cleveland neighborhoods roll out yoga mat to wealth of new studios

A few short years ago, yoga studios were largely limited to the suburbs. But increasingly, yoga and the larger wellness movement is making inroads into the city proper. Since last fall alone, four new yoga spaces have opened within city limits, joining the handful that already existed to create a bona fide urban-yoga boomlet.

Fueled by a wealth of available, affordable space and an increased interest in wellness, this urban yoga boom is well timed to meet growing demand. As the city's artisan economy continues to expand into rediscovered neighborhoods -- bringing with it an influx of progressive new residents -- we are seeing a surge of conscious businesses that are doing good while doing well.

That fact isn't lost on Justin Glanville, who upon returning to Cleveland from New York has noticed an exponential increase in awareness about yoga in general. So much so, in fact, he launched a yoga studio in the Battery Park neighborhood of Detroit Shoreway dubbed "CuyaYoga." Housed in soaring brick loft space, CuyaYoga caters to both beginning and advanced students alike.

"Cleveland is a place where I can be involved and have the opportunity to actively contribute in a positive way," explains Glanville, who by day works at ParkWorks, a non-profit dedicated to urban revitalization.

After several years of serving massage clients downtown, Sarah Cheiky launched last fall The Studio Cleveland, a yoga and massage studio near the East Bank of the Flats. Expanding into the former Karma Yoga, the studio is a cavernous but calm space that offers massage, traditional Thai bodywork, and unique offerings such as punk yoga and aerial fabric classes.

With the goal of building a sustainable, socially-oriented business while helping to create a thriving wellness culture, Cheiky shares a philosophy common among Cleveland's latest yoga entrepreneurs.

Though she is a native of Westlake, Theresa Gorski chose W. 25th in Ohio City as the home of her newly minted Vision Yoga and Wellness. Launched this spring in a loft space above Garage Bar, Vision offers a full suite of services that includes acupuncture, wellness coaching and strength training.

Gorski says that she is continually inspired by the fact that Ohio City is comprised largely of folks who live and work in the neighborhood because they are passionate about Cleveland. Gorski is doing her part to see that the West Side Market district continues on its path toward a flourishing, walkable neighborhood.

My own studio, Open Yoga Gallery, came to fruition over this past winter in an effort to fill in some of the blanks along Lorain Avenue in Ohio City. While searching for an urban garden space last summer, a serendipitous conversation with a building owner set the project in motion. While focusing primarily on yoga, the studio is also a gallery where neighbors can appreciate local art and learn about the local food movement through our partnership with SowFood, a field-to-table catering company.

These new yoga studios join established outfits such as Tremont's Studio 11 and Gordon Square's There's No Place Like Om in making Cleveland a healthier place to live.

How to choose a yoga studio

There are many different styles -- or lineages -- of modern yoga, and each teacher will add a distinct voice to his or her practice. The best way to find a good fit is through personal experience, so try to sample as many teachers and studios as possible.

When it comes to selecting your first class, a little research will go a long way toward putting you in the best position to find harmony. Start by asking yourself what it is you hope to get out of the class. Are you looking for an intense workout, a meditative experience, or a gentle stretch? Yoga affords practitioners all of the above.

Studios tend to offer classes geared specifically to beginners, those reserved for intermediate and advanced students, and classes that appeal to those of any experience level. There are also differences in the level of physical intensity that will take place in a class. For a subtle stretch, choose a class labeled "restorative" or "gentle." Classes titled Hatha, Kundalini and Iyengar are generally more easygoing than those called Flow, Ashtanga and Vinyasa, which are more challenging. Studios will usually publish a detailed description of each class.

To prepare for your first yoga class, avoid eating heavy meals two hours prior, and wear clothing that allows you to move freely. Think sweatpants, longer athletic shorts, stretchy pants or other clothing that will stay in position as you move about in unfamiliar ways.

Arrive a little early for your first visit and introduce yourself to the teacher as someone new to yoga. Bring a refillable water bottle, small towel and yoga mat, if you have one. Drink plenty of water both before and after class. Be patient and expect to be a little confused. Above all, show up with a positive attitude and desire to learn.

"It's important for new yogis to not get so hung up on how their poses look," notes Studio Cleveland's Lyz Bly. Avoiding comparison with other students in the class is important, as we all carry unique assets and limitations.

Theresa Gorski offers similar sage advice. "Begin with awareness. By becoming aware of strengths and weaknesses in body and mind, you set the foundation for learning to be well."

Sowing the seeds of a healthy community

When Studio Cleveland celebrates its first anniversary this fall, they will be celebrating something far more important than a simple birthday, explains Sarah Cheiky. The studio will have invested 12 months into bettering the whole of Cleveland. "Bringing communities together co-creates a beautifully diverse, healthy city," she says.

More than simple anecdote, Cleveland's yoga scene is exploding. Fused to a larger movement, this urban yoga boom is providing the spark to ignite a thriving wellness culture as our populace continues to expand inward.

April Arotin is an artist and certified yoga teacher. She is co-founder of Open Yoga Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photography Bob Perkoski
- Photos 1 - 9: The Studio Cleveland
- Photo 2: Yoga Instructor Lyz Bly
- Photo 9: Owner Sarah Cheiky
- Photos 10 - 12: Theresa Gorski owner of Vision Yoga