02 Feb East Coast Post: A Yoga Beat
New studio places emphasis on music
Music may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about a yoga class, but for Connie McInnes, “music is everything.”
“The reason that I find (music) so important in the classes is because it allows people another way to let go, another distraction,” she says. “And they can just become completely consumed in the music, in the energy that the music is bringing.”
McInnes, a Halifax native, recently opened Rock In Opposition Pilates and Yoga Studio on Charles Street. While she appreciates the yoga studios in Halifax, she felt there’s a need for something more community-oriented.
After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University, McInnes traveled through Australia and South East Asia before ending up in Toronto.
There she found studios “that were just very un-intimidating and very small scale and very open concept,” she says. “It was less about the practice specifically and more about the community that was built around it.”
And that is what she’s trying to create with RIO.
“I’m trying to make yoga cool and modern,” she says.
The name “Rock in Opposition” comes from the 1970s avant-garde movement in music. It was started by a UK progressive rocker named Henry Cow who eschewed the big music labels in order to make the kind of music he wanted. He started a festival called Rock In Opposition where like-minded bands performed.
Just like the music movement from where she draws the studio’s name, McInnes is challenging the idea of how traditional yoga is practiced.
“Yoga, to me, is about music and laughter and having conversations in class. It’s not about walking in and being silent.”
This is where the music choice comes in.
“I try to mostly stay away from music that is yoga-specific,” she says. “Some instructors will play it but most instructors will play a combination of modern mixed with soft, melodious old school rock and roll.”
McInnes plays all kinds of music in her classes from Odesza to Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine and Ellie Goulding. She also likes her students to request songs they might like to hear in the practice.
“I play what inspires me and makes me feel creative and alive,” she says.
She says the idea came from wanting another way for people to let go in class.
With her new approach to yoga, McInnes wants to appeal to newcomers as well as those who practice regularly.
“I’m trying to bring a more accessible practice to people who aren’t even part of the (yoga) community. I’ve had just as many men in here as women, which is not common. I’ve also had a ton of new people … which is exactly what I wanted.”
For the month of February, RIO is offering a beginner yoga series.
Its Facebook ad caught the eye of Ceilidh Sutherland, co-owner of the bar Field Guide on Gottingen Street.
She contacted McInnes to see if she could bring along some of her co-workers and McInnes offered to host a private workshop.
“For me, a big part of wanting to come was the music,” Sutherland says. She really liked the inclusive and laid-back vibe and her first class “exceeded expectations.”
The music “definitely helped to relax me,” says Sutherland. “It takes the pressure off.”
The Field Guide gang’s first class on Tuesday focused on basic poses, since most of them had never done yoga.
Josh Nordin, a server at Field Guide and a newcomer to yoga, enjoyed the music – and the breathing practices.
The Field Guide group reacted to the music in just the way McInnes wants her students to. To her, the music is another way for people to relax into the practice and let go of the outside world.
“I think it’s just another form of distraction. So people can let their minds go towards the music rather than to what tasks they are supposed to be doing or their to-do list,” she says.
“It just allows them another way to completely release and, like, succumb to what’s going on in the room.”