BY JILLIAN ELLISON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Arms stretched forward, face down on a rolled-out floor mat, instructor Betsy Totty asks her yoga class members to take a deep breath and slowly exhale, timing their breathing to match the in’s and out’s. In the studio at Community Yoga, Totty wants the group of a dozen people to take the time to familiarize themselves with their own bodies, the same ones that serve them each day.“Listen to what your body is telling you,” Totty says. “Are you feeling any areas that feel a little tighter today? How have you thanked your body for carrying you through this week?”
Something newcomers to yoga classes don’t often realize is that not only is the hour-long session an exercise of the body, but more importantly it’s an exercise of the mind, says Jacqueline Allen-Magers, owner of Community Yoga in Lafayette. There are physical benefits to yoga, of course, she explains, but the practice of vinyasa yoga – the yoga her studio’s classes focus on — works to calm your nervous system.
“Our lives are very go, go, go, and when your sensory perception is bombarded, that’s when we become overly stimulated,” Allen-Magers says. “Practicing yoga does the opposite. It’s trying to turn your perception inward, calming your nerves, leaving you feeling lighter, both mentally and physically.”
While yoga studios across Greater Lafayette offer different versions of the practice, they are all supportive of each other’s goals: breaking down obstacles that exist around yoga, working to make it an inclusive environment.
Finding your Zen
A quick internet search to find out just how many forms of yoga there are will make your head spin. Courtney Biancofiori, co-owner of Society Yoga, isn’t interested in putting a label on what her studio offers.
“Focusing on a specific type of yoga in the studio, I feel, takes away from the entire Yogi narrative,” Biancofiori says. “It is all yoga, and I want to break down the barriers that hold the average person out on the street back from walking in here, taking some time to destress and sweat a bit and find a sense of belonging.”
Across the Wabash River at HOTWORX, co-owner Megan Wilson says sweating it out won’t take you long. Offering virtually instructed classes in its studios, HOTWORX offers “Hot Yoga,” a 30-minute isometric workout inside a sauna room. “As the infrared heat penetrates your body causing you to sweat, the isometric postures further accelerate detoxification by physically removing the toxins from your organs through muscle contraction,” Wilson explains.
While they try not to label classes at Society Yoga, Biancofiori and co-owner Kim Barrett say if you’re looking for a class in a style you’re accustomed to at other studios, they can help you find it, and possibly more.
From low intensity up to what Barrett calls a “Society Sculpt” class, classes featuring different equipment offer the opportunity for newcomers to dip their toes into the practice of yoga, which for Biancofiori, boils down to linking our breathing with the body’s movements.
“Everyone’s idea of relaxation is different. Some people might not be able to sit in a meditative pose for a long period of time,” Biancofiori says. “They might find meditation through push-ups. I find my Zen just by sweating it out.”
Bridging people through yoga
For the past seven years, Be Moved Power Yoga has hosted “Yoga On The Bridge” across the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge, and for owner Anita Trent, watching as people come from the two cities to meet in the middle builds the definition of community for her.
“Our community in Greater Lafayette is so special, because it is one so rich in culture and varying levels of experience,” Trent says. “To watch these people come together from all corners of the world is something I love and look forward to.”
There is always room for growth and improvement, however, Trent says, as she aims to create a more inclusive space for all in her studio. “We are a wonderful and unique group of female teachers, but what I would love in our studio is to see some more diversity in our teaching team,” she explains.
“I am very interested in bringing on more gender diversity as we continue to maintain a friendly, open space. If you’re willing to work hard and you’re willing to sweat, then you’re going to fit in great here.”
Trent says she was introduced to practicing yoga as a child, when her mom would leave early in the morning for work and would turn on PBS, which ran “Lilias, Yoga and You.” Into adulthood, she ran half marathons and played soccer, but after a knee injury put her on the sidelines, a friend who’d become a yoga instructor encouraged her to come to a class to start slowly easing back into fitness. Getting back into the motions of yoga for Trent was like a flood of memories, reinspiring her love for the practice.
That moment of memory and clarity on her yoga mat several years ago is something she hopes to bring to all who walk through her doors, and she knows her colleagues across Greater Lafayette strive for that, too.
“Yoga gives us the tools on how to be really clear about who we are and who we’ve been, but it also helps find clarity in simply loving ourselves and doing good for our bodies,” Trent says. “In yoga, we are working to take the next best step, and here in Greater Lafayette, we have so many amazing people teaching yoga and bringing that good into our community.” ★