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Downtown Yoga offers welcoming community

by Allison Stalberg

At 219 Summit Ave., amongst the bustling streets of downtown Greensboro, is a little yoga studio. Between its blue and peachpainted walls is a sense of welcome with warm light, bright folded mats and cubbies.

Greensboro Downtown Yoga had humble beginnings— starting in a bike shop.

“I had a request to do classes at the time and it was just a free series of classes, so I did them at a bike shop,” said studio co-owner Alisha Wielfaert. “Then it turned into donation-based classes at the bike shop. It just got bigger and bigger until I decided it was time for a space and that’s how it got started.”

The studio is now three and a half years-old with a loyal following of students of all backgrounds. Four classes are taught each day, each about an hour long. The teachers pride themselves with providing instruction based on individual needs and varying difficulty levels.

“I know they say if you market to everyone, you market to no one, however in yoga it’s not true.” Said Wielfaert. “Yoga really is for everyone. Everybody can do it, there might be some modifications but everyone can do it.”

The students had much to tell of what the yoga classes had done for them.

“Even though I’m a fitness trainer, yoga has helped me to find a different mind-body connection—one that I don’t get in the gym,” said Brent Lester, who has attended Greensboro Downtown Yoga for six months.

Joel, a one and a half year on-going student, said, “Yoga provides calmness, focus, and strength. It reminds me to look inward to identify the distractions and narratives that are trying to push their way to the front. Alisha encourages us to acknowledge them and let them go.”

“Downtown yoga is a small intimate community,” said student Katie Kehoe. “I know the teachers by name and they know me. It’s also the first community that I have been able to develop a consistent practice with.”

While the practice of yoga is relaxing and possesses many benefits, the students face challenges that they learn from as well.

Rodrigo Ortiz is a student who also does work-study at the studio in exchange for free classes. “Oh most certainly, there are many things that can initially become challenging in yoga,” he said. “And that’s the thing about yoga, there’s always a new challenge to overcome.”

“The advanced positions are regularly difficult for me,” said student Daniel Hassell. “It gives me something to aim and strive for. I learn not to get too discouraged, just keep working at it.”

“Yoga is always challenging in some way,” student Olivia Miller said. “Maybe my hips are tight one day or lunges might feel terrible compared to yesterday or maybe I’ve been tightening my shoulders unintentionally at work all day, so anything that uses my arms and shoulders is tough. Yoga has taught me that my body is different every day and that it’s okay. As a perfectionist, that was difficult for me to deal with at first.”

The studio’s popularity is the result of many different factors. Wielfaert believes it’s partly due to its humble beginnings at the bike shop. Fellow co-owner and yoga teacher Andra LeBauer also sees success in how they treat the practice.

“I think one of the things that attract our students to the studio is that we’re really welcoming, we make yoga very accessible,” LeBauer said. “I think it can be very intimidating for people. I think a lot of times people think they need to put their foot over their head and they need to have the perfect clothes but that’s exactly the opposite of what yoga is.”

During their Sunday morning class, giggles could be heard on the mats amongst the meditative music. Someone found the constant motions amusing and felt no fear in expressing herself. The studio’s success may lie in just this kind of atmosphere.

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously; after all, it’s just yoga,” said Wielfaert. “Giggling, singing, playfulness is definitely encouraged.”

What the studio encourages most is the introduction into yoga. For just $30, a student can have unlimited classes for 30 days. The teachers offer those 30 days in order to allow each student to find the right difficulty level and teacher.

One student, Alyssa McKim, explained that the most difficult aspect of yoga was just getting onto the mat and starting out. With that mindset, the studio doesn’t wish to encourage just their yoga, but to grow yoga as a practice in Greensboro.

LeBauer and Wielfaert find great satisfaction in their work and hope to spread the joys and healing of yoga.

“Teaching yoga is really cool because you see people transform,” LeBauer said. “Sometimes people walk in the door the first time; they are visually uncomfortable with their body and mind. I see so many students get to this point where they feel comfortable in their body, their mind relaxes and they get settled into who they are.” !

WANNA go?

Want to learn more about Greensboro Downtown Yoga? Check out their website at http://www.greensborodowntownyoga.com/

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