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For the Love of Your Body, For the Love of Your Planet: Moksha EastVan a Warm and Inviting Community

On any given day in Vancouver, you will see spandex-clad yogis on their way to

a class, some of them on a quest for the much revered ‘yoga body’. Depending

who you ask, a ‘yoga body’ can mean the presence of vitality, suppleness and

calm in practitioners of any age, an ‘elixir of health’, so to speak. Or, the ‘yoga

body’ can be interpreted as an aesthetic; a toned and incredibly slim body,

often in minimal clothing. But this aesthetic has contributed to a dangerous

double-edged sword: the practice of yoga asana (postures) has been

simultaneously used in the recovery from eating disorders and also, more

recently, has been embroiled in controversy for the ways in which this

‘body’ (used in advertisements for the growing barrage of yoga clothing and

accessories) might contribute to body image issues and anxieties.

It should come as no surprise to many of us that hot yoga is touted as an

even more effective method of achieving the aforementioned ‘yoga body’ than

‘traditional’ (not hot) yoga, as the heat increases the cardiovascular effects and

calories burned. The fact that many hot yoga students practice in front of

mirrors, often in minimal clothing, may, in some cases, place an undue

emphasis on their physical appearance throughout the practice. But Moksha

Yoga East Vancouver, the newest hot yoga studio in Vancouver, is not that kind

of studio.

Co-owners Marie-Eve Boudreau and Monique Harris, both proud

inhabitants of beautiful and uniquely sized yoga bodies (“I come in ‘size small’,

so does my dog Tucker”, the petite Marie-Eve quips jovially), opened their

doors last month (February 3, 2012) with the intention of cultivating a

particular kind of sangha (intentional community). Their studio, which is in the

bustling, up-and-coming “Fray Way” neighborhood (off of Fraser and

Kingsway), is designed to be so much more than just a space for physical

exercise. From the first day that it opened, the studio has been emphasizing

two of Moksha’s Seven Pillars (guiding principles): Community and Accessibility.

In terms of community, Boudreau and Harris’ intentions are two-fold. First, they

wish to cultivate an inviting community for their students to move, enjoy and

celebrate their bodies: this includes nourishing their bodies through the asana

(posture) practice but also through eating and chilling out together as a

community. For instance, Boudreau has instituted Tuesday Cake Day, where

students enjoy one of her homemade confections as they sip tea in the front

lounge. Second, the studio was opened with the intention of contributing

positively to its neighborhood: through donation-based “karma yoga” classes

(Fridays 8-9 pm), community events, and its ambassador program, which

allows students to help out around the studio in exchange for free yoga classes.

The integration of enjoying good food into the studio’s everyday functioning

helps to enforce Boudreau and Harris’ desire to foster positive body image, and

to enforce that the hot yoga practice is not meant to be used as a form of ‘boot

camp’ or as a counter-balance to eating. Mindfulness is so important to every

aspect of Moksha Yoga East Van: from the building’s construction to the

modifications offered to each student. In alignment with Moksha’s Seven Pillars,

the space was built lovingly with ecologically friendly materials that not only

met, but far surpassed, the guidelines suggested by Moksha International.

Many of the materials used are recycled and plant-based, and were sourced

with the help of Pete McGee at GreenWorks Building Supply. The complete

absence of toxins in the hot room, right down to the plant-based glue holding

together the bamboo floors, means that Boudreau and Harris are confident that

not only are they respecting our planet, but that students who practice in the

hot room every day will be breathing the safest air possible.

Another unique aspect of Moksha East Van’s space is Boudreau and Harris’

refusal to have a large retail merchandise area at the front of their studio. With

the exception of selling one type of mat and one type of towel for students who

need them, they don’t sell any other yoga accessories. They provide a ‘loaner’

water bottle free of charge to students who need one. Students are invited to

use the bottle and return it, washed, after their practice. They also don’t sell

yoga clothing, and you’ll often notice their instructors teaching in modest

clothing. While these decisions are in place to distance the space from

unnecessary consumption, it is also a way to de-emphasize the importance of

physical appearance. Boudreau is thrilled to notice that the students coming

through the doors seem to pay little attention to what they or their neighbours

wear to practice in the hot room. “It’s a community that’s very open-minded,

non-judgmental, which feels really amazing,” she beams.

Moksha Yoga East Vancouver is located at 560 E 15th Ave (at Carolina), just off

of Fraser and Kingsway. In addition to their regularly scheduled Moksha, Flow

and Yin classes, they offer a weekly Karma class for a $5 donation, every Friday

from 8-9 PM. [This month’s charity is Circles of Care and Connection: A

Knitting Group for Displaced Montagnard Peoples of Vietnam, so donations of

yarn are also gratefully accepted.] They are having a grand opening party and

potluck, Saturday, March 17, beginning with a Funky Flow class at 5:30. Visit

www.mokshayogaeastvancouver.com for more details.

Maya Thau-Eleff is a certified hatha and vinyasa yoga instructor, and an MA

candidate in the Department of Gender Studies at Queen's University.

 

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