The Vermont Cynic

Mending community health one yoga pose at a time

Charlie Ross, Cynic Correspondent

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One Burlington yoga studio is redefining charity by donating mental and physical health to the local community.

Sangha Studios, with locations on Pine Street and North Winooski Ave, opened its doors to the public Jan. 20 to give back to locals with a day of complimentary classes.

Sangha Studios is a nonprofit, donation-based yoga studio that aims to support the mental and physical health of the community.

Saturday’s Open Studio at Sangha offered free food, yoga and therapy.

Classes are listed on Sangha’s website.

Each yoga teacher has a distinct approach to the craft that makes every class at Sangha unique, studio assistant Jessica Gutierrez said.

One instructor at the studio,Caitlin Downey, practices the holistic healing art of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy which aims to deepen awareness and self-acceptance.

Her techniques include gently guided body-based therapy exercises, in which students are asked to move in whatever way feels natural to them.

Downey’s classes emphasize her belief in “radical acceptance,” or the ability “to just accept every single part of yourself: the parts that are messy, the parts that are shiny, the parts that you want to relegate to the back corner,” she said.

Gutierrez described her thoughts on the event and the studio’s past year.

“We had a really wonderful year,” she said, “We have been growing tremendously. And we were able to put over $20,000 worth of yoga into the community for our yoga service programs.”

After a year of hard work and great payback, Gutierrez explained the purpose of the weekend’s event as a sort of celebration.

“Today is kind of our way of saying thank you to our members and our community and getting really excited about things that are happening in 2018,” Gutierrez said.

According to Gutierrez, the yoga service programs they offer range from helping clients with traumatic brain injuries and cancer histories to addiction-related issues.

One participant in Downey’s class, UVM employee Theresa Emery, spoke about the effects of body-based therapies.

“Body-based experiences for therapy are really great because they connect the mind-body channel, which when you have trauma is a lot of what’s missing,” she said.

Emery recommends practicing therapy of this kind to anyone who is or was experiencing some kind of emotional stress.

“I think it’s a really great way to open people up to a deeper way of exploring what’s been going on in their life,” Emery said.

The beauty of Sangha’s Open Studio was that it addressed all ability and interest levels, said Saint Michael’s alumna Kaitlin Geary.

“I’m trying to be more active, trying to be healthier,” she said. “This is a really calming way to work yourself back into being active. So, I think this was a happy medium.”

In a time of global and political uncertainty, there’s value in giving back to yourself and your immediate community through something as incredible as yoga therapy, Emery said.

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Mending community health one yoga pose at a time