Keeping our favourite small fitness studios alive

In the Before Times, I traveled a lot. And one of my favourite things to do if I spent more than a couple of days in another city was to go to a local yoga studio. I’d buy a pass for a week or two, and then get a real sense of being in the local community by experiencing what slow flow or hatha felt like in another place.

I’m still on the regular mailing list for yoga studios in Vancouver, Portland and Melbourne, and every time I get a little update or announcement about some community event, I get a little flicker of a reminder of what it was like to be in downward dog in another place, feeling like I belonged. (Even if my shape was imperfect, like the one in this photo). Many many times, random yoga studios = automatic community, to me. (Not always — I went to a class with my cousin in Edmonton once that left us both bemused — and she’s a yoga teacher. But we bonded over its weirdness, so it was still fantastic).

Me in a gorgeous studio in Melbourne in December, 2018

Six full months into pandemic lockdown, many of those spaces all over the world are closing for good or struggling immensely.

This week, I got one of the regular updates from my favourite studio here in Toronto, a couple of blocks away. We are really struggling, said the owner. We thought more people would come back in phase 3 but they haven’t. If we can’t generate more revenue, we will have to close. For now, I’ll teach a lot of the classes myself and see if we can find our way back.

This studio — Chi Junky — is a beautiful space, with fantastic teachers. They’ve pivoted to virtual classes and yoga in the park, but people have got in the habit of staying home.

My spinning studio Torq Ride — also amazing — is doing a little bit better, because it’s been able to move classes outside into an alley. But those classes are 25% the size of normal classes. And both Torq and Chi Junky just completed big renos just before the lockdown.

Many people — like me — might be willing to do socially distanced classes inside if it were only their health at possible risk, but we’re all in a web of responsibility, owe protection to the people we love, and the people they love and come into contact with. So most of the people I know are being cautious — and we should — but the small places that mean so much, that are a labour of love, are at huge risk.

So here is my request to the FIFI community: today, if you can, buy a class pass for some virtual classes from one of the small, independent studios that have contributed so much to their communities. Anywhere in the world. Go nuts — find a random class in some city you’ve always wanted to visit, even! Take a class in London UK, or Melbourne, Singapore or Capetown. Wander freely.

Or, buy some swag. (Chi Junky has “Zen AF” masks). Pay your monthly fee to your independent gym, even if you’re not going back for a while. (As I’m doing for the gym across the street). Send them a note telling them how much you value them. They need to hear it.

As I told the manager of Torq the other day, I’m totally there for their virtual classes when they start up again — I’d much rather give them my money than Peloton. And for now, I’m doing all my virtual yoga from Chi Junky (classes are about $9), instead of my beloved Yoga with Adriene (where I also pay for a monthly subscription).

Here are a few of my faves you could buy virtual classes in right now — I know you have some of your own as well. Let me know in the comments what you’re doing to support independent fitness while staying safe.

Chi Junky yoga (slow flow, yin, sweat flow, restorative)

Alex’ superhero strength and conditioning classes so many of us do

Nicole Starker Campbell yoga (my cousin — she’s a great teacher!)

Spirit Loft yoga and movement classes (if you want your weight in animal flow :-))

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto and is very happy that it’s still warm enough to spin outside.

2 thoughts on “Keeping our favourite small fitness studios alive

  1. A lovely instructor opened a brand new studio just as the pandemic hit. It is one room, yoga and barre.

    I did not expect to return to a studio, and definitely not the one I went to which was convenient, but not very friendly. It also had spin and boot amp and too many rooms with too little space.

    When I was forced to return to my office, I decided to venture into the new studio. It was clean, open and the owner was taking every precaution.

    I have started attending. Most classes are very small, and I try to go to the first one of the day. I became a monthly member.

    I really hope her studio survives. This is a gem.

    Figuring out before and after is tough, when after hasn’t actually presented itself yet! I keep trying to bring back my word of the year, EXPLORE. The pandemic had made me a bit more open minded and willing to see.


  2. I am unable to go to my gym, but I have managed to keep my trainer from there employed. We meet by phone with video available. We talk twice a week and he sends me new workouts every month.

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