At first glance, Vancouver looks like a thoroughly modern metropolis, with its gleaming skyline, fine dining, and trendy boutiques. But it's really a laid-back, outdoorsy place. Just as Berkeley, California, is associated with bohemia, Los Angeles with fame, and New York with power, Vancouver can claim the good life.
Since the 1960s, Vancouverites have embraced hippie culture, environmental activism (Greenpeace was born there), and healthful living, including yoga. While Iyengar Yoga was introduced decades ago, the yoga fad that swept North America in the past 10 years definitely transformed Vancouver. Today, you'll find not only a choice of thriving yoga studios but also a variety of businesses set up to support a yoga lifestyle, from vegetarian restaurants to masala chai bars to the popular yoga apparel companies Lululemon Athletica and Lotuswear, which both call this health-minded city home.
Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver
Hard-core Ashtanga Yoga students welcome the early-morning Mysore classes at this West Side studio run by Fiona Stang, who was authorized to teach by K. Pattabhi Jois. She regularly returns to the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. 1537 W. Eighth Ave., (604) 732-7034. target="_blank">ashtangayogavancouver.com
Run by Western Sikh converts, Yoga West is a Kundalini studio offering yoga and daily sadhana, including prayer, chanting, yoga and meditation (which starts at 4 a.m.), and summer retreats. Dharm Kaur Khalsa, director of the studio, has trained teachers for 16 years. The studio is conveniently located near Kitsilano Beach and its lively eating and shopping neighborhood. 2662 W. Fourth Ave., (604) 732-9642. target="_blank">yogawest.ca
The Yoga Space
The Yoga Space offers more than 20 Iyengar classes weekly, many taught by director and cofounder Louie Ettling, a popular teacher with two decades of experience and a keen eye for detail. The spacious studio also hosts the local workshops of the B.?K.?S. Iyengar Association. 1715 Cook St., Ste. 202, (604) 876-9600. href="http://www.theyogaspace.ca" target="_blank">theyogaspace.ca
In a peaceful studio off hipster hangout Commercial Drive, you'll find hatha, Satyananda, and vinyasa flow yoga as well as a peaceful candlelight asana and meditation class. Co-director Melanie "Madhuri" Phillips studied yoga in India and has an eclectic background in dance, martial arts, and Ayurveda. Spiritual seekers might also participate in occasional vision-quest rites and cleanses. 1707 Grant St., (604) 215-0037. href="http://www.indigoyogahealing.com" target="_blank">indigoyogahealing.com
Radha Yoga & Eatery
Located right in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown, Radha is a small community center that offers daily hatha yoga classes, plus scrumptious vegan dinners and live music on weekends. All the teachers have trained at Yasodhara Ashram in eastern British Columbia, where the emphasis is on Kundalini, hatha, karma, and mantra yoga. 728 Main St., (604) 605-0011. radhavancouver.org
With four studios and more than 10 classes daily, Semperviva offers an eclectic mix of Ashtanga, Kundalini, Yin, Power, and hatha yoga classes. Special events bring in well-known teachers such as Sarah Powers and Max Strom. 2608 W. Broadway Ave. (see website for other locations), (604) 739-1958. target="_blank">semperviva.com
Power Yoga with Eoin Finn
A suntanned surfer and yogi, Eoin Finn leads high-energy vinyasa flow classes that emphasize alignment. He challenges his advanced students but recommends modifications for beginners, with the mantra All levels, all good. During summer, try his beachfront classes for an only-in--Vancouver experience. Finn's website offers a good introduction to the local yoga scene. Vancouver Masonic Centre, 1495 W. Eighth Ave.; Kitsilano Beach Showboat, 2300 Cornwall Ave. (summer only). eoinfinnyoga.com
Room for Yoga
Iyengar Yoga disciples go out of their way to study here with one of Canada's leading teachers, Ingelise Nherlan, who began teaching in the 1970s and holds a senior intermediate III certification in the Iyengar method. Nherlan teaches about nine classes per week and regularly travels to the Iyengar Institute in Pune. Getting to her studio requires a drive across the Lions Gate Bridge to West Vancouver—a pleasant, low-key neighborhood. 230-1425 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, (604) 922-5001. roomforyoga.com
While You're Here
Vegetarians flock to 1960s icon The Naam (2724 W. Fourth Ave., 604/738-7151,target="_blank">thenaam.com) for filling meatless meals. Aphrodite's Cafe (3598 W. Fourth Ave., 604/738-5879, organiccafe.ca) maintains an organic menu, featuring simple gourmet preparations and 14 kinds of pie. For tofu bowls, spelt cookies, and other vegan specialties, try Land of Green Ginger (2967 W. Broadway Ave., 604/725-0600). Forage for produce, locally caught fish, artisan bread, fine tea, and much more at the Granville Island Farmers' Market (target="_blank">granvilleisland.com).