Learning to Relax with 15 Days


Some people are natural relaxers. Others have to learn (or relearn).

At the risk of sounding preachy, nope, a Netflix binge on the couch is not relaxation. It might be soothing and distracting, both of which are useful strategies that have their place in our lives. But deep relaxation requires a presence that can’t be found while glued to a screen.

Without a numbing influence like TV, many of us struggle to actually just relax. When distractions are taken away, we might need something a little different to help us get there. That “something else” is really important, and we need it to be a support into which we can lean, give over, or surrender and be held by. For natural relaxers, perhaps the floor and internal sense of comfort is often enough. But for folks who struggle to find ease, a little more support can go a long way. This support might come in the form of objects, a particular circumstance, or the presence of a trusted guide or friend.

In restorative Yoga and other gentle practices offered at The Branches, we aim to provide all three of those factors in the form of:

  1. COZY SUPPORT: props, bolsters, cushions and blankets
     
  2. INTENTIONAL SPACE: a practice environment created with care – we consider the timing of the practice, the length and pace of the sequence, any music playing, the lighting, and how you are guided into and out of practice
     
  3. CARING GUIDANCE: experienced and trusted teachers who hold space, and offer guidance, encouragement, and a warm presence, as you explore what it’s like to slow down and rest

Below, you’ll find information on a few opportunities to practice true relaxation. Carving out the time and space to unwind, decompress and soften is a big move if you’re used to going on warp speed all the time. It might be hard, but it’s worthwhile. We’re looking forward to supporting you in getting there.

Candlelit Restorative Yoga
Saturday March 12, 7:30-9pm
Join virtually or in-person.
We planned this one specifically for the evening when Daylight Savings steals an hour of sleep…so gear up to lay down, guided by Leslie.

A completely new virtual offering…
15 Days of Presence

15 Days of Presence is an approachable entry point to learn to savour the gifts of presence. This series provides daily guidance that will gently immerse you in the still waters of meditation through a combination of approachable movement, restorative yoga, and simple breath-focused meditation techniques. 

Perfect for total beginners or those hoping to reacquaint themselves with a meditation practice, 15 Days of Presence takes place from April 1 to 15. The series gradually builds towards more time spent in stillness, with a new 15-minute practice video each day. 

When you join 15 Days of Presence, you’ll get access to the program for one month, so you’ll have another 15 days to repeat the videos and further establish yourself in a consistent routine of practice. The series also includes The Gifts of Presence Workshop and features classes with Danette Adams, Leslie Stokman, Emma Dines, and Leena Miller Cressman. 

Gifts of Presence Workshop with Leslie Stokman: Sunday April 24, 7:30-8:30pm. Included when you join 15 Days of Presence, this workshop will start with a 30-minute guided restorative yoga and meditation practice, followed by Q&A, and discussion about next steps on cultivating a meditation practice.

Two Ways to sign up: 

Buy the series on it’s own: $60+hst 

Or, get your first 7-days free and then access for only $40/month when you join Branches On-Demand!


Accessible Yoga: Challenges and Lessons

Nathan is a graduate of our Yoga Teacher Training and has begun teaching all-abilities accessible yoga in the KW community. In this post Nathan shares some fantastic suggestions for teaching accessible classes, and acknowledges where the yoga world needs to change and grow in relation to folks with disabilities. If you appreciate this kind of perspective and want a deeper dive into these themes, check out Reforming Yoga Culture, where we are bringing together innovative teachers who are
transforming the yoga world from the inside out. Now, here’s Nathan!

Everyone deserves fair and equal access to yoga. I know that’s hardly a controversial statement, but in reality many people encounter barriers when trying to engage with a yoga practice. This can be especially true for individuals living with disability. Many of these barriers extend beyond the context of yoga and find their roots in larger systems of oppression and injustice. While on a more subtle level, without appropriate care and
reflection some of these same prejudice can find a presence in the very language and methods by which yoga is taught.

As a facilitator of accessible all-abilities yoga classes, I’ve learned that my
attentiveness, choice of language, and ability to hold space are just as important as poses and movements when it comes to making yoga truly accessible.

I discovered yoga during a time of personal need. In the spring of 2015, over a series of few days, my sight quickly faded until I could hardly see. After three days in the ER and a series of jabs and scans I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis — an auto immune disease that causes a breakdown in the central nervous system’s ability to
communicate with the rest of the body. At first, the effects are temporary but over time can lead to permanent disability.

Yoga became a lifeline for me in those early days. The moments of calm that emerged during and following my practice provided me with enough space to slowly begin to process and accept my new reality.

It’s this experience that ultimately inspired me to want to share this practice with others and pursue accessible-focused teaching.

Stepping into this role has been a journey marked by fundamental word-view-changing opportunities for learning. Here are a few discoveries that I hope other yoga teachers might find useful to incorporate into their teaching, especially when working with a
range of abilities.

1. Don’t push people to extend their capacity

After one of my first classes, I received feedback from a participant, about an experience of being pushed beyond their capacity in a previous class with a different instructor and how happy they were that I had led the practice in a way that allowed them to participate. It pains me to say that I have heard similar stories from many other
students.

There’s a common myth/belief within fitness culture that by pushing someone to extend their capacity you’re actually helping them to achieve their goals. While teaching in this way may in fact be motivating to a small number of students, it can also cause physical harm and create barriers to participation. I am not advocating that as teachers we should remove the opportunity to engage in challenging activity from our classes but rather a shift in attitude. A shift towards the idea that…

2. Everything is optional.

Permissive teaching explicitly outlines that everything presented is optional and creates a space where the student has the agency to engage with the practice on their own terms. In a practical sense this might look like presenting an exercise at a level of modest engagement, then inviting the option of further exploration into more challenging territory. As a rule, I always try to model the most inclusive option and only show something more strenuous if it would be truly beneficial. If I do, I’ll return to what
I first presented after a few moments. The goal here is to give every possible signal that pursuing more strenuous exercise is entirely optional and not an expectation. This empowers students to take a more central roll in their practice by deciding how they would like to engage (or not engage) with what you’ve presented.

3. Create a ‘container of safety’

A ‘container’ refers to a collection of practices and assurances that are designed to help individuals know they’re safe from harm. As a teacher, I take on the responsibility (and the privilege) of facilitating such a space. Before I share practical considerations for the creation of a container, I want to briefly make a case for why such a space is so
important.

Feeling safe is a privilege. The reality is that we currently do not live in a fair and equal society and some individuals face great adversity for simply being who they are. Some of this hardship is systemic and some is intentionally inflicted abuse. It’s a heavy consideration, but essential when working with a marginalized population. The intention of the container is to create a space that’s free of persecution and protected from the shortcomings and injustice so prevalent within our culture.

Creating a container goes beyond the physical space and begins with your marketing and communications. How you choose to name and describe your class, the people/groups you’re intending to reach, and who is present (or not present) in your photography are all important considerations.

A container has an inside and an outside. As such, you may choose to make your classes exclusively open to a certain group or population. The purpose of these boundaries it not so much the exclusion of others but rather to support the integrity of the group within. Strong and defined walls can help to create a space of safety and inclusion and perhaps even lay the ground work for community to emerge.

When beginning a class, I always introduce myself and define my role. As an able-bodied presenting instructor, I feel that it’s important to say a little about my experience with MS and how that lead me to want to share yoga with others. I offer ways to engage with the practice by inviting student to follow their intuition and move in ways that feel good to them. I balance this with a suggestion to avoid any movements that don’t feel good. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I talk about the way in which I hope student will relate to my instructions. As a facilitator, my role is to guide people to have their own experience and I want my offerings to be seen as optional
invitations for exploration.

4. Teach responsively (Have a back-up plan)

To help prepare for my first accessible class, I reached out to my mentor and YTT co-director Emma Dines to help navigating the unknowns of this new teaching venture. Of all her advice, what came to the forefront for me was her suggestion to teach responsively.

Emma used the example of a neck roll exercise. She suggested I start by leading a simplified neck movement. By closely observing my students’ response, I’d be able to have a good indication as to whether I should continue into the full neck roll movement or instead move onto something else.

Up until this point, I had planned all my classes in advance to quite a high level of detail before ever presenting them to students. Responsive teaching would mean to go off script and to adapt my classes based on my observation and intuition. To an experienced instructor, this is often second nature but as a beginner the prospect seemed rather intimidating.

To honour the reality of where I was at in my teaching journey, I decided that planning additional content for my classes would be the way to go. For my first hour-long class I planned twenty minutes of extra content. This way, if I noticed the movement I was offering wasn’t landing well with the group, I could move on to another exercise without fear of running through my whole sequence before the end of class.

Being able to teach responsively is a hugely resourceful tool for any instructor, but in my case practicing this way of teaching also highlighted the distance between my own lived experience and that of my students. So, as this post comes towards an end, I’d like to take a moment to briefly speak to the ethical consideration of leading accessible
classes as an able-bodied person.

When I began this journey, I had hoped that my experience with critical illness would serve as a bridge to understanding a reality much different than my own. In some way it has helped but I would limit this only to better informing my position as an ally. My heart tells me that someone with real lived experience should be leading these classes.

Unfortunately, the same barriers to entry that individual’s experiencing disability encounter when pursuing a yoga practice are further amplified when it comes to pursuing yoga teach training. There are few accessible training programs available and little representation of accessible-focused teachers in mainstream yoga culture.

I believe that accessible yoga is in a period of transition. A period where those of us with privileged positions have the responsibility to encourage, empower, and make space for those within the community to take their rightful place to teach from the lived experience of disability. I hope the day soon comes that I can step aside from my role as facilitator to make space for someone with lived experience. Until then, it’s an absolute privilege to be in this position.

Self Care Is A Band-Aid Solution In A Broken System.

Band-aids have their place, but they don’t really support deep healing. And in a broken system, self-care routines are like minnows swimming upstream against the raging currents of neoliberal hyper-individualistic capitalism.

Caring self-regard and self-loving actions do matter – but practically, it’s the more well-resourced among us who reap the benefits of self-care habits. The time, money, and education required to identify helpful strategies and act upon them is not equally accessible to all.

Obsession with the Self in Self-Care

Hustle culture, grind culture, self-help and self-improvement culture all tell us that “no one is going to save you.” Yes, we should all do our best to treat ourselves as though our health matters, but this hyper-individualistic attitude is dissociated from the fact that as human animals, we heal and grow in relationship and in community. Doing everything yourself is not only near-impossible, it’s not even in our nature. 

Many wellness influencers and coaches use our (justifiable) fears of illness and unworthiness to capitalize on our desperation to optimize our wellbeing and desirability. They reel us in by performing their own wellness, which is often bolstered by genetics and their existing resources, making promises of a better life through discipline, early-morning routines, and of course, unshakeable dedication to the self.

There’s nothing wrong with a morning routine, but emphasizing this self-focused approach has us wondering – what about the capacity for single-moms, low-wage workers, neurodivergent, chronically-ill & disabled folks, and individuals of marginalized identity to fight to swim upstream?

Imagining A New Way of Being

We’re wondering whether self-care would even be a thing in a radically transformed society, where we might live in accordance with the reality of interrelationship: where child-care was provided for, where everyone had enough good food to eat, where rest and leisure were truly recognized to be just as life-giving as exercise, achievement and production.

Could networked systems of care provide the support we all need for collective wellness?

We don’t advocate for giving up on self-care, but we do believe in an approach to wellness that uses the lens of the social determinants of health, and that emphasizes Community Care as a more ethical and more effective approach.

What Can Wellness Spaces Do?

We see the ways in which yoga studio culture can also be full of wimpy little band-aids, and we hope to be more, do more and influence the broader culture towards recognizing and acting on our innate state of deep interrelationship.

Our mission is “to create a better world with Yoga as our common ground.” Part of this means doing business in a way that embodies our values. We value compensating our staff and teachers fairly and generously, and we alue offering more equitable wellness opportunities.

This orientation to business and community leads us to offer things like no-questions-asked sliding scale pricing, scholarships for 1 in 5 spots in our YTT, and Community Care Week.

You can read more about Community Care and our approach here.

A Peek into Sequencing

Leena here, Owner and Director of The Branches. I’m going to let you peek under the hood of my sequencing brain. If you’ve ever wondered how and why yoga teachers choose to sequence their classes in a certain way, this post will give you some ideas about how poses relate, and how they can build on one another, particularly towards a pinnacle or apex pose.

Let’s take the pose Utthita Hasta Padangustasana or Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose. I’d like to introduce you to it’s whole family.

So many asanas have close ties to other poses and I like to think of each pose having a family tree of relations: some shapes clearly give birth to other, or share a lineage, one building upon the next. You could think of Warrior 2 and Triangle being a married couple, or cat and cow being siblings. Poses also have what I like to think of as “family dynamics”: common pitfalls and also patterns of engagement/preparations/activations that are helpful.

If Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose is the daughter, here’s a lineage:
1. THE GRANDMOTHER: Reclined Hand (or strap) to Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana)
2. THE CROCHETY AUNT: Triangle Table – with activations for hip, hamstring and groins (crochety – get it?)
3. THE FATHER + MOTHER: Warrior 2 and Triangle Hinges (Parsvottanasana and Trikonasana)
4. THE OLDER BROTHER: Tree (Vrksasana)
5. Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

You can see videos of these poses in action here.

What’s my logic?
All of these poses share similar shape in the hips: external rotation and flexion.
#1, 3, 5 share very similar shapes in the hip and the whole top/front leg. #2 always gives her opinionated opinion and gets you ready for what’s to come. 4 and 5 are siblings because of being both standing balancing poses and tree naturally prepares you for the more challenging balance.

For our second shape, let’s do some genealogy for Setu Bandha Sarvāṅgāsana or Bridge Pose.

Bridge is a pose that can be used in lots of sequences and for different purposes. It could be part of warm ups, show up in potpourri (a little bit of everything sequence), OR you can really break it down and build it up in a pinnacle sequence to deepen your understand and experience of the pose.

Let’s get into the weeds a bit… In bridge pose we have the following joint shapes:
– Spine is extended (back bend)
– Hips are extended (moving forward/up)
– Shoulders are extended (moving behind the body)
– Knees are flexed (bent to 90 degrees)

Here’s how the family tree I’ve chosen relates to and prepares you for bridge:
1. Locust and crocodile pulses: warm up the spinal, hip and shoulder extension
2. Kneeling Lean Backs: big time hip extension prep
3. Dancer Presses: warm up hamstrings, hip extension, shoulder extension and knee flexion
4. Forward folds with arms in strap: shoulder extension prep
5. Bridge Pose: ta-da!

See photos of these poses here!

In our upcoming Continuing Ed Module called *Sequencing with Purpose*, we’ll share a range of sequencing techniques from potpourri to therapeutic to pinnacle and beyond. You’ll get intimate with the family trees of poses, so really any pose could become a fascinating pinnacle pose to work with. We’ll also share invaluable tools for seamlessly integrating non-asana movements like mobility drills and strength training into your practices/classes.

Fun Facts about Sequencing with Purpose:
⭐15+ hours of content and learning!
⚡Sliding Scale Pricing
⭐All online, and recordings are yours to keep for a full year.
⭐For Yoga Teachers AND dedicated students!

Learn more about this offering here.

My Secret Revolutionary Agenda

Emma here, and I’m going to let you in on my secret revolutionary agenda for teaching yoga. My agenda is Body Positivity, with a side of creating a better world.

When I teach a yoga class, I’m teaching breath, poses and mindfulness. But underneath all of that, I am inviting presence, softness and forgiveness for all the ways that we have abandoned our bodies, and the bodies of others. I am creating space for people to come back to their bodies, rekindle connection, and emerge with a renewed relationship with their bodies. This is how I am quietly working to change the world. 

How we think and feel about our bodies is political and world-changing because it affects how we think about the bodies of others around us. It affects which other bodies we believe are deserving of care, attention, love or rest. It affects how we vote, what we buy, who we listen to, and how we bring up our children. Body Positivity as a practice can reshape how we see not only ourselves, but all the bodies around us. 

It’s about unwinding our attention from how we look to what we want – what kind of world we want to live in. If we’re not preoccupied with our weight or shape or height or skin, what would we spend our time building? Body Positivity is about remaking our world, remaking our definition of beauty and worth, remaking our lives to celebrate the beautiful differences that we have and are. 

Body Positivity was at its inception, a political stance. In the mainstream it has been whitewashed and watered-down to simplified slogans like “love the body you have”. Body Positivity was created by Fat, Black, queer women and femmes, and was intended as a political statement/practice for those whose bodies were the least accepted by the mainstream. Remembering this history, we can think of Body Positivity as a collective practice with a radical intention. Rather than mainly considering our perception of *our own* bodies, can we commit to accepting, loving or uplifting *all* bodies? Particularly those bodies that we might not see regularly represented in our world?

A Body Positive Yoga Practice does not need to include directives to LOVE YOUR BODY (has hearing that helped anyone actually love their body, ever?). Body Positivity is not about cheerleading or slogans. It is about presence and awareness, excavating old beliefs and cultivating new ones. 

I rarely say things like “Love your body” in my classes, because it isn’t that simple, and it isn’t the point. You don’t learn to love something by being told to do so. You learn to love something by getting to know them, and seeing their wondrous and curious quirks! You learn to love something with presence, attention and consistency. 

A few years ago my friend Simone shared a Body-Positive idea with me that I have never forgotten. It seemed like an idea to remake the world. It was revolutionary and ground-changing and incredibly simple. It was this: At the Jewish summer camp where Simone worked, they had one rule for the kids. NO BODY TALK. This meant that talking about other people’s bodies was off the table, including compliments (about clothes, jewelry, haircuts).  

I was flummoxed. 

“So the kids can’t even say they like another kid’s shirt?”

“No, because one kid getting attention for their shirt might make another kid self-conscious if they never get compliments on their clothes.”

I continued to prod.

“What about if you were wearing something really interesting, like a really unusual hat?”

“They can talk about that. They can ask questions. One thing we suggest is that they ask for the story of someone’s hat or shirt. That way it’s a bit more about curiosity than approval or status.”  

I loved this idea for so many reasons, one of which is that it de-centres what is at the surface and asks us to look deeper. It’s easy to talk about someone’s haircut, but how are they actually doing under there? Body Positivity is not about just saying nice things to yourself or others; it’s about really getting to know ourselves, learning the deeper stories and hearing the difficult truths. 

My deepest hope is that the practice of Body Positivity will help us recognize and celebrate the gorgeous differences in all bodies, and that out of that will grow the seeds for a better world. 

Many of these ideas were inspired by Sonya Renee Taylor’s work, and her amazing book “The Body is Not an Apology”. What I am calling Revolutionary Body Positivity, she calls Radical Self Love. I really, really recommend her book.

Want to reflect a bit more on these ideas? I made you a downloadable set of journaling prompts for you to cozy up to with your pen for some deeper thinking and feeling.

And, if you want to be part of an intentionally Body-Positive space, join our 30 Days of Body Positive Practice, starting Jan 2.

[Repost] Self-Care is not a Transaction

Jessica McQuistin is a Branches community member and one of our regular front desk work trades, and she is also an avid blogger. We loved her recent reflections on self-care and wanted to shout it from the rooftops by sharing it over here on our blog. Read more of Jessica’s posts about mindfulness, motherhood and sustainability on her blog.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that self-care is not a transaction. I am not a machine that produces a specific output based on a specific input. Or a car that consistently runs smoother after an oil change. Or a recipe turns out the same every time as long as you use the right ingredients. No…Being human is much more complex and unpredictable.

When I forget this, I say things to myself like,

  • You just took an hour for yourself. Why aren’t you feeling refreshed?
  • You yelled at the kids again. All that meditation is obviously not working!
  • You got a good sleep last night; so why are you so tired?
  • You’ve decided to do some baking. And you love baking. Why aren’t you enjoying yourself right now?
  • I took you out for lunch as a special treat. Why aren’t you happy and grateful? What a waste of money.

When I go down this path, I can easily conclude that self-care is not worth the time, energy, money, or effort so maybe I just shouldn’t bother. But I know this isn’t true. Yet, I often find myself expecting to be magically transformed into a calm, happy, generous, grateful, energetic being after spending any ounce of time on self-care.

I’d really like to change these expectations. As an exercise in self-compassion, I’m going to replace these statements with kinder, more empathetic responses.

Old StatementNew Statement
You just took an hour for yourself. Why aren’t you feeling refreshed?You just took an hour for yourself despite feeling some “mom guilt” and yet, you’re not feeling refreshed. That’s disappointing. Maybe you’re a little burnt out right now and an hour wasn’t quite long enough for you to feel better.
You yelled at the kids again. All that meditation is obviously not working!You’ve been trying not to yell at the kids lately, and you’ve been meditating as a way of becoming less reactive. (Way to go!) Yet, despite all these efforts, you lost it and yelled. Making mistakes and noticing them is part of changing any behaviour. Keep at it and remember that you’re human. Apologize for yelling and move on.
You got a good sleep last night; so why are you so tired?You prioritized getting a good sleep last night and that’s great! Unfortunately, you don’t feel as well-rested as you expected today. Maybe you need a few more good sleeps to catch up or maybe it’s just a low-energy day and that’s okay.
You’ve decided to do some baking. And you love baking. Why aren’t you enjoying yourself right now?You usually enjoy baking but your heart’s just not in it today. Maybe you don’t have the energy for it or maybe you’d rather be out of the house than in the kitchen. Oh well! Finish what you’ve started, then move on to something you feel like doing.
I took you out for lunch as a special treat. Why aren’t you happy and grateful? What a waste of money.Hmmm…Going out for lunch usually feels like a really special treat but today it didn’t boost your mood at all. It’s still okay that you went out for lunch though.

Noticing some themes, I’ve also come up with some general reminders about self-care that I’d like to keep in mind:

  • What works sometimes doesn’t work other times.
  • I don’t always know exactly what I need. It’s okay to try something even if it doesn’t have the result I was expecting. It’s still worth trying.
  • Sometimes I need to do a lot to feel good, other times I need very little. These fluctuations are normal for me.
  • I am worthy of self-care even when I don’t emerge “better” afterward.

What attitudes or beliefs do you carry around self-care? Are there any that you’d like to challenge? This week, I invite you to listen to how you talk to yourself about self-care and just notice what comes up.

Stop using body shame to sell Yoga


It’s a hustle to be a yoga teacher or studio, but using body shame to sell yoga is harmful on an individual and societal level.⁠

Slogans we’ve heard from yoga teachers like, “Sweat is just your fat crying,” send harmful messages about the worth of bodies, particularly fat bodies. It says that fat bodies, or fat itself, deserve to be punished – that to be fat is undesirable, and deserves no compassion.⁠


When we place bodies in a hierarchy of worth, we are ripping our world apart. When we say some bodies (thin ones) deserve attention and respect and other bodies (fat ones) do not, we are enacting the kind of worldview that leaves Black or Indigenous bodies dead at the hands of police.⁠

Is that too big of a jump? We don’t think so.⁠

How we think, feel and talk about bodies IS political and world-changing. It determines which bodies we believe deserve respect, and this can unravel into who deserves to live. It affects how we vote, what we buy, who we listen to, and how we bring up our children.⁠

Body Shame about size or weight is a slippery slope to all the other shames that come with it. Our world is full of shame, and it keeps us locked up, disconnected and miserable. It keeps us focused on it, which takes energy or bandwidth away from our capacity to notice and take action on the deep injustices in our world, or to find deeper meaning and beauty in that world.⁠

Yoga teachers and studios, find another angle. Find a way to uplift people, rather than pit them against each other, or themselves.⁠

Adaptive VS Accessible Yoga?

You may have noticed a new phrase we’ve been using in our newsletters and on social media lately – Adaptive Yoga – and wondered, what does that mean, and why are we using it?

Accessibility is a hugely broad term, and can point to the myriad ways that a space or a service intentionally includes individuals who would otherwise experience barriers to access, from financial to cultural to physical. When it comes to ability, a few examples of accessibility are things like wheelchair-accessible ramps, sign-language communication for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, low lighting and softened noise for folks recovering from traumatic brain injuries, and so much more.

At The Branches, we’re choosing to use the word adaptive to set a more distinct focus for physical capacity with regard to mobility. In sum, the intention of Adaptive Yoga is to meet you where you’re at. This is an ethos we’ve aimed to manifest at the studio overall, but we’re choosing to create even more intentional and dedicated spaces for folks who might need or want them.

So, rather than teaching one-size-fits all poses and expecting all students to keep up with an intense pace, an Adaptive Yoga class empowers students with a multitude of strategies to adapt yoga poses and pacing to what works for their bodies. This often means using a chair as a key prop, and taking more time for teacher-student interaction than what typically happens in a flow class.

While students at The Branches may already have begun to learn adaptive strategies in some of our drop-in classes, especially Essentials and Slow Flow, we aim to offer more clearly dedicated opportunities for folks to engage with Yoga. One upcoming course, Adaptive Yoga With A Chair, might be a great place for you to practice if you…

  • use a mobility aid
  • have been sedentary for a long time
  • have lost some mobility over the years
  • experienced pain and difficulty moving in yoga classes in the past

The poses and sequences in our Adaptive Yoga courses are designed to adapt a conventional yogasana practice in (at least, but not limited to) the following specific ways:

  1. reducing or eliminating weight-bearing on your knees or wrists/hands
  2. minimizing the number of times you go down to and get up from the floor to once or none
  3. using external support for balance poses and explorations 
  4. relating to yoga props as a tool for growth and empowerment

If you’ve ever felt like flow yoga classes just don’t work for your wrists, knees, body size, or ability, but you do want to challenge your capacity beyond the borders of a gentle-only yoga practice, Adaptive Yoga is a great place to connect your mind and body, empower yourself, and build capacity progressively. Our Adaptive Yoga sessions are taught by an experienced teacher who can skillfully share options with a wide range of body sizes and abilities and help you grow within your own limitations.

You might see yourself or a friend or family member in the above descriptions. We encourage you to take a closer look at the options for Adaptive Yoga at The Branches, to take a leap of faith and sign up for a course, or to pass this blog post on to someone who might benefit from a yoga practice that meets them exactly where they’re at.

Ways to explore Adaptive Yoga at The Branches:

  • Sept 2021: Adaptive Yoga With A Chair – Virtual Course
  • Oct 2021: Adaptive Yoga – In-Studio Course (Please note: our ground floor studio requires 5 steps to entry. We apologize for this lack of accessibility, and continue to work towards our new ramp project.)
  • On-going: Branches On-Demand subscription has a broad selection of practices with an adaptive lens
  • Coming in 2022: Adaptive Yoga 30-Day Challenge!

The Why & How of Sliding Scale Prices

A reflection on the personal and collective responsibilities of sharing privilege.

What is sliding scale pricing? And how should you interact with the price levels at The Branches? Let’s dive in.

Should Only Wealthy Individuals Access Wellness?

Sliding scale pricing means that the same service or product can be purchased at different price points. We choose to make sliding scale pricing available for several of our offerings because we believe in creating more equitable access to wellness services and spaces in a general sense. In this specific instance, we’re aiming to address financial inaccessibility.

When we offer sliding scale, we usually use three levels. They’re called:

  • The Standard Rate: this is the going rate, based on comparable offerings throughout the market, and it enables us to pay our teachers fairly and our staff a living wage
  • The Subsidized Rate: this rate is for folks experiencing financial hardship & inaccessibility
  • The Community Supporter Rate: this rate is for those with the means to help us offer the subsidized rate

When you select a pricing level at The Branches, you are free to choose from the three rates at your own discretion. This means that you are not required to prove or explain your financial need to us.

Some small business owners hesitate to offer sliding scale pricing because they fear that customers will take advantage of the lower rates, even if it’s not actually necessary. Or, they feel that the lower rates don’t do justice to the energy, time, and value of their service or product. We get it, and we recognize that it can feel like a vulnerable position to put yourself in, especially in an uncertain economic climate.

By offering the freedom to choose, we’re both empowering our community to meet their own needs, and counting on individuals to make choices about sliding scale pricing with integrity. We know that our students come from a wide spectrum of financial standings, whose financial position is influenced by their ability/disability status, career income, household or generational familial wealth, etc. Our desire is that folks from all financial positions access yoga classes side by side.

Understanding Your Position – A Starter Guide

The question of who should pay what amount can bring up a lot of feelings. Class and financial privilege are loaded topics, especially in a society where wealth inequality is widening, and the cost of living is rising.

Here’s a graphic that can help you start to think about your current level of financial privilege. Alexis of Worts & Cunning Apothecary cunning created and shared this resource on their blog. The entire post is well worth a read, but for now, take a good look at this:

Through self-awareness, we hope to enter into a trusting and cooperative relationship with our community. When our larger student base practices generosity, this enables us to achieve the goal of financial accessibility. When individuals with some or plenty of financial privilege choose to pay the standard and supporter rates, we then have the sustainability to continue offering subsidized rates to individuals who are struggling.

Sliding Scale Offerings at The Branches

We currently have a sliding scale for the following services, listed here with Standard/ Subsidized/ Supporter prices:

You can read more about about each offering by clicking the links.

Let us know – how does it feel to participate in alternative pay structures like this? What comes up for you with regard to class, financial privilege, and sliding scale pricing choices?

Metamorphosis & Active Hope

Musings on climate chaos and caring action from Branches co-director Leena Miller Cressman.

This summer, as I take in the horrifying stories of fruit baking on trees in BC, and mass dying of wildlife along the west coast, fifteen monarch caterpillars have hatched in my care. It’s a tiny act of hope for a natural world in peril.

In the wild, only 10% of monarch caterpillars normally survive to reproduce, and those rates are decreasing due to pesticide use and climate change. Inside, all but one has survived so far. Once the butterflies emerge, I’ll release them to my garden.

In two weeks a caterpillar’s weight increases 2,700 times as they devour only milkweed leaves. Then they search for the perfect spot, and hang in a J shape, waiting, and over 6-12 hours they slowly change form under the surface. Then in a sudden final burst, (as seen in this 10 minute time lapse), they wriggle out of their caterpillar skin and become a chrysalis.

one of four monarch chrysalides in Leena’s dining room

Ecologist and Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy describes hope as a verb. It is something you do, actively, not something you have. In my little monarch sanctuary, I’m practicing these acts of hope for the world, and observing, with awe, the processes of nature. These processes are not linear – the reveal of a butterfly is just one step in the cycle. Equally significant are laying the eggs, days of devouring milkweed, waiting in a hanging J-shape, and the surrender into the chrysalis. 

The showy transformation of a butterfly hatching from the chrysalis is so often in photographs or videos, but this stage of metamorphosis – from caterpillar to pupa – is stunning in its own right. These creatures are so full of rich metaphors and timely teachings. 

Metamorphosis, for the caterpillar, requires a full stop and wait. It pauses, and it literally softens until it can easily wiggle out of its skin into a new form. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt or seemed stuck, but under the surface something new was emerging for you? 

As we remerge from our COVID cocoons, we might ask ourselves how we want to re-engage with the world. What hopes do we want to live into for our own wellbeing, and that of the planet? Do we really need to go back to so much jet setting? Could we continue to do more local travel and exploring? Will we keep up our new vegetable gardens or our breadmaking?

During the pandemic, we’ve seen governments and communities make monumental changes, fast. We’ve spent billions to help keep vulnerable businesses and workers afloat. We can no longer say that huge changes are impossible or just too hard. I’m living into hope for climate justice. 

To me this is about acting with care, but without attachment to the results. This is a key teaching in yogic philosophy and in the Bhagavad Gita. Will my small number of monarchs make a difference? Will the letter I send to my MP calling for action on climate change do anything? Who knows, but it’s still a good action. For more exploration on applying the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to our climate emergency, you might check out these two posts by my friend and colleague Matthew Remski: one, two.

Let’s bolster and inspire each other with active hope – share in the comments what actions you’re taking.