We are delighted that an ongoing community class offered by Yoga by Design was featured in The New York Times on Feb.29, 2016!
A few weeks ago, NYTimes reporter Dan Levin and photographer Ian Willms showed up prior to our Wednesday afternoon class at Regent Park to interview the class instructor, Lisa Rochon, and some of her students about the remarkable ways in which Toronto is integrating its refugee and immigrant populations. The news team had been to the award-winning Aquatic Centre down the road and heard about the yoga class which is attended by a group of courageous women who emigrated to Toronto from Somalia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, India and the Caribbean.
The "Sweet Yoga Flow" class was proposed by Lisa to local community organizer Sureya Ibrahim as a way to introduce Regent Park women to the practice of yoga and to treat them to 1.5 hours of feeling extra beautiful each week. Each class begins with a relaxing savasana, followed by yoga flow and stretching, ending with a long savasana with lavender-oil massage of the women's foreheads. The class takes place in the newly-opened Regent Park Community Centre in a naturally-lit studio with polished wooden floors.
As Levin writes in The NYTimes: "Grass-roots participation lies at the heart of Regent Park’s billion-dollar transformation. From the start, the city and the developer incorporated residents’ needs into the design, from ensuring they were not forced out of the neighborhood, to stocking food that met Muslim religious requirements, and scheduling private swimming and yoga classes for women."
The article continues:
Hawa Elmi, 55, a Somali refugee and mother of 11, began taking women’s yoga classes three weeks ago. “My Muslim friends told me to come,” she said on a recent afternoon before entering the mirrored studio. “Here nobody is judging anyone.”
Around two dozen women of various religions and ethnicities have joined, including Raheema Majeed, 49, a native of Sri Lanka who carried a blue exercise mat in a sack on her back and whose face — save for her eyes — was veiled by a black niqab. “Yoga relaxes the mind and helps my breathing problems,” she said.
“It didn’t happen by itself,” said Sureya Ibrahim, an Ethiopian immigrant and community activist who is Muslim and who has lived in Regent Park for 18 years. “We had to fight to make the redevelopment accessible and inclusive, but now it’s really a model of collaboration.”