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!

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”

How Can We Acknowledge Cultural Appropriation in Yoga?

In acknowledging the various cultural objects and practices that are part of QSY, we are hoping to begin to address elements that may be alienating for some people in accessing our space, or start a discussion with those who might not have considered this topic before. We welcome feedback and critique about our efforts.

At Queen Street Yoga, we are actively working to make our space more inclusive, more accessible, and anti-oppressive. As part of this work, we would like to acknowledge the cultural objects and practices that are present in our studio. Cultural appropriation is a reality in our world; cultures constantly borrow (or take) designs, images, clothing, and practices from one another. However, when a dominant culture, such as North America, does this to less politically, economically or socially powerful culture such as India, and those aspects are used outside of their original cultural context, this can have the effect of reducing or commodifying those aspects of culture in ways that can be disrespectful.

Here are some questions that we try to keep in mind as we consider the presence of cultural objects and practices at QSY. We invite you to try them on for yourself as well.

Continue reading “How Can We Acknowledge Cultural Appropriation in Yoga?”

When the Poses Don’t Work – Adaptive & Accessible Yoga

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 all abilities 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.

Continue reading “When the Poses Don’t Work – Adaptive & Accessible Yoga”

Strong or Flexible – Why Not Both?

When you see the class title Strength & Flow, what feelings or images come up? Does it make you think of a bootcamp class at the gym: grunting and burpees and shouting? Or maybe it brings up an experience of tightness in your body. One of the most commonly cited reasons for coming to yoga that I hear is, “I want to become more flexible.” Those same people often wonder if going to a class focused on strength is going to make them feel more stiff, rather than more flexible. We’ve got news for you: strength is flexibility’s best friend.

First things first though; don’t be nervous to try this class! You should know that Strength & Flow is actually quite doable, and nothing like bootcamp or gym class. The great thing about it is that it’s just as customizable as our other classes. The depth of your squat, the amount you can hinge at your hip, the time you spend time in plank, or the number of push-ups (with knees down if you want!) is up to you. You can sense the balance between fatigue and energy in your body on that day, and act accordingly. (And that’s where it becomes yoga.)

So why not “Flexibility & Flow,” when we know that flexibility is a goal for most people? Flexibility gets singled out as the physical quality that folks most desire. I get that – I began yoga without being able to touch my toes, and I used to fume with frustration and envy in seated poses because there was no way that I could straighten my knees, or tilt my pelvis forward – my back was rounded, my hamstrings felt tight, and that was that.

But: is flexibility all that it’s cracked up to be? And is passive stretching even the best way to feel and move better? You can probably tell that I don’t necessarily think so.

Continue reading “Strong or Flexible – Why Not Both?”

Your body and mind are not a problem to be solved

We’ve all done it. Declared a new path forward (“No more facebook, I am going to read a book instead!”) only to find ourselves, hours later, back in the habit. Scrolling, barely present, and regretting it later.

It’s not your fault. There are literally millions of dollars being poured into making smartphone apps, television shows, and sugary/salty foods addictive. It’s big business. Manipulating human habits is an enormous business.

We are a small business. We want to make space for people to connect with their bodies, examine the habits of their mind and movement, and learn to care for themselves in our overly busy world.

It’s hard to compete with big business. And we don’t really want to. We are not interested in manipulating people into yoga and meditation. We refuse to do it. Many marketing strategies suggesting that to grow your business, you need to create a problem for people, and tell them how you are going to solve it. (We recently saw a website for meditation that wanted you to click on “10 ways you are messing up your mindfulness practice”. Yuck.)

Continue reading “Your body and mind are not a problem to be solved”

“If you can’t do crow pose, you’re not a good person.” Nah. We don’t think so.

Sometimes when I am teaching, I feel a bit like a stand-up comedian. Depending on the mood and tone of the class, I might crack a lot of jokes, and add silly sound effects. Like a stand-up comedian, I try to poke fun at assumptions in our culture, usually those particular to the context of a yoga class.

With a sense of irony, I say things like:

“And if you can’t do crow pose, just know that you’re not as good of a person as everyone else.”

or

“Come out of this pose whenever you want. But you might not. Because peer pressure is real.”

When people laugh, I know I have struck a chord. The laughter denotes recognition of some sliver of truth. The truth that we still might be holding ideas about our physical abilities being equated to our moral character. Or how we have been conditioned to go along with a group, instead of listening to our individual needs.

Continue reading ““If you can’t do crow pose, you’re not a good person.” Nah. We don’t think so.”

Introducing new offerings July-Aug 2018

Last week I experienced a huge win while teaching my Wednesday night Intro to Yoga class.

I have been teaching Intro to Yoga for 6 years. I have re-written the curriculum three times, trained numerous teachers to share it, and this spring it is undergoing it is fourth reincarnation.

The Intro includes all of the basic poses of yoga: downward dog, plank, lunges, Warrior poses, bridge, etc. Over the years I have learned how to integrate props into the class, making the poses more doable for more people. I have learned how to sequence the classes in a step-by-step way, introducing the poses and transitions slowly over time.

But something was still missing.

People who found certain poses challenging, for example a lunge, would come up into the lunge and wobble side to side. Their balance might improve a bit from week to week as they tried it again and again, but I noticed it would usually take the wobbliest students several months before they started to seem steadier in their lunge pose.

Continue reading “Introducing new offerings July-Aug 2018”

Where did all the Chatturungas go?

Emma here!

You might have noticed some gradual changes in classes at QSY. Leena and I and many of our teachers have been incorporating movements like squats and push-ups into our yoga flows. “Where did the Chatturungas go?” you might be wondering. “Why are we doing squats in a yoga class?” You’re not alone in wondering this! This post will let you in on how and why our yoga teaching is changing and evolving

Functional Movement

You might have heard this term, as it has been getting a lot of buzz in the last few years. Functional Movement refers to movements or exercises that prepare the body to do the things that you do in everyday life – like get in and out of your car or bed, stoop down to pick up your toddler, carry groceries or keep yourself from slipping and falling on the ice. A lot of yoga poses can help you feel stronger and more able to do these movements, but many yoga poses are not that functional – they don’t help you become stronger or more flexible in “useful” ways. There can be different kinds of benefits to some of these poses – maybe they invoke a quality of reflection or introspection, even if they don’t help you move better in your daily life. We think there is room for all different kinds of movements in a yoga practice, whether they are immediately useful to you, or useful in a less tangible way.Continue reading “Where did all the Chatturungas go?”

3 Reasons Our Restorative Immersion Is for You

Restorative yoga is a powerful healing tool that helps to reduce stress and support the body’s innate responses toward balance and health. As a very gentle form of yoga, restorative yoga integrates resting postures, breath techniques, and meditative relaxation. Read on to discover more about our upcoming immersion into this practice.

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Here are three reasons why our immersion into Restorative Yoga is for you.

After this immersion you will be able to:

CUSTOMIZE a restorative yoga sequence to meet your specific needs

MEDITATE in a restorative pose

GIFT this practice to friends and familyContinue reading “3 Reasons Our Restorative Immersion Is for You”