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.

Big News!

 

Dear QSY Community,

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Thanks for all the ways you have supported us over the course of the pandemic: from sending encouraging words, to joining our virtual memberships, to coming to outdoor yoga this summer, to supporting us with your holiday shopping, you have shown up for us. While we aren’t out of the storm yet, it is truly thanks to you that this email is not a closure announcement. 

Instead, I want to share a very big decision we’ve made, one that affirms our deep commitment to continuing the work we’re doing:

We will be moving to a new location! 

Our current space on Queen Street has been home to our community since the beginning, in 2005. Because of all that history, this is not a decision we made lightly. I know this space carries deep meaning for so many of you, just as it does for me. But, we aren’t in a position to stay at 44 Queen and stay financially viable for the foreseeable future. 

I want to acknowledge that this year has already brought so many challenging transitions, so if another change feels hard for you too, I get it. But over the course of this pandemic, it became crystal clear to me that the magic of QSY isn’t the space. It’s the people who come to move, breathe, rest and laugh together that makes it so special. 

We can create that magic together wherever we go.

We are working our butts off to make our new dream location a reality. Running the studio and teaching is not a side gig. The studio provides full-time employment to three of us, and part-time work for a dozen other teachers. With the help of government subsidies and your support, we’ve been able to continue our work, and this has meant the world to us. 

We can’t give you all the details yet, but in the meantime, here’s what you can count on: 

  • We will be in Downtown Kitchener, and continue in-person classes
  • All of our amazing teachers and staff will come with us
  • We’ll stay online too, offering virtual classes, courses, and retreats
  • We’ll still offer high-caliber training for yoga teachers
  • We’ll have full continuity of our virtual offerings, and hopefully only a short pause of in-person classes while we move
  • Later this winter, we will share details of our moving plans and host an event to say farewell and honour our time at 44 Queen 

With your continued support, and alongside this plan to move locations, I’m hopeful that our yoga community will continue to be here long after this pandemic is a distant memory. Wishing you and yours a safe and cozy holiday season!

In Community, 

Leena Miller Cressman, QSY Director 

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”

You can’t do it wrong: Declaring Yoga Non-Binary

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.

Continue reading “You can’t do it wrong: Declaring Yoga Non-Binary”

How our yoga teacher training is going to change your life and fix all of your problems

Actually, it’s not.

And if you’re okay with that, let’s talk. If you could do without the inspirational branding of being a better you, or the aspirational promises of hard and fast transformation, then we can have a real conversation. We can look together at the process of yoga teacher training for what it is; a concentrated time of learning and engaging with yourself and with a community.

A lot of YTT marketing that I see rubs me the wrong way. It seems to promise spiritual, emotional and career transformation in a one-shot deal. And, I get why people are drawn to it. Who doesn’t want a quick fix? Who doesn’t want that promise fulfilled?

Continue reading “How our yoga teacher training is going to change your life and fix all of your problems”

A different way to get outside – Forest Therapy

This post is by Kristina Domsic, one of the facilitators of our upcoming Seeds of Intention: Yoga & Nature Retreat, May 24-26.

One of the things that makes our upcoming Seeds of Intention retreat unique is that participants will get to try out Forest Therapy, also known as Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, with a certified guide. This is an amazing way to explore the beautiful landscape around Harmony Dawn retreat centre. The landscape of rolling meadow, gardens, and forest around the centre have so much to offer.

When people first hear about the idea of forest therapy, they often have an intuitive sense of some of the ways this practice could be beneficial; since we were young, many of us have heard that fresh air is good for us! When we have felt overwhelmed by stressful situations, loved ones might have suggested we go for a walk to help shake it off and gain some new perspective. That part makes sense.

So, why not just go for a simple walk outside on your own?

Well, going for a walk outside on your own is definitely a good idea. But, there are also some stand-out benefits to joining a guided Forest Therapy session! Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect on our Forest Therapy sessions at the Seeds of Intention Retreat this spring:

1. Time to unplug

Continue reading “A different way to get outside – Forest Therapy”