Written by Deena Douara
There seem to be two types of people in this world: yoga types, and non-yoga types. But if someone told you that you could have an effective session without changing your clothes, without needing to shower after and without any particular fitness level, would that be enough to erase the line?
Inna Miretski, founder of UTKATA yoga, and her team are introducing workplaces across the city to weekly sessions of chair yoga — 30 minutes of easy exercises that don’t require particular attire, a shower, or fitness. But it is bring-your-own-office-chair.
She says the brief break is enough to rejuvenate the body, increase energy, improve mood, awake joints, refresh the mind and boost productivity by targeting the lower back, neck and shoulders — those areas that get stiff and achy by day’s end.
She takes the “sitting epidemic” seriously, and has good reason to.
After ignoring some back pain and leg tingling, she one day woke up in serious pain. While waiting for coffee, she collapsed and went to the E.R.
“Everything got worse. I lost the ability to sit, or do things like put on socks or take out a heavier plate from the fridge.
“I got to such a bad place physically that I spent six months lying in bed and would need a lot of help or powerful painkillers … I was lying down or walking or crawling on all fours. It’s suddenly like you’re a baby again.”
Prior to this sudden shift, Miretski was the very model of health. “My first memories (of exercise) are of my mom waking me up really early because it was a must to get our morning exercise in before work and I had to do it with her.” That was when she was a Kindergartener.
Her passion for fitness expanded to include yoga, dance, cardio, kickboxing, swimming and “all kinds of other stuff.”
However, in her first year of doing her Master’s program in a new country (having moved from Israel to Winnipeg), sitting was her latest “activity.” Lots, and lots of it. She says doctors blamed the prolonged sitting for her injury, and now that she’s sharing her experience with others, she says she’s “blown away” by the number of people similarly impacted by back pain and injury.
Finally, a therapist recommended she reintroduce yoga into her routine, after almost two years of suffering. And it started to work, giving her back her range of movement.
As she was in the midst of her recovery, she landed an office job in Toronto working alongside “fearless and brave” entrepreneurs who also worked intense hours hunched in front of their computers.
Inspired by their drive, and knowing she did not want to risk further injury, Miretski left to found UTKATA.
“You look at startups, you often see people from such different backgrounds, and to see everyone working together and creating incredible businesses and ideas, it’s inspiring on so many levels.”
Miretski speaks at length about Toronto’s openness. “When I was researching about Canada, the thing everyone speaks most about is the diversity.”
“It’s the most accepting place I have ever experienced,” she says, as one who has experienced life in three countries and eight cities. “Toronto is the place that feels most like home to me.”
She expands. “Here in Toronto, everyone can be what they want to be and there’s absolutely no judgment. That’s the main reason why it’s such a great environment for building things, creating things, mixing things up.… I really believe your background can give you unique ideas.”
Apart from its diversity, Miretski also praises the city’s abundant entrepreneurial events and opportunities. “You can find something literally every day,” she says.
“In Toronto you can fall and get up and keep going. There’s no end to supports and opportunities. It’s not easy, by any means, but in my opinion, it’s really worth the ride, especially if it’s something you believe in, which I do.”