Contributor: Sandra Fang, Yin Yang Japan Ambassador
About This Column
This is a column about traveling and yoga, two of my passions. One allows me to explore the world outward, whereas the other leads me inward. Whenever I visit a new place, I’m interested in finding out the yoga scene there and the impact of yoga on the local community. Now follow me on a series of six writings to see the world through the lens of yoga.
A World Connected by Yoga
Vancouver is one of the most visited cities in North America, it’s also a place where I have spent the majority of my life living in, a place where I call home.
For those of you who have never been to Vancouver, it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with nearly half of the residents being visible minorities. If you only visit downtown, then you have not seen the real Vancouver. Hop on to a bus or the skytrain from downtown to other neighbourhoods, you will find distinct characters and ethnic mix in other areas of the city. The Vancouverites are proud of their diverse culture. It’s a place where people with different backgrounds feel comfortable living together, yet still retaining their individual characteristics.
This city is a green metropolis surrounded by sea and mountains. People here enjoy outdoor activities both up on the snow slopes and down by the sunny beaches. In the summer, when the sun shows up from 4am to 10pm everyday, there is a multitude of walking routes and hiking trails with remarkable views to fill your weekends. People with bikes and running shoes are everywhere, yoga mats are ubiquitous. Sportswear and yoga clothes are not just for exercising, but a part of the casual wear. Organic supermarkets are popping up around the city, recently kombucha has become a big hit. It’s no exaggeration to say that Vancouver is the most health conscious city in Canada.
Vancouver is not always beautiful. The weather can get quite depressing during the winter season, that’s how Vancouver got its unpopular nickname — Raincouver. It’s not that uncommon to see light drizzle in 28 days out of 30 days in a month. What do people do during the winter season? Going skiing on the slopes? Watching hockey at home in front of the TV? Now, one more activity to add to the list, doing yoga.
Since I started yoga here more than 10 years ago, yoga has grown vigorously in popularity. Studios come in different sizes, the popular classes can fill up to more than eighty people. Yoga has slowly become a part of people’s lifestyle. In a class, you would see men and women, senior and young, people of different skin colors practicing yoga together. They might not all move at the same pace, experienced yogis challenge advanced poses while beginners rest in child’s pose to catch up with the breath. You can feel a sense of diversity and freedom, the Canadian spirit, even in a yoga class.
Tomo, a Japanese yoga teacher whom I met in Vancouver explained about this, “People with different backgrounds come together and live in this city, it’s natural that we are not the same. This understanding is reflected on how Vancouverites treat each other, and also how they behave in a yoga class. People are not self-conscious about gender and flexibility when it comes to yoga practice, they simply enjoy the practice.”
Tomo moved to Vancouver 6 years ago and he’s teaching yoga here in both English and Japanese. One of the classes he teaches is ESL yoga (ESL: English as a Second Language), targeting immigrants and visitors who want to practice yoga in simple English. I joined his class once at a rental space which overlooks the beautiful skyline of downtown Vancouver. In Tomo’s class, I was inspired by his strong passion and intention to bring people together through the yoga practice.
This is the Vancouver I love, so ethically diverse and yet people celebrate their own roots while embracing other cultures. The beauty of a yoga practice is that it helps us learn acceptance. We learn to be comfortable in our own body, in our own skin, and in our own heritage. Only when we are able to give ourselves acceptance, can we learn how to be compassionate for others.