The seasons are changing and a lot of us who have spent most of the colder months hibernating, are starting to break out of our bubble and get back into activity mode! As a Registered Massage Therapist, this time of year floods my treatment room with clients that are looking to help condition their bodies as they get back into running, biking, climbing, paddling, or the intense training that goes along with things like the Spartan Race, or The Iron Man, as well as many other activities.

Getting regular massage treatments is a great way to help keep the soft tissue of your body happy and healthy, but to really keep things flexible, and to help ward off injuries, I always stress to my clients that regular stretching is just as important! As a yogi, I frequently send my clients yoga based resources to help augment their own training. The philosophy of staying connected to the breath, practicing presence and ‘letting go’ (both physically and mentally) make Yoga one of the most well rounded exercises I know. In my industry, it is well known that ‘When we work the body, we work the mind. And when we work the mind, we work the body.’ The two are undeniable connected, and manual practitioners see and feel the proof of this every day.

The Yoga Collective Ottawa space downstairs at Greco Fitness in Westboro

But Yoga that doesn’t cost a lot is hard to find. I know that line between paying for skill, training, and expertise, vs. accessibility to those in need, is a VERY sticky issue, to all health practitioners not covered under OHIP or private insurance. The local Yoga studios are a lovely place to spend time, and to develop a practice, but unfortunately the cost can make it difficult to stick with. Even though I send people a lot of online video resources, to compliment the massage treatments we are doing, the truth is, having a well trained and knowledgeable Yoga Teacher present IS the better option, especially if you are just starting out. A teacher’s presence to help guide a student through postures they are having difficulty with, and offering up alternative positioning, or supportive bolstering, can not only prevent injury, but it can ward off frustration and keep a student engaged and motivated. Also, the ability to ‘hold space’ is a true skill, and it takes a lot of practice, and that skill is often what packs a yoga room. People simply want to be in a positive and supportive environment, its a natural inclination for us. But these things take space and money, it’s no wonder it can cost big bucks.

A few weeks ago I heard about Yoga Collective Westboro through Instagram. It was advertised as a Donation Only, pay-what-you-can-all-the-time Yoga studio. What?! Instantly intrigued, I took to the internet to find out more. At that point the website was pretty basic, but it did confirm the concept of donation only, and it had a schedule available listing the regular classes offered throughout the week.

I decided to send the studio an email in hopes of finding out more about how this came about. Marc, the owner of Greco in Westboro where YCWestboro is located, responded to my enquiry. He explained that he has created a separate brand for Yoga Collective Westboro for 2 reasons; one being that the Greco brand has no history or reputation with Yoga,  but that he also felt it was necessary to create a separate entity and name to really represent the concept behind the model. I asked if he could write up a little blurb for me about why he chose to open a donation only model for Yoga, and this is what he he wrote;

Yoga Collective Westboro is a donation only model that makes yoga accessible to everyone.  The inspiration for YCW came directly from my own practice with yogi Bryan Kest at Power Yoga in Santa Monica, California, who – to the best of my knowledge – was the first or one of the first to operate a yoga studio on a donation only basis.

I experienced this model for two years as one of Bryan’s students and was inspired by the complete surrender involved.  For someone to put a donation box at the door without watching it, without any expectations or judgements was inspiring and admirable.  His sense of trust and faith that people would respond while completely letting go was impressive.  And respond they did.  The line ups were long and the classes were full.  The energy was up lifting and the appreciation was reciprocated.

Bryan’s inspiration for adopting a donation only model came from his meditation course with Goenka Vipassana & now others in the U.S. like Yoga To The People have also adopted donation only model yoga studios.  YCW’s vision is to continue this inspiration, bringing it to Ottawa and to Canada with the same sense of faith, trust and complete surrender while embracing the same supportive interaction to empower the practitioner that I experienced.  

No set prices, contracts, commitments or terms.  No pressure, judgements or expectations.  Everyone is welcome.  It is your practice, breathe through it and listen to your body.

 It would be virtually impossible to offer up a non-profit business model that requires the rental of downtown real estate, and the time of professional teachers. Because Marc runs a successful business, he is able to provide something without having that monetary need in exchange. The Yoga Collective Westboro is a great way for an existing business to diversify, it’s a way to offer up something that our community needs more of, and it’s a way for the owner to incorporate the broader elements of his life and passions into what he already does for a living. What a beautiful use of space and resources!

Dave and I decided to hit up the Wednesday noon hour Yin/Yang class to check it out. Admittedly, Dave and I are kinda Yin Yoga junkies. Evening is usually when we get to pull out our mats together, and winding down just feels like priority. But we could probably use a bit more Yang right now, as we are slowly awakening for the spring and summertime outdoor seasons.

We scored some free parking on Richmond and headed in for the class. The gym is on Roosevelt, right in the heart of Westboro, easily accessible by car, bus, bike, skateboard, foot, etc. There is a box set up at the desk where people can put their donations for the class. We were taken downstairs to the room where the class would take place. Obviously the room is a shared space with Greco gym, and the large room is lined with weights, balls, and kettlebells, with mirrors on either end. The floor is covered in shock resistant tiles, similar in feeling to cork flooring. I looked around a bit, and the facilities of the gym are quite nice, with showers available, and a large space for shoes and jackets just outside the exercise room. There is a coffee and juice bar upstairs by the front door too. The staff were all very friendly, and the vibe there was quite chill. It is definitely a “gym” as opposed to a Yoga studio, but I feel an important element of Yoga and meditation is the practice of being content, exactly where you are, which is easy to do in a very accepting and non judgemental environment like this.

Within a few minutes our instructor came down, a nice guy named Dave (Dave’s, they’re everywhere…). Dave the instructor had a really nice calm, grounded presence, and talked in a smooth, level voice. Perfect. There were 4 of us for the lunch hour class. I like small classes personally, but it probably won’t last, which is fine 🙂 For the next hour we were guided through what I would consider an all-levels class, with a little Yin at the beginning and end, and a Yang style flow in the middle. It was a great combination of stretching and invigorating movement, and the perfect length of time to fit into a lunch hour break. At the end of the hour long class, Instructor Dave invited us to spend as much time in ‘Savasana’ (Rest Pose) as we wanted. There was no rush to leave the room.

We kinda floated out of the studio, feeling very appreciative of this space that has been created. I look forward to returning to YCWestboro, as well as seeing what more develops in terms of classes. A wonderful addition to the Yoga community, I think 🙂

Find more info on the YCW Facebook, website, or Instagram feed.

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