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.
Students ask me all the time, “Am I doing this right?” about their yoga poses. They will look at me earnestly from their Warrior 2, wanting me to give them some kind of authoritative assessment of their pose. Sometimes they are curious, sometimes they are worried. That question always makes me hesitate. What does “right” mean?
I used to believe that there were “right” and “wrong” ways to do yoga poses. I would look at a photo of someone doing yoga and feel smug if I noticed something “off” about their alignment. My initial yoga teachers told me that there were certain ways of moving or aligning that were “optimal” and that being outside of that was undesirable. Now I think differently.
This post is written by Sara F, a graduate of our 200-hour teacher training program. She’s been our a familiar face on Sunday nights, hosting at the front desk during our 6:00pm $5 Basics. Keep your eyes open for Sara on June 1 at 1:00pm for our Yoga in the Park: Pride Edition.
Have you ever been in a yoga class where the teacher instructs a pose, and you either stand/lay there knowing the pose won’t work for your body, or you silently struggle into it and hope it will end soon?
Or, on a more positive note, have you been in a yoga class where the teacher offers variations of a pose, often with different props? If the teacher gave different options, you have experienced accessible or adaptive yoga, which offers solutions that allow people of allabilities and body types to practice and benefit from yoga. At Queen Street Yoga you may have heard teachers refer to pose options as “bus stops,” and how far you ride down the bus route is up to you.
The first thing I learned in my yoga teacher training surprised me.
I assumed we would start with poses, or even yoga philosophy. But the very first thing we were taught was the importance of learning our students’ names.
My teacher went over strategies for remembering students’ names, and said, “Even if you have to ask their name every class, make the effort. It shows that you care, that you see them, that they are a real person to you.
Now that I’m in my tenth year of teaching, I cannot say how invaluable that first lesson has become. It is something I think about in every class that I teach. I love saying hello to people and voicing their name. I can tell that some people are surprised that I have made the effort to remember them, and by their smiles, I can tell that they appreciate it.
There are so many different kinds of yoga students.
There are the quiet ones who want to meditate on their mat before and after class. There are the chatty ones who talk everyone’s ear off at the water dispenser. There are the earnest ones who listen with rapt attention during class, and the jokers who heckle the teacher in good fun.
I have a tender spot in my heart for all my students, but I have a special spot reserved for yoga buddies, pairs of friends who come to class together. Usually when people come in pairs I get to know them a bit more. They tell me about how yoga is a part of their friendship. They come to class more regularly because they have a friend date and they don’t want to miss it! Yoga buddies often make the whole feeling of the class more like a hangout – they are more likely to crack jokes to each other in class, which makes everyone laugh. It’s a good scene.
You know that saying, “When you buy from a small business, an actual person does a happy dance?” It’s not an urban legend – it’s real, and it comes from the joy of sharing the creations of your heart and hands. The longer we live and work in the Downtown Kitchener community, the more we fall in love with the little shops and services that make DTK a unique place. Our small business neighbours are our friends, ourpartners and the truth is, they’re actually really awesome!
There’s another saying about the intersection of consumerism and community: “When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home.” When you buy from small, local businesses in DTK, you’re helping a young adult make rent and chip away at student loans, or helping parents put food on the table for their family. The dollars we earn and spend do have significance. Shopping local and small serves multiple purposes: your loved one gets a treat, a local business owner or maker succeeds, and you connect to your local economy through an individual relationship that you can feel good about.
In this post, we’re highlighting a few of our favourite downtown places for gift-giving inspiration (and maybe a smidge of treating yourself, too). We highly recommend you check them out, and inspire real life happy dances in our downtown core!
It was 2012, and Leena and I had just taken over the studio from the former owner, Meaghan. Andy had been a work trade on the desk for several months. She was the kind of miracle person that would come up with improvements to the current system and implement them herself. When we realized we needed help getting the studio online (can you believe we used to have a paper pass system?) we hired Andy for a few hours a week.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Ever since my 200 hour YTT ended, I’ve been squeaking away about wanting another opportunity to learn in relationship with others, in community.
I remember how awesome it was to move, observe and discuss the intricacies of anatomy, philosophy and politics with a diverse group of people, and I miss that. I’ve kept on learning on my own, and while self inquiry and practice is important, it’s just not the same thing, watching videos on my laptop and farting around on my mat at home.
Good news: with the announcement of the Queen Street Yoga Teacher’s Immersion, Leena and Emma have just greased up this squeaky wheel big time, and now I’m swirling like a merry-go-round! I know what it’s like to learn at QSY because I did my initial 200-hour training there, and what I experienced was excellent pedagogy, diverse and forward-looking perspectives, and outside experts brought in with intentionality and purpose. Beyond that, Leena and Emma are masterful at holding space, nurturing community and guiding both individual and group learning with consistent and clear support and care. The way they lead trainings with both wisdom and curiosity, experience and reflection is inspiring and makes for a true learning community.
A few weeks ago we received the following email from a student named Melissa who has become a regular at QSY since January. Her email really struck a chord with us. Melissa shared what a difference the atmosphere at the studio has made to her yoga practice, how it has helped her shift her relationship to pain, to internal competitiveness, to what she needs to cultivate a happy life. It was so wonderful to hear how the attitude of kindness that we cultivate at Queen Street Yoga resonated with her, and allowed her to be kinder to herself.
It is beyond wonderful when students share with us what a difference yoga has made in their lives. Because often as teachers, we don’t know! Folks might say “thanks, that was great!” after class, but since yoga is really an internal conversation that each person has with themselves, we as teachers don’t often know what the impact is.
Writing realizations down, or verbalizing them can be powerful. This is why we are working harder to share more of our story in our newsletter and our blog. Just like Melissa showed us who she is and what she’s learning from yoga, we want to show you who we are, get more of a window into why we teach yoga, what it means to us.
This guest-post was written by Jason Spencer, a graduate of our 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training program. You can meet Jason as part of the team of teachers leading the Sunday 6pm Community Classes!
I feel like I live in a yoga bubble call Queen Street Yoga. Initially, I was attracted to the studio by it’s location and because I had practiced in the past with Meaghan Johnson (who founded QSY). In the four years that I have passed since starting to practice at QSY, my connection to the studio has deepened, I have volunteered as a Trade, I have participated in Queen Street Conversations and I have continued my yoga practice to the point of wanting to learn to be a yoga teacher taught by the wonderful teachers who practice with this studio. What makes this studio so attractive to me is the focus on community and inclusion. Even as a newbie yoga practitioner, I always felt supported and encouraged to build my practice. When I was going through a difficult time in my life, the studio offered me options to continue my practice. In my classes, I see diversity of people and there is a clear message that all are welcomed. At QSY, there feels like an open invitation to be a part of community.Continue reading “Questioning “Yoga Culture””