New year’s resolutions

New year’s resolutions

Yoga meets business to build community

Special to The Free Weekly

Darcy Martin carried her blue yoga mat rolled up in one arm and a cup of wine in the other hand, following a procession of women into an open patch of green grass at Sassafras Springs Winery. The Bentonville resident had never practiced yoga outside of her home but decided to try something new when she heard about a yoga session that came paired with a glass of wine.

Photo by Andrea Johnson
Yoga Deza’s Shelby Ragsdale teaches for Fayettechill’s Yoga Adventure Series at Lake Wedington on Oct. 5.

Martin had avoided yoga studios and the entourages of advanced yogis in their name-brand leggings for five years. She imagined that practicing with a group would pressure her to perform a certain way, and people might laugh if she fell over, she said. But when a friend invited her to Wine & Yoga, Martin decided to leave her comfort zone.

“Sure, there’s no pressure,” she thought. “It’s a winery. It’ll be fun.”

Sassafras began collaborating with Yoga Gypsy studio in Springdale in May 2017 to offer these $10 sessions. Yoga Gypsy owner Danielle Schillinger said the events benefit both businesses and give first-time yogis an opportunity to practice in an inviting environment.

“I think having a glass of wine before class kind of loosens people up a little bit so we’re not so self-conscious,” Schillinger said.

Practicing with a group provided a more enjoyable experience than Martin expected, she said. She even returned for a second Wine & Yoga session.

Yoga Gypsy is one of about 12 yoga studios in Northwest Arkansas vying for loyal clients and bringing in new ones – some through similar business collaborations.

The Yoga Loft in Rogers offers Beer & Yoga at Ozark Brewing Company for $10 and free community sessions at the Downtown Rogers Farmers Market, compared to $15 at the studio. Fayettechill partners with multiple studios to put on the Yoga Adventure Series, a seasonal series of $20 sunrise yoga sessions at picturesque Natural State destinations in the area. Purr Catfe hosted Cats on Mats with a Be One yoga teacher in Fayetteville last summer for $15. And the list goes on.

Photo by Andrea Johnson
Rogers resident Emma McDermott holds her wine as she balances during Yoga Gypsy’s Wine & Yoga practice Sept. 25.

Practicing yoga has become a mainstream activity in Northwest Arkansas throughout the last few years, said Krista DeBuhr, co-founder of Trailside Yoga & Beyond in Fayetteville and owner of Power Yoga Retreats. She began practicing in 2004 and over the years has seen the practice reach more people, such as prisoners, business professionals and Razorback football players.

Between 2012 and 2016, the number of yoga practitioners in the U.S. increased from 20.4 million to 36 million, according to the most recent Yoga in America Study. The study, which resulted from a partnership between Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, found that over the same period, annual spending on yoga classes, clothing, equipment and accessories increased from $10 billion to $16 billion.

Christa Schwind, vice president of standards for Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation based in Washington, D.C., has seen an uptick in these collaborations nationwide in the last five years, she said. Businesses are recognizing opportunities to pair their product with a growing wellness practice, and yoga studios gain exposure they might not get otherwise.

It offers a “yoga-lite” experience for those hesitant to practice yoga, which might lead to them practicing regularly, Schwind said.

In Northwest Arkansas, at least seven different yoga studios have opened over the last five years. Partnering with like-minded businesses helps establish a studio’s brand and expand its reach, said Ashleigh Price, community yoga teacher and leader of the Yoga Adventure Series.

“From a marketing standpoint, it makes a lot of sense,” Price said.

When co-owners Abigail Zimmerman and Kayla Nyce opened The Yoga Loft in Rogers, they defined their brand as being a personable studio that allows yoga practitioners to “always chase your dreams,” Nyce said.

“People are becoming attracted to the practice. And different people from different lives and desires – they’re coming for different reasons,” Nyce said.

Photo by Andrea Johnson
Fayetteville resident Sandy Lauro practices a pose at Sassafras Springs Winery in Springdale on Sept. 25.

The Yoga Loft opened in March and began collaborating with locals immediately to gain recognition. They partnered with the Downtown Rogers Farmers Market organizers to offer free monthly sessions when the market was open, establishing a physical presence in the downtown area and an online presence through the farmers market calendar and social media.

“It really ingrains us in the downtown area,” Zimmerman said. “We’re ingrained in the community, and we’re getting a broader reach.”

Attendance fluctuated depending on the weather, attracting three or up to 25 people at the farmers market, Nyce said. They also collaborate monthly with Ozark Beer Company in Rogers, which brings about 20 people out to each session. Regular sessions at their studio usually bring in up to 10.

“It’s a great time for people to bring spouses or friends or family members that wouldn’t necessarily go to a studio setting,” Nyce said.

And when people feel emboldened to try yoga and actually like it, Yoga Loft’s business grows, as does the yoga community. Zimmerman thinks the Northwest Arkansas yoga business has room to grow, so long as studio owners are mindful of where other studios have stake in the community and know what they can offer that’s unique to the rest, she said.

But it’s not enough to sell an Instagram-worthy experience, Schillinger said. Being relevant to local culture yet maintaining centuries-old traditional practice requires… balance.

Photo by Andrea Johnson
Yoga Gypsy owner Danielle Schillinger instructs a group practicing yoga at Sassafras Springs Winery in Springdale on Sept. 25.

“It’s become really trendy to do yoga,” she said. “What we teach at Yoga Gypsy is embodying the lifestyle of yoga, rather than slipping on your Lululemons for an hour and going and sweating all your makeup off. It’s really a practice that’s designed to connect your mind and body and de-stress yourself.”

Alejandro Jordan, a junior at the University of Arkansas, decided to attend the last session of Fayettechill’s Yoga Adventure Series on Oct. 5 because he needed to relax, he said. As the sun rose over Lake Wedington in Fayetteville, he plopped his yoga mat down on the dew-covered grass and stretched alongside 14 other people.

It was the first time Jordan had practiced yoga outside of his home and with a group, and he didn’t feel as self-conscious about his form and flexibility as he expected, he said.

“Enjoying the view and everything just makes it better,” Jordan said. “It’s also more inviting for everyone. Whenever you go to a studio, you feel pressured.”

Events involving drinks, animals or a hike can create a more accessible yoga experience that anyone can take part in, Zimmerman said.

“I want people to be excited and happy to be there and not nervous,” Zimmerman said. “So if that means I feel better when I have a glass of wine in my hand and I can do a few yoga poses, then great. More power to you.”

Andrea Johnson is a senior at the University of Arkansas studying journalism and Spanish. She is editor-in-chief of Hill, a nationally award-winning student magazine, and a copy editor for The Arkansas Traveler student newspaper. Email her at

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