As I walked through downtown Toronto, I couldn’t help, but feel out of place. I was a newcomer, a traveler, and someone who felt like they didn’t belong. I didn’t know the streets, or how the TTC worked. I felt like an extra in a movie, watching the movie go by.
Coming from New York City, I knew almost nothing of yoga. I would watch yoga youtube videos in my basement apartment, and do my downward dogs on a carpet I bought from Target. I don’t think my knees will ever forgive me for cat cowing on a concrete floor in the concrete jungle. I had no form, and I was obsessed with getting the best cardio workout as possible in fitness classes. I was sweating as much as I could, but my body wasn’t growing stronger. Neither was my spirit.
The first time I ever walked into YYoga was on a cold, rainy day and I was already dreading the fact that I had left my apartment. My socks were soaked, my spirit was down, and I felt tired to the point of exhaustion. I was dealing with the stress of finding a job in a new country, missing friends from back home, and missing my significant other while he was at work. I walked in, and was greeted by a friendly voice and the smell of lavender.
“Hello, how are you?” This was one of the first human interactions I had had that week. Knowing no one in a new country usually means that you have to spend your days alone. This greeting made me smile for the first time that day. It was exactly the warm welcome I needed to feel engrossed in a city, which is known for keeping to itself.
After taking the Hatha class, I immediately bounded out of the door, and into my partner’s car. I told him everything about the class. I boasted about the tea, the music, but specifically I told him about the community. It was something I had craved since moving to Toronto and the feeling was so strong that I went home and applied for a job opening at the centre right away.
The thing about yoga is that it’s not about the level you’re at, the ability to get your foot behind your head, or whether you can show off in class. It’s about the connection we all have in the same room. As we breathe together we are all creating energy and love. We all are creating a friendship and a bond. As someone who left their home, finding YYoga has truly made my transition to Toronto easier. Not only have I found myself in my yoga practice, but I have accepted Toronto as my hometown.
Sometimes it’s easy to cast off yoga as just a stretch or a simple workout. But, to me it was so much more than that. Yoga has taught me that it’s not the workout on the mat which creates the person, it’s the mantras you carry into your day to day life which changes your outlook.
My move to Toronto has been like yoga. Some days it’s hard, but with a deep breath, it gets that much easier. And as every class ends, it allows me to move forward to see the light in myself and you.
- Melissa Amato, Guest Experience, Queen Street West