Monday, February 1, 2010

How to Build a Yoga Eco Community?

A huge part of living sustainably that isn't discussed much is 'community'. Oh, it's sometimes alluded to, or mentioned, but part of our unsustainable lifestyle that we've built is how isolated in our cities and towns we've become. In smaller, more rural communities, people just know who can help build the house-garage, bake awesome bread, make the best jam, take a look at your car... etc.

Here in the city, it took a while before I felt comfortable asking our neighbours for sugar. If it came to an emergency, I would certainly knock on their door for help, but I know that as an apartment dweller I am in the minority.

Andrew always thought it was weird that wherever we lived I made 'friends' with random people. In BC the coffee shop and local organic grocery store people knew me. At the time I chalked it up to feeling lonely and needing a semi-familiar face to greet me. Now that it seems to have continued in Halifax... I'm thinking maybe it's something to do with 'me'.
Guerrilla Yoga in the Park! Can't wait until Spring!

I like connecting with people- so I try. Which results in many awkward moments (especially when I lived in Montreal! I had to be careful!). Sigh, I think it's the 'rural' in me that just never went away.

Local is a huge part of living sustainably and it requires some connection. None of us can bake, sew, create everything from scratch and still have the time to pursue our passions. By building a community, along with creating connections to take advantage of different skills, we nurture feelings of ownership and responsibility. The more we connect, the more we care about our community and the Earth it inhabits.

For some reason, I thought getting 'in' on the yoga community would be easier than say, other groups. In Halifax, not so much. It's actually been more difficult- who knew? Oh, each teacher and studio owner knows everyone else, but us students don't see them together all that much. The studios even have different Lululemon-featured months!

Instead of having all the studios come together for general yogic celebrations such as solstice or Yoga Day, each studio has their own free or by donation isolated events.

An example; Seth's new Ashtanga studio that has opened above the Lulu store (convenient location!). As a reader commented, The Shala was having a week of free yoga classes to commemorate their opening... so I went last Monday. The studio is gorgeous, beautiful colours, bathroom with two showers, trendy low couches and decorations. As I walked in, yogis were lounging on the couches and looked très cool... in fact I felt not cool enough to be there (flash back to high school or what?). The class was fine, Seth intimidated the crap out of me and then I left.

Until I spoke with the owner of Breathing Space while cleaning the studio on Sunday, I didn't think much of it. She pointed out that The Shala's free week coincided with The Yoga Loft's annual (forever!) free week... As Seth was a previously well-loved instructor at the Yoga Loft prior to opening his studio, obviously it was no coincidence. It was also rumoured that they had a very public falling out and there's some weird drama occurring.

It's all quite weird and a little sad. Personally, as a student, this type of drama makes me want to stay away from that little soap opera. I want to practice yoga and didn't expect this type of division between studios for whatever the reason (style, theoretical approach). 

So how to foster community in Halifax's Yoga world? I could just accept that it's lacking... but then I like community. As I'm not an instructor that also adds a bit of a challenge on my 'street cred' front. What I was thinking was organizing some sort of group open to students, teachers whatever. We could meet, have yoga-geared events, perhaps have a reading night with different topics of discussion and.... dare we say... speakers? We could talk about yoga stuff over fair trade organic COFFEE... and of course it would have to be 'eco'.

It's time I step out of my 'boîte' of an apartment- what do you think my eco-readers? Suggestions, thoughts?

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. What exactly is a "Lululemon featured month"?

    Actually, don't tell me...I'm sure I don't wanna know.

    Unfortunately, yoga studios do have to pay the rent, and pay their teachers, who have their own rents to pay. As such, a somewhat competitive as opposed to cooperative attitude is kind of inevitable, even if it's downplayed. It's kinda like when I was a canvasser for environmental groups...on the one hand, the different organizations saw themselves as all together in the same cause, but, when one stepped on another's turf, it came down to organization and employees' ability to pay the rent threatened because they couldn't bring in any money in a neighborhood that got hit by another green organization the previous week.

    Ultimately, I think, communities probably need to be formed independent of organizations, since commerce and community inevitablu clash.

    If there weren't however many hundred of miles between us, I for one would be happy to join your eco/yoga/coffee klatch...

  2. yes, I think the idea of having gatherings is great, in NY I have found a few through, maybe there is one already in Hallifax, you never know... hmmm. actually i just did a search for zip code B3H 0A1 and there is none... maybe an opportunity

  3. Do you ever check the Yoga Atlantic website? Sometimes there are community gatherings that are not studio based.

    There's one Feb 10th called "Coalescence Day" although I for one would be hestiant to go to many of these as they often seem a bit too "weird" for me, and I think I would be uncomfortable b/c I wouldn't know anyone. But maybe it's something you'd be interested in.

  4. I think it sounds great and I get what you are saying about studios not meshing. That's kind of sad, huh? A group of like-minded students would be a great community for you there. Maybe teachers/studios would eventually join as well? In essence, you WOULD be the teacher.

  5. It's more common than not for studios to work in their silos.

    But one local teacher I know is trying to break that down with the kirtan group he formed. It's open to anyone (teachers, non-teachers, newbies etc). It's held in another studio other than where he teaches yoga (he pays for the space and asks for donations to help cover the cost). And it has no religious overtones, other than chanting in Sanskrit and generally those chants being the names of gods/esses.

    He stresses inclusion and that kirtan is more about opening the heart than anything else. And he organises a dinner once a month after chanting too, so people can chat.

    It's a lovely way of meeting new people and being exposed to the different ideas people have about spirituality, yoga etc...

    So I guess I'm saying I think it's possible, but that you need the right setting, right mind-set and a group of people willing to run with it. Maybe they aren't your hardcore yogis to start out with, but once there's a group going, it has momentum.

    Good luck!

  6. May I ask how instructor was intimidating?I am considering going but am pretty new to yoga and also pretty sensitive...
    thanks for advice in advance.

  7. Dr. Jay: lol, nope you don't want to know! Sigh, I know.... I think you're right, it's more than simply business weirdness that's going on here though. iT's almost like high school snobbery-competition. Which I thought was sad.
    wouldn't it be fun if we could have an online coffee-yoga space?

    Claudia: I should look into that actually. I think part of the problem is that most events are known by teachers, but the students really are not part of that 'loop'.

    Grace: I think your comment on not feeling comfortable enough is telling as it is. Every time I attend one of the events around here I feel kinda like I'm 'out' of the circle.... mostly because the teachers who organize the program-event are SO tight knit.
    they have their own circle and group, and the students aren't usually a part of that.... and we feel it.

    Namaste-Heather: thanks!! :) The more I've thought about it, the more I agree. I think something geared more for the students and not as formal would be fun and open.

    svasti: that's wonderful :) I've been wondering about Kirtan, but since singing god-esse's names doesn't really sit well if I don't believe in them, I've been hesitant.... but it sounds interesting :)

    Anonymous: Actually, Seth was one of the hanging around people that intimidated me... lol. The actual instructor's name was Sarah M (I think) and she was very nice! it was an 'intro to ashtanga' class that wasn't easy by any stretch... I was surprised actually, I didn't really consider it an intro.

    For someone who is new to yoga (and sensitive like me!) an 'intro' is usually ideal..... if you're already strong and fit I'd say go for it- it was informative and slow. BUT it was HARD. I took a child's pose half way through. She only went through a few of the poses (probably because Ashtanga has a set sequence.... so the intro had even less variety).

    Maybe you should contact Seth to see if there's a gentler intro for you to take (and I always went with a friend, it made it easier for sensitive souls like myself :) ).

    I hope it's a good fit for you! If not, there are other studios around that are welcoming and open (like 108 in the market!). :)

  8. Thanks for your time, your great honest blog, and your helpful advice!
    Much appreciated re intimidating yoga ;)

  9. I think it is a fabulous idea, and I love the idea of having speakers/events! Imagine all the other yogis who go home after class (or don't make it to class) and wish for a support-filled community. Isolation & asceticism works for some, but many of us need community to grow... a month ago I found a yoga class in the otherwise asana-less city of Tbilisi, Rep. of Georgia, and it was SUCH a blessing to be able to share space once a week with a group of other practitioners. Wishing you much luck, strength & peace!

  10. First of all, I think you have already made major steps in building a yoga community just with your guerrilla yoga! That's pretty amazing that you have done that, and still do "friends yoga" at your house during the winter.

    Further, I LOVE the idea of having yoga discussion groups. If I lived up there, I'd come! That is fantastic, and I have no doubt that you will find a great way to facilitate that.

  11. Oooh, I LOVE my yoga community. All the yoga teachers in Helena are invited to Dancing Lotus Studio once a month for a yoga teachers "support" group. It is so wonderful. We discuss challenges to teaching, new ideas on how to get into and out of poses. Sometimes we practice as a group to a podcast or video and help each other out. Sometimes we have a restorative class.

    We share our class schedules, so if we have a student that doesn't really like our class, we know where to send them for a different style. And, we encourage each other to come to our classes.

    And, for Valentine's weekend, Dancing Lotus is donating studio time and teachers from all over the community are donating classes for a yoga weekend with all the proceeds going to help the people of Haiti. How awesome is that?

    It is a very supportive and encouraging community and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.

    I would like to expand the classes we offer together when the weather gets warmer. Yoga in the park! Woot!

  12. This is a great idea. What a concept (!):

    "all the studios come together for general yogic celebrations such as solstice or Yoga Day"

    There tends to be separation, and attitude between different Yoga Studios.

    I love the picture of Guerrilla Yoga! Absolutely idyllic!

    There is something good about different yoga studios defining their identities and such, but as you've pointed out the underside of having difference is that it can lead to fighting or underhanded actions related to competition or jealousy.


    And I agree that yoga shalas at their best are welcoming...

    So I support the different yoga studios expressing differences in technique and style of environment, even if it means that the experience and culture will vary from place to place. However I also think that it's a great idea to come together across yoga studios from time to time to celebrate and honor one another.

    Makes sense.

    Thank you, wonderful EcoYogini!

  13. Such a true post! Obviously it is hitting home with people as well.

    Sadly, I found the same thing here in Bloomington. I even tried to start a "YogiMixers" group (see but after 3 months of having only 1 person show up (different person each time), I simply didn't have the time or energy.

    My teacher training program came from a studio in Indy that is HIGHLY generous with their knowledge and information (Cityoga) which is what I came to expect. I'm not naive - I know that yoga is a business like any other, but "it's just business" is by far no excuse for any behavior (at least in my opinion). We're all human and our first priority is to one another and the life that is.

    For now, I've just retreated to my own home practice. Any teaching I do (in the upcoming months) will be focused solely on comfort - actually, after checking out studio space, I've decided to just teach out of my home for now. I guess if I can breathe a bit easier, I hope my students can as well.

    I could go on, but I hope we all find some solutions to just get along! :)

  14. i used to go to a friday yoga teachers practice session hosted by a studio in town. i didnt work at the studio, but she opened up for teachers (and serious students) that didnt necessarily teach there. we definitely learned a lot from each other, and then it was tibetan food afterwards. yoga and yum= :)

  15. i love it! while i was unemployed, i found out about Karma Yoga, a free friday afternoon class offered by the yoga school at Exhale here in portland...would LOVE to hear about guerilla yoginis here in stumptown :)

  16. this is a great post, eco! so much to think about on so many levels.

    first of all, i completely agree that "community" is an overlooked aspect of living sustainably. it's something that i've been thinking about a lot in regards to my day job (community org/dev social media work). it would be great to see more of a discussion around this, and i think your blog is a great starting place!

    it's good that you can identify what it is about the halifax yoga scene that doesn't satisfy you. and i love that you're thinking about starting up something yourself. very DIY of you!

    my main recommendation would be to do something out of the studio, any studio. it's more inviting and open to host a conversation about yoga in a cafe, or a yoga book discussion in a bar, or show a film in a community centre. this creates neutral space, where any body can show up, regardless of which studio they practice at or what style they do.

    guerrilla yoga can happen all year round, and in any space other than the park! i look forward to hearing about whatever event you organize ~ be sure to blog about it!


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