â€˜Giving without expectationsâ€™ is a rare and beautiful sentiment that Stellaâ€™s Place is experiencing first hand in our growing partnership with lululemon.Â
In fact, it is the very vibe and energy one feels as soon as you walk in the doors of lululemonâ€™s Queen Street West location, just around the corner from Stellaâ€™s Place.
From the latest community pop up set up in the front, to the open workspace in the back, and even the attic space upstairs that is used for yoga classes and workshops for instructors, the theme of the store is about giving back to the community and not expecting anything in return.
Hub curator Reggie Tenchavez is the brains behind the space and says he is constantly evolving what the store can be used for and how he can reach the Toronto community in new and different ways.
â€œlululemon has always been the â€œYogaâ€ company. We are rooted in yoga and mindfulness but thereâ€™s so much opportunity to bring in other communities like art, food and music,â€œ says Tenchavez.
Store Manager, Lauren McCarthy, adds that, â€œItâ€™s an inclusive space, no matter what you do or who you are, you are welcome here.â€œ
In a world where mental health is coming more to the forefront, and exercise is considered an important part of wellbeing, the partnership is a natural fit for Stellaâ€™s Place.
This special relationship started last summer when lululemonâ€™s Community Manager, Mike Krupica, heard Stellaâ€™s Place was looking for fitness programs. He was quick to offer up the services of lululemon.
â€œI was waiting for the â€˜andâ€¦. as in what do you need in return.â€™ We thought this was too good to be true,â€Â says Dagmar Schroeder, a Development Officer at Stellaâ€™s Place.
It started as a running group, with a few participants going for a 1 km run around the block, but both the program and the stamina quickly grew. Soon they had a steady group able to run 5 kms.
Now yoga on Tuesdays and fitness on Wednesdays are free ongoing programs offered through lululemon.
â€œWe all really enjoy working with Stellaâ€™s Place, â€œ says McCarthy. â€œEveryone here wants to get involved in some way, shape or form.â€
lululemonâ€™s instructors reiterated this sentiment.
Laura Di Cecco just finished her yoga instructor training at the end of August and has been a big hit with Stellaâ€™s Place participants.
â€œI think it helps that Iâ€™m younger so thereâ€™s more relateability. Weâ€™re just hanging out, and less teaching,â€ says Di Cecco. â€œWhat I like most about this class is that we always check in on how people are feeling before and after. The coolest part for me is how big of a shift there has been when weâ€™ve finished.â€
She told us how one participant said she had a hard time leaving the house and found the outside world stressful. Yet when she finished the class she felt grounded, and in a safe space.
â€œThat was touching and inspiring,â€ says Laura. â€œItâ€™s hard to put into words. Itâ€™s an intimate and energetic experience.â€
Pedro Malvar teaches the fitness class on Wednesdays and says it is classes like these that got him into fitness.
â€œItâ€™s very meaningful to me. Fitness is an important outlet, especially when it comes to mental health,â€ says Pedro.
â€œIâ€™ve tried to create a space where people are encouraged to just show up, and from there we move. If you donâ€™t feel great, just move a bit. If you feel better, move a little more. Just showing up is the most important part.â€
He also says he has noticed a shift in the people who come in regularly and he loves seeing how positively it impacts their life.
â€œThis is why I love what I do. Itâ€™s so touching working with people who are really benefiting from it,â€ says Pedro.
McCarthy says this relationship is different from others lululemon has engaged in in the past.
â€œWeâ€™ve worked with many non-profits in the past. But to have this relationship with such a beautiful group as Stellaâ€™s Place, and to have developed it in a way where weâ€™re not just giving space, is truly special. Our team as a whole feels connected with what weâ€™re creating because itâ€™s promoting more awareness around mental health.â€
McCarthy says, â€œWe live in a world where thereâ€™s so much power behind openness and sharing thoughts and feelings. We want to be part of a community that is about supporting each other and not coping on your own.â€
As we look to improve the mental health within our community, it is apparent that lululemon is the ideal neighbour. THANK YOU!