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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Yasodhara Yoga celebrates 25 years with open house

Swami Yasodananda, left, and Janet Brown are Yasodhara Yoga in Spokane's Browne's Addition. (Dan Pelle)
Swami Yasodananda, left, and Janet Brown are Yasodhara Yoga in Spokane's Browne's Addition. (Dan Pelle)

Twenty-five years ago, a former law librarian from Pennsylvania came to Spokane via Canada and opened a yoga center. Now, she and the other teachers at Yasodhara Yoga (formerly Radha Yoga) are hosting an open house to celebrate the center’s silver anniversary.

Searching for the purpose of her life, Swami Yasodananda traveled to Yasodhara Ashram in British Columbia, where she studied under Swami Radha, one of the first female swamis in the world. “A swami is someone who dedicates his or her life to a particular school of teaching or philosophy,” Yasodananda explained.

At the ashram she learned to use yoga philosophies for personal growth. While she would have loved to stay with Swami Radha indefinitely, she wasn’t a Canadian citizen. “In 1989, two of us came to Spokane from the ashram,” she said. “We got jobs and I learned to teach in a city.”

It was an adjustment. “My training was at an ashram where there were no distractions.”

The yoga center gradually grew. In 1992, the nonprofit that oversees the center purchased a sprawling old home in Browne’s Addition, and in 2000 the yoga center moved into the newly remodeled carriage house on the property.

Warm wood flooring and plentiful windows offer a welcoming refuge for students hoping to unwind from the stress of the day.

Staffed by eight teachers, Yasodhara Yoga offers traditional Hatha yoga classes as well as classes on mantra, meditation and conscious aging. “Our teachers are getting older, so we have a lot of focus on conscious aging,” said teacher Janet Brown.

Journaling is encouraged in classes like Hatha Yoga Hidden Language. This class takes the practice of yoga beyond a series of physical exercises. “We explore the connection between our bodies and our minds,” Yasodananda said.

Many students come to the center for the physical workout yoga provides, but others enjoy exploring the deeper meanings of yoga philosophies. “Relaxation and stretching are very popular, too,” Brown said.

Over the years, Yasodhara Yoga has reached out into the community, offering classes at Spokane Transit Authority, Airway Heights Corrections Center and Providence Center for Faith and Healing.

Yasodananda is pleased that awareness of the benefits of yoga continue to grow. She’s especially excited about studies highlighting the healing powers of yoga. For example, a February 2014 article in National Geographic reported, “Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers.”

These results aren’t anything new to the teachers at Yasodhara Yoga, where students of all ages and abilities are welcome.

“We offer a basic style of yoga that may not be as athletic as some traditions,” Brown said. And contrary to what some may think, she said, “Yoga is not a religion.”

The open house is a way for the center to connect with former students, to say thank you to the community that has embraced them and to offer information to potential new students.

Yasodananda stresses that everyone from yoga expert to novice is welcome to attend their classes. “Most people think of yoga as a physical exercise, but it’s so much more than that. It can be a method for personal development.”

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