She knows your name. Do you know hers?

I need to tell you about Andy.

It was 2012, and Leena and I had just taken over the studio from the former owner, Meaghan. Andy had been a work trade on the desk for several months. She was the kind of miracle person that would come up with improvements to the current system and implement them herself. When we realized we needed help getting the studio online (can you believe we used to have a paper pass system?) we hired Andy for a few hours a week.

She quickly made herself indispensable.

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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.)

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Let’s Talk Shop: Collaborative Learning for Yoga Teachers

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Ever since my 200 hour YTT ended, I’ve been squeaking away about wanting another opportunity to learn in relationship with others, in community.

I remember how awesome it was to move, observe and discuss the intricacies of anatomy, philosophy and politics with a diverse group of people, and I miss that. I’ve kept on learning on my own, and while self inquiry and practice is important, it’s just not the same thing, watching videos on my laptop and farting around on my mat at home.

Good news: with the announcement of the Queen Street Yoga Teacher’s Immersion, Leena and Emma have just greased up this squeaky wheel big time, and now I’m swirling like a merry-go-round! I know what it’s like to learn at QSY because I did my initial 200-hour training there, and what I experienced was excellent pedagogy, diverse and forward-looking perspectives, and outside experts brought in with intentionality and purpose. Beyond that, Leena and Emma are masterful at holding space, nurturing community and guiding both individual and group learning with consistent and clear support and care. The way they lead trainings with both wisdom and curiosity, experience and reflection is inspiring and makes for a true learning community.

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Why we’re jealous of yoga teachers in KW

Emma from Queen Street Yoga here. And if you are a yoga teacher in KW, I’m jealous of you.  😉

When I did my teacher training, I had to travel. Not to glamourous locations like Costa Rica or India, but to small studios in freezing Winnipeg and land-locked Cincinnati. I travelled because I am picky – I knew who I wanted to study with, and I was willing to go the distance. I slept on couches, spent hours on Greyhound buses. One time I even got turned away from the US border (that is a story for another day). It was exciting to see new places and learn new things, but it was also a slog.

I experienced wonderful bonds and community with the people in my trainings (200hr and beyond), but it was hard to sustain the excitement and conversation once I returned homeLeena was the only other yoga teacher in KW that was studying the same type of yoga as me. So for a long time, it was just her and I, talking about teaching and practicing together.

Leena and I took over the leadership of Queen Street Yoga in 2012 and since then, have created the kind of yoga teacher trainings that we wish we could have taken. Leena also travelled a lot for training, and while it was cool for her to study with Ram Dass in Maui (just a little name-dropping for ya), it lacked the continuity and growth that comes with ongoing community. Our teacher trainings in the last few years have aimed to connect individuals to a lively and regular sense of community – that “thing” that most of us are seeking in our lives. With the practice of yoga and mindfulness at the centre, our trainings have evolved to become transformative communities.

Here’s where my jealousy comes in. This year, Leena and I have curated a Continuing Education program for yoga and movement teachers with some of the top teachers in Canada. All of them are leaders in their fields, and they are doing wonderful things for the world of movement education.

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“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.

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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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We can’t believe what people are saying about us: a heartfelt letter from a QSY student

A Message from Leena & Emma

A few weeks ago we received the following email from a student named Melissa who has become a regular at QSY since January. Her email really struck a chord with us. Melissa shared what a difference the atmosphere at the studio has made to her yoga practice, how it has helped her shift her relationship to pain, to internal competitiveness, to what she needs to cultivate a happy life. It was so wonderful to hear how the attitude of kindness that we cultivate at Queen Street Yoga resonated with her, and allowed her to be kinder to herself.

It is beyond wonderful when students share with us what a difference yoga has made in their lives. Because often as teachers, we don’t know! Folks might say “thanks, that was great!” after class, but since yoga is really an internal conversation that each person has with themselves, we as teachers don’t often know what the impact is.

Writing realizations down, or verbalizing them can be powerful. This is why we are working harder to share more of our story in our newsletter and our blog. Just like Melissa showed us who she is and what she’s learning from yoga, we want to show you who we are, get more of a window into why we teach yoga, what it means to us.

For now, we want to share Melissa’s words with you. This is why we teach yoga: because time and time again we have seen how it opens people up to their relationship with themselves, brings them into conscious conversation with their lives, their bodies and the world. Continue reading