For the Love of Artists! Giving Back to Artists through Studio Po’s YGG Program

I have always had such a LOVE for the ARTS. Artists have touched my heart since I can remember ever having my heart touched! From my first encounter with David Bowie’s Space Oddity, to my first role in a play, to my first viewing of To Sir with Love, on and on to my most recent love affair with the Canadian Opera Company, art and artists have kept me young and vibrant and honest and curious. I lived for books, music, theatre and film as a tween/teen and spent a large part of my teaching career with the Toronto District School Board as an English and drama teacher, volunteering countless hours (and by countless, I truly mean countless) running an extra-curricular drama program that included putting on two major theatre productions every year. People thought that I was crazy teaching curriculum to teenagers all day and then staying on after school, often as late as 9 pm, as well as coming in on the weekends for rehearsals. But these artistic projects and the creative camaraderie that they created amongst myself, my drama students and the staff and students of other arts departments fed my soul. It didn’t matter how overwhelmed or exhausted I felt from the work of my paid teaching gig, when the bell rang to sound the end of the regular school day, my soul lit on fire and I was re-energized, knowing that art and artists awaited!

It makes absolute sense that before I was engaged in the science and philosophy of Iyengar Yoga that I was fascinated by its artistry. Those who delve deeply into the practice of Iyengar Yoga are attracted to the “painstaking, diligent and delicate labour” of transforming our “practices into a work of art” (The Art of Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, p. xiv), as American Iyengar Yoga teacher Constance Braden writes, “in making our asanas come alive from toe tips and fingertips deep into the heart”. At the end of my high school teaching career with the TDSB, my devotion to the arts included my devotion to the art of Iyengar Yoga and a new extra-curricular yoga program for students and staff.

And that’s why I am particularly excited about Studio Po’s latest collaboration, as it will hopefully feed and nurture artists, as they have always fed and nurtured me.

When Stephanie and I partnered to create Studio Po, we were sure of two things: the unbelievable merits of Iyengar Yoga and our desire to share it with as many people as possible! And so, we are thrilled to announce that Studio Po will be extending our Yoga for the Greater Good (YGG) program in two new ways to support artists: Studio Po teacher, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, will be teaching Iyengar Yoga classes tailored specifically for artists at the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre and as an extension of that, YGG will now be offering a 20% discount for our regularly scheduled classes for professional artists referred to the studio from the Artists’ Health CentreArtists’ Health Alliance (AHA) employees, and healthcare practitioners working with AHA.

It is well-documented that Yehudi Menuhin’s technique as well as his interpretive skills heightened through his work with B.K.S. Iyengar. He suffered from a variety of muscular and skeletal issues and yet his career was significantly prolonged as a result of practicing Iyengar Yoga. He called Mr. Iyengar “my best violin teacher” and wrote the forward to Mr. Iyengar’s famous book Light on Yoga, known as the ultimate resource for classical Hatha Yoga.  The Yehudi Menuhin School in England, which Menuhin founded for musically gifted children, continues to follow in his footsteps by offering weekly yoga classes for all members of the school community.

So as Stephanie, myself, Suzanne, Yehudi Mehuhin, along with so many (so many!) have been deeply touched, lifted, inspired, aspired, sustained and maintained by the work of B.K.S. Iyengar, the artist, we at Studio Po would like to do our little part to pay it forward to the professional artists of Toronto and those who support them through Artists’ Health Alliance and the Al and Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre.

My late, wonderful, (beautiful inside and out!) mother-in-law, Malka Green, was a devoted patron of the arts and along with her husband, Al Green, (a sculptor and awesome, generous man in his own right) she was co-director of the Al and Malka Green Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting health, the arts, human rights and tolerance. One of their most beloved philanthropic projects was the creation of the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital. There, using a holistic approach to healthcare, medical and complementary care practitioners focus on the specific needs and issues of professional creative and performing artists with the goal of having a positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Suzanne is a perfect fit for their team. As a former professional ballerina with The National Ballet of Canada, Suzanne knows first-hand how the fascinating process of practicing Iyengar Yoga can support artists physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Please click here for more detailed information about Suzanne’s artists classes and the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre. The first series of classes begins on Tuesday, October 13th at 11:30 a.m. Students can register by calling the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre at 416-603-5263.

For more information about Studio Po’s Yoga for the Greater Good program, please click here.