Iqaluit woman stretches out with yoga studio project

Guest house, studio, would become full-time business


Christine Lamothe stands in a pose in her bedroom in Iqaluit. Lamothe says you don't need any more space than this to do yoga. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Christine Lamothe stands in a pose in her bedroom in Iqaluit. Lamothe says you don’t need any more space than this to do yoga. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Christine Lamothe practices yoga outside her home on the Road to Nowhere in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Christine Lamothe practices yoga outside her home on the Road to Nowhere in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Christine Lamothe is taking on a big risk with a new business venture in Iqaluit — a yoga studio.

A youth hip hop dance instructor and physical activities specialist at the Government of Nunavut, Lamothe wants to see her dream of starting a yoga wellness studio and guest house — a fusion between a bed and breakfast and a hostel — come to fruition in 2014.

The studio would eventually become a space called Saimavik.

But you don’t need a full-size studio to practice yoga.

With the wind screaming outside her window in the Road to Nowhere in Iqaluit, Lamothe sets down her hot-pink yoga mat on the ground next to the foot of her bed.

In her room, no bigger than two parking spaces, she bends her arms upwards, pointing her outstretched arms into the air as if she’s about to shoot an invisible bow and arrow.

Although there are many forms of yoga, the classic definition of yoga is the act of stretching the body in different poses, accompanied with breathing exercises to control the body and the mind.

Yoga can be practiced anywhere, Lamothe insists — but she clearly can’t fit a hoard of yoga-enthusiasts into her small room.

Lamothe started teaching yoga in Iqaluit in 2011, at Joamie School, up to three times a week, often early in the morning.

Most of the time, her classes attracted fewer than 10 people. Lamothe started the class for free, and then charged $5, then $12.

Now, with pressure from her students to change the time, she offers a class at the Roman Catholic church hall Tuesday nights at 7:15 p.m. for $15 a person, where classes can run up to 30 people.

Demand for the studio is there, but getting the business up and running is a challenge, she told Nunatsiaq News.

“I’m in the thick of it now. It’s scary. There’s a lot to do — to get one thing you have to get another thing. But to get that one thing, you have to do another thing, which takes another week,” Lamothe said.

After an initial failed bid for a property in Iqaluit, Lamothe snapped up house 754 in Lower Base for the first phase of the project — the guest house.

The guesthouse will operate like a bed and breakfast “yoga retreat,” and the two-bedroom house will hold up to eight people at a time.

The plan is for the house to be run like a hostel, at a cheaper rate, with bunk beds and a hide-a-bed.

“But the house needs to be completely gutted. Someone tried to light it on fire. The windows are all broken. It’s going to cost somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 to renovate,” Lamothe said.

The second phase is to build a big yoga studio at the back of the property, which will serve the community in other ways, like dance, meetings and rehearsal space.

In the studio, Lamothe plans to hold several different types of yoga classes with monthly or yearly-memberships to practice yoga.

So dedicated is Lamothe, she’s selling her two condominiums in Ottawa to help bankroll the business.

But already $40,000 in debt, Lamothe is grateful to have received some government grants to set up her her new website,

But Lamothe said she’s not going to rely on these grants.

“I’m doing it myself. I’m not trying to be a non-profit and get grants all the time,” Lamothe said.

“I really think it’s a viable business, and especially with the bed and breakfast and accommodation, that’s just going to help support the whole place,” she said.

And yoga has the opportunity to change those who experience it in a positive way, Lamothe said.

Yoga has been known to relieve addictions, and is beneficial for muscles, joints, and the mind through certain meditation types of yoga.

“We don’t need to take drugs, we just need to get into ourselves, and connect with the beauty that we are,” Lamothe said.

“When you can still your mind, you will be fascinated with who you are,” she said.

But Lamothe didn’t start out being a down-to-earth yogi to begin with.

“I was such a rebel when I was a kid, all I did was cause problems around me in the community,” she said.

After a little trouble with the law and getting kicked out of school at an early age, Lamothe turned things around when she discovered break dancing.

“When I started dancing, it was like, overnight it shifted. I went to my behavioural therapy school and graduated within a month,” she said, snapping her fingers in mid sentence.

“Ever since that day I’ve said, if I’m ever going to be a role model to anybody… people are watching me. I [have] to do something that inspires, not something that tells them that it’s okay to be less than the best for yourself.”

Lamothe said she’s now just trying to lead by example.

“When someone sees that I’m doing, they know its legit, it’s real, and I just don’t want people to have excuses for not being their best.

“Because everyone can have excuses. But in the end it’s your responsibility. And my responsibility is to do this yoga centre.”

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