Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans – Beautiful Boy written by John Lennon
At nineteen, Teresa was enjoying a live concert in Edmonton, Alberta, her hometown. It was a life-changing moment that has taken her around the world. No, the turning point in her life didn’t come from the music, the band or the audience. It was the light. Or lights, to be precise. Without warning, a large metal lighting frame came loose, crashing down onto the audience in the front rows. Teresa suffered several crushed vertebrae in her neck and injuries to her jaw.
Recovery was long and painful, and seemingly stalled in a haze of physiotherapy and prescription drugs. Wise beyond her young years, Teresa realized she needed something else. “It was a traumatic injury. I needed something that would help me take control of my own healing and not rely on things like physio and medication. The healing had to come from within.” That was when Teresa was handed a lifeline. Her sister invited Teresa to her first yoga class. Yoga was a revelation for Teresa, and a salvation. It was also her future.
“I was looking for a way of bringing strength and balance back into my body and healing from this injury. It was quite severe. I wanted to find a long-term solution instead of just taking pain medication. Yoga went from just helping me heal from this injury to a way of living for me. It became quite a big part of my life, so much that I decided to teach.”
Today, Teresa Byer lives a very healthy, happy life in Qualicum Beach along with her husband Engel and their four-year-old son Kai. Together, Teresa and Engel own and operate the Yoga Grace studio in Qualicum Beach along with a half dozen yoga teachers.
“My parents retired here eight or nine years ago,” says Teresa when I ask her what drew the couple to Qualicum Beach. Every time she and Engel visited Qualicum Beach, they liked it more. QB “felt like home,” she says. “We love Island life, the pace of life here.” After having taught yoga around the world for 10 years, including in Bali where they lived for several years, Teresa says she and Engel decided QB offered “a great opportunity to develop some roots.”
Qualicum Beach came through. When Engel began looking for space where he could train yoga teachers, he and Teresa met Holly Yates, a well-known QB yoga teacher. Yates wanted to get out of the business side of running a yoga studio, and asked the couple if they wanted to buy the business. A deal was struck, and Yoga Grace opened its doors in April 2018.
The ancient practice of Yoga originated in India about 3,000 years ago. Its popularity exploded in the West in the 1970s after the Beatles made a pilgrimage to India to study with a prominent yoga teacher. Teresa says that a lot of people think yoga is just about body postures and stretching, but it has a meditative and spiritual core. Yoga is more than physical exercise, she says, “it’s really about the mind, it’s a means of quieting ourselves down a bit.” A key component of yoga taught at Yoga Grace is breath work, which, says Teresa, is Engel’s passion.
Harkening back to her seminal moment when she discovered the value of yoga, Teresa says “A lot of our students initially come to us when they’re healing from surgery or injuries. It can be gentle enough [for people with injuries or chronic illness] to begin [healing] with. There are practices that are great for stretching out the body after a surgery, gently working through that scar tissue that we have initially [resulting from injury or surgery].”
“An important thing to note is that there is truly a practice for every body. It doesn’t matter what your age or size or experience is,” says Teresa. Yoga Grace even hosts mini-day camps for children (held during school breaks pre-pandemic).
Eight teachers, including Teresa and Engel, offer a variety of yoga classes across the spectrum from soothing relaxation to dynamic strength training. Each is skilled in a variety of different yoga practices and experiences, for example Rob Flichel, a certified life coach and a former personal fitness trainer, and Chito Richards, a Yoga Alliance certified Vinyasa and Hatha yoga instructor from Japan.
Then, in swept COVID-19 and, along with it, a silver lining.
“It was a scary time when our doors had to close. We didn’t know when they would reopen. It was so uncertain.” But another door soon opened. “For us, it was so important to keep people moving, and positive and healthy as we went through that time.” So Yoga Grace immediately began offering free / by donation yoga classes on social media that anyone could access.
Striving to protect their business, and to provide an income for their young family, Teresa and Engel quickly recognized an opportunity to expand Yoga Grace’s offerings online, something they had already been thinking about. On June 1, Yoga Grace launched their live-stream and on-demand online platform and, on the same day, reopened their physical studio space with COVID-19 precautions in place.
“We built a website, separate from our studio website, called Yoga Grace Online, says Teresa. “We offer Zoom classes that are live where we [practice yoga] in real time together with the students who are at home. We stream those classes live from the studio. So… the teacher might be teaching in a room with [safely distanced] students and we also have our students at home, live online. It’s kind of a neat way to feel connected, even though we’re [physically] apart.” In addition to their live-streamed classes, Yoga Grace also offers pre-recorded classes. “So if you have a busy work schedule or if you’re a busy parent and you can only do your yoga first thing in the morning or very late at night, those are available any time.”
“It was what we needed,” says Teresa. “If it wasn’t for that, we would have lost contact with our community and gone our separate ways at that time.” The couple’s resilience was born of hard work, sprinkled with a bit of luck. Teresa operates a web design business, and Engel is an experienced videographer. “We were so lucky to have that ability to move ourselves online,” says Teresa. She says they couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.
Technical skills aside, moving online was not a slam dunk. “It was a steep learning curve and a bit nerve-wracking, not only for us as owners, but also for the teachers, learning how to teach to a camera as opposed to a room of students,” says Teresa. They had to switch up their teaching technique. Physical adjustment of yoga poses is a big part of how yoga teachers help students correct their positions and get into proper alignment, but now, says Teresa, “because we are keeping our distance, we’re only relying on verbal cues. It’s actually been a great opportunity to get better with our language and clearer so that we can very clearly guide students into the pose just with our words.”
On Saturday, November 14, 2020 Engel and Galen Mongeau will host a candlelit evening of breathwork meditation with the healing soundscapes of the hang drum, held in-studio at Yoga Grace (space limited, reservations required), and streamed live for YG Online members.
Yoga Grace is located at 101 – 644 Beach Road in Qualicum Beach, BC. Contact Teresa or Engel at 250.609.1083 or at yogagrace.ca