Something has long been wrong with the way we work out, says the co-founder and CEO of YYoga Terry McBride.
No one talks to anyone else. “When people go to gyms, they don’t communicate. When people go to work out, they don’t communicate.”
McBride believes the answer to the ear-bud automatons on the treadmills and the free weight lifters in front of the mirror who make eye contact only with themselves are the large and small social spaces he’s designed into his Vancouver yoga studios.
Last month YYoga opened its eighth Lower Mainland studio on West Fourth Avenue at Cypress. It has another planned for West Sixth Avenue, three blocks from its studio on West Broadway at Fir. Earlier this month McBride announced a second downtown studio in the anticipated Telus Garden at the corner of Robson and Richards. Located on the third floor of the 53-storey residential high-rise, YYoga’s 20,000-square-foot space is expected to include numerous yoga studios, an outdoor pool and a patio when it opens in 2014.
McBride envisions these as “wellness centres” around which communities blossom and Vancouverites strike that elusive work-life balance.
In a residential building under construction on West Sixth, as with the Telus Garden, McBride said YYoga will build its ninth studio from the ground up.
“It used to be that you’d put in a couple StairMasters and a bike and maybe call it a gym. No one outside the building used it,” he said. “How can we use that space to add value an change the perception of what it is? Down the road, to me, that is a game-changer because you change the intent.”
At the original YYoga, Flow Yoga located on Burrard Street which opened five years ago, people often relax in a spacious lounge with padded stools and benches. At the latest YYoga in Kitsilano, they can take their après-stretch to a south-facing patio that seats close to 60 people.
“Visit the Kitsilano studio and you will say, ‘This is absolutely beautiful. I would love to hang out here,’” said McBride, the co-founder and CEO of Nettwerk Music Group who started YYoga with Lara Kozan, a yoga instructor, who taught at the Nettwerk offices in Vancouver.
“We’re trying to lower every barrier and make them comfortable places that you’re not rushing out the door. You’re able to sit and have a tea and talk with your friends. We are finding a lot of people now are meeting at yoga,” said McBride.
Infrared saunas are a popular feature of some YYoga studios, and McBride said the hot, wood-lined rooms became sites where people chat before and after class. But because common etiquette holds that people remain relatively silent in a shared sauna, YYoga enlarged the space at their new Kitsilano location and tried something new: they built two.
“We created a social sauna and quiet sauna,” said McBride. “They’re separated.”
YYoga sells itself as “a guest-focused approach to yoga in an ‘all are welcome’ environment,” and McBride told the Courier recently while he was driving in Los Angeles. He said some studios failed to put out a welcome mat and that most also missed an opportunity to invite guests to pull up a chair and stay a while.
“I found at a lot of yoga practices inside the city, you’d go practice yoga and you would get up and leave. It was such a missed opportunity to build friendships.” It was a business opportunity he jumped on.
“I believe an opportunity begins at a negative,” he said.
Friendship—and romance—in this city has a reputation for being hard to find among strangers. Many consider the dating pool shallow. McBride says this is only a matter of opinion, but from where Vancouver draws its standoffish reputation, McBride doesn’t know. He doesn’t see it.
“I think we’re a very friendly city where people smile a lot, especially when there’s lot of sunshine. I get more eye-to-eye contact in Vancouver than in almost any other city.”
Now, to start talking to each other.