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

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:

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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.

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Find Your Yoga Buddy

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.

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Love your Neighbour! Shop DTK this Holiday Season

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, our partners 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!

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