Exercise Class Try Outs #1: Yoga

I’ve decided to do something a little bit out of my comfort zone – Try out different fitness classes offered at YMCA Calgary locations.

I will document my experience in each new class here on the YMCA Calgary blog.

Group yoga class

Yoga – Passive

I was invited to participate in a lunchtime yoga class. The program guide describes it as:

Tune in to your true self and find peace and belonging within. This yoga class will guide you through slow poses, breath work and meditation in a serene atmosphere intended to create calm, restore energy and promote healing in mind, body and spirit.

I was a little hesitant. I’ve never taken a real yoga class before. I’ve done yoga at home with friends following a video, I’ve done yoga-like classes at the dance studio I danced at when I was younger, but never a real yoga class.

Thankfully, my coworkers who invited me to come along were very welcoming and even set out a mat for me while I changed.

The instructor was very welcoming, came over and introduced herself. The other participants in the class smiled or said hello, or just focused on their breathing and relaxation while lying on their mats waiting for the class to start.

Yoga-passive is a slow moving class focused on breathing. I found it easy to follow along. The instructor demonstrated each pose or movement while describing it in a soft voice. I felt both relaxed and invigorated during this class. I felt like I got a workout but didn’t feel tired like I had just gone running or weightlifting.

Some of the poses were easy for me. Others were more difficult. But looking around the room I did not feel out of place – everyone else was good at some poses and not so good at others.

I’ll be honest though – yoga, even passive yoga – is still a workout.

I was sore for a couple of days after this class. The workout comes from moving and lifting your bodyweight in poses like downward dog.

I think I’ll continue with yoga – I like that it is a stress-reliever, a relaxation, and a workout all at the same time.

Check out this infographic to find out more about the benefits of yoga.

Pirate Treasure Hunt

Written by Monica Kranz, YMCA Administrator

As parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, and even as people without kids, we all know that children’s interests and moods can change on a dime. One day, their stuffed dragon is their most prized possession and something they can’t even imagine leaving the house without. The next day, they want nothing at all to do with it.

It can sometimes be difficult for adults to organize games and activities for children with so many different interests (especially when they vary on a day to day basis). Childcare staff at Saddletowne YMCA Child Development Centre, however, have done exactly that.

A Saddletowne YMCA Pirate

For the past few weeks, staff and Room 2 children (aged 3 – 4.5 years), have been on a treasure hunt – a pirate themed one that is! When staff discovered a strong interest in pirates amongst the group, they jumped on the idea to create a rich play experience. They placed arrows all around the centre, created costumes, and hid treasure for the kids to find. When kids arrived the following morning, there was excitement in the air.

“What’s that?” asked Rudra, when he first saw pieces of fabric, necklaces and paper towel rolls on the table. “We are going treasure hunting, and these are your pirate costumes”, said Ritu. “Treasure hunting!” yelled Sebastian and he quickly put a necklace on and took the longest paper towel roll. When everyone was dressed up, the children proceeded into the hall. “Look Ritu, that’s an arrow! Let’s go!”, said Snena when she noticed some arrows pointing towards the office. When they reached the front of the office, Pratik noticed an arrow pointing to the staff room. “There!” he shouted and pointed with his paper towel roll. “Look, there’s another arrow!” Peyton exclaimed. Rudra was the one to notice a cluster of arrows on the cupboard in the staff room. It was agreed upon that the treasure must be hidden in the cupboard. “Open it”, said Sebastian excitedly. When the children opened the cupboard, they found a delicious bag of candy. “Yeah! We found the treasure”, stated Sebastian as he put the candy in his pocket. Play experience provided by Ritu Bhagirath and Nadiya Tretyakov, Saddletowne YMCA

Ritu and Children Treasure Hunting

With a small amount of material and a lot of creativity, Ritu and Nadiya maximized a common interest within the group of diverse individuals. They put together an activity that allowed the children to utilize their imagination, while promoting creative expression and fostering social and cooperative play. Most importantly, they created an activity that the kids will talk about for days, and one which is providing the foundation to ensure their continued enthusiasm for learning the way they learn best – through play!

For more information about our Child Development Centres please visit


Winter Photo Walk

Frozen River by Jordan Loehr

The other day my husband and I went for a walk.

It was a sunny, only slightly chilly day. We had spent most of our weekend on the couch being lazy and knew we needed to get some exercise in and take advantage of the nice weather.

So my husband grabbed his camera and off we went to the Bow River Trail.

We walked, we scampered, we slowly meandered. We just enjoyed each other’s company and the unique winter scenery of ice, snow, trees and flowing river.

We stopped often to take photos of trees, of the downtown core in the distance, of the ice and snow.

Have you ever gone on a photo walk? Grab a friend, your significant other, your kids, and a camera and just head out. Start walking down your street or along a pathway nearby and take photos of anything that draws your attention.

Photo walks don’t have schedules or plans. They just capture life. Snow, ice, trees. Smiles, playfulness, footprints.

Go ahead, try it. It’s a fun, free activity to enjoy the company of friends and the beauty of our city.

Saddletowne YMCA’s TEEN NIGHT February 14, 2013

Looking for something to do this February 14, 2014…

Saddletowne YMCA is definitely the place to be!

This Friday evening we will be having Music and lots of it, we are just looking for dancers and lots of them to dance to the beats.

So grab your crew and meet us at the Saddletowne YMCA.

$3.00 admission for youth 12-17 years old starts at 1 pm.

Come for the “off the hook”music stay to use the amazing climbing wall.

Teacher’s Convention Camps at the Saddletowne YMCA ( February 13 and 14)

If you are still looking for something fun and active for your children to do Thursday and Friday of this week, we still have space in our day camps!

Every day your camper will swim, climb on the climbing wall, have reading time in the library, play active gym games and create cool crafts.

Space is limited and filling up quickly!

Please contact 403-237-2393 for more information.

Crowfoot YMCA is Hiring

Do you like working with people? Do you want a job that makes a difference every day? Crowfoot YMCA is hiring! Being part of the Y means spending your time positively affecting the lives of others in the community.

View current job opportunities

View current volunteer opportunities

Apply today!

Camp Chief Hector YMCA Yoga Retreat

Join us at the Camp Chief Hector YMCA for an inspiring yoga focused weekend. This Yoga Retreat will accommodate students new to yoga as well as those with a background in yoga. Our goal for the weekend is to be in this wonderful mountain location, spending time experiencing our body, breath and mind. Lindsey and Raelene will help you develop a balanced practice that will serve you well in all aspects of your life. They will provide adjustments in your poses if you wish.  There will also be time to explore the incredible site. Shared accommodations and meals are included.

Yoga Retreat | Spring 2014

  • March 7 at 5pm – March 9 at 2pm
  • Cost $290
  • More information
  • Phone our city registration office to register at 403-269-6156 or 1-866-430-9622.

How to Stay Active at Home When It’s Too Cold to Go Outside

Mother and son reading together

Kids have energy. Sometimes that energy seems to be too much for indoors, but the weather outside is just too cold and snowy to spend more than a few minutes outside.

So what do you do?

I’ve done some research and asked some friends with kids for their ideas.

1. Blow up a balloon and try to keep it off the floor

2. Play Hide and Seek

3. Active Reading – choose an often repeated word in a book and read out loud, any time the chosen word is said you have to stand up or sit down

4. Play charades – pick a category of animals or jobs or even people you know

5. Play Freeze Frame – play music and dance or move around until the music stops then everyone has to stay still until mom or dad turns the music back on

6. Spell words by making letters with only your body

7. Build an obstacle course of pillows, chairs, tape and string

8. Play follow the leader

And two mommy favourites are:

9.    Do yoga or an exercise video together in the living room

10.  Make cleaning into a game

New to Canada and Gaining Confidence

I first met Esther at her high school. My colleague, Matt and I were there to do some interviews with the youth who had filled out an application form to join YMAP. To be completely honest, I don’t remember my interview with Esther because I spoke to a lot of students that day. I do know that she must have stood out in some way because there were some youth at her school who are not currently in the program due to lack of space. I called her to let her know she was accepted back at the beginning of December and that’s where her journey begins…

Esther joined YMAP at a unique time. Because of the Christmas break, we run fewer sessions than usual in December and January is a month dedicated to optional volunteer opportunities as well as post-secondary tours while final exams are going on. Even though Esther was very new to the program, she managed to make her first session at the Calgary Dream Centre where she worked with others in her Explorers group to wrap presents for the residents’ upcoming Christmas celebration. She also came to YMAP’s Kick-Off event December 14th and after Christmas, got involved in the various school tours and volunteer opportunities available to her through the program. At first she was shy but she began to slowly open up over time.

It was during one of our volunteer excursions where I learned more about Esther. Her family is originally from China and she’s living here in Calgary with her mother, grandmother and older brother. She doesn’t know where her father is at this point in her life. Her mother doesn’t speak English which means that she’s not able to work at this time. She gets along with her family but still feels a lot of pressure that comes with moving to a foreign country. Esther is learning to adapt slowly but surely and I believe YMAP is really helping her to make Canada her new home.

As I said, her family is originally from China and in particular the south of China. Even though there are many Chinese youth involved in YMAP, she told me that she often feels slightly disconnected from them because her heart language is a different dialect. One of my favourite moments from this past month was when I witnessed Esther befriend a youth from the Central YMAP location. We were about to go on a tour of SAIT, but while waiting in the LRT station, Esther met Lea and they both found out they were from not only the same province but also the same city in China! Esther was so excited to meet someone who spoke her language and understood her culture. Helping our youth like, Esther, make connections with other youth in the city has been a huge joy!

Even though Esther was so grateful to find someone she could speak her dialect with, she still makes a huge effort to speak English at all times when she could resort to her second language of Mandarin. Because she’s gotten very involved in the program, especially during the month of January, I’ve been able to see her interact with other youth and see her begin to feel more at ease where as at the beginning she was understandably slightly shy. She even took the step of applying for the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship that is awarded to youth in grade 10 and involved in the YMCA. From the beginning, she was very unsure but when she came to my office to put some finishing touches on her application, she let me know how happy she was to be applying and I could see her confidence level soaring. She still doesn’t know if she’s been awarded the scholarship, but she was so proud of herself for trying! She told me how happy she was to have been accepted in YMAP and that she was very glad to know me as well. As she was expressing her gratitude, I couldn’t help but think that this is why YMAP exists…we want to help our youth gain confidence, try new things, make friends and practice English. Esther is well on her way in her new life here in Canada! I’m so thankful I get to be a small part of her journey.







Adolescent Mental Health Study

Scientists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the University of Calgary are teaming up with the YMCA to study the effect of intensive aerobic activity on brain plasticity and as a potential new therapy for depression in adolescents and young adults.

The team will work together to determine the effect of exercise on the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for learning, memory and regulating a person’s response to stress. Research has shown that the size of the hippocampus is smaller in people suffering from depression than in those who are not. This pilot will examine whether exercise can increase the size and health of the hippocampus, and consequently reduce depressive symptoms.

Study participants between the ages of 16 and 18 years old will engage in a specially-structured exercise protocol that will take place at two YMCA locations: Saddletowne and South Health Campus. An important component of the pilot involves neuroimaging of the hippocampus using the community-funded 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner (3T MRI) at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. This will be carried out pre and post-exercise.

The pilot study will involve teens and young adults suffering from mild to moderate major depressive disorder who have not received treatment for their condition. Questions about the study can be emailed to: