughter clinging through the meditation, and now I feel it instilled within me, in my cells, infused in my aura. Very positive, very fun.


Wild Yam on Don Berto's medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

Jungle Medicine: In Pursuit of the Wild Yam

Wild Yam on Don Berto's medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

Wild Yam on Don Berto’s medicine trail in Bullet Tree, Cayo

The first time I encountered Wild Yam was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, receiving it through an order I placed with my “friends and neighbors organic food co-op”, an informal group of midwives and other turned-on ladies who initiated me into the alternative parenting style that would become the main thread of my life for the next 18 years.

I was looking for an alternative birth control method, as I had come to view “the pill” with suspicion. In my early twenties it was beginning to dawn on me that my fertility was big business with corporate interests, and that my personal health and well-being were not the main agenda.

I received the long awaited package, and opened it to find a half pound of woody little cubes. I had no idea what to do with it, and no source of information aside from a few vague references in books I’d read at the time. It seemed like the thing to do was powder it, and put it in capsules, as that was pretty much the format in which I encountered the herbal medicines I had tried to that point. I threw a handful in the blender. It made an incredible din, but did not affect the little cubes at all. Next I tried the coffee grinder, again to no avail. Mystified, and with no guidance, I eventually gave up on the idea.

Twenty years later, and with many years of wildcrafting North American herbs under my belt, I came to make a life for myself in Belize. I quickly realized that I would learn a whole new pharmacopeia here. Getting used to the climate, the heat, the water and the outdoor lifestyle was a huge but welcome adjustment. That was why I had come! In many ways my family and I became stronger and healthier, but we were also introduced to a whole new world of bacteria. I began to get urinary tract infections, an old teacher from my late teens and early twenties that firmly set my foot on the path of alternative medicine in my search for relief.

One day, at market in Belmopan, I was attracted from out of the bales of cheap American used clothing to a stall full of mystery and intrigue. A Creole lady with beautiful green eyes introduced herself as Janice. Other women were chatting about the benefits of various jungle medicines as I stepped forward to examine the wares. I explained my situation to Janice, and she pointed me toward a huge hardcover book, Natural Remedies Encyclopedia, and quickly flipped to the entry on Wild Yam.  Reading over the entry, I overheard Janice prescribe Wild Yam to another woman for her sore hip. I was surprised at the diversity of ailments helped by Wild Yam, and soon learned from the book that Wild Yam had many healing attributes aside from my complaint of UTI. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies, this jungle root affects muscles, joints, uterus, liver and gallbladder. It relaxes muscles spasms, any kind of cramps, balances the glands, reduces inflammation, and is beneficial in cases of gallbladder disorders, hypoglycemia, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, neuralgia, and rheumatism, as well as problems common to women, from PMS to prevention of miscarriage in pregnancy. In combination with other blood cleansers, Wild Yam aids in removing wastes from the system to relieve stiff and sore joints, and also improves the function of the liver and gallbladder. The Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies lists Wild Yam as one of the 126 most important herbs.

In a further entry, I learned that Wild Yam is good for both men and women. Wild Yam contains diosgenin, a chemical used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. The Wild Yam itself does not contain progesterone, but has a similar effect to progesterone on the human body. Diosgenins are used in pharmaceutical applications to treat asthma, arthritis and eczema. They regulate metabolism and control fertility. There are a staggering variety of synthetic products manufactured from diosgenin. These include contraceptives, drugs to treat menopause, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, testicular deficiency, impotency, prostate hypertrophy, high blood pressure, arterial spasms, migraines and other ailments. Wild Yam also contains cortisones and hydrocortisones used for allergies, bursitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, brown recluse spider bites, and insect stings. It is a common misconception that Wild Yam actually contains estrogen and progesterone, but these are exclusively human hormones.

I eagerly paid Janice for my little bag of dried wood chips. She said to boil them in a gallon of water for twenty minutes, and drink several cups a day. She told said I could use the chips up to seven times. What a value! I followed her prescription and felt a complete sense of well-being within a few days.

Laine prepares Wild Yam harvested during a moonlight nature hike

Laine prepares Wild Yam harvested during a moonlit nature hike.

I soon began to discover the plant during jungle hikes. Once identified it is easy to distinguish, having fairly unique characteristics even within the incredible diversity of Belize; it is a thorned twining vine with heart-shaped leaves, having conspicuous deep-set veins which run diagonally from stem to the tip of the leaf, with usually two to three vines sprouting from the top of a partially exposed root. The leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern, and the root itself is “tiled” with a mosaic of raised bark. Allow the root some time to dry out before use. It is difficult to chop, and I use both an axe to split the root into pieces, and a machete to split off the chips for use.

Last November I contracted some kind of incredibly tenacious bronchitis. I am generally accustomed to excellent health, and if I do get sick, it is never for more than a few days. Imagine my consternation and desperation at finding this condition developing into an asthmatic situation that was even worse by mid -February! After a completely useless round of antibiotics, (my first in over 13 years!), I turned to Rosita Arvigo’s now famous book, Rainforest Remedies. Turning to “coughs” in the Index of Traditional Medical Uses, I noticed my good friend Wild Yam listed among the remedies. Having some on hand, I immediately boiled up a big pot.

From the text of Rainforest Remedies I learned that not only is Wild Yam effective for bladder infection, but it is also effective in loosening mucous in the lungs due to coughs and colds, reducing fever, and relieving bilious colic. It can also be used to address internal hemorrhaging, not to mention the more popular uses in curing impotency in men, and infertility in women.

Also known as Dioscorea (D. belizensis), it is known to contain steroids. From reading the entry in Rainforest Remedies, I concluded that the Natural Remedies Encyclopedia seemed to be referring to what Rosita Arvigo describes as a closely related species, Mexican Yam (D. mexicana), a source of diosgenin, a steroid precursor as previously described. Yam is also known as White China Root, and Barba del Viejo or Cocolmeca blanca in Spanish.

Taking an interest in Gumbolimbo due to an outbreak of Poisonwood, I took a random flip to that entry in Rainforest Remedies, and was surprised to learn that this commonly found tree’s bark also is effective in treating internal infection, colds and flu, kidney ailments, and yes, it’s true,  for curing urinary tract infection.  I began to add Gumbolimbo to my Wild Yam tea, and started hacking up the last of the crazy lung infection for good!

It is interesting to note that Wild Yam and Gumbo Limbo both address the relationship between lungs and kidneys which is inherent in the practice of Chinese Traditional Medicine. This relationship involves the mixing and balancing of the energies of the upper and lower body around the navel point. In Yogic practice, this is known as the balancing of the Prana and Upana.

Chips of Wild Yam are ready to use in a tea.

Chips of Wild Yam are ready to use in a tea.

It seems that in Belize, we must look at the remedies that are close at hand, and we will discover that they most likely apply to whatever health problems arise. Often we only need to venture as far as our own backyard to find the relief we seek.


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Cayo Outreach Yoga Program!

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Chaya Garden Ashram is happy to be offer an outreach initiative, Yoga in San Ignacio on Mondays at 2pm. This is a “pay what you can” by donation class, between one and two hours in length. Two dollars a head go to our gracious host, the Soul Project, so anything donated above two bucks goes to pay for our gas to come into town.Thanks to Lacy, Soul Project facilitator, for making this opportunity possible by inviting us to come. Many of our friends who have a busy life or difficulties with transportation have requested that we offer a class in Cayo.  So we hope that you will come out for the class, or if you are interested in classes in San Ignacio you will get in touch with us.  652-YOGA



The Bush Dog of Belize, Spotted at Chaya Garden Ashram

Katie Stevens’ book, “Jungle Walk”, gives some information on this wild animal unique to Mexico and Central America, called Bushdog in Belize. Here are some facts about the elusive Tayra, (Eire barbara), from Katie’s sweetly illustrated book about Belize wildlife.
These territorial creatures live in family groups. Their bodies are designed for climbing, being longer in the hind legs, and thus taller at the hip with lower shoulders. Climbing down from a tree, they will come head first, with the rear feet being curiously turned out and backward, and being assisted by their large blunt claws. The Bushdog is quick and stealthy both on land and in the river, having slightly webbed feet to facilitate swimming.
Tayras forage day and night, exploring in holes and crevices for small mammals, birds and eggs, fruit or honey, or even some carrion. Bushdogs are rarely seen as they keep to the deeper parts of the Belize jungle, preferring to avoid the habitation of humans.
When nesting, usually within a hollow log or tree lined with soft bark and leaves, they produce two to four pups which open their eyes at two weeks, and by four weeks are beginning to leave the nest to accompany the female tayra, learning to find food for themselves. They apparently have a life span of about twelve years as observed in captivity.
By my reckoning, kind of like a giant river-weasel, or maybe more like a big tree-otter…interesting mix, and quite a sight to see!

We spotted this Belize Bushdog during our afternoon yoga session at the ashram.  He may have been pushed from his territory by increased wildfires.  He must have felt that the vibes were safe for him to snack on one of our slowly growing pineapples.  This is the first bushdog we’ve seen in Belize.  Yoga had to take a backseat to snapping some pictures of him.



Bee Here Now


Laine stands by in an improvised bee suit, watching Carlos smoke the bees. This calms them down and gets them out of the hive they have built between our rafters.


Carlos Tzib of San Antonio village smoking out the bees. We were much happier to have him collect them than have to kill them by using pesticide. Bees are one of the most precious natural resources in the world, and are endangered by pesticide use and cell phone frequencies. Every bee counts.


Wax comb from the three week old hive.


Carlos coaxed the queen onto his bee hat, and the rest of the bees gathered around her. The queen is somewhat bigger than the workers, and can also be identified by her shiny thorax, whereas the worker bees have a fuzzy thorax.


The bees were all about their comb, and gathered onto it. Carlos just shook them off into a clean bucket.


Bees and comb in bucket, ready to go to a new home and hive. According to the article, “The Queen Honeybee” in the May-June issue of The Belize Ag Report, all Central-American bees are “Africanized”. Even though these are purportedly more aggressive, no one was stung during the time they made their home at the ashram.


The comb didn’t have much honey as it was so newly established, but it was full of bee larva growing in tiny tightly curled crescent moons within the cells of the comb. Carlos said his kids eat them. This kind of blew my mind. I ate a fat, well developed one to see what it was like. It didn’t taste like honey, but perhaps it bestows some magical nutrients of some kind…


The latest buzz from The Chaya Garden Ashram is all about the bugs.   Rainy season, dry season, cold fronts, hurricanes, it’s still pretty new to us after three years in Belize.  Actually, the weather in Belize has been acting pretty unpredictably for the past three years, so they say.  It all started when we came in with a wicked cold front (presumably from Canada.)

(One thing we do know though is the bug weather, and we’re just finishing up on wasp and bee weather, and getting into rainfly weather.)

The rains have just started, and so the grass is greener in Belize (pun intended).   That brings to end the time of pollination for the bees.

The Bees moved into the ashram two or three weeks ago, and have bee’n hard at work making some nice wax, and lots of little baby bees.  We called up one of the local bee keepers (Carlos Tzib) and he came and collected the bees at no expense.

Bees need a water source, so the Chaya Garden Ashram is perfect for these little honey makers.   Right down by the waterfall there were always dozens of bees peacefully drinking up the water as it cascades down the rocks.

Carlos offered us to keep bees on our property, and we’re inclined to to say yes!

To learn more about bees, check out Issue 21 of Belize Ag Report.