The JAYBIRD Yoga studio

Picture a meditation space, a yoga studio, a spa. Chances are, when we conjure up images of interiors designed to promote physical and mental well-being, we imagine pale colours, big windows, natural light. De-saturated hues and white linens. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors. 

Jaybird, a yoga studio located in Yaletown, Vancouver, takes a very different approach. 

Designed by Ste. Marie, this studio is all about the haptic experience. It’s a space in which to focus not on one’s surroundings, but to reflect inward on the self. 

According to Jaybird, we live in an overstimulated world, and part of that is overexposure to light. Box stores, for instance, are extremely bright, because neuroscientists and marketers have discovered a link between light and human emotion. Bright lights prompt big feelings, the studio explains, which in turn prompts big spending. Studies have also shown, on the other hand, that darkness shuts down major cortical centres of the brain. Darkness compels us to slow down, to focus less on our physical environment and more on our bodies. 

And so Jaybird teaches its classes in the dark. No mirrors, no light, no chanting or traditional “yoga speak.” Just a space in which, the studio encourages, to be “unashamedly yourself, naked as a jaybird.” 

In order to create a space that reflected the core principles of the studio, Ste. Marie focused on a repetition of natural materials. “A recycled cork tile became the building block of materiality, working to evoke the ephemeral, atmospheric qualities of space,” the studio shares. The palette is dark and subdued, creating the same kind of warmth one might feel in a subterranean, earthen space. This is intentional; the firm describes the space, with its vacuous entryway in the foreground, as evocative of a “primordial, warm cave.” 

The practice of yoga itself was also key. “Movement, too, is considered,” says the firm. “Integrating the principle of ‘flow’ in yoga practice, the layout is intuitive and responsive—proposing a choreographed path of use.” For inspiration, Ste. Marie looked to the works of American choreographers and dancers Lucinda Childs and Trisha Brown. In particular, the fluidity of Trisha Brown’s movement in the 1978 film Watermotor by Babette Mangolte was influential as a visual reference. The animate sculptures of Constantin Brâncuși, a Romanian artist, served as further fodder for inspiration. 

A great deal of attention has gone into the natural pathways of the space, an organization that encourages visitors to move without pretense and respond spontaneously to the physical environment. White oak benches are positioned around the room’s perimeter, which leads to a change room door and then a studio door. Flow is intuitive. 

Quiet geometric forms throughout the space also create a sense of movement, from the design of the front desk and arched doorway to the curved lines of the locker room mirrors. 

“Entering from the glass-walled streets of downtown, Jaybird’s design transports the body and guides the mind, embracing what can’t be seen,” says Ste. Marie. The firm has executed the difficult task of designing for senses other than sight to extraordinary results. The resulting Jaybird studio is a meditative, tranquil space that celebrates the truest form of design in the room: the human mind and body. 

photo credit: Conrad Brown