By Christie Melhorn, February 16 2018 —
Among those who favour explosive workouts, there’s an ironic trend of being lazy about stretching. After years of half-ass stretching after strenuous workouts, my hip flexors feel cemented in place and some days, my lower back seems like it’s about to pop off. To hit the reset button, I recently committed to practising yoga more often. So when I saw that Yoga Nova Studio was offering free classes for their grand opening on Feb. 10, I immediately signed up.
By the time I registered, only a few spots remained in a hot yoga class called ‘chakrapop.’ When I arrived to the studio located off 37th Ave. and 14th St. SW, I braced myself for full-house chaos but the front-desk staff were well-collected and signed me in with ease. My stomach sank when I realized I forgot my mat but they lent me one at no charge and without fuss.
After laying my mat in class, a staff member gave me a tour. The building’s sleek monochrome exterior is nicely contrasted by the main floor’s warm wood furnishing and soft lighting. On the lower level, the rich indigo walls are complimented by red patterned carpets and a communal copper faucet in between the changerooms. The space’s symmetry and splashes of colour accented by eclectic decor beautifully blend a fresh aesthetic with a lived-in coziness.
After the tour, I discovered I placed my mat beside our instructor, Marin McCue. As a dancer and fitness class veteran, I wasn’t nervous about being in the front. But since I’m recovering from a major physical burnout, I was worried about feeling pressured to overexert myself. However, McCue quickly diffused that anxiety as she introduced the class. She reinforced that yoga is about honouring your body’s needs, validating my desire to go easy and preparing us for an intentional practice.
McCue structured chakrapop around the seven primary chakras — or energy centres — of the body that carry specific emotional and spiritual meaning. She quickly described their anatomical locations and mentioned that we also have 21 subtle chakras — a new piece of information to me.
We followed a sequence of poses that work through each primary chakra, beginning with the root at the base of our spines and ending with the crown at the top of our heads. After a slow start on our backs, we moved up and built intensity with low squatting movements. Beside me, McCue performed the most elegant squat jumps I’ve ever seen, but I didn’t feel judged or embarrassed about using a toned-down version. To target the sacral and solar plexus chakras, we alternated between planks and downward dogs, finding reprieve in child’s pose in between sequences.
Throughout the class, McCue described the emotional significance of the chakra being physically engaged, adding depth and purpose to our practice. She also intensified the class’s sensory engagement by changing the room’s lighting to reflect each chakra’s representative colour. Since I’m minimally experienced at yoga, I was definitely disoriented and lost at times. But perfection was not demanded or expected.
Working through higher chakras involved a blend of floor work and upright poses. Sitting cross-legged, we held onto our necks with both hands and titled our heads side-to-side as McCue explained the throat chakra is associated with personal expression. She highlighted the value of compassionate communication with ourselves or others, which I found particularly striking and affirming.
Under dim violet light, we concluded our practice on our backs with our eyes closed and palms facing upwards. McCue performed a guided meditation summarizing our class. When describing the heart chakra, she discussed the power of vulnerability and letting our walls fall — a concept I deeply embrace and struggle with. As cheesy as it may seem, the tears came hard and fast. The class had grounded me in an emotional space where my self-censorship lifted, allowing me to rawly express myself.
As we filtered out of class and relished in the cool air, McCue thanked me for “rocking the front row” with her and patted me on the shoulder. I really appreciated her support and reassurance — especially since I felt I didn’t perform at my maximum capacity.
Before leaving, I popped into Yoga Nova’s coffeehouse, where free samples and information on upcoming workshops were available. Against white walls, the café’s light brown leather furniture and wooden accents give it a graceful coziness. A barista swiftly welcomed me with a freshly poured cup of nitrogen-brewed rose hibiscus tea. As I guzzled it back, I bumped into McCue and discovered the café was selling copies of her recently published book, Be The Change. A Story. A Road Map. A Movement., that tells of her mental health struggles. As a personal essayist, I really admire her bravery and openness.
During any kind of physical activity, you can develop close bonds with others nonverbally. But between the rush of getting in and out of class, it can be hard to socialize with the people you workout with. Learning more of McCue’s backstory was humanizing and rewarding. It further illustrated her desire to help others heal through yoga and welcomed me to be vulnerable in her presence, which could translate into some pretty transformative future classes.
Overall, my experience in both Yoga Nova’s class and café allowed me to connect with others and myself on multiple platforms. Chakrapop offered an educational physical and emotional release that I didn’t know I needed. For more information about Yoga Nova Studio, click here.