Help! I’m nervous to do a YTT because I worry it might be too physically demanding

Leslie is a lead teacher at Queen Street Yoga, and this year she will be acting as an assistant for our 200-hour Teacher Training Program starting in October 2019. Leslie has lots to say about the program, as she completed it in 2016. Something Leslie is passionate about is encouraging people to both meet their bodies where they are at, and be curious about their bodies’ capacities for change.

At our first YTT info session back in April, someone asked how much physical practice we’d be doing over the training weekends, and whether it would be advanced or athletic practice. On a separate occasion, another regular student who is considering our program asked if we’d get into more complex poses, like eight angle pose during the training.

Some folks might feel a little intimidated by the prospect of intense group practice being a part of the teacher training process. Others are chomping at the bit to learn how to do more complex, demanding shapes. Looking at the list of applicants we’ve already received, I know some of them love to hulk out and feel the burn – they’re the type to sweat it out in Strength & Flow. At the same time, we’ve got other participants who are more into Yoga for Dynamic Aging, and are passionate about the benefits of restorative yoga.

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How our yoga teacher training is going to change your life and fix all of your problems

Actually, it’s not.

And if you’re okay with that, let’s talk. If you could do without the inspirational branding of being a better you, or the aspirational promises of hard and fast transformation, then we can have a real conversation. We can look together at the process of yoga teacher training for what it is; a concentrated time of learning and engaging with yourself and with a community.

A lot of YTT marketing that I see rubs me the wrong way. It seems to promise spiritual, emotional and career transformation in a one-shot deal. And, I get why people are drawn to it. Who doesn’t want a quick fix? Who doesn’t want that promise fulfilled?

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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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Questioning “Yoga Culture”

This guest-post was written by Jason Spencer, a graduate of our 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training program. You can meet Jason as part of the team of teachers leading the Sunday 6pm Community Classes!

I feel like I live in a yoga bubble call Queen Street Yoga. Initially, I was attracted to the studio by it’s location and because I had practiced in the past with Meaghan Johnson (who founded QSY). In the four years that I have passed since starting to practice at QSY, my connection to the studio has deepened, I have volunteered as a Trade, I have participated in Queen Street Conversations and I have continued my yoga practice to the point of wanting to learn to be a yoga teacher taught by the wonderful teachers who practice with this studio. What makes this studio so attractive to me is the focus on community and inclusion. Even as a newbie yoga practitioner, I always felt supported and encouraged to build my practice. When I was going through a difficult time in my life, the studio offered me options to continue my practice. In my classes, I see diversity of people and there is a clear message that all are welcomed. At QSY, there feels like an open invitation to be a part of community. Continue reading

Pain and the Other Voices In My Head

natalieThis thoughtful post was written by Natalie Barrales-Hall, a member of our 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).  Natalie has worked as a community and youth worker, and in February she began teaching Queer & Trans Yoga at Queen Street Yoga. Natalie strives to facilitate safer spaces for students who may not see themselves represented in mainstream yoga spaces or those who may be questioning whether yoga is really for them. Her approach is gentle and permissive, and she invites students to consider a practice of gratitude and self-compassion.

Whether emotional, physical or traumatic, I’ve been thinking a lot about pain. Maybe that is because of the injuries and losses I experienced during the course of the training program (don’t worry, it wasn’t the yoga asanas!), or maybe it’s informed by my work and holding space for people who are hurting, or maybe it’s simply because pain is an inevitable part of being human. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about it and in all my thinking, I’ve started to wonder about the stories we are told and tell ourselves about pain – pain as the cause of loss and disconnection, pain as a source of growth and healing, and what pain says about us and how we show up in the world.

In early 2015, I was struggling to understand and manage increasingly severe knee pain which had, for all intents and purposes, come from “nowhere”. In my efforts to alleviate the pain and restore full range of movement, I was encouraged to pursue further testing to rule out any underlying injury. Thus ensued a 4-month long process which concluded with a visit to an orthopedic clinic, where upon reviewing my MRI, I was reminded of one of the first stories I can remember being told about pain: this is your fault. As the weeks passed, I would be offered many more stories by practitioners who suggested that the pain could be the result of a meniscal tear, pelvic alignment and related biomechanical concerns or energy stagnation.   Continue reading

My Yoga Practice: An Unexpected Realization

This guest-post was written by a member of our Yoga Teacher Training program, Nicole. She’s pictured here with her favorite gal, Mags.

nicolephotoMy friends and family were super-supportive of my deep dive into yoga through teacher training, and I’ve been enthusiastic to talk about my experience overall.  Though my physical practice wasn’t consistent directly leading up to the start of the program, few people expressed surprise that I would pursue my yoga teaching certification.  However, for reasons that I will attempt to share, I kept my plan to apply for teacher training on the down-low initially. 

While I’d practiced at QSY many years ago, I was by no means a regular face-about-the-studio in 2014, when I first learned about QSY’s yoga teacher certification program.  That year, I took notice that the course was being offered, gave it some surface-level thought, and then proceeded to dismiss it, rhyming off the many reasons why the timing wasn’t right. 

Fast-forward to Spring of 2015, and I was creeping the QSY website once again, keeping my eyes peeled for teacher training updates for the coming Fall.  When I saw that an info session was being offered later that year, I decided to attend.

The info session was a casual and intimate gathering facilitated by the directors of the studio, Leena and Emma.  We sat on the floor in a circle—more on this format later—introduced ourselves, our individual interests in teacher training, asked questions, and got answers.  Continue reading

Why I’ll Never Do the Splits – And That’s OK.

This post was written by Leslie Stockman. Leslie is a graduate of QSY’s 2015 Yoga Teacher Training, and she’s also a supply teacher with the WRDSB. She loves walking in her minimal shoes, is an avid rock climber, and has recently fallen madly in slacklining. In addition to admiring her beautiful chalkboard art around QSY, you can find Leslie on the QSY course schedule this fall teaching Intro to Yoga Courses.

We all inquire into Yoga,” states the first line of Matthew Remski’s threads of yoga, his self-described remix of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an ancient and foundational Yoga philosophy text. A more classical translation by Chip Harntranft reads, “Now, the teachings of Yoga.”

Seems important right? If we’re about to go into a huge spiel about Yoga, you better open with a zinger. Either one works, I’m ready to listen up in both cases. When I talk to myself about my practice, I flip Remski’s remix to read, “Yoga calls to us all.” But that immediately leads me to the follow up: why does it do so? Sometimes I ask my students, “What brings you to yoga today?” Even the intake waivers at Queen Street Yoga ask new students which of following is their main reason for practicing: increase flexibility/strength, stress/anxiety/depression relief community/family, pre-natal or post-natal support, spirituality, compliment another physical regimen, or other.

During our sessions with Remski, he challenged us yoga teacher-trainees to consider two major drives that underlie each of our personal practices and modern postural yoga (MPY) as a whole: the transcendental drive (to go beyond the body to the greater realm of the spirit) and therapeutic drive (to nurture the body). Check out Remski’s WAWADIA project update post for a background summary. And if Yoga calls to me, is it so I can transcend my body, or so I can nurture it? 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

Cultural Appropriation & Yoga

Queen Street Yoga was approached by local newspaper The Community Edition to write something about cultural appropriation and yoga, after this Ottawa Sun news article went viral. There is a lot more to the Ottawa Sun story than was originally reported, and we highly recommend reading our colleague Matthew Remski’s take on it, in which he details how the story was mis-reported, and the way in which popular media mostly shut down and derided the idea of cultural appropriation in yoga. At Queen Street Yoga we think awareness of cultural appropriation in yoga is very important, and in the following piece that Emma wrote for The Community Edition, she shares some thoughts and reflections on how her teaching has changed in the last few years, as she has learned more about the reality of cultural appropriation. Emma wants to acknowledge SAAPYA (South-Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America) and other colleagues in the yoga community for helping her better understand the issues and impacts of cultural appropriation and yoga.

reaching up yoga class imageIn the last several years, Queen Street Yoga has been looking more deeply into questions of privilege, oppression and cultural (mis)appropriation, and how they show up in the teaching of yoga, and in the experience of yoga studios. We have been examining how yoga was taught to us by mostly white, cis-gendered teachers, and thinking carefully about what it means to be North-American born practitioners of a tradition that has its origins in India. I define cultural (mis)appropriation as instances when members of a dominant culture take elements of a minority culture and use them outside of their original cultural context, often times reducing or commodifying those cultural aspects to “exotic” and meaningless fashion or activities. Cultural appropriation is a complex subject, and people often get defensive when it is mentioned. Recently an article was published in the Ottawa Sun about a yoga class at the University of Ottawa that was purportedly cancelled due to fears that it could be considered cultural appropriation. The Ottawa Sun later printed a retraction and reported that the class was cancelled due to low attendance, but that did not stop the viral media-storm in which many white columnists and writers derided the whole idea that yoga could be considered cultural (mis)appropriation.

Thinking about the issue of cultural appropriation in the last few years has changed the way that I teach yoga and create studio programming, as the Creative Director of the studio, and as the Co-Director of our Teacher Training Program. My teaching has changed a great deal from when I first began. Continue reading