Shalom Life | November 23, 2015

Finding Your Om in the Concrete Jungle

Spynga studio spearheads yoga event at Yonge and Dundas Square.

By: Bev Spritzer

Published: June 22nd, 2010 in News » World

Helping Torontonians find peace in the midst of urban chaos, Elevate to Exhale came to Yonge and Dundas Square on Monday, an event put together by Toronto yoga and cycling studio, Spynga.

The event was inspired by a similar yoga-themed gathering held in New York’s Times Square, called Mind Over Madness, urging city-dwellers to find their inner calm in a swirl of urban activity.

According to Casey Soer, one of the co-founders of Spynga, it was in a coffee shop in New York where the idea to meld the seemingly opposing workout styles was born.

After dragging one another to each other’s class of choice, “we just started to see that with an accessible teacher, with someone who didn’t take things so seriously, we could get into both,” said Soer.

“We are very anti-gym,” Soer told Shalom Life, speaking of herself and longtime friend, Sari Nisker. “We wanted to create a space and environment where people of different types could be in a community while working out, with no judgment, and no mirrors, so it’s more about the internal versus the external.”

Yonge and Dundas Square, then, is perhaps the perfect location to overcome the juxtaposition of busy and laid back, being the proverbial eye of the bustling storm that is Toronto its bicycle spoke-like crosswalks alone can be enough to throw anyone into a dizzying agoraphobic haze.

“Our philosophy is to really expose people to two practices that can be intimidating in their own right, spinning and yoga,” said Soer. “We converted a lot of people from Type A crazy spinners [cyclists], like me, who feel they can’t wrap their heads around yoga, and converted yogis into those who will do something more cardiovascular and somewhat intense.”

“The two [yoga and spinning] are quite similar in a lot of ways,” continued Soer, “in terms of balancing a workout so we [Soer and Nisker] created Spynga, our trademark class of half cycling, half yoga. The yoga is off bike, but there’s a lot of philosophy and yoga breath on the bike, even though it’s still very intense, and then you balance it out with the yoga at the end.”

For Torontonians, the philosophy of balance is an important one.

Indeed, there has been so much going on in our city as of late, with the recent North by Northeast music festival, Luminato, Taste of Little Italy, and the upcoming G20 summit, that it’s been difficult to navigate the streets without using one’s elbows.

And so the goal of Spynga’s Elevate to Exhale was to help Torontonians navigate their minds instead, cultivating calm in the face of our eternally bustling city.

And this is, essentially, the goal of yoga itself – to maintain a state of inner tranquility while holding poses that are at times stressful to the body, a skill that with practice, is eventually carried over into other stressful aspects of life, off the mat.

The event included a day full of yoga classes and seminars, sponsored by Lululemon Athletica and Starbucks Coffee, among others. Lululemon offered goal coaching sessions throughout the day, and donated 100 yoga mats for event participants, while Starbucks provided refreshing shaken iced tea beverages, and iced coffees.

Though the event was perhaps not as packed as anticipated, it did offer passers-by the unique opportunity to unwind in the middle of the day, as well as a chance to break the conventional mindset of yoga: that it need not be practiced in a dim, quiet room lit by flickering candles, because cultivating a quiet inner atmosphere, instead, is where the true healing properties of yoga are put to use.

“We learned a lot from the event, so we know now how to make it the best,” said Soer. “We had some good sponsors, but I think we might have more food vendors next time, more health foods, and we would probably have a massage tent, and do more back-to-back yoga classes. For a first year event, and it took us almost a year to put together, it actually went pretty smoothly, a lot smoother than we thought it would go. And it will definitely be an annual event.”

A lot of Spynga’s clients brought their kids to Monday’s Elevate to Exhale. “They skipped school because they thought it was a well educated experience for them,” Soer explained. “So maybe we can get more schools on board next time. Tweens and teens get a lot out of yoga, as well.”

Spynga opened a studio at Bathurst and St. Clair in April of 2007, and are looking forward to opening a new studio in Thornhill on July 19th, on Disera Drive, just above Bagel World.

Spynga holds both spinning and yoga classes, in addition to their trademark Spynga classes, a combination of the two.

“People who never thought they could do yoga, do full yoga every day, now,” said Soer. And the same goes for those who were previously weary of spinning. “It’s just really nice to watch people transform and change their lifestyles.”

And we certainly look forward to Elevate to Exhale transforming downtown Toronto again next year, one potential yogi at a time.

For more information about Spynga, including class schedules, visit their website: www.spynga.com

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