Just like feminism and coffee, yoga is in an evolved iteration from its original Westernized version. Functional movements are favoured over body pretzels, and notably there are more men and people of colour participating and leading. The Lole White Yoga tour allows for a few thousand people to get their asanas on during a Saturday afternoon and evening spent taking care of soi même
Upon arrival, participants wait rather patiently and peacefully in a long line. They chatter with each other, all dressed more or less in white. A few balance boards are available for those wishing to try out their skills as they wait, or perhaps just eager to show off a perfectly executed Warrior III or handstand.
Once scanned in, participants receive a yellow bag full of some pretty good swag and face a row of sponsors with tasty food samples. Those first in get to try yogurt, granola, bread, and energy balls. Another area contains a Lole store. For those who want to buy more substantive nourishment, Lola Rosa and Foodchain, as well as a few other restaurants, are available.
Beyond, on the field below, a podium is set up with other satellite podiums surround it. All around are rolled up yellow Lole yoga mats. Participants get to keep their new mat at the end of the night, which is a major bonus. Keeners go and claim their ideal spot immediately, setting themselves up for a view of the stage.
Many people come to the event with friends, family members, or partners. Frederick tells me that he’s here in solidarity with his wife. “It’s my first time doing yoga,” he says. “I’m taking it as an experience. Seeing everyone in white doing the same movement will be very impressive.”
Even for someone alone like me, the crowd is friendly and it’s easy to talk to people. We all have yoga in common. I spend most of the event chatting with a French Concordia student, Pascale, who took up hot yoga after years as a weightlifter. “I was supposed to come with a friend but she couldn’t make it,” she says. As someone who has attended the Lole yoga tour before, she fills me in on all the ways it has changed or remained the same.
A young couple, Valerie and Justin explain why they’ve come tonight. “I love yoga,” says Valerie who has practiced for a number of years at different types of classes. Her partner, Justin is here for his first yoga experience. “I think it’ll be great,” he says in anticipation of the Slow Move Fitness session. “It will probably be harder than I think.”
An announcement says that the first session of Slow Move Fitness is starting. Danielle Danault, the concept creator, leads a session, with ample “coaches” on the podiums presenting different levels of moves. She does so bilingually — rendering this a very Montreal kind of experience. In Slow Move Fitness, a gong chimes out at a particular count in order to coordinate breath and movement. Though simple in concept, the movements are challenging when done slowly to the gong count. The moves are drawn from the cannon of yoga such as plank, down dog, and goddess posture. “I’m sweating,” says Pascale, as she takes on her 8th slow push up.
In between Slow Move Fitness sessions, meditation sessions are offered. However, the first of these is reserved for VIPs who have paid extra for access to a terrace and some extra snacks. For most everyone else, it’s an opportunity to check out the samples and chat. When the second meditation session happens at the main podium, most of the empty yoga mats are unrolled with butts on them as everyone arrives for the main event.
At last, a piano is revealed centre podium, and the master class begins. Head teacher Elena Brower, invites everyone to take out the essential oil from the swag bag and rub it on their hands and inhale the scent. Montreal pianist Alexandra Stréliski performs a short piece, and after a few minutes, we are invited to invite grace into our lives for the next hour of yoga. Elena Brower is an accomplished yogi and her presence on stage is magnetic. She is calming and her words invite imagination and meaning to the practice. The practice itself is by no means passive, and everyone seemed eager to move as one through down dogs, lunges, and warrior poses. Yoga teachers walk through the crowd to provide hands on assists for those requiring them. Local teacher, Julien Gagnon compliments Elena’s practice, making everything feel very Montreal.
Overall, the Lole yoga tour is a very welcoming experience. Yes, seeing everyone in white moving in sync is beautiful, but it’s also beautiful just to have a like minded community centred on a mindful practice gather and connect. Yogis come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages, and abilities. Seeing the crowd at the Lole Yoga tour go through the various moves at whatever level is appropriate is inspiring and comforting at the same time.
“That felt so good,” says Julie as she heads to the metro, yellow bag on her arm, “And if nothing else, I get to keep the mat!”
The Lole White Yoga tour takes place annually in Montreal. This year’s event took place at Parc Jean Drapeau on August 17th. For information about next year’s event, keep an eye out HERE.