[Congrats to the Bhaktishop, who bid on and won the "Get a Glowing Review in the Mercury" in our December charity auction. Lucky for us... they're awesome!—eds.]
Walking through the Bhaktishop's door for a yoga class, it's immediately apparent that this place is unique. It seems like an unspoken rule that when you enter a yoga studio, voices are hushed if not silent, as students carefully roll out their mats, sober as church mice. However, when I arrived for my noon-hour class, which was filling up quickly, the students chatted easily with each other, like friends on the street. Actual eye contact was made, friendly smiles were given—even to me, a newcomer—and I knew instinctively that it wouldn't take long for this community of yogis to accept new members in its fold.
At one end of the studio, a small altar was set up, where pictures of Indian deities shared the space with Jesus. A revolving cast of characters resides at the shrine, and you're just as likely to see one of the Beatles or Glinda the Good Witch, as you are Shiva or the Virgin Mary.
Once class got going, instructor—and cofounder of the studio—Lisa Mae Osborn led us through chanting and movements. Here, another distinction became apparent: Rather than instructing her students to perfect the technical accuracy of their poses, Osborn encouraged complete freedom of movement; everything was optional. She asked students to listen to their bodies, to go with whatever movements felt good.
"We've been called irreverent, and not always in a good way," chuckles Osborn when asked about her teaching style. "As long as it's safe, I don't care if it's 'right.'" As for the chatty crowds that gather at the Bhaktishop (Osborn defines bhakti as "love, service, and devotion... to whatever"), both Osborn and cofounder Diana Hulet agree that it's this community atmosphere that draws people into their yoga practice. "It's a celebration of life rather than a quiet, introspective thing."
Osborn and Hulet's sense of community doesn't end there. On the second Sunday of every month, members gather to sing, chant, and give donations. All of the money collected goes to someone in the community in need—in the past it has gone to victims of accidents, or the parents of a newborn with complications. Aware that the chic-ness of yoga has made it expensive, the Bhaktishop offers a free class called Karma Flow at 4 pm on Wednesdays. They also put out a small zine, printed at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, addressing such topics as chanting and characters in Indian mythology.
It is perhaps a testament to the devotion students feel to the instructors and philosophies of the Bhaktishop that the small temporary space they currently reside in can barely contain its members. Though serviceable, the space is humble in comparison to the studio's future home: In the coming months, the Bhaktishop will move into the new multi-use building that's going up on SE 26th and Division, and they've done their best to make the big, beautiful space as green as possible, from PVC-free mats to eco-friendly floor stain.
With the preponderance of yoga studios in town, it often feels arbitrary to choose one. But the number of studios reflects the diversity of practice, and it can be limitlessly rewarding to connect with a guru whose yoga resonates with you. If you are interested in escaping the pressure to execute movements perfectly, and turned off by the austerity that can pervade a yoga-class atmosphere, the Bhaktishop awaits you with an open heart.
The Bhaktishop's temporary location is located at 14 NE 10th, 244-0108, thebhaktishop.com.