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Re-Post: Queer & Trans Yoga: A Reflection on why it is needed and the purpose it provides

Curious about why we are offering a queer and trans yoga class? The following post was written by Jessica, a long time member of the qsy community as a work trade, and also as a consultant around starting the queer and trans class. Here she explains her perspective on why having a gathering place for queer and trans folks in a yoga studio feels valuable and important. This post was originally published on Jessica’s blog,  and has been reposted with her permission. Have a read!

Recently, Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener began offering Queer & Trans Yoga as a part of their weekly yoga class schedule. It is basic level class with a sliding scale monetary donation request, specifically for members of the LGTBQ+ community. The class originally started last year after consultations with local LGTBQ+ community members, but had been put to a pause after the teacher announced her relocation to another city. QSY was passionate and committed to finding a LGTBQ+ identified teacher who would run the class. Last week was the first week of the class resuming, with 14 members of the local LGTBQ+ community joining the class. This started a conversation among my social circle around the question “Why is there a need for Queer & Trans yoga?”. Several individuals questioned me on this, stating that yoga is a practice based on the acceptance and love of all peoples – so why would we need a “special” class for members of the gay community? Isn’t this excluding “straight people” from an inclusive practice? Continue reading

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To Give or Not To Give Hands-On Adjustments? — Emma’s Reflections

 

img_2198“My adjustment card is always turned to green but I rarely get hands-on adjustments from the teacher. I am starting to take it kind of personally. Why aren’t I getting more hands-on adjustments?”

Queen Street Yoga had this question posed to us by a student and we want to respond to it. There is a big conversation about hands-on adjustments going on in the yoga community that includes conversation about teaching styles and qualifications, consent, and trauma awareness. Emma is one of the Co-Directors of Queen Street Yoga, and this is her current thinking/reflecting around common assumptions about hands-on adjustments. We welcome your comments, feedback, and conversation around this topic.

Assumption #1 – Yoga teachers are fully qualified and trained to give manual/therapeutic* adjustments.

*Manual means “with the hands” and therapeutic means “related to healing.” Example: a chiropractor might give a therapeutic adjustment to someone to help relieve pain or heal an injury. Continue reading

Walking Backwards – Widening My View

This blog post was written by studio director Emma, who has been travelling across Canada and in the United States for the last few months on a sabbatical from teaching. Emma will be back to teaching at the studio in November, and wishes to share this update about her trip with the QSY community. This post relates to the recent work Queen Street Yoga has been doing on Indigenous land acknowledgement and educating ourselves about the cultural genocide of First Nations populations in Canada.

At a contact dance workshop this summer, I participated in an exercise that included walking backwards along a forest path. The exercise encouraged us to sense the space behind us, which is a useful awareness to cultivate in dance. I walked backwards for over an hour along a winding forest path, over jagged rocks, bumpy tree roots and clumps of moss. The sensation was fascinating. I realized that I have had a habit of looking down at the ground as I walk, in order not to trip. Facing away from where I was walking to required me to slow down a great deal and sense carefully with my feet the texture and topography of the ground. Looking down was no longer a helpful strategy. My gaze was up and my awareness surrounded me like a sphere. I was no longer focused on moving ahead, on getting somewhere; I was filled up with the view of the landscape I was moving through, and an energetic sense of the landscape I was backing into.

One of the most noticeable differences in the experience of walking backwards is that your view is constantly widening.  Rather than things disappearing from your peripheral vision (which is what happens when you move forwards) the landscape appears slowly at your sides and seems to bloom out and emerge from the edges of your vision. What you see seems to grow in context and size, rather than shrink in anticipation and pursuit of your destination. Walking backwards, one is not preoccupied with the destination, rather, with having the fullest sense of the landscape, and of treading carefully on the ground. Continue reading

Reflections on Yoga, Social Justice and Inclusion

This guest post is by Christine Witmer Lang, a long-time yoga and meditation practitioner, a member of QSY’s 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training program.

Reflections on Yoga, Social Justice, and Inclusion

Before I began Yoga Teacher Training, I admit I spent very little time thinking about the broader social and cultural aspects of yoga. Like many things that come into our lives, I came to yoga aware only of what this practice could do for me. I enjoyed the challenge of the physical movement through poses, the integration of breath, and the continual invitation to be aware of how my body felt as it moved through a sequence.  Yoga gave me a sense of embodiment and calm, which over time permeated into other parts of my life.  Through yoga, I believed I had found a home.  Yoga made my life better, my body stronger, and my mind clearer.  It felt as though yoga had been made for my body and temperament – as if yoga had been made for me.

Through discussion on yoga teacher training weekends, through readings, videos, and workshops, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that yoga has a history and cultural complexity that extends far beyond our North American understanding of its practice. The very practice through which I learned embodiment has been cut off from its roots, and has suffered a disembodiment of its own. Continue reading

Yoga and Race: Why Representation Matters

Queen Street Yoga teacher and creative director Emma Dines shares an important personal experience about race and representation as it relates to yoga teaching and representation in the yoga studio community.

B&W yoga photo

During our March Yoga Teacher Training weekend, QSY hosted two presenters from Toronto who shared their experiences and best practices of merging anti-oppression work with the teaching of yoga/hosting of yoga studio communities. Jamilah Malika and Christi-an Slomka led the group in considering the experiences of those who are underrepresented in yoga studios and yoga media/imagery, and understanding how and why yoga studios remain mostly white and mostly cis-gendered spaces, and how and why we might work to shift this.

During our closing circle, where we shared our insights, reflections and challenges with one another, I shared the following personal story, which touches on themes of race and representation. It was a story that I had forgotten about, but it bubbled up to the surface during the circle.

A bit of background before the story. I grew up in Toronto in a mostly white neighbourhood, going to a mostly white school. I am mixed race – my mom is third-generation Japanese Canadian, and my dad is second-generation Scottish Canadian. I remember being pretty aware of my race as a child – I was one of two or three Asian or half-Asian kids in my class. When I blew the candles out on the cake at my eighth birthday, my wish was to wake up the next day with white skin and blond hair. My mother experienced what I now understand to be micro-aggressions from many of the other parents in the area. The racism that my mother, my siblings and I experienced was subtle, sometimes internalized, but definitely present. Continue reading

Re-Post: Teaching as Learning [A Forever Process]

 

This is a re-post of a piece that Emma originally wrote for her own blog, thinkerpoet.com. We hope you enjoy reading some of her reflections on the process of teaching and learning.IMG_20160101_151838

This past New Year’s I was given an opportunity to choose the “key” to my coming year. Two dear friends (artists and community convenors) had salvaged wooden piano keys from a scrap yard, and painted and anointed each one with different colours, designs and words. They were jumbled together in a cloth bag, and throughout the night they brought out the bag and invited friends to reach into the bag and pull a key. “Make sure you get the right one.” they teased as we reached, eyes closed, into the bag. As our fingers sifted through the jumble of keys, feeling raised black keys and narrower white keys, they invited us to let our intuition guide our choice. “You’ll know your key when you feel it.” they said. “It will be clear.”

Keys bearing the words “Equanimity”, “Wisdom” and “Contentment” emerged in different peoples’ hands. “Acceptance”, “Integrity”, and “Simplicity” followed. I watched my friends interact with their keys, unwrap their strings and hang them around their necks, bulky but meaningful necklaces. Continue reading

Going Beyond After Feeling Defeated – An Update from Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell has been regularly practicing at Queen Street Yoga for the past two years and has written some wonderful blog posts for the QSY blog about his yoga journey. In this most recent post, Glen shares more about his personal transformation and how he sees yoga as a major part of his learning and growth. We deeply appreciate hearing from students about what the impact of yoga has been on their lives, and we celebrate Glen’s effort and openness to the insights that have come as a result of engaging with the practices of yoga and meditation. We hope you enjoy reading this. Glen told us ,“It comes straight from my heart”.

Every spring, summer and fall my life is filled with many camping trips to my favorite Provincial Parks located throughout Ontario. One of which is Killarney located at the top end of Georgian Bay. Killarney is truly the jewel of the Ontario Provincial Parks. The turquoise colored lakes and two billion year old rock face spread out far and wide can leave you in awe! I get very excited and can feel my heart getting warm whenever I come back. There are many trails and lakes to explore by hiking, biking or canoe/kayaking. One hike I love to do is called the Crack. It is a bit of a hike and climb getting to the top but the view is amazing! Also there is a 26km canoe/kayaking day trip I have come close by canoe but never completed which includes 3 portages with the longest portage of about 500 meters. This will take you into four different lakes from George Lake into OSA lake and from pictures I had seen is spectacular. I thought that this hike and kayaking trip would no longer be available to me due to my heart issues. I was very disheartened to think that some of the things I love to do had possibly come to an end.

Stepping back to the fall of 2014, that was when I decided to really take control of my life. My doctors had advised me of my condition 8 months earlier, and I started seeing positive results from about six months of yoga practice. I decided to dedicate myself to practicing yoga as much as possible. I would get my mind in a very positive place. I would get rid of the extra weight I was caring. I would eat even healthier by educating myself and keep fine tuning the quality of my food intake. I would exercise at least once a day. I would find more ways to be more active like riding my bike to yoga or picking up my favorite tea. I would taper back my business hours. I would do all I can to reduce and manage stress. I was very motivated to avoid a risky surgery and to keep at a minimum or even reduce the medication prescribed to me. Continue reading