Sunday, August 20, 2017


Today's Classes


Big Stretch Yoga
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Instructor: Joanne Lowe




Gentle Flow & Restorative Yoga
11:30 AM - 12:45 PM
Instructor: Joanne Lowe




Retreats & Workshops


September Yoga Retreat at Harmony Dawn, Rice Lake, Ontario
Sep 15 to Sep 17, 2017




Candlelight Flow Yoga with Live Music
Oct 19, 2017




News


Autumn 2017 Schedule
[posted:2017-08-18]




We will be CLOSED August 26 - September 3
[posted:2017-07-30]




NEW!!! Drop-in Candlelight Restorative Yoga
[posted:2017-07-25]




Recent Features


CONTEST - Who loves a giveaway?
Coupons/Special Offers
[posted:2017-06-03]




New Student Special!!! 30 days for $55 (includes HST)
Coupons/Special Offers
[posted:2016-12-13]




Rebecca is our Yogini of the Month
Yogis/Yoginis of the Month
[posted:2014-11-13]




Yogi/Yogini of the Month

Rebecca is our Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Thursday, November 13, 2014, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

With The Big Stretch celebrating its 15th Anniversary, we are touched and honoured to know that Rebecca has been coming to our classes for half of her young life!!!!

An Interview with Rebecca - her history with The Big Stretch:

"When The Big Stretch opened my mother and I started going to the Saturday morning classes. I was 14, in grade nine, and The Big Stretch was a warm and welcoming space to practice yoga and take a break from the stress and anxiety of starting high school. When I went away to University I continued to pop into The Big Stretch for a class whenever I could. I introduced one of my best friends to yoga at The Big Stretch so yoga followed by a coffee date became a favourite frequent hangout. I think our occasional giggling yoga mischief made Joanne smile. I'm now 29 and over the last 15 years (half of my life!) The Big Stretch has been my yoga home."

Favourite pose?

"I quite like making a "tight prune face" but Moon salutations are my absolute favourite and I also love the breath of joy. If I could only do one yoga pose for the rest of my life it would have to be a supported fish pose with my legs in cobbler's pose, especially if I'm covered in a blanket, have an eye pillow and am piled with zafus. If I'm totally supported and covered in props I'm happy. Pile on the relaxation!"

Benefits of your practice?

"Yoga has seen me through changing relationships with my body. Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 23 and with Ulcerative Colitis at 24 changed my life. In addition to these diagnoses I have struggled for most of my life with anxiety and depression. Practicing yoga has created a space to quiet my mind and engage with my body in times where I'd rather ignore or be angry with it. It has given me the opportunity to notice changes, confront challenges and quietly focus on my own experience in the moment. It is not always easy or pleasant and I have cried in class more times than I can count but I usually leave my practice with a sense of peace."

What do you do for a living - where are you from?

"I am from Toronto. I went to the University of Guelph for English and Women's Studies and then came back to the city where I went to UofT and got a Masters in Women and Gender Studies with a collaborative degree in Sexuality Studies and then went to Ryerson University for a Masters in Early Childhood Studies. When I finished school I was working as a nursery school teacher but I am currently job searching after taking some time off to take care of my family."

Breathe if you love Rebecca!


Yogini Trio of the Month - Eileen, Barbara & Heather
[Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Friends that practice yoga together, stay together and of course there is a great reward with the Yoga Buddy System. This trio enjoys our Gentle Stretch yoga class and the Candlelight Restorative yoga series as well as the occasional Big Stretch yoga class.

Eileen is pictured at right with her yoga buddy Barbara.

Yoga Buddy #1 is Eileen
Originally from Ireland, Eileen has lived in Toronto for a long time now. A retired health care practioner / executive, she enjoys golf, aquafit, walking and the theatre and started practicing yoga at The Big Stretch three and a half years ago with fellow Yogini of the month Barbara. This was her first experience with the practice, starting out as a group of four or five from the same building complex in the Leaside neighbourhood.

She loves Sun Salutations and the keyhole pose and credits her yoga practice for improved flexibility, muscle relaxation and improved sleeping patterns.

This karma yogini has recently completed a 4 year term as a board member at Community Care East York and is currently on The Home Advisory of True Davidson Care Centre and still finds time to do volunteer work with an MPP.

"Joanne has a gentle approach and pleasant quiet voice. She advises us to go at our own pace and modify the pose as necessary - keep up the good work!" ~ Eileen

Yoga Buddy #2 is Barbara
Barbara, from Windsor, Nova Scotia, is a good country girl and a great yogini! Her favourite pose is Child's pose, and she began her yoga practice three and a half years ago at The Big Stretch and wishes that she had started sooner! She finds that the stretching is so good for her as she gets older.

Barbara has worked at Manulife (36 years +) and loves to travel and this karma yogini walks for the MS Society.

"I like knowing that the stretching I do will make a difference in the long run, providing I keep it up." ~ Barbara

Yoga Buddy #3 is Heather
Heather, an Executive Coach, has been doing Yoga for 6 and a half years and all of them at the Big Stretch Yoga Centre and lists her favourite pose as Downward Facing Dog.

"My initial experience, such a positive one with you Joanne at the helm, has kept me coming back, year after year. Well done Joanne!" ~ Heather

Benefits of her yoga practice...mind body centering and connectedness, within the class and also the many relationships she has had the privilege to come to connect into as she walks up the street on her way to and from class and those who she shares the class with. A class challenges her abilities mentally and physically in new ways that leave her feeling a sense of accomplishment and Zen.

Heather supports what most resonates with her heart and passion at any given time and finds herself drawn to mental health initiatives and spends time volunteering or fundraising when she gets the chance.

"Your classes and your approach, your sense of true interest in your Yoginis has been so consistent and appreciated over the years. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us! ~ Heather


Sandra is our Yogini of the Month for October
[Posted on Friday, October 5, 2012, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Sandra always lavishes her friends with love, kindness and attention -- it's time the tables were turned so her friend Natasa nominated her as the Yogini of the month.

"Hatha yoga is described (off The Big Stretch's site!) as a gentle yoga practice that enhances your health and well-being. Sandra is just like that -- a gentle soul who enhances my life with her kindness and well-being. She makes me a better person just by being in my life. She's the ying to my yang." ~ Natasa (Yogini of the month nominator)

Sandra has been practicing yoga since Joanne's corporate Yoga@Work program was introduced to her office over twelve years ago. Since then she's been the driving force and poster girl at her work for Joanne's classes.

A calm and gentle persona with a spirituality that makes her glow, Sandra is the embodiment of Joanne's yoga philosophy of combining effort and grace, strength and softness. That being said, sometimes she does feel like jelly after class -- especially if it involves half sun salutes or when Joanne ends a class with the opening seated sequence! And Sandra's fingers are still crossed for a full class of savasana...one can dream, right?

"Sometimes, and I'm giggling as I admit this, the best part of Joanne's yoga class is lying beside Sandra in Dead Sheep's pose and quietly trying to make Sandra laugh just a tiny bit in class." ~ Natasa


Elisa is our Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Monday, April 30, 2012, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

"My body feels much better in every way with regular practice. The sense of mental clarity it bestows always trumps the obvious physical benefits. Carving out these increments of restorative time for myself always yields the quieter, calmer mental space to withstand the hectic pace of these busy years." ~ Elisa

Elisa, a busy mom of four, and former primary school teacher, has been practicing yoga for 10 years, 8 years here at The Big Stretch Yoga Centre. Originally from the Durham region, Elisa has been living in the city for 15 years.

Her absolute favourite posture is the pigeon, followed closely by the bridge and the cobra. Elisa loves coming to yoga class as it quiets her mind and provides a quiet sanctuary to sit still and just be.

In order to celebrate the milestone of her son Sacha's first year, Elisa is back to practice sadhana this Spring to remind her body of how much better she feels with a regular yoga practice.

"I hope you realize how much I treasure the yoga classes I get to." ~ Elisa


Jesse Bigelow is our Yogi of the Month
[Posted on Friday, March 16, 2012, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

" I find that yoga gives me energy and mental stability and is a great way to let go." ~ Jesse Bigelow.

A survivor, The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) was the first organization to encourage and support Jesse in his recovery from schizophrenia.

Jesse works as a Peer Support Worker for a team called the H.O.P.E. (Help Overcome Psychosis Early) which is part of the Canadian Mental Health Association. He works with youth who are experiencing psychosis for the first time.

A karma yogi at heart, Jesse is involved in the Yogathon and Walk of Hope for the SSO. He also educates people about schizophrenia with various speaking engagements including speaking to high school students at CAMH for a program called "Beyond the Cuckoo's Nest". He also speaks to nurses on the ward of CAMH, at York Region's yearly "Stomping out Stigma" conference and first year med students at the University of Toronto and York University.

Jesse, a brown belt and former children's karate instructor, decided to follow a practice that was more peaceful and reflective. He began his yoga practice at The Big Stretch in September 2011 after he was inspired by Yogi Tambiraja (founder of the Yogathon for SSO). Jesse is pictured here 'practicing peace' at the 2012 Yogathon for SSO with his friend Paolo, who is a survivor as well, and Yogi. (Left: Jesse, Centre: Paolo, Right: Yogi). Jesse managed to raise $1,185.00 for this year's event.

When he is not practicing yoga, doing speaking engagements or fundraising, Jesse finds time to golf, play poker and sing with various musicians at open jam nights. His favourite poses are pigeon and dead bug/happy baby.

"I love the energy and sense of community in the yoga class. As well, I like the fact that I can take some time for me." ~ Jesse Bigelow


Helen Younder is our Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Friday, October 7, 2011, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

"Yoga is an integral part of my life keeping me centred, calm, and appreciative of the simple things in life. Healing poses stretch the mind and body, not to mention my posture has improved greatly along with my flexibility, which in turn has helped some medical issues. I'm blessed having Joanne in my life as she shares her gift with me and others." ~ Helen Younder

Helen began her yoga practice in 2007 at Wellspring Cancer Centre - as a caregiver - and found the program to be a lifesaver. She was surprised by the fact that practicing yoga had such an enormous effect on her well being. Once her sojurn was finished at Wellspring, she was desperate for more yoga and began her practice at The Big Stretch in 2008.

Helen enjoys the Sun Salutation series noting that it embraces the day, and gives thanks to the world.

Retired recently from business, Helen is a mother of 3, grandmother of 4, and enjoys, gardening, cooking, golf, handcrafts and reading, and care giving at a Seniors' Home.

She was raised on a farm which is now a heritage village of Meadowvale, west of Toronto. With 175 acres to tend to, Helen says "Dad kept us very busy - bringing in the hay, and tending the sheep and other farm animals. As did Mom with her vegetable and fruit gardens." When she is having trouble focusing at yoga, a sure fix is going to the farm.

Helen is depicted at right in her sister Carol's backyard, in Murray River, PEI. What a fabulous place to do yoga by this gorgeous river which houses mussel fields. The moss is thick, birds sing, breezes gently blow, water gently laps the shore and facing north west, the sunsets are breathtaking.


Jennifer Manley is our Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Saturday, November 27, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Jennifer, 12 years old and in grade 7, has been doing yoga for about a year at The Big Stretch and loves Joanne's classes. She was introduced to yoga early on when she was five years old and attended a few parent-child classes.

At school, Jennifer's favourite subject is art. She enjoys being creative and is very artistic. She also really likes English class because she loves to read. This busy yogini snowboard races in the winter (the exact opposite of yoga!), and plays the piano, guitar and flute.

Her favourite yoga poses are child's pose, lotus flower, all the twists and especially enjoys the seated sun salutations.

"Yoga really makes me feel much better after a stressful day at school. I especially like when there are candles lit up because it makes the room look magical." ~ Jennifer Manley


Irina Fortey is our Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Saturday, November 27, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Irina is a professional wedding and portrait photographer in Toronto. A people person, she absolutely loves her job and enjoys being able to capture happy moments in people's lives. She lives and works in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood and is expecting her first baby at the end of November 2010.

Irina started her yoga practice in March 2010 at The Big Stretch Yoga Centre. "I absolutely loved my fist session! Joanne was very welcoming and the energy at the centre very positive. I soon after found out I was expecting our first baby and continuing with the practice has been very rewarding during my pregnancy."

Irina's favourite asana is the tree pose - always challenging and very rewarding when the perfect balance is achieved.

Her yoga practice has really helped her to become more flexible, something that she has struggled with in the past. And, the breathing techniques have brought great energy to her growing belly bump. Her pregnancy has been smooth due to this wonderful practice!

A karma yogini as well, she loves to donate to the community. Through her photography work, she love to do food drives during the holiday season and offer any time and talent towards worthy causes to help benefit others. She believes what you put out, you receive back.

"I would highly recommend to anyone thinking about starting a yoga practice .... to simply GO FOR IT!!! The experience is wonderful and very rewarding as you become more and more flexible. There is something magical when you can connect with your body in a peaceful way. ~ Irina Fortey


Margaret King is the Yogini of the Month
[Posted on Friday, September 17, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Margaret first practiced yoga in the 70's but for whatever reason didn't keep it up. In 2001 she discovered Joanne and The Big Stretch and the rest as they say "is history". She plans to stay with Joanne and The Big Stretch until she's at least 90.

Margaret's favourite pose is the pigeon pose and finds that yoga helps her to be more flexible and relaxed as she ages. Margaret who is 71 years young was born in Wingham, Ontario but has lived in Toronto since 1968 when she began teaching in the former city of Etobicoke.

A true karma yogini - In her retirement she volunteers twice a week at Sunnybrook Hospital and serves tea at Montgomery's Inn in Etobicoke. She belongs to various activity groups through University Womens' Club, enjoys theatre going, walking groups, much reading, and babysitting her great niece and nephews.

It's an absolute pleasure to have this former teacher on our student roll!


Vawn Himmelsbach is our Yogini of the month
[Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Years ago, Vawn found a flyer in her mailbox for yoga classes in a nearby church basement. The instructor was Joanne Lowe, and Vawn has been taking her classes ever since -- for more than a decade now at The Big Stretch. Early on, yoga was a complement to other activities, such as running and martial arts. Now it's become much more than that -- a way of providing balance and perspective in a busy, stressful urban environment.

As a freelance writer covering everything from tech to travel for newspapers, magazines and online publications, Vawn spends much of her free time traveling overseas, including a three-year stint working and backpacking through Asia. The one constant has been yoga, and she's been privileged to practice with teachers in countries as diverse as India, Thailand and Guatemala. When at home, she continues to practice at The Big Stretch and other Toronto-based yoga studios, and has become a dedicated follower of yin yoga.

The once dreaded saddle posture has now become her favourite for its benefits of opening up the entire front body, affecting the stomach, spleen, bladder and kidney meridians. Other favourites include the breath of joy, an energizing, uplifting breathing practice, and tree posture, a standing balance posture.

Pictured at right is Vawn and her friend in Thailand.


Yogi is our Karma Yogi of the month!
[Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

Yogi, aptly named, is our Yogi of the month!

Yogi Tambiraja began his yoga practice in 2000 following a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or ministroke. Shortly after that, he attended the Sivananda Yoga Centre's Teacher Training Certification in the Bahamas.  At the time, he had no intention of becoming an instructor, but after visiting an ashram in Quebec he met some teachers who shared their learnings and knowledge, and as a result his own practice developed.

Yogi credits his yoga practice with keeping him balanced and centred during a difficult decade, which involved a marital separation. His favourite pose is sirsasana or headstand - the king of asanas. Inversion poses have great benefits for your heart and your psyche.

He also founded the Yoga-thon for The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) five years ago. His son, Eugene, has suffered from schizophrenia for more than 20 years. It took three years to diagnose his illness and another few years to begin proper treatment. Unfortunately, a fair amount of damage had already been done by that point, which is why early intervention is so important.

Yogi started instructing a class at his workplace for colleagues and donated the session fees directly to the SSO. While he enjoyed raising funds in this manner, he felt there was more he could do and after a "Eureka" moment the Yoga-thon idea was born, with its first venue being Nathan Philip's Square in Toronto. The rest, as they say, is history....



Web Link: Sponsor Joanne Lowe in the Yoga-thon here


Nikki is our Yogini of the Month for December
[Posted on Monday, January 11, 2010, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

She is pictured here with two dogs from the shelter - Misty and Chico.

Nikki has been practicing yoga for 5 years now. Back in 2004, she decided to go and see what this whole Yoga craze was about; after her second class she was hooked.

On the benefits of yoga, Nikki says "I reap so many benefits from yoga I will try narrowing it down to just a few. I know this is very "Western" of me to say but I enjoy the physical challenge of the poses. I had been lifting weights twice a week for 7 years before I came to Yoga. Although I could bench press like nobody's business, I was amazed at the different strength required to hold many of the yoga poses. I enjoy this challenge. I have also benefited from increased flexibility, deeper breathing and the pure joy of quiet time to myself on my mat. I have also made new friends through yoga which is such an unexpected pleasure."

This is what our karma yogini had to say on rescuing dogs - "I have been rescuing dogs since the early 90's. My family owns 200 acres of property in Haliburton and our shelter is called Pheasant Ridge Kennels. I have always loved dogs and grew up around many of them. As a kid, we never had to bug our parents to get us a dog; in fact, sometimes we complained that we had too many dogs! My father, Dan Pavlov (no joke...my maiden name is indeed Pavlov) passed down his love of dogs to me. He taught me everything I know about how to train dogs and how to rebuild their trust after experiencing abuse at the hands of other humans. I have placed over 1000 dogs in loving homes since we began. I love them all and have many funny, touching, sad and triumphant stories to tell."



Eileen is our Yogini of the Month for October
[Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, filed under Yogis/Yoginis of the Month]

A Big Stretch, Big Shout Out to Eileen Harris who is celebrating her own milestone this October - 77 years young!! Eileen, an archaeologist, has been doing yoga with Joanne for 12 years now. She began her practice at the age of 65.

Eileen's favourite pose is savasana and she enjoys Joanne's "relaxing voice and gentle, sweet approach to yoga".

There seems to be a competition of late amongst some of the practitioners to be the oldest yoga student - how refreshing!