If Gastown is anything, it’s a true neighbourhood.
Pretty much everything is here and if you go a little further, beyond street level to the buildings above, a whole other side of Gastown appears.
Over at 342 Water Street is the Vancouver School of Healing Arts (VSOHA). As one ascends to the third level, the senses become aware of the restorative energy emanating from the space. Upon entering, the feeling is calm, the air is warm, and there’s an awareness of peace. The intimately designed school facilitates high calibre courses in yoga teacher training, bodywork & massage, and expressive arts therapy.
We recently met with school owner and managing director, Sam Issari who effortlessly melds together two seemingly opposing assets; the business acumen necessary to run a successful Gastown company and a serenity that possesses his entire demeanour.
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am the owner and managing director of the Vancouver School of Healing Arts. The school has been around since 2003 and I took over ownership in 2016. My professional background comes from the health supplements industry where I focused on sales & marketing through e-commerce. I did that for 6 years and the time came to make a change. The opportunity to purchase the school appeared and it spoke to me. As a long time yoga practitioner, I believe in the healing modality of massage and bodywork. Expressive arts therapy was initially a new territory for me and as I have become increasingly familiar with the practice, I have found it to mesh perfectly with everything else we do here.
What do you like about being a Gastown business owner?
Location. Location. Location. Most of the neighbourhood is made up of heritage buildings that bring a certain special creative energy into Gastown. We have prospective students and clients that come into the building and before we’ve even met, they tell me that this is the right space. Gastown is a beautiful place to be and to work in.
Coolest place you’ve practiced yoga lately?
Gastown! I love One Yoga over on Hastings and Cambie. A few of their teachers instruct our yoga students and they are all wonderful people.
What inspires you?
Seeing the transformational journey of others. Everyone is on a path, experiencing life unfolding with its challenges, lessons and moments. We have students 19 to 65 years old who are at different stages in life, working together for 6 weeks up to 8 months, each contributing, sharing, learning and growing. It’s wonderful to see this happening each day.
What’s the importance of healing arts in our society?
I think this is lacking a bit in our society. We are taught to be kind to our neighbours, yet we often neglect ourselves, creating deficiencies in the area of self-care. Every graduate that walks from this space with training in either massage, yoga or expressive arts is going to provide a positive contribution to the community and society at large with a ripple effect that may go even further. We have built a culture here at VSOHA that promotes and encourages lasting care for the community and self.
Anything coming up for VSOHA?
On the yoga side of things, we offer traditional training made up of 200 or 300-hour programs. A few years ago, we expanded into the world of yoga therapy, which fuses together healing arts, and Western style practices that can be incorporated into physiotherapy and chiropractic therapies. As a result, we are expanding our yoga therapy program into an 800-hour course. We are part of only a few schools that are designated by the Ministry of Advanced Education to offer such an extensive program. It’s been a few years in the making and we’re quite excited to be offering this new yoga-training program in February 2019.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
I try my best to find a harmonious balance between work and leisure, making time for family, friends (including Buddy, pictured above) and self-care. That to me is a good life.