Partners in Passion, Positivity and Poses
Downward Dog co-owners on love, yoga and their new location
February. The month in which many struggle to be optimistic through the cold, blustery winter. Also, the month of Valentine’s Day. As partners in life, in love, and co-owners of yoga franchise Downward Dog Yoga Centre (recently expanded to the Forest Hill area), the story of Marla Meenakshi Joy and Ron Reid unfolds as fluidly as a yoga pose, as resiliently as the mind-body connection expressed by their meditative pursuit, and as an embodiment of love which 13th c. poet Rumi, an immense influence on the studio founders’ lives, so passionately wrote about.
Like many other couples, Marla and Ron’s story began with a short but meaningful meeting, love at first sight, you might call it. “We met briefly in 1995 while we were both teaching at one of Toronto’s first yoga studios,” says Marla, from Costa Rica, where she and Ron are on one of many planned yoga retreats. “I moved to Vancouver and then back to Toronto in 1998, and then began teaching at Downward Dog (est. 1997), which was Ron’s studio at the time. I also began studying with him, and doing some music projects (chanting collaborations) together.”
The Ashtanga Vinyasa variation of the ancient practice was an instantly recognizable common interest for Marla, who began her yoga studies in her teens, and for Ron. who pursued yoga while on a musical journey. “I went to India to study at an ashram when I was 19,” says Marla, “and Ron began his yoga journey while on the road as a touring keyboardist with Ian Thomas, Bleeker Street, Dianne Heatherington, Breit Brothers. He even opened for Burton Cummings.
When the two met again, in 1998, they cemented their personal and working relationship. “Our time together opened our hearts to each other and love magic happened!,” says the couple, who often think in tandem. “We formed our band Swaha (www.swaha.ca) and from there began doing kirtan (call-and-response chanting) in our studio and as well, travelling abroad.”
Our time together opened our hearts to each other and love magic happened!
Yoga rituals are also a part of this ‘magical’ process which Marla describes: “We both have a daily meditation ad pranayama practice.Yoga has many facets and practices…not just asanas which are the physical postures. When you open to the vital energy (prana) through yoga’s various practices, you connect to yourself and others on a deeper energetic level.” They further emphasize this metaphysical connection: “Yoga teaches us to have balance in our lives – mind, body and spirit. Yoga practices really help that…and translate and expand into our relationship. If something feels out of balance in the way that we relate, then yoga helps us to unfold more awareness around that…and then, as we communicate on that level together, we work out whatever needs working out, and find a more positive and productive way to move forward.”
Yoga teaches us to have balance in our lives – mind, body and spirit. Yoga practices really help that…and translate and expand into our relationship
Another move forward came in November 2017 when, after meeting Champion Taekwondo co-owners Carmelina and Victor Luke a month prior, Marla and Ron opened a satellite studio in Forest Hill, occupying the upper (2nd floor) of Champion’s Spadina Rd. location. “Our dynamic is fantastic!” they enthuse. “The four of us get along so well together. There is so much harmony and respect between us all.”
The yogis also plan to integrate martial arts with their yoga retreats: “We plan to work together with Champion to nourish our common thread and collaboration of yoga and martial arts. Costa Rica is a natural extension of our joint passions, and there will be some exciting things on that front for 2019!”
For now, they aim to grow their student base and to add more classes, workshops and events. “Costa Rica is the most ‘pranic filled’ place we know!” says the couple. “Prana means vital energy…the cells in your body get completely rejuvenated, and the connection with the jungle and the oceans is so healing. It is so conducive to deepen the practice of yoga as well as martial arts as it gets you in touch on deeper and deeper levels with your physical and mental Self.”
Daily meditations and retreats have nourished Marla and Ron’s connection, in and out of the studio. “As we become more connected to our practice, the mind drops into the heart,” says the pair. “There are five bodies, or sheaths, and the mind is more surface, while the heart or the ‘bliss body’ is the body closest to our innermost Self. And that innermost Self is the part of us that is Divine.”
Costa Rica is a natural extension of our joint passions, and there will be some exciting things on that front for 2019!
Like every relationship, practice makes perfect to achieve an ideal balance. “Yoga practices open, balance and align the chakras.” Specializing in Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, whose focus is on the eight limbs of the practice, Marla and Ron explain how yoga and the heart chakra are linked – with highs and lows (heating and cooling segments) which produce balance and energy. “The practice needs to be complete, balanced and whole. In other words, postures with counter poses, and a heating segment, but also a cooling segment to close the practice. This helps to refine, balance, and integrate the energy. Yoga postures work to open the energy channels and guide you towards balance. Backbends in general tend to open the heart!”
“Sharing our passion of yoga is wonderful and a blessing,” and integral to a healthy relationship, says the couple. “But [it is] very important to have those boundaries…now work is over…and play time! date nights, etc. We can have a nice night out…laugh and joke, sit by the fire together and massage each other, or practise yoga together…come up with partner yoga fun ideas…etc. Whatever we decide upon that is fun for us to do!”
Drawing from their inspiration, the two teachers quote Rumi as an analogy: “Our practice as yogis is to ‘remove the sense of separation’. As the famous poet Rumi said, ‘by and by, love becomes not a relationship…it becomes a state of your Being. Not that you are in love…now you ARE love…'”
Downward Dog Forest Hill is located at 420 Spadina Rd. , 2nd Floor. Call (416) 546-8688