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

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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

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

Emma says Goodbye to Wednesdays and Saturdays

IMG_5315When I first started teaching at Queen Street Yoga in January of 2011, I felt like the luckiest person alive. I had just finished my teacher training, and Meaghan (QSY’s founder and then-owner) came to a class I was teaching in Uptown Waterloo, and hired me on the spot! I was nervous and excited to start teaching at QSY. The first regular class I taught was a Thursday community class at 6pm.

A year later I was teaching drop-in classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. When I first started teaching on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the class sizes were much smaller. I often taught classes of 2 or 3. Now the classes are full of regular students, usually no less than 15 (and the occasional Saturday is overflowing at 35!) It has felt so rewarding to build relationships with so many people over the years. I have often said to students that my teaching is a co-creation – I couldn’t do it without them! (Really. I would just be talking to an empty room.)

My teaching schedule has been getting fuller and fuller in the past few years. I teach a number of pre-registered courses (Intro to Yoga, Yoga for Round Bodies) and I oversee the Intro to Yoga program, mentoring our new teachers in how to most effectively teach beginners. I love teaching Rest & Renew, and the pace of teaching Basics classes really appeals to me (lots of time to get exploratory in the subtle movements and sensations of the poses.) This September Leena and I will begin teaching our second Yoga Teacher Training program, with an amazing group of enthusiastic learners. Continue reading

Tips for Going Upside Down — A Handstand Post from Aimée

I love doing handstands. I love kicking up and feeling my heels tap the wall. I love pressing down through my hands and up through my tailbone and my feet. I love the way the reversal of gravity feels on my spine. I love how free my toes feel. I love that feeling of trying out my (very wobbly) balance and feeling the whole length of my legs balancing from my pelvis. I love that a tiny wiggle of one of my fingers can send me all the way over to one side or another.

I do handstands as often as I can, just for the sheer joy of it.

I used to take gymnastics when I was a kid (I was never any good at it at all, ever, but I LOVED it) and as a result was always doing cartwheels and somersaults and wheel poses and handstands at the wall in my living room during the commercial breaks of TV shows. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t do this. I know I was still doing it in high school–here’s a picture of me doing a headstand against the wall that somehow wound up getting taken and ultimately placed in a family album.

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Embodied Teaching

This post is by English professor and yoga teacher, Aimee Morrison. You can find Aimee teaching a rocking drop-in Expanding Flow Class every Sunday at 7:45pm starting in May!

Before class, I changed my shirt–I was just reviewing my lesson plan and I could see that what I was wearing was going to work against my teaching.

In class, I got a student to come to the front of the room. We linked arms and sat waaaaay back. People partnered up and swayed together.

“Watch me,” I said: “Can you see the curve in my low back?” And then: “Put your hand on your lower back–can you feel a curve there?” And then, turning around, “Now look–watch my shoulder blades come together when I move my arms like this.” (This was why I switched to racer-back tank top from the Internet t-shirt I had on originally.)

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