Wednesday, June 21, is International Yoga Day, decreed so by the United Nations in 2014. More than 180 countries have observances of the day planned this year, and in Columbia, the growing yoga community wants those who have not embraced the practice yet to know all are welcome.
“We have people from all walks of life, and you breathe and move with the person next to you,” said Kyra Strasberg, a yoga instructor and owner of Yoga Masala and Masala on Main. “It’s a connection.”
“It feels so good to do [yoga] as a community,” added Haley Staubach, an instructor at Yoga Masala. “What keeps you coming back is not necessarily how sweaty you are but how it makes you feel.”
Angie Yong Sellers, personal trainer and owner of Fit Columbia, agreed that community is the key, not just on International Yoga Day, but all year. “Yoga is becoming extremely popular and there are a lot of studios opening up in Columbia. We just wanted to vary ourselves because we don’t want to be competition,” she said. She spoke highly of other local studios and her desire to work alongside them to promote yoga in the Midlands.
“Because everybody is so great, we just want to marry the community,” she said. “Keeping that spirit of companionship versus competition will do it.”
Yoga Masala will host a special event Wednesday for International Yoga Day, as 11 teachers take turns leading participants through 108 sun salutations. “”The energy around [the summer solstice] is going to be very powerful. So the sun salutation itself is an homage to the sun,” Staubach explained. Sun salutations are a traditional warm-up activity in yoga, and there are many different varieties.
“You can do as many or as few as you like,” Staubach said. “Anybody can do yoga. You don’t have to be really fit to do it. People think you have to be a tiny yoga barbie to handle it, but we have all shapes and sizes here.”
Sellers, whose studio hosts classes involving aerial silks and even some to which dogs are invited to join their humans, said yoga has something for everyone. “More and more men are coming to it knowing that stretching is part of it and breathing is part of it, being told that they have to manage their stress, and yoga is such a great opportunity for that,” she said.
Yoga Masala also hosts a class each Wednesday called Yoga for Everyone, designed for people with disabilities. On International Yoga Day, all those who attend the sun salutations event will join the Yoga for Everyone group for part of the class. “We can share the yoga together,” Strasberg said.
Instructor after instructor and participant after participant in the local yoga community emphasized that all are welcome, and that any time is a good time to get started. “I tell people ‘The fact that you showed up today is amazing. It’s hard to walk in the door,'” Staubach said. “We’ll get you on a mat and get you to a safe space where you feel successful.”
Staubach added that even those who cannot attend a class on Wednesday can spread the broader message of positivity and acceptance which is so important to the yoga community, simply by doing kind things for others and sharing kind deeds with the hashtag #yogaactofkindness.
“Even if you’re not going to do any sun salutations, just do something nice and use that hashtag to show that we’re spreading positive vibrations instead of some of the other things firing out right now,” Staubach said. “The more good that we put out there, the more good that will come back to our community here.”
Featured image: Haley Staubach (right) joins other Yoga Masala instructors in sun salutations (photo by Allen Wallace)