The Vancouver Yoga Vibe
me." It was six years ago now that Israeli transplant Ifat Erez, founder
of Prana Yoga Center told the woman selling classified ads for the Georgia
Straight that "if you start a section for Yoga classes, it will become
huge in no time."
At that particular point in time, there was very few dedicated commercial
yoga studios. By most accounts the earliest established yoga network was the
Iyengar yoga community. A lot of those teachers like Gioia Irwin, Ingela Abbot
and Wende Davis were teaching in community centres or in small spaces around
there or in their homes. Incidentally those teachers still continue to teach
out of the same locations kind of the established order in the midst
of an outpouring of new teachers and studios.
Then it happened. "The floodgates really started opening about four or
five years ago," says Louie Ettling, owener or the Yoga Space. "When
I first opened our studio there were very few other yoga studios around, now
the number has increased dramatically. From my personal experience running
the vancouveryoga.coms class-finder database I would say that over the
last few years almost one new studio opens up in the greater Vancouver area
every month! This yoga phenomenon is not just like a floodgate opening it
is like a tsunami. All those in Richmond please keep a canoe strapped outside
of your top floor window because this yoga wave is making an impact.
So what is with this love affair between Vancouverites and Yoga? Why is it
such a perfect fit?
Firstly we have to realize that there are very few places on Planet Earth
where people are as into healthy living as they are in Vancouver. When I walk
to my yoga class on Sunday mornings along Kits Beach, there are so many
joggers that I feel like I am going against the flow of a mob of people getting
off a Tokyo Subway during morning rush hour. The Vancouver Sun Run has 42,143
participants making it the second largest 10k race in the world. People in
Vancouver are sports fanatics we love our skis, snowboards, rock climbing,
kayaking, mountain bikes and any other form of fitness.
What has started to jive with the average sports enthusiast is that yoga takes
care of all the pounding that all the other activities do to our bodies. It
is a perfect compliment to our active BC lifestyle a kind of RRSP for
your body countering some of the taxing punishment that we subject our bodies.
Likewise, for those who are more used to sitting on the couch, eating a big
meal and watching sit-coms (this asana is called boa Pose), yoga takes care
of all the punishment we subject our bodies to in the form of inactivity also.
What people seemed to realize is that Yoga offers a form a fitness that is
unparalleled for its ability to take care of our whole being, not just
our outer shells.
"As more yoga instructors started popping up, more infrastructure was
implemented. People had more choices about what style of yoga they could do
and when they could do it. This helped to increase the popularity of yoga
dramatically," says James Nicholson who has been teaching power yoga
since 1996. People across the city started telling their friends about what
great classes they were attending and the whole yoga movement took off. After
all, is there any better foundation for viral marketing than people feeling
the physical benefits of yoga practice, there is a spiritual content to yoga
that people in BC are naturally in tune with. I talk with people daily about
why they got into yoga and the vast majority of the people who do yoga in
Vancouver gravitate to it because there is a lot more going on than just mere
The experience of Yoga is not that new to Vancouverites . Ultimately, Yoga
is about transcending ones ego to feel deeply the power of ones
soul, and that individual soul is a particle of the myriad of life forms that
come from the same life giving energy. In more simple words, all things are
connected. We just have to get still enough to feel it.
This stillness can come during a yoga practice and meditation for sure, but
is also an experience that a lot of people in BC have regularly. When you
are in BC every time you find yourself in a beautiful space where the radiance
of nature can be tasted that feeling that all things are connected,
however subtle it may seem, speaks to us.
Whether on a hike, while jogging along the sea wall, sitting at the beach
for sunset or riding down the mountain slopes. In the heart of the city, beautiful
trees and the lushness of Nature are constantly on some small level elevating
our level of consciousness. Even if it is just for a few seconds, when one
sees the splendor of Nature as we do daily in Vancouver, one is ripped out
of their ordinary state of consciousness and becomes ultra-present and filled
with the sheer bliss of Being. Whether they would describe it this way or
not, this experience is Yoga.
So in one sense, the people of BC are naturally in tune with the goal of Yoga.
No wonder they can relate to the practice so well. In one very real but lose
sense I consider the original yogis to be the Native American Indians, but
that is a whole new story.
Competition to Compassion
There is an attractive dynamic of true community that is appealing to people
also. What spiritually gets me off more than any other thing about yoga in
Vancouver is this unbelievable sense of community that has been built here.
In a dog eat dog world, where greed is arguably the biggest destroyer of individuals,
personal relationships, societies and perhaps the planet itself, isnt
it refreshing to see people in the same industry living from the heart. ,
By and large and the core of the people who make up our yoga network are not
living like a bunch of hungry lions fighting for a zebra carcass.
In my opinion the most practical gift that yoga can offer to us as individuals
and as a society is the ability to move from a mind set of competition to
one of compassion. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but for the
most part really look at how this open-hearted, non-competitive state of being
is manifesting itself in the Vancouver Yoga Community.
The instances of this mindset are many, but take for example a chant at City
Yoga last December. The performers, owners and teachers and audience members
were largely made up of people from other studios. Business was a secondary
concern, what mattered was people coming together and celebrating.
It is rare to find a yoga studio that doesnt display the brochures for
events and workshops of other studios, How many Vancouver Yoga studios have
links to other yoga studios on there web sites? Almost all. As the barriers
between the styles of yoga are being broken down people trying all the great
and wonderful forms of yoga out there. Knowledge is being shared without the
practitioner judging one style as better or worse than another. One style
may just be more suited for them.
Everyday, I silently hope that as the popularity of yoga continues to skyrocket,
that true kindness (maitreya) continues to be a recognizable force in the
Vancouver yoga movement we dont become blinded by greed.
Every Friday when I go out for lunch after my teacher Gioias class with
a whole network of other yoga teachers, I realize the vibe here is very organic
and sweeter than the chai that we share together. "The world needs more
of this, I think, "less competition and more community"