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Yoga Instructors bring sense of calm during uncertain times

Awareness Yoga has switched to an online format to offer at-home classes for those looking for a sense of peace and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Even before the pandemic struck, an Elora yoga studio was helping people learn to adjust, adapt and accommodate – something it has demonstrated by example.

Jennifer Burn started practicing yoga in 1994 while working as a waitress in Toronto.

“Because I was working in high-end restaurants, I had a lot of stress,” Burn said. “So, I just needed a place to kind of chill out.”

After spending practicing yoga for years and completing her teaching certification at Esther Myers Studio in Toronto, Burn brought her love of yoga to Centre Wellington and opened her own studio, Awareness Yoga.

The studio celebrated their 10th anniversary in January of 2020, right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of yoga studios.

Through the pandemic restrictions, a partnership was created with Christine Eberle, a fellow local enthusiast and instructor.

“Christine was teaching at different places around town, gave me a call asked to teach at the studio, and I said ‘yeah of course,’ because she was great,” Burn said.

The duo have been working together for the past eight years, although they would say it feels like forever. This chemistry allowed them to adapt, adjust and accommodate their lessons for fellow yogis.

“I spent a lot of time in an ashram in India. And one of the key phrases that we were given during our time of the ashram was adapt, adjust and accommodate,” Burn said.

She related the saying to the key teachings of yoga.

“When you’re practising yoga, you're learning to adopt a posture,” Burn said. “You're working to kind of adjust any roadblocks that you put up for yourself ... and you're learning to also accommodate to any situation.”

The two adjusted to new restrictions by offering online classes for their students.

“We didn't really know how online classes would go,” Burn said. “We just decided to give it a try, and switched everybody to online.”

During the colour-coded restriction phase, the pair adapted and offered some outdoor in-person yoga classes when it was allowed. However, the constant opening and closing made Burn and Eberle decide to only offer online classes on a monthly basis.

Burn noted most of her students have been happy to switch to an online format although some in more rural areas may have issues accessing classes due to poor internet connection. But that hasn’t stopped other students from opening their laptops and practicing.

“The nice thing is that any students that used to practice with us, that may have moved away, are now able to come back to the studio,” Burn said. “They’re taking their classes online where before they couldn't because they lived in Ancaster or Toronto or all over.”

Burn said once restrictions are lifted, Awareness Yoga will continue to accommodate their students by continuing to offer online classes in addition to in-person sessions.

“I think that's really going to be the way of the future,” Burn said. “I think some people have enjoyed not having to run around from place to place. They like the idea of just getting up and practising and then going back to what they were doing.”

For now, Burn will continue to teach her Zoom yoga classes on a monthly basis as she feels now is the best time to build community through practicing yoga.

“On the beginning of COVID there was so much fear and uncertainty,” Burn said. “It's easy when you're isolated to let those fears grow. And when you're practicing yoga, when you're practicing with your community, when you're connected in that way, you're all working together and you're giving yourself time to create quiet.”

She added that the support for her business has been overwhelming.

“I think a lot of the other studios have struggled and had to close their spaces and go online,” Burn said. “I think that it just shows incredible strength in our community.”