Uniting Body and Soul: Yoga in Fondren
by Andi Agnew
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke.” Striving to unite body, mind and soul, the practice of yoga can be found in two yoga studios in Fondren – each with its own style and approach to the discipline.
Nichole Baker, owner of StudiOM Yoga (665 Duling Avenue), has been practicing yoga for 22 years and teaching for 20. The mind-body connection was what first drew Baker to yoga. “I’ve always been physically doing something, like ballet and swimming… yoga was so appealing because it works everything.”
Yoga was also beneficial for Baker’s scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that required her to wear a back brace in junior high. “Now I know when I haven’t been doing enough back bends,” she laughs.
StudiOM has been in its current location in the Woodland Hills Shopping Center for three and a half years. Baker once operated a hair salon in the front of the studio, shifting gears to teach yoga in the evenings, but now she and the studio are completely dedicated to yoga with 13 classes offered weekly. “In time I hope to have yoga morning, noon and night, every day. I want you to come to my studio and say, ‘I can come any day of the week.’ That’s why I don’t have other things besides yoga – it may take me longer to grow my business, but if I can just focus on one thing, and have it benefit everyone – that’s my goal,” she says.
Baker teaches the Iyengar style of yoga, which is a style focused on alignment, precision and breath control. An interesting feature at StudiOM is the “rope wall” – one wall of the studio covered with ropes that hang in two rows.
“The idea behind Iyengar is that everybody can do yoga. Lets say someone came into my class, and they have an injury – I know how to adjust the pose to fit their needs. I use the ropes for traction. No matter the person’s level, they can do yoga here.”
Baker cites strength and flexibility as the main benefits of practicing yoga. She also sees more people coming to yoga for the mental and spiritual benefits. “People are getting more into the spiritual aspect. I think people really understand that while yoga is physical, it also makes your mind more focused.”
Around the corner from Woodland Hills Shopping Center is Butterfly Yoga (3025 N. State St.), a colorful studio in a converted gas station. Owner Scotta Brady has been teaching yoga since 1999. Her journey to becoming a yoga instructor began with just a video tape.
“I couldn’t find any yoga classes (in Jackson), because it just wasn’t around back then in the mid-90s. So I got the ‘Patricia Walden – Yoga for Beginners’ tape, and started practicing on my own. I needed that sort of physical self-expression. It was the perfect blend of my gymnastics background with my philosophy degree – it just kind of melds the two together in a really beautiful way.”
She eventually found classes while traveling and living overseas. When she returned to Jackson in the early 2000s, yoga was becoming more popular, and in 2002, she opened Butterfly Yoga.
Brady described the style of yoga taught at Butterfly as “eclectic Hatha yoga – a mix of Iyengar, Veena, Ashtanga, and Anusara. I bring the best of each into my classes.” In addition to all levels of yoga, Butterfly also offers tabatas, bellydancing, and extra-sensory intuitive development classes, and the studio often partners with CrossFit 601 to offer combined classes and events.
Brady says she would love to see more community-wide yoga events in the future where all area yoga studios can join together to offer something for everyone. She also doesn’t see her fellow studios as competitors. “People will find the teacher they resonate with the most, and that’s how it should be.”