A flight of stairs up from Yonge Street, a few blocks south of Bloor in Toronto lies Iam Yoga studio. The large space is open, airy, and clean. A cluster of couches in the main space serves as an area for pre and post class conversing, lending the feeling that a community environment is cultivated. Addicted sweated it out in a hot yoga class for all levels – which, by looking around the class at position variations that ranged from pretzel to wobbly newbies, certainly lent it self to a range of abilities. After which, we asked founder Linda a few questions.
How did you get into yoga?
I have been practicing yoga since I was about 20 and was initially interested in trying classes to create some of that ‘balance’ I heard yoga was perfect for. I felt great, and within the first year I started noticing that it more than just a physical impact. In terms of a career, I spent years working in a corporate environment for a large multinational manufacturer that eventually created the circumstances in my life that produced certain questions around purpose … I decided to take a risk and see if I could still focus on creating entrepreneurial opportunities and develop a brand with values based around making the world, even if it’s a small world, a better place. It is a privilege I take seriously and it happens to be a lot of fun (but a helluva lot of work
Why did you open up IAM yoga?
Iam Yoga opened in late 2008 – just as the economy was going sideways. Documents were signed and projects committed to, so it was a little bit of a
“hold on and jump in”. I knew full well it would be a lot of hard work to grow a business that largely is based on use of people’s disposable income right as the economic downturn set in. Flash forward to now though and I think more and more people are realizing that taking care of your body and mind is less of a luxury and actually pretty necessary.
With so many yoga studios in Toronto, what is it that makes IAM stand out?
There are ton of yoga studios opening up every day … much more so in the last 5 years than ever before. So I consider the competitive landscape when it comes to goals and and vision for the studio. What makes Iam Yoga different is our desire to constantly find new and innovative ways of making this ancient practice relatable and innovative and most importantly relevant to our students and customers. Classes like Neuro Yoga are totally innovative and no one is teaching anything like it right now. We try to have fun and break rules every now and then so we create fun classes like our Sunday AM Hangover Hatha and Sweaty Balls (A flow class taught with stability balls). We want yoga to feel approachable and contemporary so that more people will feel comfortable trying it
If you allow a values-based and integrity-based strategy to inform the choices you make as a business I believe you will see the greatest success. And as an organization we feel very passionate about creating a platform that educates our students and customers around the neurobiological benefits of yoga, pranayama and meditation – really on Mindfulness – and its ability as tool to manage optimal mental health and consequently physical health.
We are focusing our energy on being the yoga brand and a business that educates specifically on how Yoga can be used a tool to manage and support optimal mental health.
Tell me more about From Our Kitchen.
From Our Kitchen has become this awesome program that came about because we heard so many people talk to us about being overwhelmed by how to make the RIGHT healthy choices. We focus now on using the space to launch educational forums on best health practices – expand the community and share information. And we don’t just regurgitate the same stuff you hear all the time. We bring in speakers and address content that our community specifically asks us to address. Real stories, tips and tricks that Mandy King – our in studio Nutritionist – and I have used on or in our bodies. We do fun things like send screen captures of our favourite products and we have partnered with Noah’s Health Food Stores to give some seriously great goodie bags (they are alone worth the ticket price and in some cases two times more in value). The whole premise of From Our Kitchen is based on my own personal research, health philosophy, experience and is supported by Mandy’s own training and experience. Take a look for upcoming monthly Urban Retreats – a full day of hot yoga, challenging hiking, detoxifying hot and cold waters therapies, natural skin treatments – a little field trip – we all hop on the same bus for a full day of events programmed by Mandy and I – at the end of the day you will look and feel like a new person.
In addition to workshops, will one be able to purchase or make juices/smoothies/etc when attending the studio?
We are just starting our 21 Day Integrity Challenge – students can pre purchase juices to be picked up when they attend classes daily – in February we are launching juice and meal plan – same idea – when you come for class you can come and pick up everything you have pre-ordered! All options hand selected by us!
Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview, out on Sunday.