|Words by Katie Mahon. Photos by Jenn Crebas.|
Over the years I have become much better acquainted with Edmonton; the city loved by its citizens and embraced by visitors who take the time to get to know it. My evolving appreciation for this city has lead me sincerely believe that never has a metaphor been more poignantly used to describe a town than diamond in the rough is to this city. Though it takes a little bit of warming up to (both literally and figuratively), there is no denying Edmonton’s charm, this city of secrets, this town of hidden gems.
There is an illustrious vibrancy to the yoga community in Edmonton. Many incredible yoga teachers call this city home, and as such many amazing teachers from around the world are magnetized to this city. There are more yoga centers in Edmonton and the surrounding communities than I possibly have space to name here. Astoundingly, these centers all continue to thrive, which speaks to the devotion the people of Edmonton have made to their practice.
Aesthetically, Edmonton might, at first glance, be painted with the broad brush of a typical prairie town, littered with gravel and snow for most of the year. Certainly there are moments, such as the morning after the first snowfall when it seems that the whole world has been covered in glittering white that will take your breath away. The beauty of our winter is unparalleled, and unequivocally Canadian. Beyond the beauty of our winters is the spectacular river valley that winds its way through the length of the city. There are points on the trails of this valley, only a few minutes away from major roads, where you feel that you are deep in a dense forest, surrounded by nothing but magnificent, elder trees, the sounds of birds and sweet, fresh air. The architecture continues to evolve as Edmonton innovates new spaces such as the Art Gallery of Alberta and the restoration of quintessential downtown 104 Street, which holds great promise for our downtown.
Ultimately though, it is not aesthetic that this city is known for. At this heart of this town are the people. Perhaps Margaret Mead said it best, and the people of Edmonton took it to heart, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”.
But for all the Edmonton accolades (the greatest outdoor farmers market in the world, for one!), the power of this community is best understood when it is felt. You can feel the connectedness in local cafes and coffee shops, where you are greeted with such genuineness that you feel like you belong. You can feel this connectedness in local businesses, where you can relate intimately with those who throw their heart and souls into an endeavour they so deeply believe in. It is felt in restaurants, where this community connects over food, sharing stories over decadent masterpieces created by those who believe that food unites people. It is felt at community gathering spaces, parks, festivals, events and parties, at Oilers, Eskimos and Rush games, in amateur sport, at live music and theatre. There is an undercurrent, and energy that permeates this city.
This community connectedness is embodied in the practice of yoga, which takes place every day of the week in all corners of the city by an amazing cross section of people. In Edmonton, what was once revered in the West as an athletic activity only for women of a certain socio-economic status, wearing certain clothing, and hailing from a certain culture, has been taken up as a practice by a diverse community of peoples. Today old and young, men and women, advanced and beginner practitioners take to their mats and practice the yoga. Yoga has become a medium for all who seek a practice that supports personal health and well being, and a deeper connection to the Self.
Our city is not without its challenges, and there are many people in this community who endure incredible hardship, pain and discrimination. Yet, this is a city of doers and believers, who are doing their best to create change. I have long said that Edmonton is a small town, masquerading as a big city. This small-town feel creates a sense of connectedness, of accountability to the faces of real people behind the problems that challenge this city. This small town-big city juxtaposition provides an important venue for the practice of yoga to find space as a medium for change.
Something is happening… here in this city, and in its effervescent yoga community. An inner revolution: a different way of thinking, of being.
The yoga community is broader than just the yoga centers. Yoga is flooding out the doors of yoga centers and into the heart of communities, reaching people who have a yearning for the practice, and I myself am charged with a passion for this. In Edmonton, I have had opportunities to teach hockey teams and football players. I have been blessed to teach at centers like YOUCAN and YESS, to youth at-risk, and the practice resonates. I had an amazing opportunity to teach at Camp firefly, a national leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning, and allied youth. Most recently, I taught a group of Deaf students, teaching not with my words but with my body and my hands, the tradition of yoga transcending even language. Additionally, I continue to be humbled by my on-going, daily experiences with people from all walks of life at the SATTVA School of Yoga.
The pervasive sentiment amongst all of these diverse groups is an appreciation for, and connection to the practice. People continue to come back to their mats to do their practice of yoga. This truth signifies the emergence of yoga as important for all peoples being recognized here in Edmonton. It’s a call to action, to inner revolution, to come to your mat and to do your practice. It is a groundswell movement in coming to know thy Self, for in knowing and in loving oneself then we can truly be great for our community, for our world.
Something is happening… here in this city, a bit of ordinary, everyday magic and I am so excited to be part of it.
#YEG: I love this city, a place I have come to call hOMe.