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Adrianne Vangool pictured in her clinic, Vangool Wellness, in Saskatoon, SK. Photography by Leslie-Ann Schlosser

Finding her voice

Ex-Huskie Adrianne Vangool (BSKI'08, MPT'10) relied on her experience as a student-athlete to get her through her most trying times as a business owner.

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At her core, Adrianne Vangool believes that yoga is for everyone, and everyone deserves to live and move free of pain.

The ex-Huskie basketball and former Academic All-Canadian graduated from the College of Kinesiology in 2008 and the School of Rehabilitation in 2010. She was a double-athlete in 2004; excelling in both basketball and track and field. She shifted focus to just track and field and completed her five years of eligibility as a champion pole vaulter.

On the heels of her remarkable success as a student-athlete, she started her business, Vangool Wellness, in 2013. She made it her mission to make physiotherapy and yoga accessible to all. By moulding the two practices together and integrating yoga and physiotherapy into one, Vangool found people healed faster. Her clients often became stronger than before, both physically and mentally.

“We want to treat the entire person and not just a part of the person,” said Vangool.

Her passion for inclusion has taken her to different parts of the province to spread her wealth of knowledge. She has worked with the former Athabasca Health Authority to fly into communities in the far north like Fond du Lac, Uranium City and Stoney Rapids to teach and facilitate classes.

“I was and am really passionate about making physio and yoga accessible,” said Vangool. “I think it’s one of the best systems to stay well.”

Vangool took a step back from working to start her family, but in 2019 she relaunched her businesses and opened up her very own integrated health clinic, Vangool Wellness.

The clinic is designed to be an inclusive and welcoming space focused on healing the entire body. Vangool and her team specialize in delivering services aimed at community building, which include chair yoga sessions, yoga classes for older women and postpartum physiotherapy and yoga classes. Since opening in September, Vangool saw enormous success in building her staff and clientele and the future looked bright.

But a world-wide pandemic had different plans.

When the world shut down in March, Vangool found herself in what she describes as survival mode. As a seasoned entrepreneur, she knew how to work hard to figure things out for herself. The biggest challenge was being a new employer to a team of staff.

“All of a sudden I had to make sure that my employees were supported through all of this. I remember telling them that we are going to open again, please take care of yourselves. It was tough times, feeling a sense of responsibility for someone’s earnings. It’s an added stress.

“I had to lay off our salary and hourly employees,” said Vangool and after a pause added, “That was a tough day.”

After she closed the doors to the public and looked after her staff with regards to paper work with the Canada Revenue Agency, she was determined to make her business model work and continue providing her clients with services by any means possible.

“I knew that we could start offering tele-health. I knew the numbers and I knew what I was capable of and I knew the business would stay open. I knew that we could do that because we’re in a unique position to do that,” said Vangool.

Vangool started posting her yoga classes online and making classes available for purchase. She worked with her online scheduling software to develop a tele-health booking option that was up to the Health Information Protection Act standards.

“That was a huge learning curve, just figuring out what we could offer and how we could navigate that,” said Vangool.

Another hurdle to jump through was the inability to assess patients. Physiotherapy and the practice of yoga is a very intimate practice, traditionally requiring clients to be physically present in order to assess their injuries and movement. 

“The yoga piece was a little easier because so much is guided movement,” said Vangool. “But if you sprain your ankle or you need a hands-on assessment sometimes you just need a hands-on assessment.”

Vangool learned quickly how to ask her clients to self-describe injuries through video chats.

“It was a lot of description. Not the same as in person,” she laughs. “A lot of interesting camera angles. You do what you can. I was surprised how well it worked to be honest!”

Remarkably, her client numbers stayed consistent.

“It’s still nowhere what it was in February, but we were able to keep our lights on and pay our bills. I’m very grateful for that,” said Vangool.

On May 4, during Phase 1 of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan, Vangool Wellness could open their doors once again. Now, her team is back and dealing with the logistics of running a clinic in a COVID-19 world.

They are required to screen all clients prior to appointments and space out appointments to encourage physical distancing. They are extremely diligent with laundry services and thoroughly sanitize their spaces. All of this comes at an increased cost to Vangool’s bottom line which she chalks up to a testament of the times.

“I’m at that point where I know there is going to be ups and downs and I know I’ve been through a really hard time but you see your own resilience,” she said.

“We got through that and we can get through a lot of things.”

Vangool said she has learned a lot of lessons as a business owner during a pandemic. One lesson she has taken away is a heightened confidence to lean into her personal and professional values, and prioritize what she feels is important. 

“It has forced me to get laser focused on who we are as a company. What is important to us and what is just noise,” said Vangool. “That is what COVID has shifted for me as a business owner; not being afraid to be exactly who we are and understanding that we’re not for everybody but the people we are for, we can really help.”

Today, Vangool is focusing on the future and continuing to build on the values she holds so close to her heart. She is committed to hiring a more diverse workforce, and consciously growing her team.

She predicts that her clinic’s online presence is here to stay and will maintain online video rental options for the foreseeable future. 

When asked how her time as a student-athlete helped her sift through these challenging times, Vangool said, “it was everything.” Her time as a physiotherapy student also prepared her and gave her the critical thinking skills to sift through the noise.

“It was an intense program and it taught me a lot in terms of time management and discernment; what needs to get done when and what is extra,” she said.

“During my time at university, you really practice the art of failing and getting up, especially in sport. Failing and getting up again is what gave me the confidence to know that when I am in a hard time, it isn’t going to last forever. [I know] I will figure it out.”

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