100 Faces- 10 Years of QSY

This post was written by QSY Director, Leena Miller Cressman.

This fall, Queen Street Yoga turns 10! It’s a significant milestone as a small business and as a community. According to this article by Forbes, only about one-third of small business survive 10 or more years. Yippee, beating the odds! In addition to throwing an awesome party to celebrate (more on that later on), I wanted to share some of the story of how Queen Street Yoga came to be what it is today.

DSC_6433Just over ten years ago Meaghan Johnson, a Kitchener native, founded the studio. From the story I remember Meaghan telling me, at the time she wasn’t planning to open a large yoga studio. However, someone tipped her off about this beautiful space with glowing hardwood floors, big windows and high ceilings that used to be a dance studio, but now was sitting vacant. (Before it was a dance studio our space was a club called Pop the Gator- if anyone has photos or stories about that send them our way!) Meaghan arranged to visit the vacant space, and upon walking into the space she exclaimed, “Well shit, now I have to open a yoga studio. This space is too perfect.”

image (5)The studio opened with a staff of several other teachers in addition to Meaghan, and always had an emphasis on mindful, alignment-based yoga, with a grassroots community feel. Meaghan once told me that she opened the studio with about $1,000 and slowly invested and grew the business from there. This gradual model of growth, alongside a lot of community support, thoughtful offerings, and caring, dedicated students, teachers and administrators is why we’re still open and still growing today, ten years later. Continue reading

Queer Yoga on Pause for the Fall

This blog post is to acknowledge and celebrate everyone who has helped make Queer & Trans Yoga a reality at QSY. We so appreciate the committee of community members (of varying genders and identities) who helped us envision and promote the program, to everyone who came through the door to attend the class: THANK YOU.

One of the things that felt important to us about this class was the presence of Shannon, a queer-identified teacher. We felt it was important to have a queer-identified teacher to set the context of this class. We are sad to announce that Shannon has decided to move her life to Toronto this fall, and so won’t be able to continue teaching the Queer & Trans Yoga class. (But we are happy for her to pursue her next adventure in life!) After some conversations with her and a few other co-creators of Queer Yoga, we’ve decided to transition the Queer Yoga class back to a Community Class in September. We considered keeping it as a Queer Yoga class, but since we didn’t have another teacher that was queer-identified, we felt that it didn’t make sense to keep it going without someone from that community to hold the context. Thank you Shannon for spearheading this class and sharing your love for yoga in the Queer & Trans Yoga class! Continue reading

Canada Day: It’s Complicated. Celebrating and Remembering at the Same Time

Leena shares a reflection about Canada Day, complexity and how the practice of yoga can invite us to lean into bigger questions. 

This week, life has been inviting me again and again to embrace complexity and paradox.

If Facebook asked me to set my “relationship status” to my participation in representing yoga in the media, to practicing and sharing yoga, and to being a resident and a citizen of Canada, the status would read “It’s Complicated.”

Monday, the local Grand magIMG_9879azine hit the shelves, with me on the cover. I feel excited and honoured. I appreciate the amazing opportunity to tell my story and to share the story of our Queen Street Yoga community. I also feel conflicted. The title of the article is “Yoga for Everyone” and the story speaks to the diversity and inclusivity that we are trying to nurture at QSY. I’m proud of the ways that we’re already doing that, and there’s more work still to do.

As I see it, one of the barriers to the yoga community being more inclusive to all genders, races and classes in our community is that similar types of bodies are portraying yoga in the media over and over- in yoga books, magazines, advertisements, etc. If you line up every magazine with someone doing a yoga pose on the cover, I would venture that over 90% of the people portrayed are thin, young, able-bodied, cis-gendered, flexible and female. The vast majority of them are white.

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Seeing Gender as a Spectrum: Some helpful definitions to start a conversation

qsy washroom sign photoYou may have seen this sign at our studio. Perhaps it makes sense to you, or maybe you’d like to know more background about what it means.

At QSY, we view gender as a spectrum, and while many people feel completely comfortable going into a “women’s changeroom” or a “men’s changeroom”, there are others who feel they don’t fit into these ends of gender spectrum.

To really (over) simplify things, we could say:

  • Sex is in your genitals and chromosomes
  • Gender is in your head/our culture
  • Orientation/Attraction is in your heart

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Student Spotlight — Who Came to the Most Classes in 2014?

student spotlightThis Student Spotlight focuses on Jeremy, Barb and Mary, three members of Queen Street Yoga who came to an average of 182 classes each in 2014! Their combined total? A staggering 548 classes. They get the “Highest Attendance Award” from us. Congratulations!

Leena, the studio owner, joked “That’s definitely more than I practiced last year!

Leena and Emma caught up with these avid yogis after an Hour Flow class last week. We took a photo, and they chatted about their favourite poses. Continue reading

A Climate Change Collage

Emma shared this post about climate change and yoga teaching on her own blog yesterday morning. We’ve reposted it here to share it with the wider QSY community. 

In the past few months I have been re-inspired (particularly by this article) to set the tone of my yoga classes to include the awareness of rapid climate destabilization (aka climate change) as a present reality and backdrop to the “personal” or “internal” practice of yoga. I have also started to (subtly, slowly) introduce issues of race/racism and gender/sexism into the space of my asana classes. I hope to become more skilled at grappling with these pieces in my own life, as well as making them familiar vocabulary/reference points in my classes. I feel a bit clumsy at the moment, almost like I am learning to teach all over again.  These pieces (grappling with the reality of climate change, naming and responding to systems of oppression) feel closest right now to my spiritual core, so it makes sense that I am sharing them as part of my practice. I appreciate and acknowledge the work of others that continue to inspire and inform me in this arena (some of these others include Christi-an Slomka, Michael Stone and Matthew Remski). It is also such a gift to work side by side every day with Leena Miller Cressman, who values these pieces with the same fervour as I do, and together we are bringing these pieces to life at our studio.

So, last night in one of my classes at Queen Street Yoga I shared a passage, a poem and a question. I called it “A Climate Change Collage”. In my recent reading and searching for insight about the decline of the ecological world, I felt as if a conversation was emerging between the different pieces I was reading and collecting. I cobbled them together and read them to my class to frame our practice for the night. The passage was by Martin Keogh, from the introduction to a book of essays called “Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World“. The poem was by The Reverend Victoria Safford, and I had heard it read aloud by Parker Palmer during a recent podcast produced by On Being. And the question was from an interview between EcoBuddhism.org and Joanna Macy, which a mentor had shared with me earlier in the week.

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Queen Street Yoga: My First Yoga Love

Long time QSY student Carina Gaspar recently moved to Toronto, and she wrote this humorous post for her own blog about “breaking up” with Queen Street Yoga. We’ve since decided with her that we don’t have to break-up, but she can be in a long distance relationship with the studio. We look forward to seeing her on weekends when she’s back visiting from Toronto!

QSY is the kind of place that stays with you long after you go home. Where you feel pulled to go back, as opposed to having to push yourself to go in the first place. Where you feel a little homesick when you’re away for too long. And it’s because it has heart. And kickass teachers. And big windows, comfy blankets, a studio with character and cuteness, an approach that’s holistic and open and fluid. And, at the moment, a pretty rad sticker collection.

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Unearthing Ideas of Privilege in Yoga

DSC_3578Kristina recently graduated from our 2014 Yoga Teacher Training Program and will be sharing her laughter and love of yoga at Queen Street Yoga, alternating teaching the Friday 5:30pm Hour Flow with her fellow YTT graduate Marta! Kristina wrote this piece about privilege in the yoga community after our October 2014 Yoga Teacher Training Weekend, in which we looked at the various ways that folks with different kinds of privilege (because of their race, gender, body type, sexuality) might experience a yoga studio (and the world) differently. 

Cath in Dorset- Assistant Gardener

Assistant Gardener by Cath in Dorset

I’ve been practicing yoga for about five years now.  As with anything new, in the beginning, I felt a little bit out of place.  I was uneasy about getting dressed in the change room with everyone else, uncertain of where to place my mat in the class room, and sometimes embarrassed about my inability to move with strength or grace through many of the postures that everyone else seemed so comfortable with.  Those fears were quickly dissolved by realizing that I wasn’t alone – others around me seemed to face the same fears, and those who had been around the block a few times were generally friendly and welcoming.  All was good.  What I didn’t realize was that this quickly-found comfort was, in many ways, a product of my privilege.

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Why I’m Afraid to Become a Yoga Teacher

Tomasz Stasiuk - Do not fear failure

Photo by Tomasz Stasiuk

Our next Yoga Teacher Training Program begins in September 2015. Maybe you are thinking of applying, but some fears or insecurities are nipping at your heels. In this post, Marta (one of our 2014 Yoga Teacher Trainees, who recently graduated from our program) shares about the fear and anxiety that can come along with pursuing something that you love. 

Fear.  It happens to all of us.  I’m not talking about the kind of fear that makes you leap out of bed in the middle of the night and run to the bathroom so the monsters don’t catch you and gobble you up (so far so good on that one).  I’m talking about the fear of not being awesome.

I love yoga.  I love doing yoga, reading about yoga, watching yoga, talking about yoga… you get the drift.  Yoga has enriched my life in ways that I never imagined possible.  It has given me tools to help manage my anxiety and depression.  It has taught me how to practice happiness.  It has challenged me to take a close look at what I think, how I speak, how I behave, and it is still doing so every day.  It has taught me how to breathe.

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A Heart-Warming Letter about Yoga from QSY Student Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell wrote this letter to us about how yoga has changed his life. He feels that yoga has played a large part in lowering his blood pressure and allowing his body to do a “natural bypass” to assist a blocked coronary artery. It has also helped him relate more effectively with his teenage son, and enjoy running his company. We are so happy that Glen stepped out of his comfort zone to join us at the studio, and we are so happy to see him so regularly in class! 

It was January of 2014 when I got hit with some bad news regarding my health. I had the same health issue five years earlier and it had returned. It was my heart again! I had been doing all the right things (diet, weight loss, don’t smoke, reducing stress and exercising) but my body rejected the stents that were put in my right coronary artery. It was 100% blocked again! My doctor told me nothing can be done surgically as it’s a difficult repair. Drugs were my only option and to just hope for the best. Every day I woke up and wondered if this would be the day I would have a heart attack. I could get through my day but if I did a little more than moderate cardio I could feel the pain in my chest. It was hard to plan for the future when I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the day. Not a great way to live. It was the darkest time of my life.

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