What Canada Can Be

At the start of June, I began our Wednesday Yoga in the Park sessions with a land acknowledgement.

I asked people to gather together near my mat, and I acknowledged that we all live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. And that a land acknowledgement is only the first step in growing awareness and beginning to redress the harm that has been done and continues to be done to the land and the First Nations people.

I was nervous. I am always nervous to do a land acknowledgement.

I think I am nervous for several reasons. One is that I am afraid people might be angry that I am bringing a political issue into a space where they might not have been expecting it. Another is that I am afraid I will somehow do it wrong, say it in a way that somehow shows my ignorance about the issues. Should I say First Nations or First Peoples? Should I say Indigenous or something else?

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Acknowledging the Land We Practice On

This post was co-authored by our studio directors Leena Miller Cressman & Emma Dines, with input from Luane Lentz, Cheryl Maksymyk, and Jaydum Hunt at the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre.

mohawk residential schoolLast year the Canadian government acknowledged the reality and harm of Residential Schools in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canadians were invited to read the text of the Commission to understand the real harm that Indigenous Peoples in Canada endured. Another part of that story started earlier. The past and ongoing reality is that the ancestral land of Indigenous people has been seized, environmentally exploited, and extracted from, and many treaties and agreements between the Crown (which refers to all Canadians) and Indigenous groups were dishonoured.

Yoga means to unite or connect. The purpose of a personal yoga practice might be to listen to, bring together, and acknowledge the various parts of ourselves, including the parts that we might label uncomfortable, unworthy, or imperfect. We might also choose to extend that part of our yoga practice to the world around us, and encourage ourselves to bring together the various parts of our societal reality that might be uncomfortable, vulnerable, or unjust. We might participate in a collective practice that seeks to listen to, acknowledge, and address injustices.

The ongoing story of land in Canada is uncomfortable and hard to acknowledge. It has a complex history with current impacts. What are ways that we might be accountable and responsive to these realities?

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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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