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This new studio is on a mission to show that anybody can do yoga

You don’t have to be skinny, wear tight spandex or have a fat wallet to practise yoga

A new yoga studio in New West aims to make traditional yoga accessible for all.

Doesn’t matter if you can’t bend to touch your toes, or are working with a budget — anybody can do yoga, as per the owner of the studio, Laura O'Reilly.

“Everybody thinks that you need to already be flexible, be young or skinny, or wear certain clothes (to practise yoga). That’s not true,” she said.   

“Some might have had some sort of injury, a challenge or are working with something that, maybe, they think means that they can't do yoga. But they can," she added.

O'Reilly herself, in fact, had to redefine the practice of yoga after she met with an accident a few years ago. Following the incident, while she couldn't continue doing the physically-demanding poses as before, she still pursued yoga.

Many assume that yoga is about movement; in truth, it's only just a part of it, she explained.

"My job as a teacher, or as a studio, is to make this a place where everybody can practise.” 

Where accessibility to yoga comes first

All the classes offered at Yoga at the Quay are friendly to beginners and to people with injuries, said O’Reilly, who has previously also worked with people recovering from cancer, addictions and mental health issues. 

Through her studio, she wants to bring yoga to the marginalized populations who might not otherwise have access to it. 

“We've already given away quite a few free memberships for people who are unemployed, but want to come practise. We also offer an energy exchange for someone who wants to practise, but maybe doesn't have the funds and can instead contribute with something else — like their skills or a little bit of help around the studio,” she said. 

“When I started practising, I didn't have the financial independence to afford going to classes. And so, I would offer to clean a studio, and take classes there.”

For O'Reilly, who used to struggle with anxiety and depression, those classes were life-changing.

“Yoga really helped me change, make better lifestyle choices, listen to my body and do what I needed for myself. I became more aware of what I needed instead of just trying to make myself fit into what I thought I was supposed to be.”

Over the years, O’Reilly learned from different teachers and after taking the standard certifications, she continued learning to achieve the highest accreditation available.

“But I think everyone is a teacher. You can learn from everyone — whether it is your neighbour, or your dog or your child. We have so many opportunities to learn if we're open. So I don't stick to just one teacher, or just one lineage.”

Bringing the four paths of yoga to New West

Now, O’Reilly, a Chinese Jamaican, is all geared up to pass the ancient Indian traditional practice on to the people of New West.

As per the studio's website, they help people improve their well-being through the four paths of yoga: Raja, Karma, Jnana and Bhakti.

O'Reilly elaborated, “Karma Yoga is about contributing to and supporting communities. It's about being of service, and doing it without motivation. So, you do good work for the sake of doing good work and not needing anything in return.”  

Then there is Jnana Yoga, which is about learning, and includes studying scriptures; Bhakti yoga, which is the yoga of devotion; Raja yoga, which includes movement and breath work, she added.  

“All the four paths are complementary — people can't really do one of them without experiencing the other because even when you're doing the physical practice, you are learning, you are meditating."

Recently, the studio hosted a kirtan session — a “musical meditation” practice that traditionally involves chanting a mantra (a word or sound that's repeated) and playing instruments such as harmonium (“which is a mix of piano and an accordion”), mridungam (two-sided drum), and khartal (a percussion instrument).

As per O’Reilly, this “meditative” practice that falls under Bhakti yoga is "fun, joyful and uplifting."

“It's a really nice way to connect and share.”

The session — open to all ages — is every other Wednesday at the studio and offered by donation. Regularly scheduled practices include slow flow yoga, Yoga Spa restorative yoga with the use of massage tools, and pratyahara (where participants are blindfolded and asked to focus on sensation and listening). 

Though just a month old, O'Reilly is happy with the love the studio has got. “So far, everybody that comes, comes back,” she said. 

Turns out, it's a two-sided love. O'Reilly "loves" the River Market. "The quay has such cute, small, local shops.” 

“When I come in in the morning, I feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast where she goes and says hello to everyone. I get to stop and say 'Hi' to the florist, to the bookshop owner and to the woman who runs the pottery shop," she said.

"It's just a beautiful, supportive, warm and friendly environment.”  

Just like what she intends her yoga studio to be.  

Yoga at the Quay is located at 810 Quayside Dr.