Humans of Riverside: RACHELLE’S STORY

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“My name is Rachelle Wintzen and I am the founder and sole owner of the Chi Junky Studio. This studio was born from my personal experience and journey to health. The philosophies and foundation that Chi is built on changed my life and it became my mission to create a space that would bring the same healing to as many people as possible.”

RACHELLE WINTZEN

Multiracial, independent female, small business owner and entrepreneur in Riverside.

Her Story:

I was born and raised in Toronto. I am Chinese-Jamaican, Indian and French. My mother was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her mother was Chinese and her father was biracial, Chinese and Indian. My mother and her family migrated to Canada in 1975. My father was born and raised in Paris, France, and moved to Canada in1979 after meeting my mother.

I was fortunate to be raised by generations of hard working entrepreneurs and small business owners who instilled a strong work ethic in me. I am born from entrepreneurial blood. In 1912, my great-grandfather started his own shop in Jamaica, followed by my grandfather who owned a bakery and my parents who ran their own business in Toronto for over 30 years in Riverside. 

Chi Junky was born from my personal experience and struggle with addiction and my journey to change my life completely. My dream, from the age of 4, was to be a professional dancer and to live in New York City. I was inspired by my beloved uncle who, at age 36, passed away from AIDS. He was a brilliant New York fashion designer and introduced me to the city that stole my heart as a young girl.

At 20 years old I moved to NYC to pursue dance professionally but after two years injuries ended my career and left me suffering from deep depression. I began working in the A-list New York City nightlife scene and was immediately under its spell. I developed a dependency that turned into an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol. After many years of suffering, I knew if I didn’t leave that lifestyle I wouldn’t live past my 30th birthday.

Through many small moments of grace and divine intervention, I met my mentor, Gil Jacobs, who changed my life. By immersing myself under his tutelage I transformed my lifestyle through holistic modalities, nutrition and yoga. It was this 180-degree transformation that allowed me to experience true vitality, my chi (prana – life force energy) and a new found love for life. It became my mission to help people change their lives and to realize that it is never too late to change, no matter how impossible it may seem. And so, Chi Junky was born in New York City in 2010. 

‘Ch’i,’ pronounced CHEE, is the Chinese medicine word for life force energy, vitality. It is often translated as “energy flow.” To maintain physical and emotional health, chi must flow freely.

Junky is inspired by the book Junky, by William S. Burroughs, which tells the story of a young man living in New York City who becomes addicted to narcotics. The definition: “A person who gets an usual amount of pleasure from or has an insatiable interest in something.”

I chose to name my business Chi Junky to change the negative connotation of the word addiction into something positive. To become addicted to something good, in this case your Chi. To live a vibrant healthy lifestyle full of vitality everyday. 

I became certified in the disciplines that helped change my life and moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, in Central America for two years, helping people through yoga, nutrition and holistic wellness. I moved back to Toronto in 2012 and after two years of working as a freelance yoga instructor and holistic nutritionist took the plunge and opened the Chi Junky Yoga + Wellness Studio in Riverside in 2014. 

I started as a one-woman show and still fund the business without outside partners or investors. I began the studio in a space the size of a treatment room (100 sq. ft.), running semi-private yoga classes. Over the last six years the studio has grown into a 4,000 sq. ft. studio through incredible determination, sacrifice, hard work and overcoming every obstacle that ever stood in my way. I continue to give my everything to this business, my incredible staff and community. 

Chi Junky® is Toronto’s premier boutique yoga studio located in the east end of Toronto in Riverside. Our newly renovated studio prides itself on stunning design and attention to detail. It includes two practice studios, two treatment rooms, client lounge, retail and Chi At Home, our virtual interactive livestream classes.

Our mission is to provide a safe space to heal physically and emotionally through movement and music. Chi Junky is a unique yoga haven known for curating an exceptional movement experience with signature classes from Sweat Flow to Zen Vibes Only and everything in between. Each class offers premium full service amenities with killer playlists and top instruction. Our studio is rooted in building a supportive community and giving back through various charities, making yoga accessible and welcoming all to step into their chi.

About the Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” Storytelling Series:

The Riverside BIA – located along Toronto’s Queen Street East from the iconic bridge over the Don River to just past De Grassi St – is proud to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness with this story-telling series.

The ‘Humans of Riverside’ story telling project launched in summer 2020 as part of the iheART Main Street Art Challenge and is an on-going collaboration with local writer and editor Grace Cameron to give space and voice to stories from local BIPOC and other community members in Riverside.

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