The Rapidian

Yoga startup grounds itself in community

Local yoga instructors Ashley Yost and Mali Jane aim to make yoga accessible with their new venture, AM Yoga.
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/Marjorie Steele

When certified yoga instructors Ashley Yost and Mali Jane left the studio where they were teaching to start their own community, they had no master plan. The two yogis had one goal in mind: to teach in a community of people who come as they are.

“We’re trying to bring yoga to the f*cking ground,” says Yost. “We want to create a space for people where they can practice and feel at home.”

Yost, a Baptiste certified yoga instructor, has taught Vinyasa style yoga for four years. Jane, certified through Live Love Teach, has taught the same style for two years.

“We want to break down the barriers that keep people from coming to class,” says Yost. “More importantly, we want to show them they can break down those walls themselves.”

Under Yost and Jane’s instruction, AM Yoga focuses on Power Vinyasa, a “flowing” style which syncs students’ breath to their movement. Considered a more powerful, high impact style than other yoga practices, such as Hatha, the Vinyasa that Yost and Jane teach is based on their own experiences.

“We want to teach what we practice. This is what Mali and I do every day," says Yost. "It’s accessible to everyone - not just expert yogis.” In addition to regular AM Yoga classes, Yost teaches a class each week to her grandmother and nearly a dozen of her friends.

Another barrier Yost and Jane have seen in sustaining a yoga practice is the cost. In response to this, the pair are starting off with offering AM Yoga classes on a donation basis. In the interest of keeping their classes widely accessible, Yost and Jane intend to maintain flexible payment options in the future.

This last January, Yost and Jane opened the virtual doors to their new yoga business, AM Yoga, via Facebook. The two ran lean from the start, teaching out of Yost’s home and a number of spaces across Grand Rapids which individuals and organizations offered as a makeshift home for the fledgling community. Class schedules and locations, which run almost daily, are posted weekly on the AM Yoga Facebook page, where followers can sign up. AM Yoga’s new website, launched in early March, also lists class schedules, locations and opportunities for private teaching sessions.

To kick off the new community, in January Yost and Jane launched a quiet initiative called “AM Yoga 365,” inviting students to commit to practicing yoga each day in 2015. Members of the program have access to monthly group practices and teaching sessions, all AM Yoga classes, a private session and AM Yoga 365’s private Facebook Group. The secret group page cultivates daily activity from its nearly 60 members, who post videos and pictures of their practice’s progress and words of encouragement to one another.

Students and supporters have been quick to rally around Yost and Jane, filling classes and actively providing feedback and support to one another on AM Yoga’s Facebook page, which to date has nearly 900 followers.

“We’re definitely out looking for a space, but it has to be the right fit. We’re not rushing or forcing our next steps; we’re allowing the universe to guide where and when we head next,” says Yost.

The pair, while eager and prepared for growth, is vested in nurturing its fledgling community first and foremost.

“There is something important about having a space - a home - but that’s something that the community needs to drive. It’s maintaining a careful balance between not doing something, and doing everything,” says Jane. “You don’t have to have your own studio to teach. And we’re not going to stop teaching anytime soon.”

Yost and Jane are currently pursuing accreditation through Yoga Alliance to become a registered teaching school, with hopes of offering a 200 hour teacher certification course in Grand Rapids this fall.

AM Yoga class schedules and locations can be found on amyoga111.com.

Disclosure: The author has attended classes at AM Yoga.

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