Sara Ruth Klassen, Liz Core Shenk and Aaron Shenk, the new owners of Spacious Heart Yoga in downtown Goshen, believe college students shouldn’t be intimidated to try yoga. That’s their mission—to make yoga as available and accessible to anyone as possible.
“Yoga helped me bridge this idea that I had learned in college where, in Western civilization, we are more dualistic and tend to separate the mind and the body,” Klassen said. “The body is viewed as negative or as more dirty. Yoga was this spiritual process that said that the body was as sacred as the spirit and integrated the two.”
Klassen says that although yoga can be a profound spiritual practice, it doesn’t have to be. She said that yoga is not just a series of poses but also the practice of self-reflection.
Core Shenk said that just doing poses is pretty awesome too.
“Yoga just makes you feel really good,” Klassen said.
Klassen and Core Shenk have been doing yoga since high school. In college, yoga helped them center themselves in ways that let them take a step back from their anxiety-plagued schedules. Core Shenk met Aaron Shenk at Goshen College. The two are now married, and Aaron Shenk, the finance guy, has since gotten into yoga as well.
When Angie Nisley, the previous owner of Spacious Heart, called its teachers (including Klassen and Core Shenk) saying that she was looking for a new owner, Liz Shenk and Klassen had discussed taking over her position as a joke.
“My first reaction was, ‘No way,’” Core Shenk said.
But between Aaron’s accounting and business chops, Core Shenk’s marketing prowess and Sara’s management know-how, the group realized their dream could become a reality. The trio said they knew they could do well because of how much they care about the practice and the community.
The three all say that it was the trust of the Goshen community that gave them the confidence to take leadership in Spacious Heart. They say that their main goal with Spacious Heart is to give back to that community.
“We don’t think anyone should be afraid of yoga,” Shenk said. “We want it to be accessible to anyone. We have classes that let people grow into it and figure out what yoga means to them.”
Reed Yoder, a sophomore, goes to yoga several times a week. He loves that Spacious Heart offers a variety of classes that target various different aspects of the body and mind. Yoder particularly likes the power yoga that burns calories and tones muscles, as well as the yoga classes that center around mindfulness.
“Sara is a great teacher,” said Yoder.
As Goshen College graduates (Core Shenk and Klassen graduated in 2014; Aaron Shenk in 2011), the new owners know that college is “a constant wave of stress.” Sara recalls college as a time of constant self-deprivation from the necessities that bring health. They say that yoga helps relieve them of the anxieties of life, a relief that college students desperately need.
“I felt like initially I was moving very mechanically, but then all the stress began to leave my body and I could flow through poses,” said Courtney Crapser, a junior.
Crapser, who had never done yoga before, said she felt relaxed, fit and mentally prepared to handle finals after her first session at Spacious Heart.
“I think what sticks out to me are all the proven neurological and psychological benefits of yoga,” Klassen said. “Like, just spending time with a little bit of a longer exhale than inhale in a forward-facing position moves your body from the fight or flight response to rest and digest. That is healing.”
“It’s really that easy,” Liz said with a laugh. “All you do is lean forward and breathe, and you can start to feel better.”
The three have only owned Spacious Heart since March 26 but are already thinking of ways to make yoga more available to the community and Goshen College.
wIf you’re looking to reduce your finals stress, new members can try out Spacious Heart with a $35 one-month unlimited pass, which allows you to go to as many different classes as you want.