The little yoga studio that could

A Burnaby yoga studio has survived thanks to the power of community, and it continues to thrive 8 months later.

The story of Heights Yoga began in October 2020, when Modo Yoga informed its loyal members that it would be closing by the end of the month. The pandemic had pushed the already struggling studio over the edge. Upon hearing the news, students Yuen Wong, Nash Cisneros, and Howie Leung decided to take over the lease and set up Heights Yoga in the same location.

“We knew the community; we loved the community; we loved what the studio stands for. We didn’t want to lose any of that. We wanted to carry that on,” Wong told the Beacon. Wong started out as a student at Modo Yoga and went on to become their studio ambassador and worked at their front desk before their closure.

It takes community

Heights Yoga

Establishing Heights Yoga was a community effort from the get-go. Students volunteered to clean out the space and local businesses donated paint and other renovation and promotional materials. The community even came together to promote the business, with Wong’s niece building the website for free and students going door-to-door to distribute flyers.

One of these student volunteers is Marita Luk, a business development manager at the BCIT.

“My role was more just spreading the news and reaching out to the media and people who would listen,” said Luk.

Like Wong, Luk was a long-time student at Modo Yoga who felt the need to protect the space.

“I was dealing with breast cancer, and I needed a place where I could recover from the chemo and radiation. I’m one of the ones that really benefited from it because it helped me recover from my illness. They had hot yoga, which just really calms you down and de-stresses you,” she added.

The rebirth of a community

The motivation behind the 3 co-owners’ efforts is the desire to give back to the community.

“They went against all odds. All 3 of them actually are doing it from the goodness of their hearts. I think Yuen deserves all the credit, she worked tirelessly to make this happen. And that’s why I like supporting her and sharing her story,” said Luk.

Attempting to rebuild the community and learning from its predecessor, Heights Studio now offers a diverse catalogue of services, ranging from different types of yoga to clinical counselling and mindful somatic therapy, and even art workshops for children.

Heights Yoga

“It’s been lost for the last 2 years. We used to serve tea. We used to sit around and chat. All those things that were good for the soul. We’d love to do all of those things again. It’s not really a rebuild, it’s a rebirth of [the community],” says Wong.

While the Heights Yoga community has grown steadily in the past 8 months, it continues to face the challenges of being a small business in the middle of a pandemic. The community is hopeful that members old and new will feel safe enough to return.

“We worked [in] cooperation with the City of Burnaby bylaw officer during our opening [to ensure] that we were adhering to all COVID-19 PHO guidelines and recommendations to ensure the safety and well-being of all our members and staff,” says Wong.

As Wong works on the logistics for implementing the new proof of vaccination requirements, members of the community have continued to volunteer their time and effort to support Heights Yoga’s operations.

“I think that Heights Yoga has so much passion to make it survive. They have [a huge]challenge and, yet, they’re still surviving. My hope is that previous yoga members and new ones will come support this community staple,” says Luk.