100 Faces- 10 Years of QSY

This post was written by QSY Director, Leena Miller Cressman.

This fall, Queen Street Yoga turns 10! It’s a significant milestone as a small business and as a community. According to this article by Forbes, only about one-third of small business survive 10 or more years. Yippee, beating the odds! In addition to throwing an awesome party to celebrate (more on that later on), I wanted to share some of the story of how Queen Street Yoga came to be what it is today.

DSC_6433Just over ten years ago Meaghan Johnson, a Kitchener native, founded the studio. From the story I remember Meaghan telling me, at the time she wasn’t planning to open a large yoga studio. However, someone tipped her off about this beautiful space with glowing hardwood floors, big windows and high ceilings that used to be a dance studio, but now was sitting vacant. (Before it was a dance studio our space was a club called Pop the Gator- if anyone has photos or stories about that send them our way!) Meaghan arranged to visit the vacant space, and upon walking into the space she exclaimed, “Well shit, now I have to open a yoga studio. This space is too perfect.”

image (5)The studio opened with a staff of several other teachers in addition to Meaghan, and always had an emphasis on mindful, alignment-based yoga, with a grassroots community feel. Meaghan once told me that she opened the studio with about $1,000 and slowly invested and grew the business from there. This gradual model of growth, alongside a lot of community support, thoughtful offerings, and caring, dedicated students, teachers and administrators is why we’re still open and still growing today, ten years later.

imageIn the fall of 2005, around the same time that QSY opened, Emma and I (Leena) moved to Waterloo, and became friends at the University of Waterloo, so we are also celebrating a 10-year milestone in our friendship and working relationship. Midway through university, in 2008, I did my Yoga Teacher Training, and started teachings classes in Waterloo as I was finishing up my degree. I began teaching classes for Meaghan at QSY early on in my teaching career, in 2009. Several years later, Emma also did Yoga Teacher Training, and we had dreams of opening a studio together some day.

Over time, Emma started teaching at QSY and I took on more responsibilities and leadership to support Meaghan in running the business. In 2012 Meaghan made a tough decision that she was ready to do something different and wanted to sell QSY and go back to school. Already having had lots experience teaching and helping run the studio, I was a natural fit to take over the leadership as owner/director, with Emma at my side as a lead teacher and assistant director. In 2013, Andy joined our team, first as a work-trade and then as very part-time assistant manager, and now in a bigger role as our Operations Wizard (managing our website, online booking, marketing, and much more). We love working together and have established a great working flow together over the past few years.

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Here’s a photo of us at our 2015 Visioning Retreat.

But, what we’re really celebrating is not our business but our community.

We’re celebrating the 20+ people that participate in our work-trade program giving their time and care to the studio — helping at the front desk, cleaning, administering this blog, or making beautiful chalkboards — in exchange for free classes. We’re celebrating the strong community fostered in our Teacher Training Programs and the caring staff of teachers that has grown from just 4 or 5 in the early days to over 15 passionate teachers this fall. We’ve also expanded to offer massage therapy and Community Acupuncture, and we love the way that our therapists help care for our community.

We’re celebrating the connections that have been built in the community — from Yoga in the Park sponsored by the City of Kitchener, to yoga at local events and festivals, to yoga at businesses in the community like Google and Kik Interactive, to outreach programs helping people recover from addictions using yoga and other holistic tools — the yoga we share extends far beyond the walls of our building on Queen Street.

Most of all we’re celebrating YOU, the many students who have come to QSY regularly for a decade, or seven years, or one year, or just a few months, and those that are yet to come. It puts a smile on our faces when we see students who have been coming for a while welcoming newcomers and showing people around, or people connecting with each other for a coffee date after class. We love seeing the diversity in our classes of different ages, backgrounds, genders, and abilities. We all come together in this common endeavor to better know and care for our bodies, minds, hearts and communities.

As a celebration of the community that has made QSY what it is, we wanted to create a visual piece. We’ve taken photos of well over 100 faces of our community, and over the summer we were sharing them online on our Instagram and social media with the tags #10YearsOfQSY, #100FacesOfQSY and #YogaIsForEverBody. On Oct 3rd, at our anniversary party/open house, there will be an installation of 100s of photos of these 100+ Faces of Our Community. The teachers all have their headshots and bios on the website, but really we wish we had all your headshots and stories up there too. It is you, our community, who make QSY the welcoming, diverse, and caring place that it is. We love you!

Come celebrate with us!

We are super happy to announce that our founder, Meaghan Johnson will be joining us from Montreal to teach a class, and Alysha Brilla will be joining Leena’s class to serenade you as you practice.

Saturday, October 3rd, from 2:00 to 8:00pm.

Enjoy free yoga classes, cupcakes, crafts, door prizes, and live music!

2:00-3:00 Family Yoga with Julie Zettel & Amanda Soikie

3:30-4:30 Michael Jackson Yoga with Emma Dines

5:00-6:00 Mindful Movement & Meditation with Meaghan Johnson (former QSY Director)

6:30-7:30 Slow Flow with Live Music with Leena Miller Cressman & Alysha Brilla

10 years of community


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Leena Miller Cressman is the director of Queen Street Yoga. Right now she’s in love with practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, handstands and doing gentle twists over her bolster. You’ll also find her cruising around on her rusty but trusty bike, and tending to her community garden plot full of arugula, kale, and basil.


  1. Pauline Finch says:

    Really well-written and informative article; loved reading it. Just one historical quibble (and I’m not 100% sure about this factoid…); I seem to remember that the present studio space was the Moree School of Dance first and then Pop the Gator, rather than the other way around. However, there may have been more than one dance business in the building too. Back to present-day issues; I hope the exterior “deconstruction” of the tacky façade will result in a more substantial and attractive look to this lovely historical building and that QSY will have some elegant street-level signage to draw more people up those l-o-n-g flights of stairs. Maybe give the landlord/owner some free yoga classes??? Anyway Happy 10th Birthday; I’ll be there in spirit even if I can’t make it to the scheduled festivities. 🙂

  2. Lindsay says:

    A little history tidbit: “Pop the Gator” was actually in the space below QSY (where Inspirations Dance wear used to be.) QSY is in the old Moree School of Dance studio space, where it was home to many dancers (including myself) for over 20 years. Before that, the space was a ballroom dance studio. Pop the Gator was only around from 1989 to 1993, short lived but always remembered! Moree opened there in 1984 until they moved a year or so before QSY was born. *side note for Emma, there was a HUGE mural to Michael Jackson at the back wall of the night club. We would peek in to see it when they had that door open at the top of the first flight of stairs. The club would share the hallway from the street level and as a kid I remember the smell of smoke (and see burn marks in the hallway) from the party the night before. The oldest records of 44 Queen St. South I could find show that it was the home of the Business Educators Association pre dance studios. Wow! There is a lot of history in that building!

  3. Lindsay says:

    Also – it is the owner of Ethel’s who opened Pop the Gator, so all of the memorabilia is still there on the walls!

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