Bloom Yoga integrates inclusivity, progressivism into yoga to build community

Article Originally Published by Anvitha Reddy on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Anvitha Reddy on North Texas Daily

Sliding doors separate the 95 degree heated rooms from the turquoise lobby at Bloom Yoga’s studio. The mural plastered on the wall of the lobby was created by a co-op member, and this sense of collaboration between employees is present across the business.

Bloom Yoga was established in the space of Authentic Yoga Life, which closed in late 2019. From inception, Bloom Yoga strived to be a worker-led studio.

“Last November, the owners shut it down so the workers [of Authentic Yoga Life] decided to put some money down and buy the studio,” said AnaLouise Keating, president of Bloom Yoga and TWU professor.

All of Bloom Yoga’s employees have full-time jobs outside of Bloom Yoga, which allows the business to prioritize the well-being of the community.

“By being worker-owned and the fact that nobody’s livelihood depends on the business, we can try to give more respect to the teachings [of yoga], think about how to create a more inclusive space and keep our prices as low as possible to still pay the bills,” Keating said.

Audrey Lundahl, lead yoga instructor and TWU professor, said the non-hierarchical structure of the business allows communication and collaboration across employees. Tasks related to the business are delegated to different employees, allowing a sense of community within the business.

“Pre-COVID, we would have specific duties, like somebody would be in charge of making sure the towels were cleaned so they’d take them home and wash them,” said Jamitirice Keating-Lynton, a yoga instructor and Denton High School teacher.

When making decisions, the members work together to derive solutions with open dialogue.

“When we were deciding to not have plastic water bottles [in the studio,] there was a whole conversation about what’s the most sustainable way to provide water for people,” Lundahl said. “We are a community of teachers, not where one person is making the rules and imposing them on other people.”

The purpose of their structure, Keating said, is to maximize the culture and teachings of yoga by limiting capitalism.

“Any time you have a conventional business that runs on the conventions of capitalism it can often be about monetizing everything and making a lot of money,” Keating said. “Those business principles can, they don’t need to, but can certainly compromise the teachings of yoga.”

In an effort to develop individual experiences, Bloom Yoga prioritizes inclusivity. The studio does not have mirrors and instructors encourage personal experiences rather than comparisons.

“For us, yoga is about what’s going on the inside so our teachers also don’t model a lot of postures,” Lundahl said. “It’s really about people having their own experiences on their mat.”

The studio strives to change the social media narrative of a yogi.

“If you look at Instagram and American yoga, it’s often these blonde white women who are very thin doing these poses,” Keating said.  “We are trying to create a space where every type of body is welcome and there are all sorts of ways to do yoga, and it’s not all about the physical poses anyway.”

Lundahl leads trauma-informed training to ensure all staff members are acclimated to the diverse individuals that walk through the studio’s doors.

“We try to make it a comfortable place by being sensitive to trauma that people may experience,” Lundahl said.  “We honor people’s pronouns and we don’t use a lot of fitness talk like ‘burn those calories’ and it’s really just about being in a space of healing rather than  changing our bodies.”

The studio also aims to help others in the community, and Keating said one of their instructors held a free yoga class once a week for homeless people in the early days of COVID-19.

The sense of community had led to personal relationships among Bloom Yoga’s members and the instructors.

“During the shutdown, we had happy hour Zoom calls where people could hop on and Zoom and have whatever beverage they wanted and chat with the community,” Keating-Lynton said. “We have a lot of those same members from the previous ownership and that speaks volumes to the community and camaraderie in the space.”

Instructors of Bloom Yoga are also educated on the origins of yoga and prioritize honoring its roots.

“I’m constantly trying to include Sanskrit words because that is the root of yoga,” Keating-Lynton said. [I include] the way some of those poses came to be like speaking about Hindu gods and what the poses are derived from.”

Prioritizing inclusivity has made the studio accessible to a diverse set of members, Lundahl said.

“Other yoga studios have that kind of typical yoga look, where there are a lot of thin white women,” Lundahl said. “[Here] people know and talk to each other and they know each other’s families so they check-up on each other. We really want to make everyone feel welcome in this space.”

Featured Image: Owner AnaLoiuse Keating, Jamitirice Keaton-Lynton and Kevin Campbell pose outside of the Bloom Yoga studio, in front of the Bloom Yoga mural, on Nov. 1, 2020. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia

Source: North Texas Daily