A burst of creativity and flexibility has helped keep the doors open at Ravenna’s Moksha Yoga and Meditation during the past several months as the pandemic has raged and people have been hesitant to visit the studio.
“The bills are being paid,” said owner Lauren Hellekson. “The studio is paying for itself, and I’ve been able to keep my two teachers. We did cut the schedule back exponentially, but it was more for safety reasons more than anything else.”
Located in a retail unit at 264 W. Main Street in Ravenna, Hellekson said she’s been holding classes outside in a fixed-up parking lot this summer for the sake of safety.
“It’s been really great, and it’s been a breath of fresh air for people, literally,” she said of the outdoor space. “We had outdoor yoga until it was like 50 degrees out just because we knew coming inside was going to be very difficult.”
That adjustment came as interior capacity dropped from 20 to 10 with the state of Ohio’s social distancing guidelines, but Hellekson said indoor sessions are sometimes even more sparse than that.
On Nov. 10, she said she had two evening classes scheduled with a total of about eight in-person participants sharing the studio, which is decorated by tapestries, plants, earthy colors and mellow lighting.
As cooler weather sets in making yoga al fresco a bit chilly, Hellekson said she’s been experimenting with online classes and has managed to implement a virtual studio.
“We just recently started a virtual studio, which was something we had on a donation basis, but now it’s actually on a money-making membership basis,” Hellekson said. “That’s only been about two weeks now.”
Even though she has set up a viable virtual studio, she said she still thrives on having live class members, however few. Now, she has four virtual yoga classes, which the curious can check out the studio’s website, https://www.moksharavenna.com.
“That almost keeps me sane,” she said. “When you are just talking to a camera, it’s really tough to get in touch with people.”
Another thing Hellekson said helps keep her sane is designing clothing items for the studio, mostly using silkscreening and vinyl to create custom prints.
“I’m into graphic design and art, so I still get to express myself, and customers get to have a piece of the studio,” she said.
Plus, it’s another revenue stream to tap, she added.
Hellekson said there are plans afoot to convert the small parking area, owned along with the building by Patrick Madonio, into a permanent outdoor studio.
“We just got accepted for a grant for the outdoor studio,” said Hellekson. “The grant was approved to revitalize the outdoor space and help us cover rent costs. The rent portion is going to get us through the winter.”
The outdoor studio will be freshly paved, landscaped and decorated so it gives the feeling of being an open air enclave for yoga classes, she explained.
Hellekson said she credits winning the grant to Julie McClain, executive director of Main Street Ravenna, who has been sharing funding opportunities with downtown business owners throughout the pandemic and occasionally prodding people to make sure they apply for various grants, like the Ohio Microenterprise Grant, which is the one Hellekson received.
“I attribute a lot of it to her; because I was able to apply and get in so early that I got the full amount,” she said, adding she was shocked to receive so much money.
To weather the pandemic, she also said the studio has received generous donations and Madonio has been “the most magical person” for working with her on the rent expenses.
Hellekson said Moksha Yoga’s been at the downtown Ravenna location for about two years and was in Black Horse before that.
“I ended up getting my yoga certification in India and opened a studio in my hometown because Ravenna needed yoga,” she said.
Moksha is an accessible studio, geared toward yoga beginners, including middle-aged people nursing chronic injuries, cranky knees, the beginnings of arthritis, bad backs and other irritants.
“We make them into yoga people,” said Hellekson. “I put my foot down and don’t allow people to have weight loss goals here. There’s no pressure here for anything. There’s not pressure to keep up; there’s not pressure to do as many reps as the next person. We want people to feel good where they are.”
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at [email protected] and @bobgaetjens_rc.