The little studio that could
By CJ Sommerfeld, Staff Writer
Who else’s back aches from the sedentary life COVID has forced upon us? Many of us are now working and schooling from home—a place that offers both a bed and a sofa as office and classroom alternatives. Posture etiquettes are extinguished when these places have become your new place of work and study and that may have just resulted in body pains. Never has there been a better time to scout out a spot to move your body and reverse all the harm Zoom has induced on our bodies. For this reason, I present to you Karma Teachers.
Karma Teachers is a non-profit that was founded in 2011 by a Emerson Lim (who is no longer associated with the company). He opened the space to create somewhere for people to meditate and practice yoga without the financial constraints that usually come with these sorts of places. The spot is located at 45 West Hastings in Vancouver, nestled within the main-DTES drag of debauchery. Up until 2016, it operated on the top floor of a hardwood floor and brick-clad heritage building. During this time, entrance was only accessible through the alley between Hastings and Cordova. In 2016, however, the studio moved downstairs, occupying both the first and second floors. In moving downstairs, the studio acquired a storefront and front door. These changes made the studio less of a clandestine yoga operation and more inviting to the public.
Present-day, the studio still abides by its original objective of extinguishing finances as a barrier between someone and their capability to practice yoga. When the studio opened, a donation box sat at the front desk. Here, yogis could drop in whatever amount they were able to pay. This amount varied from nothing to a loonie, toonie, a fiver—or, if someone was feeling generous and had the means to do so—a twenty, or a fifty. As time progressed, however, the non-profit began offering online punch passes that were accessible to pre-purchase online. To curb the spread of COVID, the donation box has since been put in the closet and will probably remain there until this global pandemic passes.
Inclusion through the application of by-donation yoga is only the tip of the iceberg of what makes this space so great. Nearly the entire hierarchy of those who run the studio are volunteers. There is an exchange program where yogis exchange volunteer hours—both reception and cleaning the studio for free or reduced yoga and teacher training. Many people also volunteer at Karma Teachers simply to be a part of the space’s community. This coterie is comprised of a multicultural hodgepodge of yogis and non-yogis. An individual does not need any previous yoga experience before entering the studio’s doors to be welcomed in.
One thing that had stuck out to me when I began going to Karma Teachers in 2014 was something that different teachers would repeat. Each teacher would suggest that the students keep an eye on their mats—to even practice with their eyes closed if they felt so inclined. In doing this, we would not compare ourselves to others, nor would we feel like we were being judged. This was something that made Karma Teachers stand out from some of the other, may I say, prototypically bougie yoga spots in Vancouver.
Karma Teachers was one of the first yoga spots to re-open in Vancouver after the city had shut down due to COVID. It is open, however, it is different compared to before. Yogis and non-yogis alike need to book their class before showing up at the studio, as now, only 11 people can attend a class! As well, bringing one’s mat is a thing of the past! While mats and blocks have always been supplied at the studio, it is now mandatory to use these instead of one’s own.
This studio has progressed [greatly] from where it started as a top floor meditation space and spot to practice yoga. While it still leads guided meditations, Yin, Hatha, and Vinyasa classes. Karma Teachers now offers 200- and 300-hour teacher training, Ayurveda and anatomy training, full moon women circles, booty workshops, and more.
Karma Teachers is the inclusive, modern-day yoga studio embodiment of the do-all Renaissance man. So, whether you have contorted your body into Astavakrasana, Utkata Konasana or Dwi Pada Sirsasana… or even can merely pronounce such poses, why not give it a try?