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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Despite challenges, Yoga Pod offers sanctuary amid pandemic

The yoga studio is prioritizing COVID-19 safety and “radical inclusion”

The yoga studio has also partnered with local organization We Are Neutral to become a 100% carbon neutral business.
The yoga studio has also partnered with local organization We Are Neutral to become a 100% carbon neutral business.

At home, Shawn Hinds’ mind is occupied with her six kids. 

She wonders what she’ll cook for dinner and when she’ll clean. She doesn’t stop bustling around the house until 11 p.m. Then, she does homework. But at Yoga Pod, the 42-year-old Santa Fe College accounting student can finally exhale her to-do lists. 

“I may have come heavy, but I leave light,” Hinds said.

Hinds embarked on her Yoga Pod path when the business’ second Gainesville studio, located at 4136 NW 16th Blvd., opened in June 2020. Before the pandemic, the opening was set for March 2020, but co-owner Alex Jarboe said they opened the moment the state allowed it.

Since the studio's closures, which started March 16, 2020, co-owner Alex Jarboe said membership decreased by at least 60%. 

Yoga Pod started livestreaming over 100 classes on March 18, but the new format took a toll on the intimacy of sessions. Hot yoga was no longer possible, and with the loss of jobs, people couldn’t afford classes, Jarboe said. 

“We are an in-person business that prioritizes close proximity to people,” he said. “Not being able to have that experience or aspect is definitely hard to replicate at home.”

Since launching in-person classes at all locations, Jarboe said no one in the studios has transmitted COVID-19, which he attributes to their safety measures.

From Yoga Pod’s inception in 2018, the studios housed air quality systems, which replaces indoor air with new air every seven minutes, Jarboe said. The studios also have Merv 13 air filters, recommended by the CDC.

However, now only 10 people exercise in the white-walled rooms where lights shine the chakra colors, compared to 30 before COVID-19. Along with a no-contact practice, students also don masks, except when on their mats.

“From check-in to the bathrooms, there's really no place that you have to touch,” Jarboe said.

Aside from the stress relief Yoga Pod has offered through the pandemic, it also strives to be a hub for all people to enjoy, with radical inclusion being among Yoga Pod’s principles. Traditionally, on yoga journal covers and in mainstream media, white women are the faces of yoga, Jarboe said. 

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“We've found that yoga can, without a doubt, certainly lean toward being one shape and one color,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to move that needle to be towards that radical inclusion, where we can see that our space is a safe environment for everyone.”

Diverse images of people decorate the outside walls of the studios. Jarboe said he wants passersby to know yoga isn’t just for one group. And the same sentiment — different colors, genders and sizes — is reflected inside. 

As a Black woman, Shawn Hinds said she used to question if yoga is for everyone.

“Yoga is something that is not well-known in the African American culture, at least from what I've been exposed to,” she said. “A lot of people can't afford it.”

Now a Karma Yogi assistant manager, Hinds used to receive a free membership for cleaning Yoga Pod for three and a half hours a week. During an eight week teacher training, she was a recipient of Yoga Pod’s BIPOC scholarship, which is given to Black, Indigenous or other people of color. Without it, Hinds said she couldn’t be there.

“They accept me for who I am,” she said. “I feel as equal as anyone else to have that opportunity because they have made it that type of environment, especially with the scholarships.”

When she attended Zoom Yin classes, Hinds said her two-year-old daughter joined.

“That’s why we have the mute button,” she said.

Hinds invites her friends to classes, and all three of her daughters have gone to Yoga Pod. She said she’s still working on her sons, though.

Contact Katie Delk at kdelk@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @katie_delk.

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Katie Delk

Katie Delk is a sophomore with a journalism major and an anthropology minor. For the Avenue, she writes about music, culture and the environment. When she is not writing, she is outside with the trees, reading a fantasy book or listening to Beach House.


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