One of the in-home amenities that has become particularly popular throughout the pandemic is an in-home space for exercise, yoga, and meditation. But what makes a suitable space for yoga? Welcome Home reached out to two local yoga studio owners to learn more about their businesses and how students can continue their yoga practice at home.
Lisa Bragaw has chosen pharmacy as her profession, a career that can wreak havoc on the body.
“I used to work 12-15 hour shifts, being up and standing in one place. I ended up with some pretty serious neck and back issues. I came to yoga for the relief of this pain and for the physical benefits, and then I fell in love with it. I discovered how yoga can affect everything in your life – how to find more peace, more calm and more joy,” she explained.
Bragaw wanted to practice yoga at home and decided to study for a teaching certificate to expand her knowledge. To earn the certificate, she had to teach eight classes to students, which prompted her to consider becoming a professional instructor. She opened Zen & Now at 170 Flanders Road in Niantic in February 2012, initially with a partner. Today, the studio thrives with students who come for different styles of yoga practice, as well as cycling and fitness classes.
“We offer gentle yoga and Yin Yoga, which is really about loosening up connective tissues, like tight hamstrings or tight hips. It’s very calming and restorative, and it helps reset your brain waves, so you can sleep better,” she said. Zen & Now also offers power yoga classes, which tend to be at a faster pace, as well as “hot yoga” classes, with the studio heated enough to allow muscles to loosen up and cool down. completely relax, explained Bragaw. In the summer, Bragaw also hosts paddleboard yoga classes in a quiet, sheltered cove off the Niantic River.
As with nearly every business, Bragaw had to rethink how best to serve Zen & Now’s clientele without in-person interaction during the height of the pandemic, so it began offering classes via Zoom, which proved so popular that they continue the practice today. Students can choose to attend in person or via Zoom video conferencing from the comfort of their home or apartment. Many do both.
No matter where students practice, Bragaw said it’s important to come to the mat with “a beginner’s mind and a little kid’s curiosity.”
“Everything then becomes new and different,” she said. “Each time you practice, even if you do the same poses over and over again, you will have a completely different experience. And I tell my students, what is important is progress rather than perfection.
find your happiness
Yoga students studying at Blissworks Yoga & Healing Arts in New London also have the option of taking classes via Zoom, a virtual solution that owner Patricia “Trish” Reyburn has also rolled out during the pandemic.
Reyburn’s relationship with yoga began in 1995. She had gone with a friend to an adult education class at the local high school. Her friend only went to one class, but Reyburn found yoga helped combat symptoms of autoimmune diseases she had been taking medication to manage for more than a decade. She had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was just 15, and at 18 she was told she had lupus. Today, she credits yoga, diet, mindset and “healthier living” for a symptom-free life.
She opened Blissworks in 2004 and said it was important for her business to be located in downtown New London. The studio has had three locations in the years since, including the last 15 at 228 State Street. Blissworks instructors teach a number of different styles of yoga, including Anusara, which she explained is all about achieving proper skeletal alignment. There are also Yin Yoga and Vinyasa classes.
“There are so many styles of yoga, and each teacher brings their own twist to it, so each class can be very different,” she said. The type of yoga and how often is a personal choice, but Reyburn said even once a week can make a measurable difference.
when at home
To create the optimal yoga space in your home, you don’t need a lot of space at all, Bragaw and Reyburn agreed. Naturally, it takes space to roll out a standard yoga mat, which measures 2 feet by 6 feet. And there should be enough free space to extend your arms out to your sides and turn in a full circle without touching any furniture or light fixtures, they suggested.
The substrate on the floor – hardwood or carpet, for example – matters less than making sure you and your mat won’t slip while working out.
Zen & Now’s Bragaw recommended soft, dimmable lighting. She likes to illuminate the space with the soft glow of a Himalayan salt lamp. “You’ll want to make it comfortable,” she said. “Create your own sacred space – your own little corner of your world.”
Blissworks owner Trish Reyburn recommended lighting a candle at the start of practice to set the mood or to place visual reminders around you of those who bring you comfort, like photos of your family.
When asked if external distractions are a barrier to practicing at home, Bragaw said, “Yoga really helps us sit in the middle of all the chaos around us and be OK with it. “
In addition to a yoga mat, you may want to purchase “props” – blocks and yoga straps, which can help perform poses and stretches, especially for beginning students.
“The blocks help raise the ground up to the person, so if they can’t touch the ground, the blocks partially meet them,” Reyburn said. “The important thing is that they don’t get tired. If you stress yourself out trying to do a yoga pose, it’s counterproductive.
Both instructors shared their shared philosophy of making yoga accessible to everyone, and especially students with physical or health challenges.
“It’s important to take it for yourself,” Reyburn suggested. “The more we can help each other as individuals, the better the world will be. With everything going on around us, like change and politics, it can feel like the world is spinning faster and faster. How are we going to deal with it How can we adapt to it Yoga is a way.
Whether you practice in a studio with others, or at home alone or with family, the space you create matters, instructors agreed.
“It really is a sacred space just for you, to honor you – body, mind and spirit,” Bragaw concluded.