The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see
– Alexandra K. Trenfor
Beautiful Okanagan Lake stretches from north to south for 135km and sustains several diverse communities along its corridor – the Okanagan Valley. Whether you live in the valley or are visiting, there is certainly no shortage of places to stretch your body. The town of Vernon is located at the valley’s most northern end. From here heading 20 minutes south is the community of Lake Country – surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and lakeside beaches. Drive another 20 km further and you are in the city of Kelowna – the largest of the three communities.
THE YOGA COMMUNITY OUTSIDE OF REGULAR STUDIO CLASSES
In the summertime, there are regular Sunday morning events downtown Kelowna (Rooftop Yoga at the Bean Scene on Bernard Ave). If you prefer the outdoors and would like to „vibe higher“ with like-minded yoga peeps and their pooches, meet up with this local group on Sunday mornings: The Amplified Collective. They post a different location every week on the „Hike N Yoga“ Facebook group (join for a short hike and then roll out your yoga mat on a beautiful hilltop or by a body of water). There are also one-day outdoor yoga events such as the “Sol-ful Yoga” (organized by the District of Lake Country every June at the Beasley Park Community Centre). This event starts with an outdoor yoga class accompanied with live music, followed by Mindful-Meditation, Drumming, Acro-Yoga or a SUP yoga session on Wood Lake (all equipment included in event donations). If you feel adventurous and would like a full-weekend getaway retreat combining local wines and yoga, look for “Vino and Vinyasa” every September at Predator Ridge Resort by Vernon. Heck! There is even an “Acro Yoga Kelowna” Facebook group, which exists „for the sake of play“ and organizes weekly yoga-acrobatics jams hosted at various gym locations. This guide will help you find your perfect place to search for your kind of yoga practice – from Kelowna to Vernon and in between… As one of my vinyasa teachers used to say: Choose your own adventure!
The first of two HotBox studios was established in 2012 and is located in the heart of Kelowna with a lovely view of the downtown marina. Once you walk up the stairs and into the reception area, you can get a glimpse of the real harbour viewgue. The second HotBox has opened its doors in 2016 in Westbank close to the Landmark Cinemas.
Unlike ‘traditional’ hot yoga, the HotBox studios are heated to 32°C (90°F) which is 20% cooler than most hot yoga studios. HotBox’ers live according to the mantra: “Less Traditional. More Authentic.” The vibe I got at the downtown studio: it’s at least 20% 😉 “cooler” to practice here as well. Staff and students and are happy to explain that their studio’s ambient temperature allows for fluid and seamless sequencing in class. The promise of “greater therapeutic detoxification” from an infrared radiant panel heating system may hold true if you have properly hydrated yourself before class.
I came for an early evening 50/50 class. The studio was packed, the room itself was darker than the reception area with only a small window facing the back of the building. Too bad, no more marina panorama windows here… As per studio etiquette, I entered in silence and found one of very few spots for my mat. We were led by a very athletic teacher giving a powery flow-style class, followed by a slower-paced second half. The cold lemongrass-scented face towel she placed on my sweaty forehead during Savasana was a welcome little treat. HotBox co-owner Sarah Wolton: „We believe in offering yoga in a modern, non-pretentious way that empowers people to live vibrantly.“
What else is on the HotBox menu? The downtown studio hosts weekly „Karma classes“ that are run by donation (these go towards charities such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation or the SPCA). Try out a class to see for yourself just how much cooler it gets.
This large studio is located in the Pandosy village, a few hundred meters from the shores of Okanagan Lake. The style is a hot yoga series at 38°C with 50% room humidity. Yogis come to „stretch, strengthen and tone their muscles while detoxifying the body and calming the mind“. The sign on the front door reads: „Interested in how this sweaty community works? Please enter.“ I was intrigued to sign-up for exactly that kind of signature hot class with upbeat music in the hot main room overlooking Pandosy Street with its cafes and boutiques across the road. I had noticed students with a fresh and content (presumably post-workout) look upon their faces, as they were spilling out of the studio on Sunday mornings and populating the coffee shops next door after class.
Checking in, I was welcomed by studio manager Trish Crick and her little friendly dog Koby. Proud of what her studio stands for and has to offer, she loves to chat about her „family-business fuelled by her daughter, the sweet boutique feel of the Pandosy village and its idyllic locale close to Abbott Beach Park.“
My class was in the main studio (sun room) which was already warmed up well. Students were settling in quietly on their mats in restoratives poses as I entered. The class was fast-paced and had a strong balancing and strengthening focus. There I was, trying to focus on my breath, amongst this large group of experienced practitioners flowing and sweating to upbeat tunes in high humidity.
After class on my way to the much-needed water fountain, I had a peek into the second and slightly smaller “moon” room, where I noticed an entirely different atmosphere: the studio’s practice space for warm classes, kept at a comfy 31°C. It looked bright, sounded of soft music and seemed very inviting after my invigorating, strongly physical, sweaty class. I continued on to showers and change rooms and was impressed by the generous space, beautifully decorated with natural rock, lots of wooden decor, plants and natural light.
Specialized and traveling teachers, as well as workshops, are hosted occasionally here. Amongst them are regular Aerial Yoga workshops (on the last Sunday of every month – in 2018) and a Teen Yoga series (ages 12-17, on Sunday mornings).
– The Roots (a Hatha series equal to the Modo/Moksha series);
– Flow (based on the Roots and infused with Vinyasa);
– Power Flow (a fluid and dynamic practice sequenced individually by the instructor);
– Power Fuzion (cross train yoga with light weights;
– Yin (slow, gentle movement; poses are held for a number of minutes)
How much? 25$ drop-in, yoga mat, shower towel and yoga towels can be rented ($3 each). Regular Community Classes (15$) are taught by Pranify’s teachers on a regular basis.
Oranj Fitness Kelowna was amongst Kelowna’s first studios when it opened 10 years ago and is one of 7 studio locations in Canada now. The schedule is impressive: a very wide variety of fitness and yoga classes are offered every day of the week. From Power to Happy Medium and Sunrise Easy Yoga, the theme here is: „To boogey on and not take life too serious.“ A large part of the schedule includes Barre, Pilates, Spin, Bootcamp and Strength/Conditioning classes. Yoga classes are focused on strengthening and stretching, which is why the majority of teacher bios displayed in the hallway introduces Oranj teachers with a broad range of fitness, dance and personal trainer/health coach backgrounds. There is a juice bar and a variety of retail offerings when you enter the studio. Continuing down a long hallway several studio rooms branch off to both sides as well as a childminding room („for little boogers“).
If you are looking for a good stretch as well as a deep tissue fascia self-massage to soothe your worked-out muscles, the „Stretch Therapy“ class offers just that. Phew! The wandering yogi (read: author) found an honest physical break in this class! There were music, a foam fascia roll and several massage balls involved for the first 30 minutes, then a few restorative poses rounded it up.
If you choose an unlimited membership, it includes unlimited childcare. Guests can drop in with their little ones as well. If you live downtown and have small kids, this studio might become your go-to place.
Invati is Lake Country’s brand new and shiny yoga studio with a metropolitan feel to it, located at the also newly established Turtle Bay Crossing. It has a juice bar offering smoothies and juices in the mornings and afternoons (if you were in for a tea, head to Starbucks across the parking lot instead). The two smallish rooms are distinguished by their room temperature. „Fire“ is heated and hosts the majority of classes, no panoramic windows but a mirror wall are part of this room. „Earth“ is kept at a warm temperature, that won’t make you break out in a sweat. Besides healing rooms reserved for massage or reiki treatments, all yoga and meditation classes, including workshops (I recommend Acro-Yoga workshops for sure!), yoga challenges, and a free Saturday community meditation class are in the heated practice rooms.
What if heat combined with exercise and a busy class booked-up to its capacity is not your thing, but you are in Lake Country on a cold winter weekend? You may enjoy a more gentle and meditative class, inviting you to weave in some intuitive movement while still being fully guided with more space between you and the next mat. If that’s you, sign up for Warm Vinyasa, Women Only Yoga or Flow & Restore. As a little perk for yoga moms, childcare is available Thursday mornings or upon request (costs included in membership).
Styles: Hot, Yin, Hatha, Flow, Restorative, Meditation, Women Only
There is always something new at NeuMovement. The Kelowna studio is located across from Save-on-Foods in the Glen Park Shopping Centre area, just a few minutes drive from downtown. Whereas The Vernon studio is found across the road from Superstore in the northern part of town. Both studios are small and have several practice spaces available. Two physio rooms are besides each other, where Neu’s physiotherapists instruct customized Pilates classes and Physiotherapy consultations to complement the yogi’s physicalcon practice. On the other side, you will find playful and less traditional types of yoga classes.
My NeuYoga class started in seated with centering exercises and then our instructor moved us through a medium level of flow yoga before she added a twist. Where you would expect a strap or a teacher assisting you to go deeper into your posture or try a variation, she incorporated harnesses. These were used as a prop for inversions and some standing poses. She had us hook up our harness to a wooden board mounted on the wall (called a springboard) for some fun variations. Only a few traditional yoga classes without the springboards, props, and harnesses are offered throughout the week. If you are keen on giving your practice a new twist, this is the place to find inspiration and give it a try. Similar to the use of props in Iyengar classes, I felt the practice to be somewhat interrupted by the set-up process. I found my classes at both studios a little awkward but refreshing.
How much? $20 for springboard/yoga drop-in; $27 for pilates equipment drop-in
Styles: Yin, GentleFlow, NeuYoga (with harness)
#206 5100 Anderson Way, Vernon
The Ekahi Center is a small, intimate yoga and meditation studio with cork floors and a Hawaiian themed decor. The larger and main studio holds up to 20 people (Makai room) has a big window facing Water Street allowing for lots of natural light. The small room (Nalu) is located behind the lobby, it is kept Wi-fi blocked and used mainly for mediation. The owners Brett and Siri put emphasis on keeping the atmosphere welcoming to every single person coming through their doors: „The word Ekahi means „One“ and we are all about teaching yoga from a perspective of health, wellness, and safety.“ Yoga for them is about healing and transforming.
Brett is a physiotherapist and Siri is an occupational therapist, which reflects the anatomical focus of what they teach. Most classes offered are of a gentle, restorative and meditative in nature, geared towards stretching deep tissues or incorporating a wellness massage at the end of class. Brett offers a traditional Hawaiian forgiveness meditation on Sundays and puts the custom-made balance boards to use for his Warrior Class. The boards are shaped like a surfboard and students are invited to challenge their balance by practicing asanas on a movable surface.
Hot Ekahi Studio Update summer 2018: Dusty Warawa, former owner of Karma Yoga on Ellis St, relocated to join forces with Brett and Siri and brought his Bikram-style hot yoga to Water St. Now offering 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises at 40C, he promises to repair body and mind through sweat and exercise.
Tandava is a „vigorous dance performed by Shiva and representing the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution“. This yoga studio with incorporated wellness centre has a deeply spiritual motto already in its name. The instructors I have met here are gentle natured and with a lot of experience. Each in their own way may inspire students how to find calmness of the mind and connect to traditional yoga philosophy. In the center’s treatment rooms you can book sessions with Reiki, Thai Massage, and Reflexology practitioners.
The studio itself is upstairs and has one smaller and one spacious and beautiful main room with huge arched windows giving you glimpses of Okanagan Lake. You can enjoy lots and lots of natural light and beautiful Okanagan sunsets if you come in the afternoon. Most yoga classes offered here have an emphasis on basic postures and breath (Gentle Hatha and Yin) as well as subtle, yet mindful movements awakening deep core muscles (Core Flow). One exception is the Sattva classes which I found more vigorous and strengthening in focus. The Moderate Hatha class is taught in typical Kripalu style, you are encouraged to unravel neural pathways in the body, to cultivate your awareness of habitual patterns and to practice challenging yet nurturing yourself.
Tandava’s schedule is frequently full of workshops and events as well as Yoga and Zen Meditation series (running for a few consecutive weeks and inviting you to go beyond regular yoga classes. e.g. focusing on backbends or a particular style of yoga such as Kundalini for women or a Hatha Beginner’s series).
Tucked into a commercial part of Vernon, across from Safeway and the Vernon Square Mall, Inner Light is easy to miss. The studio is upstairs and offers a surprisingly big space in one single room. Classes have an emphasis on therapeutic practices, they include Heartful Hatha, Nidra Yoga, and NewBack. The studio often sought out by students that have been referred by others, is known for its therapeutic active back recovery classes called NewBack Therapy. Joining one of these classes, I was amazed by how much more I can slow down, yet be engaged – paying constant and close attention to detailed cues for deep core strength and low back flexibility. The fact that the instructor’s cues came in a lovely Kiwi accent may just have done its part, too. I found myself in knowledgeable hands of a well-educated and experienced yoga teacher, who took the time to chat about his scientific and athletic background on the basis of which he developed his back recovery courses and therapy system. Information on this therapy is also available outside of the studio. Interested students just need to ask.
Styles: Yin, Gentle, Flow, New Back (Recover & Restore)
The studio is a 5-minute drive, just outside of Vernon, located on a beautiful farm property. Owned by yoga teacher Sherrie and her husband, having lovingly restored an old horse barn into a small yoga studio. What a serene feel of a lovely space- wooden beams, latest art projects on walls and the view of the mountains just outside the big barn doors, truly a rare find close to town! Entering the studio, Sherrie explained to me that the space is used for yoga as well as art exhibitions and private gatherings. In the winter it can be heated to cozy room temperature with infrared heating panels mounted to the high wood ceiling. Between Sherrie and another local yoga teacher, a few yoga classes per week are offered here.
Most students are long-time regulars, yet drop-in students are welcome. I joined a small Chair Yoga class which had a semi-private feel to it. We started off on the foldable chairs placed onto our mats with a seated warm-up and moved on to standing postures, integrating the chair as a prop for balancing as needed. The last part of class was spent in seated and laying down poses on our mats, finishing with a chakra meditation. All the care and thoughtfulness of this gentle teacher showed in her class and the beautiful space it was held at.
This small studio in the heart of Vernon amongst coffee shops, bookstores and pubs is just what you may stumble across by running into the wooden street sign put up in front of the studio’s entrance – a sign in the shape of a downward dog yogi. In case that didn’t draw your attention, one of the studio’s passionate, and fun-loving owners may just wave you in or say hi if you are a passer-by that day. When classes are on, a curtain gets pulled across the store-front window, allowing for the students to keep their focus on themselves. The smaller, one room space and the cosy atmosphere of the studio with its big buddha mural across the sidewall give it a community-feel.
The studio is owned by a collective of 5 teachers sharing costs and revenue of the space. Regulars can find their favored teacher and class style offered on a regular basis, creating incentives to practice with him or her several times a week without much teacher turnover (e.g. most days noon classes are taught by Shawn). If you are going to a yoga class (such as the very popular Friday night Yogassage), the teacher will have an assisting hand, in this case, an RMT providing short massages throughout class while you are being led through a restorative practice. „To us yoga is a community, so that is our intention, to build just that, on and off the mat,” says Blissology trained founder Michellene. Lotus and Lettuce’s schedule is full of various types of yoga classes, including early morning practice at 6 am, Yoga & Reiki or Acupressure as well as foundation and beginner’s practice.
Imagine two colourful gable-roofed houses in a little green garden oasis within a rather grim and predominantly grey part of downtown. This is what I found entering through the wooden arched gate and well cared for gardens at the Kelowna Yoga House. It’s a non-profit society, run by a board, self-employed yoga teachers and volunteers. For a moment I had to ask myself: Am I still in Kelowna?
Upon entering through the property gates, I walked past the first smaller one of the houses which is used for open insight meditation classes led by volunteers on Monday nights. Right behind it, is the main house which is taller and has a big old wooden door. The atmosphere of the property reflects a place where great attention is given to detail -on the outside and in. The big and bright lobby is downstairs, complete with a library of yoga books and portraits of B.K.S. Iyengar. Walking upstairs, an assortment of props customary for this style of yoga is stacked neatly and all labeled for easy access. Students looking for „precise instruction in a non-competitive and compassionate atmosphere“, will find just that at the KYH.
All teachers are certified in the Iyengar style (meaning a 3-year apprenticeship and studies). Senior teacher Krisna Zawaduk’s responded to why Iyengar classes seem more „choppy“ with detailed instruction as opposed to Vinyasa styles. „We tend to “teach” classes rather than “lead” classes. In the teaching process, the teacher must see that the students understand the work or the key actions that are being cultivated. This requires that we spend some time demonstrating for clarity purposes.“ After a busy morning class with 20 participants, I left with a new appreciation for precise alignment and individual attention the teacher was offering tirelessly. We did use ropes hanging from the walls for standing asanas, then blocks, bolsters, and blankets for inversions… Intimidating? Maybe, but for students recovering from injuries or with a constantly chattering monkey-mind, a slower-paced and alignment-based class may become a rewarding experience.
This little yoga studio is located in a strip mall opposite from Westbank’s Canadian Superstore. All teachers here are certified in Baron Baptiste Power Yoga. This physically demanding practice is known for its focus on breath, heat, flow, gaze, and core stabilization. As the name already hints, this studio is about: „striving to be transformative“ and engaging their students to follow suit.
I was met by a very friendly and welcoming teacher who joined the community class as a student herself that day. All proceeds from community classes go into a fundraising platform called „Lit from Within Project“ for yoga in trauma, mental health, and addiction recovery programs.
The class was small and lead with verbal cues by the main teacher, encouraging a flow through breath-synchronized sequences. At the same time, a student-teacher (who was completing her teacher training practicum) was giving careful hands-on assists to everybody. The use of meditation, mantra singing or pranayama was deliberately reduced. However, depending on your posture (right side up or inverted), you could read inspirational quotes written by Shift teachers on the chalkboard on the back wall.
I found this all levels class held true to its promise of being physically challenging as well as inspiring a focus on personal growth.
The Family Y Rutland (aka: KFY) is one of 3 „YMCA of the Okanagan“ locations in Kelowna. You will find various types of yoga classes offered on a daily basis in the multi-purpose space located on the upper floor besides the gym. It is a large space with a mirror wall and two glass walls, of which one looks over the pool and the other has a lovely view of the hills behind Rutland (I definitely recommend coming during sunset!). As with all Y Okanagan facilities, yoga classes are instructed nearly exclusively by volunteer yoga teachers and will vary in style and focus depending on who is teaching.
The community atmosphere at the Y is very welcoming and friendly, most participants love to share their experiences and are understanding if some classes may get subbed due to the volunteer basis of most yoga instructors. The Y crowd enjoys the benefits of stretching mostly as well as tuning inwards a little as a complementing practice to their physical workout at the gym. If you come here regularly, don’t have expectations of detailed technical instruction on advanced poses or a lot of pranayama. There are certain benefits to practice here if you like to combine your class with a visit to the dry sauna, the pool area, need childcare or add yoga to your gym workout routine. If you thought you’ll never meet more than one dude in any yoga class, you may get surprised by the higher numbers of male participants.
Location, location, location…the Downtown Y (aka: DTY) is to be found in the same building as the Interior Health Services Centre, not far from the downtown harbour. It opened its doors last year and has an intimate atmosphere (compared to the other YMCA locations). The studio used for group classes such as yoga and is quite a bit smaller with class sizes around 5 to 12 people (maximum capacity at the other Y locations is 25). The glass front between the studio and the gym is completely sound-proof and has the bonus of shades that can be closed, separating studio and gym from each other visually (adding to a more intimate class feel). The current offer is 1-2 yoga classes a day during the week, however, you may just get a little more personal attention by the instructor as class sizes are not up to capacity at this location yet.
The H2O centre is located in the Mission, a 10-minute drive south from downtown Kelowna. It is owned by the City but operated by the YMCA Okanagan, so a membership at KFY or DTY does not include entry to classes here, but will get you a discount on drop-ins. Yoga classes are in the studio located at the back of the gym upstairs. Without big vistas out the windows at H2O, two mirror walls give you an opportunity to check your alignment visually very well. There are all levels classes scheduled daily similar to the Family Y in Rutland. If you enjoy practicing in a larger group and appreciate affordable drop-in prices or want to combine your physical workout with a yoga class, this may be a good starting point.
H2O Adventure & Fitness Centre Kelowna (owned by City of Kelowna, but operated by YMCA Okanagan):
4075 Gordon Drive
Kelowna BC, V1W 5J2 How much? 10$ (discounted if you have a YMCA membership at the other locations)
Beasley Park Community Centre (District of Lake Country)
This community centre is located at the southern tip of Wood Lake in Beasley Park. Yoga classes are upstairs in the group fitness space and are offered during the week mainly in the mornings and evenings. They run as a series of 10 or 12 weeks, which has the advantage to establish a routine and integrate your practice into your week.
The space is large and provides lots of natural light with windows all around overlooking the hills west of Winfield and the beach of Wood Lake. The small to medium class sizes allow for students and teachers to get to know each other by name and progress in their personal practice. The welcoming community here is more than happy for drop-in students to join any series or even a single class (option to drop-in during the series if space allows).
In most classes you won’t break a sweat, however, there is an emphasis on strengthening as well as stretching your physical body. Overall this space offers a more gentle variety of classes with guidance on various breathing techniques and you won’t get cut short on guided meditations and sinking deep into your savasana.