Faced with a time-consuming, stressful job as a social worker, Jodie Tingle-Willis turned to yoga. She fell in love with the practice, which gave her a way to relax and find some solace from the anxieties of her job.


Over time though, her job demands left her finding little time for yoga practice. Tingle-Willis thought if she invested in teacher training, she would be motivated to make time for classes. As she studied, she did practice teaching with her fellow social workers and watched the way it was able to transform some of their stress. That motivated her to make the switch to teaching full-time.


“The yoga scene in Louisville is definitely growing, so I was teaching all over the city,” Tingle-Willis says. But eventually, she decided that her south end neighborhood of Beechmont was lacking yoga opportunities, so she opened Supreme Peace Yoga (343 W. Kenwood Way). “We’ve got a nice little yoga community in the south end.”


Yoga Beyond Boundaries

Whether you want hot yoga or Hatha, Power or Yin, there are many options for practicing yoga in and around Louisville. And the practice is expanding beyond studios and gyms as well—with classes popping up in breweries, art galleries and even the rotunda of Metro Hall.


To some, yoga may be seen as a mostly meditation, hippy-dippy effort done by vegetarians who wear only cotton. While some might see yoga as an exercise for the elite, based in swanky studios filled with fit women who wear expensive, designer workout gear. But the practice goes far beyond those stereotypical visions and is done by a wide range of people from all areas of the community, says Mimi Hahan. She is the director of mission fulfillment at 502 Power Yogaand works with the Kentucky Yoga Initiative, a non-profit aimed at improving the accessibility of yoga.


“Every day of the week in this city, you can go to a free or very-reduced rate yoga class,” Hahan says. “It’s a lot more diverse than people know.”


The Kentucky Yoga Initiative started offering free classes at four Metro Parks community centers in November. While those classes, at Shelby Park, Shawnee, Portland and Southwick, are starting out small, they are developing a following and Hahan says she hopes there will be classes in all 14 centers within the next two years.


The Initiative also hosts classes with groups at Dismass Charities, St. Joseph Children’s Home, Maryhurst and others. Classes adapt to who comes to practice, whether it’s the elderly, youngsters or people with physical limitations, Hahan says.


“It takes showing up and getting in there and getting creative in how it’s done,” Hahan says.


Yoga & the Arts

Since 2009, 21c Museum Hotel has offered yoga classes in the art gallery space. Those classes have been so popular that they went from every other week to a weekly Saturday morning session, starting at 9:30 a.m. Students, whether they are locals or hotel guests, can drop in for an hour-long session for $5, says Karen Gillenwater, the Museum Manager for 21C.


“It’s a great way to have a different experience in the galleries,” Gillenwater says. “It brings people into the space who maybe wouldn’t normally come down. And they get to enjoy the art.”


Jamie Calzi, an instructor at 502 Power Yoga, started teaching a class at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in the summer of 2014. Initially, it was supposed to be a three-month way of getting some new people into Kentucky Center space, especially when it wasn’t being used for shows or programming. But the free Friday lunchtime classes were so popular, they’ve been going ever since, Calzi says. “It was just tremendous.”


Each week an average of 40 people – but as many as 100 people –show up to stretch their bodies and rest their minds. Classes are held in various spaces of the Kentucky Center, including sometimes on stage. And sometimes the classes travel to the Muhammad Ali Center or the rotunda of Metro Hall.


One of the draws, Calzi says, is that the class is free, giving people who may never have tried yoga an opportunity to try it out without a big financial commitment. And she believes that once people try yoga, they are won over by its many benefits.


“It’s just about being together and listening to your body and seeing what’s possible,” she says.


When Taylor Stokes first tried yoga, she was just looking for a good workout. But she was amazed to find out how much her practicing yoga helped her on the inside, so she continued with it and is now getting her own teaching certification.


“I think more and more people are beginning to realize that the practice of yoga, unlike other physical activities, really allows and vocalizes self –awareness, body awareness, and most of all, mindfulness,” Stokes says.


Studies back that up. In 2012, 10 percent of adults participated in yoga, up from 5 percent a decade earlier, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease and Prevention.


Starts with Health, Builds Community

Hahan says efforts like Louisville’s Healthy Hometown initiative help fuel that growth and interest by promoting wellness and healthy lifestyles.


“It starts with health,” Hahan says of why people try yoga. “I think they stick with it because of the accountability in the community. People stick with it for years because of the emotional benefits of the practice.”


Tingle-Willis loves how many opportunities there are in Louisville for people to have access to so many types of yoga. “People are just opening up to wellness in general,” she says. “There are so many different styles and types of yoga being taught. People go around and try the studio that feels right to them. Yoga is one of those things that can help us feel better about ourselves and the world around us.”

Jessie is a former newspaper reporter. Since 2003, she’s called Louisville home. She's a lover of the Kentucky Derby, good restaurants and Kentucky’s rich history. 


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