Restorative (Justice) Yoga

This guest-post was written by a member of our Yoga Teacher Training program, Jason Spencer.

I work as a mediator with a local organization called Community Justice Initiatives (CJI). Our work is rooted in the principles of Restorative Justice (RJ), which looks at unique ways to repair the harm done to people and relationships by engaging the individual who caused the harm, the people affected by the harm, and the community. By creating a safe place for conversation to happen, meaning and understanding can occur between the people involved and the community to restore relationships and allow for healing.

Recently, at the Waterloo Region Restorative Justice Circle, a collective of like minded individuals promoting RJ, we discussed how Waterloo Region is a hub of Restorative Justice. Rooted in strong aboriginal and Mennonite traditions, Restorative Justice principles are ingrained in much of the good work that is done throughout our Region, and elsewhere. There are local organizations we naturally  look towards for leadership around Restorative Justice, CJI and Conrad Grebel as examples, but we wanted to cast a larger net and identify other organizations who approach their work and role in the community from a restorative perspective.

For me, Queen Street Yoga (QSY) exemplifies this restorative approach to community. Take a look at their vision statement. The three sections of QSY’s vision statement are Rooted in Practice, Growing Community, and Cultivating Vibrant Lives.

img_0441Continue reading “Restorative (Justice) Yoga”

Walking Backwards – Widening My View

This blog post was written by studio director Emma, who has been travelling across Canada and in the United States for the last few months on a sabbatical from teaching. Emma will be back to teaching at the studio in November, and wishes to share this update about her trip with the QSY community. This post relates to the recent work Queen Street Yoga has been doing on Indigenous land acknowledgement and educating ourselves about the cultural genocide of First Nations populations in Canada.

At a contact dance workshop this summer, I participated in an exercise that included walking backwards along a forest path. The exercise encouraged us to sense the space behind us, which is a useful awareness to cultivate in dance. I walked backwards for over an hour along a winding forest path, over jagged rocks, bumpy tree roots and clumps of moss. The sensation was fascinating. I realized that I have had a habit of looking down at the ground as I walk, in order not to trip. Facing away from where I was walking to required me to slow down a great deal and sense carefully with my feet the texture and topography of the ground. Looking down was no longer a helpful strategy. My gaze was up and my awareness surrounded me like a sphere. I was no longer focused on moving ahead, on getting somewhere; I was filled up with the view of the landscape I was moving through, and an energetic sense of the landscape I was backing into.

One of the most noticeable differences in the experience of walking backwards is that your view is constantly widening.  Rather than things disappearing from your peripheral vision (which is what happens when you move forwards) the landscape appears slowly at your sides and seems to bloom out and emerge from the edges of your vision. What you see seems to grow in context and size, rather than shrink in anticipation and pursuit of your destination. Walking backwards, one is not preoccupied with the destination, rather, with having the fullest sense of the landscape, and of treading carefully on the ground. Continue reading “Walking Backwards – Widening My View”

Kombucha

This post comes from Leslie Stokman. Leslie is QSY’s resident chalk-board artist extraordinaire, a recent graduate of our yoga teacher training program, and a SCOBY-growing Kombucha aficionado!  

What’s delicious, good for you, fun to make, and kind of like having a pet? KOMBUCHA! Read on to find out what it is, how to make it, and how you can get your hands on your very own SCOBY.

Kombucha is something of a probiotic tonic, or just a healthy replacement for pop, depending on your way of looking at it. You can buy a delicious bottle at a health food store for $4-5, or you can easily make it yourself! Made with basic ingredients like tea, sugar, and water, it can be a refreshing beverage for hot summer days and a treat you can feel good about. The other “ingredient” (though I like to think of it as a productive pet) is the SCOBY – a Symbiotic Culture/Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (and yep, it’s alive). Also called “the mother,” or a kombucha “mushroom,” SCOBYs are a firm gelatinous disc that do the hard work of fermenting the sweetened tea.

the whiter the newer, but all SCOBYs are equally effective
the whiter the newer, but all SCOBYs are equally effective

 

If you want to take a crack at making your own, here’s what I do:Continue reading “Kombucha”

These Schools Are Our Holocaust: Bearing Witness to the Mohawk Residential School

On Saturday, June 4, a group of community members from Queen Street Yoga visited the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford and were given a tour of the Mohawk Residential School. It was our intention to bear witness to the stories of the place, acknowledge the history of the land, and learn more about the brutal history of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous/First Nations/Native/Original Peoples. This post is a reflection about the experience written by QSY Co-Director, Emma Dines.

“This place feels like a raw wound. Nothing has even begun to heal here.”

We sat on the grass outside the Mohawk Residential school on a beautifully warm Saturday in June. Amanda is one of the meditation teachers at Queen Street Yoga, and in our closing circle she compared her visit to this school to her visit to Dachau. A few years ago on a trip to Germany, she and her husband went to witness the gas chambers, barracks, and slave yards of the infamous concentration camp. She said that she felt the same horror and rawness walking through the hallways of the residential school here. Amanda grew up near Galt and was ten years old when the Mohawk Residential School was finally closed in 1970. “I never knew this place was here,” she said. “I didn’t know it existed.”

This school is our Dachau. This school is our concentration camp. Continue reading “These Schools Are Our Holocaust: Bearing Witness to the Mohawk Residential School”

Re-Post: Teaching as Learning [A Forever Process]

 

This is a re-post of a piece that Emma originally wrote for her own blog, thinkerpoet.com. We hope you enjoy reading some of her reflections on the process of teaching and learning.IMG_20160101_151838

This past New Year’s I was given an opportunity to choose the “key” to my coming year. Two dear friends (artists and community convenors) had salvaged wooden piano keys from a scrap yard, and painted and anointed each one with different colours, designs and words. They were jumbled together in a cloth bag, and throughout the night they brought out the bag and invited friends to reach into the bag and pull a key. “Make sure you get the right one.” they teased as we reached, eyes closed, into the bag. As our fingers sifted through the jumble of keys, feeling raised black keys and narrower white keys, they invited us to let our intuition guide our choice. “You’ll know your key when you feel it.” they said. “It will be clear.”

Keys bearing the words “Equanimity”, “Wisdom” and “Contentment” emerged in different peoples’ hands. “Acceptance”, “Integrity”, and “Simplicity” followed. I watched my friends interact with their keys, unwrap their strings and hang them around their necks, bulky but meaningful necklaces. Continue reading “Re-Post: Teaching as Learning [A Forever Process]”

Going Beyond After Feeling Defeated – An Update from Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell has been regularly practicing at Queen Street Yoga for the past two years and has written some wonderful blog posts for the QSY blog about his yoga journey. In this most recent post, Glen shares more about his personal transformation and how he sees yoga as a major part of his learning and growth. We deeply appreciate hearing from students about what the impact of yoga has been on their lives, and we celebrate Glen’s effort and openness to the insights that have come as a result of engaging with the practices of yoga and meditation. We hope you enjoy reading this. Glen told us ,“It comes straight from my heart”.

Every spring, summer and fall my life is filled with many camping trips to my favorite Provincial Parks located throughout Ontario. One of which is Killarney located at the top end of Georgian Bay. Killarney is truly the jewel of the Ontario Provincial Parks. The turquoise colored lakes and two billion year old rock face spread out far and wide can leave you in awe! I get very excited and can feel my heart getting warm whenever I come back. There are many trails and lakes to explore by hiking, biking or canoe/kayaking. One hike I love to do is called the Crack. It is a bit of a hike and climb getting to the top but the view is amazing! Also there is a 26km canoe/kayaking day trip I have come close by canoe but never completed which includes 3 portages with the longest portage of about 500 meters. This will take you into four different lakes from George Lake into OSA lake and from pictures I had seen is spectacular. I thought that this hike and kayaking trip would no longer be available to me due to my heart issues. I was very disheartened to think that some of the things I love to do had possibly come to an end.

Stepping back to the fall of 2014, that was when I decided to really take control of my life. My doctors had advised me of my condition 8 months earlier, and I started seeing positive results from about six months of yoga practice. I decided to dedicate myself to practicing yoga as much as possible. I would get my mind in a very positive place. I would get rid of the extra weight I was caring. I would eat even healthier by educating myself and keep fine tuning the quality of my food intake. I would exercise at least once a day. I would find more ways to be more active like riding my bike to yoga or picking up my favorite tea. I would taper back my business hours. I would do all I can to reduce and manage stress. I was very motivated to avoid a risky surgery and to keep at a minimum or even reduce the medication prescribed to me.Continue reading “Going Beyond After Feeling Defeated – An Update from Glen Campbell”

Happy Holidays 2015

A special message from QSY Director, Leena Miller Cressman:

IMG_0095Happy Holidays from all of us at Queen Street Yoga! 2015 was another exciting year for our studio. We celebrated our 10-year anniversary, our first group of yoga teacher trainees graduated and are now teaching all over KW, our teaching and administrative staff grew, and we’ve continued to expand our class schedule and special programming to serve our wonderful community.

This year has not been without challenges, especially related to ION construction around us and renovations in our building. We are very excited that our facade is getting a facelift, we are getting a brand new sign, and Black Arrow Cycles will be our new neighbour on the ground floor in January.

We have our eye on the long term, and we know that these changes will be wonderful for our greater community in the years to come. But in the meantime, we know that traffic and parking around the studio has been a challenge for our students. We, like many other local establishments, have noticed a decrease in business downtown corresponding with the construction, and our operating budgets are tight as a result.

Thank you for continuing to come to classes and support this learning community despite the traffic and construction. At this time, we would like to ask for your help to keep our programming going strong. In order to maintain the drop-in classes you love, and continue to offer courses, community events and workshops, we need your help! Word of mouth referrals and support are always helpful for small, independent businesses, but now they are more important than ever.

Here’s what you can do to help:

Continue reading “Happy Holidays 2015”

Cultural Appropriation & Yoga

Queen Street Yoga was approached by local newspaper The Community Edition to write something about cultural appropriation and yoga, after this Ottawa Sun news article went viral. There is a lot more to the Ottawa Sun story than was originally reported, and we highly recommend reading our colleague Matthew Remski’s take on it, in which he details how the story was mis-reported, and the way in which popular media mostly shut down and derided the idea of cultural appropriation in yoga. At Queen Street Yoga we think awareness of cultural appropriation in yoga is very important, and in the following piece that Emma wrote for The Community Edition, she shares some thoughts and reflections on how her teaching has changed in the last few years, as she has learned more about the reality of cultural appropriation. Emma wants to acknowledge SAAPYA (South-Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America) and other colleagues in the yoga community for helping her better understand the issues and impacts of cultural appropriation and yoga.

reaching up yoga class imageIn the last several years, Queen Street Yoga has been looking more deeply into questions of privilege, oppression and cultural (mis)appropriation, and how they show up in the teaching of yoga, and in the experience of yoga studios. We have been examining how yoga was taught to us by mostly white, cis-gendered teachers, and thinking carefully about what it means to be North-American born practitioners of a tradition that has its origins in India. I define cultural (mis)appropriation as instances when members of a dominant culture take elements of a minority culture and use them outside of their original cultural context, often times reducing or commodifying those cultural aspects to “exotic” and meaningless fashion or activities. Cultural appropriation is a complex subject, and people often get defensive when it is mentioned. Recently an article was published in the Ottawa Sun about a yoga class at the University of Ottawa that was purportedly cancelled due to fears that it could be considered cultural appropriation. The Ottawa Sun later printed a retraction and reported that the class was cancelled due to low attendance, but that did not stop the viral media-storm in which many white columnists and writers derided the whole idea that yoga could be considered cultural (mis)appropriation.

Thinking about the issue of cultural appropriation in the last few years has changed the way that I teach yoga and create studio programming, as the Creative Director of the studio, and as the Co-Director of our Teacher Training Program. My teaching has changed a great deal from when I first began. Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation & Yoga”

Re-Post from Emma’s Blog: A Heartfelt Adventure

If you’ve been in Emma’s class in the last few months, you might have been gifted a little felt heart. This week’s blog post is a re-post from Emma’s blog thinkerpoet.com, in which Emma explains where the heart idea came from, and how it is evolving.

As a young child, I never liked hearts. Like the colour pink, hearts were on every lunchbox, pony’s butt and t-shirt meant for girls. As soon as I could understand language I was questioning gender roles, and at the age of five, I staunchly decided that hearts were too prescribed. I didn’t want to be told what symbols to like. I resisted wearing hearts and chose zig-zags, triangles and stars whenever I could. Hearts, to my young feminist brain, were a symbol of conformity.

IMG_20150612_135139Fast-forward to the present moment, where colourful felt hearts litter every surface of my home, are pinned to every piece of clothing, and stacks of which are stuffed into every pocket and bag. In the past two months I have become a regular giver of hearts. I pin them on parked bicycles, gift them to cashiers, offer them to children and parents, and drop them on my yoga students’ mats.

Continue reading “Re-Post from Emma’s Blog: A Heartfelt Adventure”

#tbt Throwback Thursday – How I fell in love with the Tensegrity Repair Series

It’s Throwback Thursday here at Queen Street Yoga, and today we are throwing back to August of 2014 when Leena wrote about falling in love with the Tensegrity Repair Series. Later this month we are looking forward to a day-long workshop all about the Tensegrity Repair Series with Vancouver-based teacher Trudy Austin. If you’ve ever been curious to learn more about the flowing movements that Emma and Leena sometimes incorporate into their classes, consider joining us for Trudy’s workshop on October 24.

Grease for your Rusty Parts

By mtneer_man on Flickr

Photo by mtneer_man on Flickr

Ever get up from your desk, and feel your joints creak like a rusty old car? Perhaps due to the amount of time we spend sitting in chairs, seats, and couches in North America, the average person I see has core weakness. This instability in the core is often coupled with tightness and lack of mobility in the hip joints and shoulder joints (and by core, I’m not solely referring to the abdominal muscles, but also muscles of the pelvis, deep core and back muscles.)

The Tensegrity Repair Series is a set of 20 simple exercises designed to restore healthy range of motion to the hips, shoulders, and spine. It helps to build supple strength in the core muscles, and balance and stabilize the pelvis. Overall, I’ve found it to be an amazing antidote to the most common structural and postural imbalance issues that I have personally, and that I see in the general population. It brings that little bit of grease back to our creaky parts.Continue reading “#tbt Throwback Thursday – How I fell in love with the Tensegrity Repair Series”