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Here and Now Turns One

Here and Now Studio has now been open for a year now! I am thrilled at how well things have gone, and I am pleased to have gotten to know so many wonderful people through the studio.

The studio is the end product of a vision that I have had, in some form or another, for a long time. My husband and I met over twenty years ago, when we were young and idealistic and would have long talks about what we wanted to do when we grew up (in fact, we still have these talks from time-to-time 😉). One idea that kept coming up was that of having some sort of space for people to gather, to learn, to contemplate, to share, to relax, to have fun. It was a pretty vague idea and remained so for a long time.

In 2002 I stumbled upon yoga. My then-fiancé, now-husband and I came back to Canada after nearly four years of working and travelling overseas. We knew we would be attending law school the following year but were at loose ends until then, so we did what any twenty-something who is at loose ends does: we moved back in with our parents.

I was in Thornbury, a small town of around 2,000, on Georgian Bay, near Collingwood and Blue Mountain.[1] It is a lovely town, but there was not a lot for a twenty-something to do. Not long after I moved home, a yoga studio opened in town. I knew very little about yoga but thought it might be a good way to occupy some time. At my first class, I had that “where have you been all my life?” feeling. As a fairly anxious, forward-focused person, the opportunity to focus on my breath and body and be in the moment, was a godsend.

Yoga helped me hold onto my sanity and create some balance in my life through the stressful years of law school. When law school was over, and I was working as an articling student, I enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program that ran every other weekend from September to April. The program was truly life changing. I began so see myself and my habits clearly, make positive changes in my life and developed deeper compassion for myself and others.

In the twelve years that passed between completing my teacher training and opening the studio, I had two kids, worked on a public inquiry, began a business as a freelance lawyer and taught yoga various places: community centres, workplaces, private homes, studios and even in my dining room. In 2014 I completed my training to become a mindfulness instructor. Given that the thing I loved most about yoga was its ability to bring people into the present moment, mindfulness was a natural fit.

The “space” that I had long envisioned became a yoga and mindfulness studio in my mind. When I was asked what I would do if I ever won a billion dollars and didn’t have to work anymore, I would bring up the studio idea but it was just that—an idea, a nice thing to dream about. I was a busy mom and lawyer. Opening a studio seemed just about as likely as winning a billion dollars.

When we moved to the Alta Vista area eight years ago, I was heartbroken that there were no yoga studios in the immediate area. I would eagerly watch empty commercial spaces, hoping for a studio to open up in one of them, only be disappointed to see another payday loan or dentist office open up.[2]

After about seven years of waiting, I began giving the idea of opening my own space some serious consideration. Very serious consideration. So serious that I wrote a business plan (now that’s serious!).

I began to put some of the ideas that had been floating around in my mind down onto paper, which made them seem more concrete and possible. In one part of the plan, I described my vision of the studio as follows:

The studio’s atmosphere is welcoming, non-pretentious and non-judgmental, a place where people feel comfortable shedding the “masks” they don at work and in other social situations. The classes and workshops taught at the studio are practical and down-to-earth and meet people where they are.

The studio is more than simply a place for participating in classes and workshops. It is a place for people to socialize with friends and meet likeminded people. There is a sitting room next to the teaching space that is stocked with coffee and tea and books and videos related to yoga and mindfulness. Participants in classes can come before or stay after classes to socialize, and they can borrow books and videos, which will help them continue their practices at home.

I presented my business plan to a “Dragon’s Den”-style panel, and they didn’t think it was crazy. In fact, they gave me a grant. I ran some focus group meetings and the participants didn’t think my idea was crazy either. In fact, they encouraged me and gave me some great ideas.

After hours of cleaning, renovating, shopping and learning to set up a website, the studio opened in January 2018, and the support and response from the community has been amazing.

I want to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey: those who attended the early focus group meetings, those who took a leap of faith and signed up for my early classes, those who continue to attend classes and workshops, those who let me know that they appreciate what I am doing and those who spread the word about the studio amongst their family and friends.

Each week I get to help people enter into the present moment and release some of the tension from their bodies and minds. I get to see social connections being created as participants share hot drinks and chats in the lounge area. While I feel the word “blessed” tends to be overused, it is really the best one to describe how all of this makes me feel.

I am so pleased by how the past year has gone and am looking forward to seeing the next year unfold.

[1] Or two hours north of Toronto for any of you unfamiliar with the area.

[2] No offence to dentists. There just seem to be a lot of dentist offices in my neighbourhood, and I only need one dentist.

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