You don’t need to walk more than a few blocks on Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue before noticing something’s afoot. Perhaps it’s when you approach the second corporate yoga chain that you realize that the Lululemon flagship store and Whole Foods Market you just passed weren’t mere coincidences. As you sip the latest sample at DavidsTea, you might pause and wonder if you’ve just tasted the very heart of Vancouver’s growing yoga scene.
In recent decades, the westernized practice of yoga has swept across North America at a rate too intense to ignore. In a one-stop shop, you can now accomplish your workout, build community with other people who think three-legged dog pose is as fun as you do, and take a timeout from the rush of your busy workday.
We were two novices who’d dabbled in the odd yoga class and owned a pair of yoga pants. With the intention of exploring this cultural phenomenon, we purchased a 30-day intro pass at a local yoga chain, ready to connect the dots between the increasing number of corporate yoga studios and the growing popularity of lifestyle stores. It was time to ask yogis how they reconciled the hefty price tag associated with their fitness regime and wardrobe, and what drew them to fork over their credit card for experiences like the one described above. Purely fitness? A spiritual experience? Status symbol? What does membership buy?
We came into the yoga scene feeling a bit out of place, and even a little skeptical about entering a corporate culture we felt might be somewhat elitist. Upon our first visit to a local yoga studio, we observed a strange blend of commercial and zen. Has yoga evolved to steer away from its spiritual roots to become a commercial industry? Sometimes it seemed everyone fit the profile of a “yogi”—a toned body, cute Lululemon clothes, and an amazing one-legged eagle’s pose held with poise and ease. And here we were with our regular workout gear, fumbling our way around the mat pretending to know what we were doing. We were trying to squeeze our way into this yoga culture, just as we tried to squeeze into our yoga pants. But we were there to see this through and found that our perceptions of this emerging yoga culture evolved. And our experience disproved many of our preconceived stereotypes about what constitutes urban yoga culture.
After attending several yoga classes at various studio locations and experimenting with different yoga styles, we realized this whole yoga thing isn’t so bad after all. Sure, it’s a little intimidating to be surrounded by a room of people who all seem to magically understand Sanskrit, obeying the teacher’s instructions in swift, fluid movements. The great thing about “getting back on the horse” and attending a second, then a third class, proved that many of these contextual phrases were common across all classes.
We have grown accustomed to the cultural nuances of this emerging form of fitness. Now we can safely say we know what to do when we are instructed to take our bolster to prepare for Savasana as we chant “omm”. There is no one way to do yoga, no template. There’s a place for everybody. Buying a membership comes at a hefty price, but if you greatly benefit physically and mentally from this, then perhaps it is the price worth paying.
Has this exploration into the yoga scene in the last 30 days inspired us to fork over our credit card and commit to a monthly membership? Perhaps not at this time. But it is fair to say that our views of yoga have changed in a positive way. The yoga hype is not going away; it is embedded as a compelling option within Vancouver’s fitness buffet. Pigeon pose awaits all who seek it.