Social Yoga is a nomadic yoga studio that holds its classes in unconventional spaces throughout the city of Vancouver. Taking yoga off the mat, and out of the studio, this atypical concept motivates raw conversation and a feeling of connection between attendees. A refreshingly beautiful concept, Social Yoga slows down to challenge the norm, to ask questions that find a deeper understanding, to foster community and to inspire personal growth. We met with founder, Anita Cheung, to learn more.
Where did the idea of Social Yoga originate?
Anita: The idea was a culmination of multiple thoughts. I used to daydream about opening a studio where a large percentage of classes were progressive, as I believe that provided the best environment, both for learning and building connections. When I did my teacher training, I found the classes much more enjoyable because it was like taking a yoga class where everyone is your friend. I wanted to recreate the camaraderie-vibe in a more accessible atmosphere and found that offering small group progressive classes was the perfect marriage of the two.
Could you explain how Social Yoga is different from other yoga studios in the city, and the intention behind hosting your sessions in “unconventional” places?
Social Yoga is a bit of a nomadic studio and the intention of hosting yoga in unconventional places is twofold.
One–It is “yoga in the real world”. What many people don’t realize is that yoga is more than just the postures and a lot of the philosophy applies to everyday life (without having to be too esoteric). Things like “deep breathing to find a moment of calm amidst chaos” are touched upon in class but often forgotten once we leave the studio. The brain is smart- when we see our bed, we know it’s time to sleep and when we see our kitchen table, we know it’s time to eat. When people see their yoga studio, they know it’s time to tune in and practice. When your studio is the same place you buy coffee, or clothes, or grab a drink, it (hopefully) triggers you to practice yoga off the mat.
Second–It is a great opportunity to connect people with local businesses. I am a true Vancouverite in the sense that I love buying and supporting local. I aim to collaborate with great brands & businesses that want to help create connection in this busy city of ours.
People find that Vancouver is an isolating city. Is Social Yoga a way for us to feel more connected to each other in the community?
Yes, Yes, Yes! When I first started fleshing out the idea of Social Yoga in the Spring, I cut out a newspaper article that read “Survey says Vancouver a lonely place to be.” I keep that clipping with me in my day planner as a reminder for why I started.
Coming out of 17 years of formal education, I found the “real world”… a little lonely. I was told that this is just the way it is. People go about their 9-5, mostly alone, and live for the weekends. I’ve always been an idealist and thought- maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be this way. Yoga is, by definition, unity. I noticed a lack of connection in large studio settings as people would sort of just rock up, roll out their mats, and leave without so much as a word to their neighbours. I think there are some great initiatives popping up to build connection in this city (ex. workout groups, fitness clubs) and I wanted to do my part, just with yoga.
“I noticed a lack of connection in large studio settings as people would sort of just rock up, roll out their mats, and leave without so much as a word to their neighbours. I think there are some great initiatives popping up to build connection in this city (ex. workout groups, fitness clubs) and I wanted to do my part, just with yoga.”
This past fall you hosted a pop up meditation. Where did this idea come from?
This sounds crazy, but it honestly came out of thin air. It was never really a big hairy audacious goal to host a pop up meditation space, it just sort of came to me quite suddenly, and very strongly. I’m the kind of person that believes in fuelling passion and going with the flow, so I went with the idea and beautiful things started to unfold.
Despite practicing yoga for many years, I always loved the physical nature of the practice and found myself struggling to sit still. Last year, I went through some struggles that were quite personal and found meditation unknowingly. By focusing on my breath and being mindful of the moment, I was able to calm my negative thoughts rather than run away with them. I decided to do some more research and found some great apps and “meditation challenges” as well as some fascinating scientific research that backed the benefits of meditation. With this passion in mind, I stumbled upon This Open Space at a friend’s fundraiser and my brain put two and two together before I even knew what was happening.
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