Helping hand(stand)

Kitchener’s Queen Street Yoga believes in living by your mantra

Jill Kolb

Well-known local yoga studio Queen Street Yoga has a new vibe, thanks to a new team who recently took over the business. Located on Queen St. in Kitchener, just south of King St., this small business is sharing its vision of a more cohesive and compassionate community by facilitating it inside and outside the studio.

Situated on the top floor of a three story walk-up, a recently renovated entryway welcomes practitioners and yogi enthusiasts to Queen Street Yoga. The studio has a calming yet electric energy. Honey coloured hardwood floors, random bursts of colour and large windows add to the openness of the space and sets the tone for a conversation with new owner Leena Miller and manager Emma Dines.

“We lived together at Conrad Grebel University College [at the University of Waterloo],” said Dines. Early in their meeting, drawn together by living circumstances and a mutual connection to yoga, they realized they both had entrepreneurial aspirations.

“I thought of owning a studio for a while,” Miller explained. Dines, excitedly added, “When I was going through my teacher training,…we were in Elora and we had been talking about owning a yoga studio for a while, we found this Ganesh door handle and said ‘this will be the door handle of our studio.’” The same one now hangs in the front foyer of the studio greeting practitioners as they enter.

Miller, originally from Goshen, Indiana, moved to Kitchener-Waterloo to complete university and started teaching at Queen Street Yoga in 2010. Dines, is a Toronto native and began teaching at the studio in 2011.

When the previous owner and founder Meaghan Johnson decided to move on from the studio to pursue further education, Miller found herself in a position to purchase the studio. “Effectively, I bought us jobs,” Miller said. “But how do you put a value on a business, when someone has worked on it for the past seven years? It holds so much meaning.”

Speaking with Miller and Dines it becomes clear that they do not consider Queen Street Yoga a ‘traditional’ business venture. “A core thing about the business exchange process we went through was that we talked a lot about the stewardship and leadership of a community rather than an ownership of a business,” Dines explained. “That is how it makes sense for me to work in the community as if it’s my business.”

The work Miller refers to is not only creating yoga classes and workshops, but also workshops and initiatives designed to build community. With a lack of open space to discuss important social issues, like climate change and socio-economic pressures, the studio started Queen Street Conversations to provide a neutral and welcoming space for such dialogue to occur. Also, to facilitate the studio’s own community Dines developed a work-trade program where volunteers exchange time for free yoga classes.

“Yoga…is fun, physically interesting, internally meaningful and interactive. It is shareable within our common culture,’ Dines said. “We are actively working on reaching out to different communities to say you don’t have to be thin to do yoga, you don’t have to be white to do yoga.”

“You don’t have to be rich to do yoga, you don’t have to be a woman to do yoga, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga…we want to make yoga really accessible to all,” Miller added.

With Miller and Dines as owner and manager, Queen Street Yoga is working to provide practitioners with a unique style of yoga in an open space.

“I took dance and so I am used to technical instruction,” said Julie Ellis. “The reason why I come here is because it is more technical, rather than memorizing poses, you’re learning how that pose works and what your body is supposed to be doing.” The central location of the studio is another perk. “People who live downtown and work downtown also come here,” Ellis added.

Queen Street Yoga has been sponsored by the City of Kitchener to host free ‘Yoga in the Park’ in Victoria Park Wednesdays at noon throughout the summer. Additionally, the studio has recently become a school offering a teaching training program to being in September 2013. For more information check out their website