Halifax yoga studio offering safe space for transgender people
'I hope that as a trans non-binary person I can help bring awareness'
A Halifax business is on a mission to create a safe and welcoming space for LGBT people, particularly transgender people.
Pramana is a massage therapy and yoga business, owned by Alicia Wright, a gay woman.
"It's not enough to be listed on the Pride registry," said Wright, who has been running the business for two years. "I'm just hearing more and more that people have had negative experiences, so just claiming that you're inclusive isn't quite enough.
"There has to be trust in the relationship built within the community, for people to start spreading the word and feel comfortable accessing that."
Bringing in an experienced massage therapist and teacher
Wright is a registered massage therapist who's recently been working alongside Mase Keeping, a non-binary trans person who is in the process of transitioning.
Keeping uses the pronouns "they," "them" or "their."
"Now being able to have somebody who has a first-hand experience in being trans be on our team and within our community, it sort of creates a wider net of people to support," said Wright.
For yoga practice, form-fitting clothing is required and with massage therapy there's the removal of clothing. Keeping knows it can be intimidating for many people.
"I know first-hand how it's like to not really seek proper health care, whether it is massage or yoga or other means of fitness, because you fear the judgment or the discrimination," said Keeping. "And if you're not 100 per cent comfortable in your own body, then it's hard to ignore."
Reconnecting with the body
They began practicing yoga years ago on their own, but it took them a long time to feel comfortable enough stepping into a yoga studio.
Keeping has been a massage therapist for four years, but has recently finished yoga teacher training and will be teaching their first class next week for Pride.
"Yoga has been a life-changer for me because that's when I started to come to terms with my own body, relax my mind and just let things happen," Keeping said.
"I hope that as a trans non-binary person I can help bring awareness and bring people like me to a place like this."
Throughout the Halifax Pride festival, Pramana will be offering classes led by teachers, like Keeping, from the queer community to celebrate diversity and highlight the contribution that queer people are making in the yoga community.
Donations will be collected and all the money raised will go to the Youth Project, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing support and services to youth age 25 and under around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.