Not all paths of wellness begin in tequila bars, but Samantha Chang-Gardner’s did. Living in the always-on city of Toronto and working at a buzz-worthy restaurant that kept her on her toes at all hours, Chang-Gardner found herself craving a bit more calm in her days, which led her to explore the practice of yoga. But after trying her downward dog at different classes around the city, Chang-Gardner found that the kind of experience she was looking for was less stereotypically “spiritual” and a bit more lighthearted in nature.
“I wanted to create an experience that would make people feel strong and happy in their bodies,” she explains. “For me, yoga doesn’t need to be serious. Sometimes it can be about playing around and trying things and falling over – and that’s okay.” And so Rose Gold Yoga was born.
Today, Chang-Gardner spends her days travelling the city, sharing a practice that she describes as an uplifting blend of music, movement and connection – and one that often leaves the instructor feeling as inspired as her students. “Anytime someone will come up to me and say, ‘That was the best hot class I've ever had,’ it’s the greatest feeling because I know how yoga has changed my life,” she says. “Sharing that with other people is the most rewarding part of being an instructor.”
We caught up with Chang-Gardner, our Queen St. Ambassador, during a rare break in her jam-packed schedule to talk about how she finds calm – both in and out of class.
KA: Tell us more about your vision for Rose Gold Yoga.
Samantha Chang-Gardner: There’s one class I teach that really exemplifies what we’re about. It’s on the seventh floor of a building that holds a bunch of creative offices, in a big open space with floor-to-ceiling windows. I just come with a speaker, everyone throws down their mats and we play really loud music. It feels playful and open for people to try new things and not take it all so seriously.
KA: What does a typical day in your life look like?
SCG: I wake up early and have breakfast. Then I’ll go over whatever I’m doing for the day – writing sequences for classes, creating playlists, my schedule. The rest of the day pretty much consists of running around from studio to studio and doing a mix of corporate and private studio classes. It's very busy and it's very exhausting some days, but it's good. It's worth it.
KA: How do you find moments to pause during it all?
SCG: One of my most important rituals is making sure that I always arrive to my yoga classes at least 20 minutes early. Not only so that I'm punctual, but also to keep me sane. I like to go into the room before anyone's there and just meditate—even if only for five minutes. I have to make sure that I've completely arrived in the space and caught my breath before I can try to help anyone else find theirs. I also spend a lot of time commuting on my bike. I use that time to put on my headphones and call my fiancé – he’s the person that keeps me going through it all. It’s a little reckless, but it’s multi-tasking, and it’s important for me to check in on how his day is going.
KA: What about “guilty pleasures” – any go-tos that help you unwind?
SCG: I have a glass of red wine with my dinner pretty much every night. I don't like to call it a guilty pleasure because I don't think I should feel guilty about it – it’s something that keeps me sane and calm and ready to do it all over again the next day.
KA: Toronto is a fast-paced city. Where is your Zen zone?
SCG: I live in the Queen West neighbourhood, so I’m often in Trinity Bellwoods Park – getting up early, grabbing coffee and walking through the park is the perfect way to fuel up for teaching. Another special place is my fiance’s restaurant, Grand Electric. I used to work in the restaurant industry, and to be in that atmosphere where there's music playing and people around is not as hectic to me as the average person – I find it very relaxing.
KA: Are there any parts of your day you’d describe as analogue?
SCG: I write out all my yoga class sequences by hand. People will be like, “You’re always walking around with this little black notebook when you could just put your sequences in your phone like a normal person.” But for me it’s really special to write them down – it’s an important moment I take for myself. I’ll finish a notebook and add it to my collection, then I’ll start a new one.
KA: On the topic of unplugging, has the rise of the Instagram “yogi-nfluencer” been a positive or negative thing for the community?
SCG: On one hand, social media can be very encouraging. I follow a lot of yogis and I’ll see different poses and think, “Whoa, I want to do that,” and I’ll work towards it. On the other hand, there can be a lot of emphasis on the physical body and what it’s supposed to look like. Luckily, there are more and more really cool accounts showing up with different types of bodies, which is making the space more encouraging. When it comes to my Instagram, I try to keep things positive and open and inviting to people of all different levels and types.
KA: When the going gets tough, what’s your go-to solution?
SCG: This sounds really simple – because it is. For me, it’s coming back to my breath. If I can just get back to my breath and breathe in and out, even 10 times, that always makes me realize what actually matters. At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do, and if you’re still breathing, you’re ok – you know?