Whitehorse’s low key Lululemon outlet

Lululemon has arrived in Whitehorse. The purveyors of trendy yoga gear haven't opened a retail outlet of their own, but their form-fitting apparel is up for grabs at a yoga and pilates studio found in Granger Mall that's called, generically enough, the Studio.

Lululemon has arrived in Whitehorse.

The purveyors of trendy yoga gear haven’t opened a retail outlet of their own, but their form-fitting apparel is up for grabs at a yoga and pilates studio found in Granger Mall that’s called, generically enough, the Studio.

Within the Studio is a boutique called – you guessed it – the Boutique. It’s little more than several shelving units that form an enclave around the studio window, but it’s an enclave with the distinction of being the only place in the Yukon to sell Lululemon, a brand that has inspired a cultish following.

The Boutique opened on Friday to studio members and to the public on Saturday. By Saturday evening, two-thirds of the store stock had sold out.

Prices are no higher than what would be found in a Lululemon outlet in Vancouver, said Ann Asquith, who owns the Studio and co-owns the Boutique with her daughter, Sarah Norlin.

A typical pair of bum-hugging pants costs $98. A gym bag costs $58.

It’s expensive, but plenty of people are clearly willing to pay the price. Asquith got the idea of selling Lululemon gear when she looked around Whitehorse and realized “everybody was wearing it in town and they were buying it Outside.

“At least now we’re keeping money in the Yukon,” she said.

The fact that Asquith was until recently a bank manager for 15 years helped her seal the deal when she met with company officials in Vancouver. “It just seemed a good fit for both of us,” she said.

Asquith gave up banking about four and a half years ago, shortly after she was introduced to pilates. She quickly became a convert of the German exercise system, which emphasizes deep breathing, stretching and proper spinal alignment.

Before pilates, she felt “middle-aged, overweight and just really in a rut.” Afterwards, “for the first time in my life I thought, ‘Wow, I’m not unco-ordinated.’”

Pilates was created by one Joseph Pilates in Germany to help rehabilitate war veterans in the 1940s. Today, the main piece of equipment used in pilates – a system of pulleys called a reformer - remains unchanged from its original design.

The Studio has four reformers and a number of other contraptions, such as Cadalacs and Ladder Barrels, making it “as well equipped as any studio in Vancouver,” said Asquith.

In a strange historical quirk, Asquith’s mother taught pilates in England more than 50 years ago.

Most of the Studio’s pilates clients are women, ranging in age from their 20s to 65.

This seems a shame, said Asquith, for the people who probably need the health benefits the most are Yukon’s burly tradesmen. They’re the ones most likely to suffer from back injuries on the job, and pilates has all manners of exercises custom-designed to help with this.

Not that she’s having trouble finding clients. She has several hundred that drop-in for either pilates or yoga. “You don’t want to say you have too many customers, but we don’t have enough instructors,” she said.

The Studio has three certified pilates instructors. It also has two yoga instructors who work in a quiet, cork-floored adjacent room.

One is Richard Mueller, who met his first yoga instructor on the Dempster Highway about 12 years ago. He’s since studied in Berlin and in India to become certified as an instructor of Iyengar yoga.

It’s a form of yoga that’s big on props – belts, blocks and other aids to assist practitioners hold tricky poses. That’s useful, especially for beginners, because Mueller likes to spend a lot of time standing on his head in inverted yoga positions.

Mueller returned to the Yukon expecting to find yoga’s popularity to have waned. Instead, it boomed, becoming mainstream, trendy, and highly lucrative for companies such as Lululemon.

Does the commercialization of yoga cheapen its spiritual origins? Mueller shrugs. Everyone takes away what they want from it. Those looking to limber up and enjoy a low-intensity workout will find that. Those looking for a spiritual journey can find that, too, although they won’t find chanting, incense or prayers in his classes.

“You’re learning awareness through your body,” he said. “I think that’s what attracts a lot of people.”

The Boutique’s hours are currently from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The store would open earlier, except for the crowded parking lot in Granger Mall. There’s a daycare next to the studio and “I don’t want to run the risk of extra traffic,” said Asquith. City councillors are considering expanding the lot.

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