Ex-social workers bring yoga to trauma survivors

Outreach program allows community to help others in need

Rachel Sadava (left), and Lola Storry went from social work to yoga instructors, but the two careers are now blending together.

Outreach program allows community to help others in need

A new kind of yoga is in town and it’s good karma, downward dog and community giving all rolled into one.

Lola Storry and her business partner, Rachel Sadava, have recently opened a new yoga studio where a portion of the proceeds from regular classes goes toward offering affordable yoga to people who face barriers. But it’s not only about affordability — the Fernwood Yoga Den also has a unique line-up of classes that include trauma-sensitive yoga and pre-natal yoga classes for low-income or single moms, and an outreach program that offers yoga off-site for people who have addictions or mental health issues and are living in supported housing.

“When it comes to philanthropy, I really believe people want to help and be able to give, but a lot of times they just don’t know where to start,” says Storry. “I think by coming to do yoga and taking care of themselves, which is super important, they are also taking care of someone else in the community — that’s just really special to us.”

Long-time yogis and university friends, Sadava and Storry came up with the idea after they reconnected last spring at a course for teaching yoga to trauma survivors. At the time, both were working as social workers — Storry with Bridges for Women as an employment mentor for trauma survivors, and Sadava at Pacifica Housing as an advocate and landlord liaison with multi-barriered and homeless people. They started talking about what a great idea it would be to offer something like this in Victoria. Their idea grew, and before they knew it they had a business plan and were opening a studio.

“We’re just so excited to have the studio,” says Storry. “We’re both dedicated yogis, so having the opportunity to blend both those aspects of our lives, it just feels like heaven — getting to come in and teach, but also make a difference in the community.”

At age 34, Storry admits that her first leap to entrepreneurship has also been a little nerve-wracking. She has had her moments of worrying about the business clicking with the neighbourhood, and about the fact that there are already so many successful yoga studios in town.

“It was important to us that we not be replicating someone else’s already excellent job, but to create our own little niche. We’re hoping for integrated community programming — there’s not really anything like this in Victoria as far as we know.”

The Fernwood community has been very encouraging and supportive so far, and it has been an exciting opportunity to connect with other women in the business community, states Storry.

“When we started introducing ourselves around the neighbourhood there was a teacher here who’s just been wonderful and she made a point of connecting with us and she said the more people offering yoga, the more people practicing yoga, and that’s a wonderful thing. We were just so touched by that, because it’s so welcoming and so true, and our vision is just to help as many people as possible connect with their own journey and find some peace.”

It was also important to both women that they find the right space — one that would be beautiful and inviting, and where people would feel welcome.

“We found with our teaching up until we opened the studio, a lot of places are offering programming for clients, but having worked in non-profit myself, there’s often nowhere to do the classes — it’s often in some yucky room off in the corner.”

Storry points out that the space itself is part of the healing.

Their vision for the future is to create a space where everybody — whether or not they can touch their toes or own yoga pants — feels welcome to do yoga, and can find a class that suits their level.

“I read a great quote the other day,” says Storry. “‘Flexibility is not just about the body, but it’s about the mind’ it’s about cultivating that flexibility in our spirit and that’s what I think what we’re working on here.” M

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