Namaste, Squamish style

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“When I first moved here there were just two yoga studios,” explains Annie Martinello, yoga instructor at The Yoga Studio.

Now, it seems, you could practice from dawn until dusk, indoors or outdoors, enjoying anything from a lively hot fusion class to a peaceful restorative evening session, and everything in between.

When Marcia Danielson first started practicing yoga 15 years ago, her options were very limited. But now she marvels at the opportunities available.

“There’s a lot of yoga in Squamish now, and a variety of classes which I think is a good thing because what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. They might be looking for something completely different,” Danielson said.

Martinello, who has lived in Squamish for 13 years, teaches at The Yoga Studio on 2nd Avenue along with its founder, Sarah Manwaring Jones.

During her 16 years of teaching, she’s seen studios come and go along the Sea to Sky Corridor, and says it’s never easy.

These past two years have, in particular, seen noticeable changes, she explained, especially for drop-in classes where the number of attendees has been declining.

This might be, she feels, because there are so many more drop-in classes being offered in town now than there used to be.

“We only offer six a week, but some do six a day,” she said. “We have regulars that have been with us for a long time, but we don’t see many who are doing yoga on the fly.”

Workshops have also been affected.

“In the past six months especially, there have been so many workshops offered that I’ve had to cancel a few of my own because the numbers were too small to run them.”

Attendees for her pre-registered classes, pre and post natal yoga, and therapeutic work all continue to be strong though, as is the overall number of people practicing yoga, she said.

Despite the number of studios opening recently, she wouldn’t be surprised to see more coming in the future and feels positive about this change and growth.

“If Squamish continues to grow, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more yoga. I think it’s all part of the growth within our community. If it helps increase the availability for more people to practice yoga and offer lots of variety, then I think that can only be a good thing.”

Elizabeth Nerland has been teaching yoga for three years and currently offers classes at North Yoga. 

She also offers by-donation classes outside, is the founder of the not-for-profit West Coast Yoga Foundation, and hosts Squamish’s annual Yoga Festival which draws hundreds of practitioners over a summer weekend.

She feels the yoga community in Squamish is really growing.

“We have so many great teachers and more keep coming. More recently, we’ve been getting a lot of reputable teachers from Vancouver and other areas, coming to share their knowledge mostly for workshops.”

The studios vary between themselves too, she explained, from those offering yoga as a workout to those focusing more on traditional chanting and breathing. 

For something a little different, Shala Yoga offers a free monthly Kirtan class of devotional singing with harmoniums (participants are encouraged to join in with their voices, rattles, and drums), while Core Intentions offers an Aerial Yoga class.

“We’re starting to get a lot more offerings and a fuller scope of what yoga is and the various practices within yoga… there’s an array of choices. On the one hand, you might wonder if we’re hitting saturation point, but then you think there are so many more offerings that people who might have been less interested three or four years ago are now able to find a niche that works for them.”

And, from what she’s seen, the classes on offer seem to be mostly full.

It isn’t just Squamish enjoying this burst of popularity in yoga, both Martinello and Nerland said. It’s happening all over.

“I’ve heard the Seattle Seahawks have regular yoga practice as part of their training,” said Nerland, adding, “One of my teachers also spoke about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team doing yoga, as well as the Navy SEALs.”

One factor that may partly explain yoga’s popularity in Squamish, they both explained, is that it complements our active community well.

“I’ve had lots of climbers in my yoga in the park and receive lots of feedback from them that the breath work really helps them with their climbing, in that it helps calm their nerves and think more clearly in difficult situations while climbing,” said Nerland.

Yoga can also help increase range of motion, she explained, which is helpful across so many sports.

“Some of the breath work is also very, very powerful for helping with things such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia, which are so pervasive in every first world country,” said Nerland.

“Another piece of yoga which I find really powerful is, due to our modern-day lifestyle, many of us live from the neck up for most of our days. Yoga gets us back into our bodies, back into our communities and connecting with other people.”

For Danielson, yoga has been an incredibly powerful practice that she tries to enjoy at least three times a week when possible.

“It’s absolutely restorative based on the physical aspect of keeping me flexible and for strengthening. I feel calmer when I come out of a class… I really notice it when I don’t do it. My mental being, my physical body, my calmness, everything. Yoga is amazing for me.”

One piece of the yoga community here that Nerland really appreciates, is its inclusiveness. From children to retirees, and beginners to well-seasoned practitioners — Squamish seems to be a yoga community that welcomes everyone.

If you’d like to start practicing yoga there are so many great studios it can almost feel like there’s so much choice, Nerland explained.

So, her advice is to try them all.

“Try as many studios and as many teachers and different styles as possible until you find one that really works for you. There’s such a wide variety, and there will be pieces that really work for you and some that may not your style. That’s one of the perks here in Squamish — there’s something for everyone.”

If you’d like to try out a variety of yoga classes and studios in just one day while raising money for charity, Nerland is organizing a Yoga Crawl on Dec. 10th, to support Squamish Community Christmas Care. Participants will be moving between five local studios, with a yoga class at each one, followed by food and drinks provided by local organizations. 

Visit the ‘Yoga Crawl, Social & Savour’ Facebook page for details.

Squamish yoga instructor Annie Martinello.

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