Breathe, Stretch, Strengthen
Exploring the Yoga Scene in Thunder Bay
By Emily Turner
“Yoga changes lives. It connects your body back to your breath,” says Deb Zweep, owner of the Modo Yoga Thunder Bay studio. “It gives your mind rest from all of the busyness of our lives so when you leave your mat, you have a little more peace in your life.” But what is yoga? Oftentimes, when yoga is talked about, it is in abstract terms, or in a way that is only understood if you’ve done yoga before. To many people, yoga is a mystery. But with so many welcoming, accessible yoga studios in town, there’s no need for it to be. Yoga dates back to ancient times, and the word itself is derived from a Sanskrit term. Traditionally, it is about the union of mind, body, and spirit. For many, the spiritual aspect of yoga is what brings them to their mat. But as Shaye Mascarin, owner of Ananda Studios explains, “Yoga is different every day for everybody. That’s the beautiful thing about it: the endless ways we can practice and make it exactly what we need in that moment.” Even without the spiritual component, yoga has incredible physical and mental benefits. Erin May, owner of The Bodymind Centre, adds that “there is a different type of yoga for everyone.” The most common types of yoga are hatha, vinyasa, and yin. Hatha and vinyasa are similar, though vinyasa is typically faster-paced and what people often call “power yoga.” Both emphasize the importance of controlled, mindful breathing. As Zweep explains, yoga connects your body back to your breath; it does this through grounding, intentional movements. Regardless of how fast or slow you move through the poses, a focus on breath is integral, especially in hatha. Yin, also known as restorative yoga, is about targeting the connective tissue in your body through passive poses held for a longer period. It’s hard to say what style is best for you until you try them all. Regardless of style, all yoga is a chance to deepen your mind-body connection, and you don’t need to be flexible to try it out. All you really need is patience and a willingness to give it a shot. As Arthur Fiedler, owner of Art of Yoga studio, reminds all of his students, we must “let go of expectations and stress and be in the present” when we are practicing. Oftentimes, it comes down to finding your studio and community to practice with, at least while you are starting your yoga journey, which can be a steep learning curve for some. Luckily for us in Thunder Bay, there is a strong, supportive yoga community to help you start out. Every studio mentioned here—Modo Yoga, The Bodymind Centre, Art of Yoga, and Ananda Studios— offers beginner-friendly classes that are accessible to all. They are even happy to supply the mat. You’ll never know how you feel about yoga until you give it an honest shot.