Diving into Vancouver’s yoga culture

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      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.


      Celine Huang and Alison Osborne are master’s students in intercultural and international communication at Royal Roads University.


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      Jul 2, 2014 at 4:38pm

      One of the best yoga trends is co-ed nude yoga. Dee Dussault (sp?) teaches a co-ed nude yoga class in SF. Why not here?

      Alan Layton

      Jul 2, 2014 at 8:28pm

      It all started with the 20 Minute Workout.


      Jul 2, 2014 at 9:47pm

      A pointless article about a pointless pastime. I tried yoga for a short time, but was quickly disuaded by the snobby, elitist attitude from the Lululemon-clad attendees with their noses high up in the air and having a deep disdain for newbies. I won't be making the same mistake again; besides, I have better things to spend my money on.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:03am


      I would imagine that the yoga studio would make a tidy profit on mat sanitizer


      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:44am

      I've practiced yoga for more than 30 years and while I'm glad more people have plugged into the benefits of stretching and breathing I'm also saddened by the commercialization of something I hold dear. Yet it is this commercialization that has allowed me to meet some wonderful teachers and students and with the proliferation of studios there's bound to be a flavour of yoga for everyone, so what do I know. These days I mostly practice at home.

      For me, yoga is a spiritual practice but I'm not so ignorant that I don't understand I'm doing a bunch of made up poses influenced by gymnastics, dance, and various martial arts all combined with mindful breathing and given a Sanskrit name. This is not some ancient esoteric ritual. Whatever the roots, this is my practice, and I'm enjoying myself.

      Even sided...

      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:44am

      Bringing your dog to Yoga ("Doga"- arrragh!) sounds about as foolish as putting matching human clothes on your dog is. Trends for idiots......

      Yoga; if practiced is quite good for you; different types of cliques among the Yoga community exist- I'm sorry you found a bunch of "social climbers" Vancity Alex. Keep looking!


      Jul 3, 2014 at 1:52pm

      After some basic instruction, all you need to practice Yoga is a reasonably quiet patch of sand, grass or dirt.

      It is a trend

      Jul 5, 2014 at 11:29am

      Seriously? Yoga has been a trend for a decade now: whenever an activity suddenly needs "special" clothing it is a trend. There is nothing "spiritual" about poncing around in "yoga wear" and pretending that somehow you are "in touch" with thousands of years of practice. The next trend in exercise will be whichever activity people do now in whatever they feel comfortable wearing suddenly has specific clothes. My money is on tai-chi as the aging yoga drones look for another "spiritual" activity to fill their vacant minds. Perhaps Chip Yogaman can design a line of Tai-chi gear, and if he does the same drones who think they need "yoga pants" to do "yoga" will rush put to buy their "tai-chi wraps" or whatever is promoted as "appropriate clothing for activity X."

      That's right

      Jul 8, 2014 at 11:30am

      westernized practice of yoga.!!! You hit the nail on the head, the rest of the world has done this without tight pants , a mat, a tea and all the other crap sold to "enhance" your experience. FOR CENTURIES

      What a joke the west has become, everybody is a new wave shaman or spiritual pope because they read a book or joined a class last week.

      Shameful to adopt a truly helpful practice and then co op it with a billion dollar industry founded on slave labour. Every time a woman don's yoga pants little children cry in far off places you will never see.

      Martial arts

      Jul 8, 2014 at 2:38pm

      or self-defence classes are far more useful.