All Together Now with Zuddhi Yoga

Communities across the south like Zuddhi Yoga host classes in many spaces so you can grow and deepen your practice with other locals and travelers, all together.  Above, a Zuddhi community group photo at Tennessee Bouldering Authority (TBA) in Chattanooga, TN.

There’s a special kind of love that blossoms around what is commonly known as ‘community yoga’ these days.  In these classes, everyone makes a contribution, whether it be through donation, encouragement and a big heart or just showing up to experience this practice of yoga with all kinds of unique teachers, students and styles.

And it’s evolving.  The strength of this new wonder in yoga is that the student is the catalyst for change and growth.

In Chattanooga, it’s a phenomenon called ‘Zuddhi Yoga,’ a studio that isn’t actually a studio by itself.  Created almost by accident by Zuddhi instructor Jessica Ewart, Zuddhi is a collaborative effort that involves many teachers, studios and styles across the Chattanooga area.

You’ll find power yoga, yin yoga, and everything in between, including new ways to experience your practice, such as paddleboard yoga, slackline yoga, and even aerial and equestrian yoga (check Zuddhi’s amazing yoga calendar for more).

Instead of listening to me ramble on about it, we thought we’d give you a chance to hear from some of the marvelous teachers at Zuddhi.  Below is an interview with Zuddhi instructors Jessica Ewart and Maggie White, as well as Hayley Graham, Lana Sutton, Lori Duncan, Lauryn Elise and Nelson Mulligan.

This is just a small sample of what Zuddhi has to offer.  But have a look and imagine what’s possible!

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Q & A with Jessica Ewart and Maggie White

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BW: How was the idea for Zuddhi born?

JE: When I finished my teacher training, I knew that I wanted to do something along the lines of a business.  I was looking at Sanskrit terms and what they meant.  ‘Zuddhi’ means ‘purity’ and ‘clarity.’  I liked the idea of the purity of it, the authenticity behind it.  But I thought of it as ‘my’ yoga business, and I built a website and I came at it from that angle.

It just so happened that Maggie came and took a class at the climbing gym.  She was already doing community classes at Clearspring Yoga.  We started talking about how it would be fun to cooperate and do projects together.  So we did one workshop.  Then I overhauled the website to where it wasn’t me on the front page.  People started to ask me, ‘don’t you do something with the community yoga here?  I have a class there.’  I started building this community calendar on the website, and I started to see it more as a resource.  You could come here and figure out where your affordable yoga classes are close to you.

MW: We started developing a large network of not only yoga practitioners, but also teachers who were offering a lot of different types and styles of classes for affordable prices around the Chattanooga region.  It was the paddleboard yoga that was the first experimental yoga.  I had seen a picture of a local yogi in headstand on a paddleboard.  And I said ‘okay, how do I do that?  Where is that?’  We put them together and decided to do an experimental paddleboard yoga class.  It bloomed, and every Saturday, for about six weeks, we had classes, and the community came out for it.

Expand your practice in community yoga.

It really leveled the yogic playing field.  Even poses that you had been doing for years totally changed and shifted.  As teachers, we were students, along with everyone that came to the classes.  That made it really fun.

The idea to have a slackline yoga class came up.  I had been exposed to it a little bit in Arizona through some friends.  Because we both teach at a climbing gym, it was a natural progression to say, ‘hey, well I’ve done yoga on slackline before, you want to play with it?’  So we had a Friday night fun night party at Jessica’s cabin and played around a little bit.  Jessica decided to just spring it on her students one day during a Halloween weekend yoga class.  Everyone loved it.  So we did a fund-raising party at a local climbing gym called the Tennessee Bouldering Authority.  We called it a ‘Slackasana Party.’  Experiment number two caught on.  People were asking when the next one was going to be.  We were ready for another boundary to push in our yoga practice.  That’s also been a big part in the evolution of the community that’s being built through Zuddhi Yoga.

JE: With Zuddhi, we’re asking ‘what is your yoga?  What does your yoga mean to you, and does it have to be narrowly defined?  Can it be something that’s evolving and changing?’

BW: Why does Zuddhi offer community-based classes?

JE: Timing is part of it.  Yoga is just really popular right now.  It’s palatable to a lot people who even several years ago might have thought ‘what is that?’  I was really influenced by Yoga to the People in New York.  I thought donation classes might bring some people to practice that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have tried it.  I haven’t met anybody yet that didn’t love it.  Eventually, they make their way to all of the local studios. They want to try out other teachers and other styles.  We’re just building this big community of people that practice all styles, all over the place, with a lot of different teachers.

MW: I started teaching free yoga classes in the park, and that’s just where I felt most comfortable, trying out Maggie as a teacher and learning how to teach yoga.  This was in Arizona, and I felt a need there too—some people just didn’t have access to a yoga studio, including people who lived on the streets.  I saw that having donation-based and free yoga classes in the park brought yoga out into the world in a new way because it wasn’t confined to one space.  While I was in Arizona, I also met Darren Rhodes.  He started a ‘Yoga Hour’ in Tucson, Arizona, at his home studio—it’s known as Yoga Oasis.  They had a one -hour class, which is shorter than all the other classes that were on their schedule, and it was for less money and less time on the mat.  But I thought that was an awesome way to get people to the studio that maybe didn’t have an hour and a half or didn’t really want an hour and a half of asana practice but were willing to come in for four dollars for an hour and play on the mat.

When I first started teaching at Clearspring Yoga, I said ‘why don’t we try this ‘Yoga Hour?’’  I was coming back to Chattanooga to finish college myself, so I knew that there were a lot of people in my situation that didn’t have the money to consistently come to a studio and pay a lot of money for a class.  We thought we’d offer an hour class for 5 dollars to see how that caught on.

What is possible with community yoga?

BW: What is the advantage of holding classes at multiple locations?

JE: One is accessibility. We had several teachers come to us and say, ‘hey, we saw your website, will you put my class on your website?’  And I thought ‘well, that’s a great idea.’

MW: I think the actual spaces we practice in expand the boundaries of a yoga studio.  Right now, at TBA, we teach inside the climbing gym, so we’re surrounded by plastic holds on the wall that people scale with their fingertips, mattresses to fall on, slacklines.  There are lots of distractions, but that draws our community closer because we’re all in it together.  Dogs sometimes walk by; children walk by.  While this offers a little bit of distraction, it also encourages some of the principles of yogic concentration, drawing into your center, no matter what’s going on around you.  It’s about having a light-hearted nature around your practice, just being able to practice yoga anywhere.  And it’s about not feeling like you can’t access the principles of yoga; knowing that outside, inside, on a slackline, wherever you are, you can practice yoga.

JE: Anyone can meditate with incense and candles in a darkly lit, quiet room.  Try meditating with Nelson’s dog randomly nipping at your heels some time or a climber walking through occasionally, cussing about how he just fell off the wall.  My students maintain that concentration; they’ll stay in a headstand while that’s going on.  It really helps them with their practice.

BW: What is the mission of Zuddhi?

MW: For me, the practice of asana has developed beyond just an individual expression of my own practice, but also has moved into cultivating a community around putting these yogic principles into action in our bodies, both on the mat and off the mat.  Part of hosting community classes is creating a space and holding a space for people to come together to meet people who are interested in finding principles of alignment and inspiration in their lives.

BW: What types of classes does Zuddhi offer?

JE: We offer a variety based on the style of the teacher.  Lori—I would say her style is more of a Flow yoga.  Nelson has a Kundalini background.  He has years of practice in that.  And obviously, the Slackasana and the paddleboard yoga—we’re just making that stuff up as we go.

MW: What I love about the wide variety of choices on the Zuddhi calendar is that you can show up at any class, and you really never know what you’re going to get.  There can be elements of Yin yoga mixed in.  There’s definitely a lot of alignment taught, especially because we have a lot of beginners who are coming to discover what yoga is all about.  You’ll find pranayama in classes; you’ll find different meditation techniques being explored.  Jessica and I both teach our ‘Night Owl’ series, which is a night-time yoga class from 9 till 10 at night for those people who have jobs or night-time schedules that don’t allow for day or morning classes.

Zuddhi Yoga offers so many talented and different teachers ... there's something for everyone.

The way that we first started teaching that was that we would switch off back and forth.  The students that were coming to these classes never knew who the teacher was going to be.  That was one of our ideas to keep a variety of teachers on the menu.

BW: How does Karma Yoga fit in with Zuddhi’s mission?

JE: Well I have this skill that I can offer people, so I teach for free when I can.  I donate private lessons to auctions all the time, I donate classes, I teach at my daughter’s pre-school.  The kids love it, my daughter loves it.  Sara Mingus of North Shore Yoga donated a bunch of mats to us.  That’s Karma yoga.  We desperately needed them.  The students even throw a quarter in what we call our ‘prop fund,’ so now we have blocks.  Nelson brought straps.  I think that we’re cultivating a group of people that live their lives that way; they think outside of themselves and how things can only benefit them, and they start to see that connection between everyone.

BW: Tell me a little bit about the Zuddhi community, what it’s like and what do you see for the future.  How is it a community?

JE: There is truly this sense of ‘we’re all in it together.’  Our students, when we get to what I call the ‘play time,’ where we’re messing around with arm balances and head stands—they get up and go help each other.  They start to notice that maybe this one student has been trying to get this one posture for two months, and they get it, and the room erupts in applause.  That’s what I get from the community because there’s no other connecting factor here.  They’re all ages, they’re all income levels, they live everywhere.  Some of them show up in really nice yoga clothes, and some of them have been wearing the same pants for three days, by choice.  It’s camaraderie.  It’s a desire to see your friend.  It’s so uplifting.

Where do I see it going?  It’s this pioneer spirit.  We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’re going to be open to every idea that comes along, try it on and see if it works.  What I like about Zuddhi is that it started out as this little thing that was about me and my teaching, my classes and my business.  Now I only have two classes out of 20.

I love that it’s not about me.  It’s about everyone and what they’re doing all over the place.  It’s such a good feeling.  It just kind of morphed.  I didn’t have a plan.  It just worked out that way.  And now it’s everyone’s, and I love that.

BW: What is the importance of community in this practice of yoga?

MW: Yoga, as a practice for life, gives us a set of principles, not only alignment principles to create the asanas with our bodies, not only guidelines for meditation to engage our intellect and our awareness into a focused practice, but also a deeper view on how our own lives play into the alignment of the world around us.  Asana is just a part of your whole practice, your whole sequence.  As one person, I am a part of a much larger circle of life.  I think practicing these principles on my mat, as an individual, cultivates an awareness of my own Self, my own gifts, my challenges.  Seeing my practice in the context of the world around me allows for an expansion of those principles, for an expansion of myself beyond the individual into a group, which is our community.  I think our yoga practice allows us not only to work on ourselves, but it also gives us a chance to create and to be an active participant in creating the world around us by fine-tuning ourselves to be more active members of the world.  We create the world we want to see, interacting with one another towards beautiful alignment.

Zuddhi instructor Maggie White demos an arm balance, sometimes known as 'Dragonfly,' on a slackline.

When thinking about community, I think it’s important, again, to know that we’re doing this practice with each other, whether it’s a yoga class where we help each other up into more advanced asanas, whether we help each other balance, or whether we receive inspiration by just seeing someone succeed or create something beautiful on their mat.  While practicing in a community, we remember that we’re all trying to create as much harmony as possible.  I love that following yogic principles and finding community helps remind us that ‘we’re all in it together.’  We’re never alone!

And now, let’s hear from just a few more of Zuddhi’s unbelievable and innovative instructors …

Zuddhi Instructor Hayley Graham

BW: What is it that you love about Zuddhi and why do you teach Community Yoga?

HG: Zuddhi Yoga’s mission is to make yoga for ‘every body,’ and we are so fortunate to have so many opportunities to do that, through a wide variety of styles (including such unique and fun forms as Paddleboard and Slackline), teachers and locations.  I am so proud to be a part of a group of people who have a passion for this community and for spreading the love and light of yoga to all of its members.

BW: What type of yoga do you teach, why, and what is it that you love about yoga?

HG: I teach Vinyasa yoga, tending toward a slower flow, so that students really have the opportunity to explore postures more deeply, while still keeping integrity in the linking of movement and breath.  I also love to sing to my students in Savasana, as it gives me a unique connection to each person in the room.  I studied with Dolly Stavros, who is one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met.  She exudes light and love, and I admire her greatly.

I love yoga because it makes me feel so strong and beautiful and loved, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be able to offer other people, so that’s why I teach.  I want to give as much love and inspiration to others as I possibly can, and yoga is the perfect forum for that.  I am blessed to be able to share yoga with others.  It fills my heart with joy.

Zuddhi Instructor Lana Sutton

BW: What is it that you love about Zuddhi and why do you teach Community Yoga?

LS: What I’m impressed with among these amazing Zuddhi teachers is their support of community and building that human connection through affordable classes.  They want to bring in everyone to their joy, even advertise your classes for you.  And that good nature and generous spirit is so energizing, fresh and such a tremendous response to the national health crisis and the isolation of our media-swamped modern culture.

All together now, with Zuddhi Yoga.

Zuddhi Instructor Lori Duncan

BW: What is it that you love about Zuddhi and why do you teach Community Yoga?

LD: In 2009, when I made the commitment to 9 months of teacher training through Asheville Yoga with Stephanie Keach, I had no expectations on how I would use my training.  Having practiced Yoga for 7 years, I was prepared to let Yoga lead me on this journey.

Where I was led almost immediately was to Community Yoga.  I knew in my heart this is how I wanted to share my passion for Yoga with others.  Soon after, Jessica Ewart invited me to join Zuddhi Yoga, and the journey began.

There are people in these classes that would never have found Yoga at all if Zuddhi Yoga was not promoting Community Yoga.

Zuddhi Instructor Lauryn Elise

BW: What is it that you love about Zuddhi and why do you teach Community Yoga?

LE: Community Yoga classes are currently my favorite classes to teach.  I love how you never know who you’re going to get in your class—experienced yogi or budding beginner.  It’s a challenge to try to meet all needs, but that keeps me on my toes.

Zuddhi founder Jessica Ewart encourages 'playtime' at a classic Zuddhi 'Slackasana Party.'

BW: What type of yoga do you teach, why, and what is it that you love about yoga?

LE: My background includes the Asheville Yoga Center teacher training (200-hour and pursuing 500-hour currently).  I teach a mixed bag of yoga, drawing influence from the variety of wonderful teachers who I have been blessed to learn from.  I incorporate an emphasis on body awareness and respect for each body’s need that day.  I like to offer a balance between long gentle holds in poses and some flowing movement.  I’m currently taking classes from lots of wonderful yoga and movement teachers, when given the opportunity, so what I teach is always colored by the latest interesting nugget of gold that an amazing teacher has shared with me.  My teaching is also influenced by Constructive Living, which is a combination of Japanese therapies that my mother and I teach at Asala Center.

Zuddhi Instructor Nelson Mulligan

BW: What is it that you love about Zuddhi and why do you teach Community Yoga?

NM: Zuddhi and this community are full of creative instructors, passionate about yoga and sharing it with any and all present.  It enables people to pay less to practice and feel comfortable in their surroundings.  There are often erred perceptions that practicing yoga is somehow strange, a big deal or it won’t be practiced correctly.  Har!  This community welcomes any and all to help build wholeness and security to be applied to all areas of one’s life.

BW: What type of yoga do you teach, why, and what is it that you love about yoga?

NM: I teach Kundalini yoga, spawned from Kundalini teacher solstice festivals and Yogi Bhajan, and I have practiced at local studios since the age of 18.  I have fallen in love with mantra and breath control, and I wish to cultivate the sacred in our lives.  We are one after all.

Experience the practice you love with the ones you love in community yoga classes.

Check out the Zuddhi Yoga website for more community yoga teachers in the Chattanooga area and more mind-blowing new class offerings!

2 Responses to All Together Now with Zuddhi Yoga

  1. Jessica says:

    Wow, Bett! We are so honored to be included on Namaste Ya’ll. Thanks for giving us a voice and for all that you guys are doing to promote yoga in the South. I enjoy all of the articles and recommend this blog often to my students.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention All Together Now with Zuddhi Yoga | Namaste Y'all -- Topsy.com