For two years, Nettwerk Music Group CEO Terry McBride passionately practised hatha yoga. At first, he jokingly admits, he went as a strategy for meeting women. After having his "ass kicked" in his first class, he went to improve his fitness, his golf swing, his tennis game. Soon, McBride—whose company manages Avril Lavigne, the Barenaked Ladies, and Sarah McLachlan, among others—realized yoga had the power to transform his spirit.
But then, among all the benefits your typical enthusiastic newbie experiences, he had an "a-ha" moment. McBride realized he hadn't really met a soul, although he'd been practising alongside a number of people for months.
"This is crazy," he recalls thinking at the time. "The more I looked, the more I realized that most studios are missing the social aspect."
To McBride, the heart of yoga is about connection to oneself and to others. This realization led to a business idea. In 2007, McBride and his business partner Lara Kozan launched YYoga, a network of studios designed to integrate power, hot, vinyasa flow, hatha, anusara-inspired, and yin yoga, among others, with a social space, organic cafés, a music label specializing in yoga tunes, shops selling yoga gear and CDs, and other spa and health services. In business speak, the idea is to create "multiple sticking points". To the rest of us, it's about demystifying the yoga experience and promoting community and healing.
Kozan, the head instructor at YYoga's studios, noted that at most studios, "You have a little time for Savasana, then you're pushed out the door."
McBride said that for many Vancouverites—despite the city's reputation as Yogaville—the practice remains a little alienating. "Ninety percent of the adult population can't touch their toes," he said. "What is yoga? It's 60 or 90 minutes of a physical activity that does not let you think about the outside world—or you'll fall over. For me, it's a moving meditation. It's invaluable to me and my stress levels. I am much more relaxed [since taking up yoga]."
McBride and Kozan aren't the only ones thinking about the next stage in Vancouver's yoga evolution. Instructor Odette Slater and her husband, Ron Stelting, are also integrating yoga, community, and music, though on a much smaller scale. Slater teaches from her East Vancouver home, and Stelting teaches drumming there as well, through their business YogaDrum (www.yogadrum.ca/ ). Plus, Slater has started offering vegan dinner nights, so that she can help her students connect nutrition, community, and yoga.
Terry McBride sees a link between music and yoga. Martin Prihoda photo.
Both pairs of yoga-promoters have witnessed the power of yoga coupled with music. McBride recalls that when Indian classical music-inspired Deva Premal and Miten played St. Andrew's-Wesley church on September 24, 1,400 fans who'd heard their music in yoga classes. He sees music as another way to bring Vancouver's burgeoning yoga community together.
Already, YYoga has partnered with Neoalpine Yoga Studio in Whistler, the Flow studios in downtown Vancouver, and Northshore Elements in North Vancouver, to enhance what they offer. Highgate, a new YYoga facility, will open in Burnaby this fall, followed by studios in Richmond and South Granville in the spring. Members of YYoga will have access to all of the studios.
McBride and Kozan have hired Vancouver yoga superstar Eoin Finn to spearhead the studio in South Granville, in particular because of his ability to bring people together.
"Everybody gets a hug at the start of his classes," Kozan said. "People come in social groups. It's just a party when you walk in. He's the essence of what this should be."
A calmer, more integrated Vancouver would be a beautiful gift.