What is Yoga Quest?
I’ve been asked that questions so many times, and somehow it doesn’t get any easier to answer. YogaQuest is first and foremost a community. It is also a unique blend of narratives with yoga. Basically it’s yoga for people who never thought they would set foot in a yoga class. We are non-compliant and refuse to follow the “rules” of western yoga.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea started percolating about five years ago when I was at a sci-fi convention. I looked around at the offerings and noticed that nobody was talking about wellness and that there weren’t any opportunities for geeks to move their bodies during the convention. Realizing that there wasn’t really an outlet for geeks to discuss self care in a productive (ie non shamy) way. I was already a yoga teacher and started to brainstorm how I could make yoga accessible (and fun!) for the geek community. YogaQuest has existed in some form ever since then, although we’ve evolved quite a bit (this isn’t even our final form!)
How long have you been hosting these classes?
I started teaching YogaQuest in its earliest forms shortly after that convention. Luckily there is a great geek culture here in Minneapolis, and I was able to team up with the Geek Partnership Society group Geek Physique to offer that proto-YQ. I knew that it could be an epic fail, but I wanted to try. Luckily it really resonated with people, and we moved from being a single class taught in a warehouse space, to opening our own studio and appearing at conventions all over the country, including New York Comic Con (NYCC) and Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2).
Fan-fiction story-telling, can you elaborate a little on that?
I believe that narratives are inherently powerful. In addition to running YogaQuest, I also run a counseling business (also geared toward those who consider themselves outside the mainstream) and work primarily in a narrative therapy style. So pairing yoga with storytelling is doubly impactful in my opinion. The way that we use this for class is to adapt something from Fandom, such as the X-files, and take an episode to send up with a fan-fiction treatment of it – just whittling the story down and playing up the in-jokes, adding in yogiography – assigning poses to certain names, actions, and objects in the narrative. Then we have a narrator who literally reads this script while we do yoga. It’s sort of like Simon says, or a much more wholesome take on a drinking game.
I love that you guys are body positive. Why is that so important to you?
People come in all shapes, sizes, races, levels of ability, etc. It bothers me greatly that many wellness spaces are only set up for a certain type of person. In the yoga community, that type of person is overwhelmingly white, upper-middle class, slender women. If I was going to create a space that was safe for the geek community, I had to make sure that it was inclusive. Unfortunately much of what we see in the media is shaming of people’s bodies. The purpose of this is to keep people feeling constantly less than so that they will buy products and feed into the diet industry which makes billions of dollars off people’s insecurities. I believe that how a person looks is not an indicator of their health or well-being. We take a Health at Every Size approach at the studio. Encouraging people to eat mindfully and to move their bodies because they care about themselves, not because they hate themselves. The language at our studio is very different than you would find in many wellness environments. We talk about bodies with respect and gratitude rather than disgust.
How do you come up with your themes?
Luckily the community is always requesting something new, so we’re never at a loss for themes. And there are so many fandoms to choose from, we could theoretically do fan-fiction yogic adaptations forever.
Are poses influenced by the theme?
We gravitate towards an established set of poses for each quest. We tend to assign certain poses to specific character types. For instance, the hero in a story will often be Horse pose (a wide-legged, powerful stance), while the villain will be Eagle pose (a convoluted twisty pose that you want to get out of as soon as possible).
What’s been your favorite theme to do?
I just love making people laugh while they’re moving their bodies. Since “fitness” is so often advertised as having to be punishing of our bodies, if we can bring a smile to someone’s face, and they walk away realizing they moved their bodies and had fun doing it, I’m happy. We recently did an event at the Mn Science Museum where we presented a 4-part Zelda: Ocarina of time quest. Watching people rocking out their Navi pose (chair with airplane arms to imitate wings) while they chirped “hey! Listen!” That’s the stuff that makes this work so great.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We just got back from appearing at Wizard World Comic Con Chicago – our 3rd year appearing at this event. And our crowds have grown exponentially. It’s clear that the geek community was longing for a way to engage with wellness on their own terms – we just gave them an outlet. And we were doubly blessed because Ida Gearon – costume designer for Army of Darkness, and wife of movie legend Bruce Campbell – came to our Army of Darkness quest. On purpose! Word is spreading about this geek wellness revolution and we’re loving every minute of it!