Meet Our Grads: Min Min

Min Min Tong graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training program in 2018 and has stayed connected to the studio community through teaching and taking classes. We appreciate Min Min’s commitment to social justice and continue to learn from her commitment to anti-oppression work. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.


What is happening in your yoga teaching life?

In my first year, I taught $5 classes (aimed at making yoga more financially accessible) at QSY. It was a wonderful experience. I also subbed several 7:30am classes, which really got my blood pumping in the morning! In the spring of 2020, QSY gave me the opportunity to teach my first 8-week course. I was grateful for having dipped my toes in, but the pandemic put a pause on the program. Since then, I’ve taught classes online via Zoom to office! As a school teacher, I’ve also been able to incorporate yoga and meditation into some of my classes.

What was your biggest takeaway from our program?

The sense of community at Queen Street Yoga has kept me going. It’s no secret that it can be really hard to find paid work the first few years as a yoga teacher. Having support from my fellow graduates, as well as my former teachers, Leena, Emma, Nicole and Monica, was very encouraging, through the periods where I wasn’t teaching or unable to find work. They reached out to me when I had questions and even kept me in the loop when new opportunities arose. I could not have asked to be supported by a better group of people.

“I had so many questions to ask. My curiosity was driving me to learn more and I was looking for a space to grow and be challenged. QSY was such a safe and supportive space. I was able to bring in thoughts and ideas from a personal lens, as a person of colour.”

Did you have any hesitations about doing the program that you had to address? Or obstacles you had to overcome?

I knew that this YTT program was for me because I had so many questions to ask. My curiosity was driving me to learn more and I was looking for a space to grow and be challenged. QSY was such a safe and supportive space. I was able to bring in thoughts and ideas from a personal lens, as a person of colour. I also greatly appreciated that the curriculum covered topics such as maintaining boundaries and explored what consensual touch means. As a victim of sexual assault, I have noticed that too many yoga studios don’t address it in their training. The program at YTT has done a thorough job of addressing some truly important and imperative issues in their training.

What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to do our training? What could you say to help them decide?

Queen Street Yoga is a place to grow, learn and be challenged. If you are a person who thinks deeply about anti-oppression or systemic disparities, this is a place where you will be engaged. Your voice will be heard and respected.


Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training program is a big decision. Learn more about our dynamic and empowering program on our website, and register for a Virtual Info Session to connect with Emma, Leslie and Leena, YTT Directors.

Meet Our Grads: Kayla

Kayla Haas graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training program in 2020 and has begun her teaching journey online during the pandemic. We look forward to seeing where she goes. You can connect with Kayla on Instagram at @kay.jay.h. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.


What is happening in your yoga teaching life?

After graduating from QSY’s 200hr YTT in 2020, I started teaching family and friends 1-2 times a week online. This year, I taught virtual kids yoga classes through a community centre and completed QSY’s 40hr Restorative YTT. I currently teach a private student through QSY and have subbed a few classes there.

What was your biggest takeaway from our program?

Yoga is so much more than physical postures. I credit the knowledgeable YTT faculty and guest speakers for helping me understand how to integrate yoga philosophy into all areas of my life. This foundational learning encouraged me to seek more information about the roots and evolution of yoga in order to better understand styles taught today.

“The learning that takes place within this training will spill into other areas of your life. You will be challenged to expand your self-awareness and critically examine your worldview.”

Did you have any hesitations about doing the program that you had to address? Or obstacles you had to overcome?

I worried about taking up space in a YTT program, and within yoga spaces in general, as a white woman. I had to reconcile feelings of guilt and uncertainty with my desire to deepen my practice and learn to teach. I knew I didn’t want to treat a YTT as just something to fill my time with, so I made sure I had the capacity to fully engage with the material in this program.

What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to do our training? What could you say to help them decide?

This program demands an investment of your time and energy for 10 months. The learning that takes place within this training will spill into other areas of your life. You will be challenged to expand your self-awareness and critically examine your worldview. This training was enriching, difficult, comprehensive, exhausting, and nourishing all at once.


Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training program is a big decision. Learn more about our dynamic and empowering program on our website, and register for a Virtual Info Session to connect with Emma, Leslie and Leena, YTT Directors.

Here’s our new name, you can take it or leaf it

A Post from Leena Miller Cressman, Queen Street Yoga Owner/Director 

We needed a new name. But how to choose?

After the weighty decision to move from our home of 15 years, 44 Queen Street South, the decision to find a new name was obvious. However, what to rename ourselves ended up feeling like a monumental task. It took several months of brainstorming, testing, and soul-searching before we finally reached a decision. I felt a huge responsibility to rename this studio, since Queen Street Yoga has been a special place for many people for a long time – including me. This task felt akin to renaming a teenager. 

I wanted a name that felt true to who we already are, and would lead us into what we can become. This has been an opportunity to think carefully about why our studio exists. And now, I am proud to introduce you to our new name: The Branches.

We wanted this new name to connect to our values. The branches of Yoga include so much more than just asana (postures). It is meditation, community service, and a spiritual pathway to wholeness. In addition to being a way to care for our bodies, we believe Yoga and movement practices can be a catalyst for social and environmental justice. Yoga practice can help us recognize our interconnectedness. Yoga can give us sustenance to care for ourselves and others. With Yoga as our common ground, we can learn to engage with the world more wholeheartedly. 

Our studio has been around for 16 years and we hope “The Branches” conjures the image of a huge, mature tree. We’re not a young sapling. We’ve got deep roots, a sturdy trunk, a big canopy, and we’re home to lots of life. The Branches represent the diverse people who have gathered in our community for the past decade and a half, and the many new people we are connecting with in online classes. Our new name speaks to the many people who have graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training to seed their own classes in schools, prisons, community centres, backyards, and seniors’ homes. Our strong branches reach far beyond a physical location.

We’re not a young sapling. We’ve got deep roots, a sturdy trunk, a big canopy, and we’re home to lots of life.

The Branches is a place of growth and nourishment. In our new location, no longer beholden to landlords and threatened by ever-increasing rent prices, we have more freedom to put down roots and create inclusive community space. We are working to build a ramp to make our ground-floor studio accessible. To remove financial barriers, we’re now offering sliding-scale prices for all our classes. We hope that our space can become a hub for community action by offering low-cost meeting rooms. Our new location is easily accessible by public transit, walking and biking. We’re in the middle of major renovations and have invested in a small environmental footprint by eliminating natural gas and retrofitting our building with energy-efficient heating, cooling and insulation. 

Come practice yoga with us outside under the branches of the maple, linden, and spruce trees

So welcome to The Branches. We’re so excited to practice together with you in our brand-new yoga space, whether in person or online. It’s going to be beautiful! This summer, as we await the hopeful resolution of the pandemic and our renovations, come practice yoga with us outside under the branches of the maple, linden, and spruce trees on our spacious back deck. 

P.S. We have a brand new website to match our name launching soon!

Meet Our Grads: Nadine

Nadine Quehl graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training program in 2018 and is dedicated to sharing yoga as a form of community care. We admire her work as an advocate for the incarcerated women she teaches, and are so glad she is sharing her warmth and knowledge in the community. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.


What is happening in your yoga teaching life?

Before the pandemic I was teaching yoga to women at Grand Valley Institution (GVI). Since the pandemic started, I have led free Community Care classes for QSY with my friend Sara. I’m grateful that we were able to share those yoga class recordings with the women at GVI, since it hasn’t been possible to teach in-person there since the pandemic began.

I have been leading mindful movement sessions for my choir Inshallah once or twice on Zoom to keep us connected. I have also shifted teaching yoga for my colleagues at the University of Waterloo to an online format. This year I started the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Practicum at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies, which I love incorporating into my classes.

“I have had a shift in my personal practice of gratitude, self-kindness and community care – a journey that has deepened significantly as a result of YTT.”

What was your biggest takeaway from our program?

QSY teacher training enabled me to witness and embody the power of connection and compassion, as well as confidence. I started the program thinking that I would deepen my practice only, and not teach afterwards, but I have been teaching consistently since I graduated (and in a prison, which I never would have envisioned). I have had a shift in my personal practice of gratitude, self-kindness and community care – a journey that has deepened significantly as a result of YTT. QSY also gave me a whole new understanding of what ‘yoga’ is and the importance of making it accessible and inclusive and taking it ‘off the mat’ to address issues that need transforming in our world.

Did you have any hesitations about doing the program that you had to address? Or obstacles you had to overcome?

After spending way too many years in graduate school and getting burned out, I was hesitant to enter an intensive program of study, but QSY’s encouraging and caring community made a huge difference in my ability to learn and thrive. I also wondered if I would have enough time to commit to the practice and homework. I was concerned that an academic study of yoga might sap the joy from the practice but, happily, it made me love and appreciate yoga even more. I was terrified of teaching, but going in with an open attitude and intention to do the training to enhance my own practice helped.

What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to do our training? What could you say to help them decide?

I would suggest considering your availability, as it is a big time commitment and you will get the most out of the program if you can make time not only for the readings and classes, but also for the home practice of yoga. Talking to grads is a great start, and I am happy to chat with you if you want to reach out. Connecting with the faculty, be curious and ask lots of questions about the program.


Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training program is a big decision. Learn more about our dynamic and empowering program on our website, and register for a Virtual Info Session to connect with Emma, Leslie and Leena, YTT Directors.

Meet Our Grads: Chris

Chris Bourke graduated from our Yoga Teacher Training program in 2016 and has gone on to teach and work with several leaders in the yoga and movement world, and is innovating his own approach to yoga for mental health. We are so proud of how Chris is flourishing in his career, and can’t wait to see where he goes next. You can connect with Chris @anchoredtides on Instagram. Here’s what he had to say about his experience.


What is happening in your yoga teaching life?

The QSY YTT gave me an incredible launchpad into many movement training and teaching opportunities. This was in large part due to the way Emma and Leena fostered our unique teaching voices and interests. I remember our final teaching assignment allowed us to pick the ideal community we wanted to teach to, and how we would want to teach. That creative space opened the door for me to explore movement for mental health. I am currently teaching with GOODBODYFEEL and Mindful Strength as well as my own mental health focused practice, Anchored Tides.

What was your biggest takeaway from our program?

QSY was one of the first yoga studios that put a strong focus on anti-oppression and inclusion in their training. We had some remarkable guest teachers that taught us about anti-racism, LGBTQ2S+ spaces, and body inclusivity. That was one of the biggest takeaways – how to build spaces that are welcoming and inclusive to folks. They bolstered the confidence in holding those spaces and the humility it takes to make mistakes, and learn as you engage this work.

Did you have any hesitations about doing the program that you had to address? Or obstacles you had to overcome?

I remember when I first considered signing up for the training I thought “Do I practice yoga enough to do this and become a teacher?” I quickly learned that being a teacher and space holder is less about the postures or the movement, and much more about how we show up compassionately (ourselves included). This training taught me so much about building confidence in front of others from a place of embracing imperfection and not having to know it all.

“That was one of the biggest takeaways – how to build spaces that are welcoming and inclusive to folks. They bolstered the confidence in holding those spaces and the humility it takes to make mistakes, and learn as you engage this work.”

What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to do our training? What could you say to help them decide?

A Yoga Teacher Training is a really wonderful experience regardless of whether it yields a road towards teaching. You spend a whole year in this loving community of people who support one another and nurture each other’s personal/professional growth. During these wild times of disconnection and change, feeling supported by a community is incredibly invaluable. Aside from that, this training is going to give you some of the most innovative, progressive and up-to-date teaching strategies. Leena is a pedagogy GENIUS! Emma is a whiz in creativity and compassionate sequencing. Leslie is a strength and nervous system powerhouse. You are going to feel SUPER supported and SUPER smart afterwards.


Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training program is a big decision. Learn more about our dynamic and empowering program on our website, and register for a Virtual Info Session to connect with Emma, Leslie and Leena, YTT Directors.

Shame About Shame: A Reflection from Emma

This post is written by QSY co-director and lead teacher, Emma. This month, she is starting a gentle return from her maternity leave, and is excited to rejoin the QSY community.


Shame about shame. Would we call that Meta-shame?

I officially come back from my maternity leave later this spring, but I’ve got some thoughts to share with the community as I start to think about yoga and teaching again. 

One thing I’ve been mulling over during my maternity leave is body shame. And not just shame about my body, but shame ABOUT the shame about my body. Because I shouldn’t be feeling body shame, right? I’ve been teaching Yoga for Round Bodies for 8 years, talking up themes of body neutrality, self-acceptance and self-love in my classes and our teacher training. I’m YOUR cheerleader for taking things at your own pace, for focusing on how it feels to be in your body or yoga poses, rather than thinking about what you look like. I’m supposed to be a role model for self-acceptance, right?

The Sting of the Second Arrow

This shame I’m feeling is what many Buddhists call “the second arrow”, which I first heard about from Tara Brach. Simply put, when we experience something painful, there is often reactivity and blame (of someone else or ourselves). We experience more suffering than the initial pain, a suffering on top of suffering. Tara talks about cultivating the ability to “pause, recognize and open” in order to step out of that cycle of suffering. 

Pause. Okay, deep breath. 

Pause and recognize. I guess where I need to start then, is recognizing that I still have body shame. Actually, let me re-write that. I recognize that my culture taught me to have body shame, and I’m still recovering from that. My culture taught me that the best bodies were thin, fit, able and beautiful. My culture taught me that if I gained weight, I was lazy, ugly and unlovable. Oof. That’s quite a cultural idea to recover from. 

It’s a tangled thing, unravelling these cultural stories and seeing how they show up in my mind. That’s where the shame about the shame comes in. I feel embarrassed that I haven’t completely transformed the way I feel about my body. I want to hide that, and only show the part of myself that is okay with how my body looks and moves. I can’t tell my yoga students or community that I don’t completely accept my body, can I?

Pause, recognize and open. Sure I can. Something I’ve discovered about shame is that it changes when I speak it out loud. When I share the vulnerability of it, and ask others to hold it with me. 

Do we have to already love ourselves to practice Yoga?

When I really sit with this and mull it over, it points me to the importance of having spaces and communities like ours, where we can show up in our realness, where we can pause, recognize and open on our own terms. Where we can be our half-realized dreams of who we are and want to be, and live the unravelling and reconstructing process that it is to learn about and (eventually, maybe, sometimes) love ourselves.  It’s not REQUIRED that you already accept and love yourself to practice yoga. That can be what a yoga practice nudges, nurtures and slowly allows.

A community like ours doesn’t make self-acceptance the next “perfect” to measure ourselves against. We can be careful not to make shame about shame the “new shame in town”. We can recognize that there is always more to learn, practice and discover about ourselves, and there is always more kindness we can extend. 

Reflecting on this also reaffirms my dedication to this work. This work of facilitating movement spaces where our bodies and attitudes can be welcomed with love. This work of making sure these themes are present and active in our teacher training program. We can work together to create a culture around bodies that tells new and different stories. Because the old narratives are harmful and untrue and they rob us of joy. They keep us separated from one another in little boxes of shame.

Have you experienced something like meta-shame? Or other concoctions of feelings about your body? Did it come after a big body change (like for me, pregnancy)? Or a gradual body change? What kinds of thoughts did you notice coming up? Did you feel like you could share them?

Let’s Talk About Yoga Spaces

This post is written by Cassidy McCabe (pictured right), graduate of our 2020 Yoga Teacher Training cohort, and features a conversation with her friend and fellow Yoga practitioner, Adwoa Toku (pictured left).

I knew that enrolling in the yoga teacher-training program through Queen St. Yoga would transform the way I thought about yoga forever. Initially, I learned how to sequence a great class, how to give anatomical cues, and how to adapt poses for different skill levels.  It was very important to me to be prepared to teach students from their mats; and as I continued to study, my understanding of yoga was drastically altered. The changes in my concept of yoga began when the program introduced some preliminary anti-oppression education. I started to contemplate some of the personal challenges that can inhibit individuals from even taking their first step onto a yoga mat. I began to wonder if yoga is accessible to all people.

Spoiler alert: it’s generally not.

Can race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, body size or ability be a barrier which stops people from even beginning a personal yoga journey? These questions started to percolate with me, serendipitously, at the same time I was being exposed to the Black Lives Matter social movement in my community and around the world. To further explore my questions, I reached out to one of my close friends, Adwoa Toku. 

Adwoa, wearing black shorts and a t-shirt, practices Dancer's pose outside among flowers and shrubs.

 “Creating these transformative practices to address things that we know we’re all dealing with… the anxiety we feel in our bodies; the fear, the guilt, the shame, these are things that a lot of the time, even if we talk about, it still exist within our bodies. So how do we move these things that our body holds outside of it; and how do we then give ourselves space to move forwards and to move together?” –Adwoa Toku

Learning In Relationship

Adwoa and I have been friends since we met in residence at Wilfrid Laurier University, in 2012. We discovered yoga separately, but would communicate elements of our journey with each other, and share our love for the practice. Given our friendship, I felt comfortable asking Adwoa for her perspective. As a Black yogi, I hoped Adwoa would be able to provide me with some insight to the questions I had a desire to explore.  When I approached her about the concept of how yoga spaces can be inhibitive for individuals, Adwoa was enthusiastic about being part of the conversation.

Adwoa’s Lived Experiences

We recorded ourselves on a Zoom call and the results were informative and transformative for me personally. Adwoa’s charisma and honesty shines through, as she speaks from the heart about her yoga journey. Here is the link to our conversation:

Adwoa had a few final words to summarize the key points of our discussion:

“At the end of the day, my experience as a Black yogi is equal to my experience moving through the world; navigating spaces that don’t necessarily see me in their landscape, but knowing I deserve to shape my life in a way that fills me up. It’s up to those who hold privilege to show up and have the hard conversations with their peers, who hold privilege as well. It’s the ways of complacency and comfort that have led us here; those of us who experience it’s shadow know that marginalization is nothing new. Moving from a heart-centred place sometimes feels like jumping into the fire, of all the hard realities we don’t want to see, but is necessary for change.” -Adwoa Toku

Big Body Yoga: Reflections on The “Weight” of Words

This blog post is written by Carol Kennedy, who is joining our staff to teach Yoga for Round Bodies for the Fall 2020 season.

Big, Body, and Yoga are three words that exist as distinct spaces for judgment. A whole gamut of adjectives are ascribed to Yoga, much like our bodies, and the construct of being “big.” This blog is a challenging one to write for me, as these three words, especially in conjunction with one another, conjure up so many emotions and images. 

Yoga has been described as exercise, movement, cult, appropriation, commodity, ritual, sacred, Eastern, and Western, just to name a few – and these descriptions are quite often shifting and morphing at the same time. Yet these descriptions of Yoga, and debates surrounding its definition remain external to us as individuals, allowing space for objectivity. This threshold of objectivity is crossed when the word “body” is connected to Yoga. Our bodies move us; hold our thoughts, our emotions. They nurture us, and can do the most miraculous of things, and they are what contain ‘us’ as embodied whole beings. 

The body is what makes Yoga subjective, and this seems almost redundant when put together. I mean, we all have bodies, and each of us have a dynamic relationship with it, and through it. So, what is Yoga without the embodied human? Is Yoga a tool for the body? Or is the body a tool for Yoga? Continue reading “Big Body Yoga: Reflections on The “Weight” of Words”

Let’s make community care the new buzzword

Self-care is a buzzword, and we use it liberally at Queen Street Yoga. It can be an important practice of slowing down, taking time for yourself, and caring for your heart, body and mind. However, self-care and yoga practice can be inaccessible to many people. What we need to complement self-care and enhance overall wellness is community care, where people “are committed to leveraging their privilege to benefit others. ¹

Community care takes the onus off of the individual to take care of themselves, all by themselves, and places the responsibility for care within the community, in friend networks, or through structured groups or organizations. For true wellness, “people should receive community care from both their government and their friend networks.” Of course, we know that that doesn’t always happen. And recently, with drastic cuts to provincial healthcare, education, and the arts, more and more community care is being taken away from those who need it most. 

We want community care to become as strong a buzzword as self-care. We also want it to mean something, and to actively practice and embody it. Two ways that we are amplifying the principle of community care at Queen Street Yoga are:

Continue reading “Let’s make community care the new buzzword”

Yoga as Refuge and Resistance

A few weeks ago, Leena and I went to a climate change support group. The event alternated between conversations in pairs and as a whole group. We talked about our love and appreciation of nature and our pain and worry at seeing the climate crisis evolve. We ended by envisioning new actions we could take, as individuals and as communities. 

I thought I would leave the group feeling sad and overwhelmed, but instead I left energized and upbeat. I felt relieved to be sitting in a room of people talking about the crisis, rather than avoiding it. 

And it brought Leena and I back to wondering what the practice of yoga can be at this time. If there can be a place for yoga to be a part of the change we want to see, rather than carrying on like it’s business as usual. 

Yoga is a business, and Queen Street Yoga exists within capitalism. Yoga can be viewed as a tool of capitalism, a way to keep the cogs in the machine going. Yoga can help reduce stress in the workforce so everyone can keep consuming and the machine of big business can continue, unchecked. 

Continue reading “Yoga as Refuge and Resistance”