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A Conversation With ... Sunni Nutt

Owner, Essential Yoga Studio LLC

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Your purchase of Essential Yoga Studio finalizes Nov. 1. How did this opportunity to purchase come about, and why were you interested?
This is the first studio that I started practicing at about a decade ago. When I first became a yoga teacher, I knew that I wanted to teach here first because this has such a special place in my heart. There was a time when I couldn’t even afford to pay for a membership, and this studio gave me a scholarship. Over the year or so that I’ve taught here, I’ve become really familiar with all of their regulars. I love the people that we teach. Miranda Dusenberry, who currently owns the studio, she texted our teacher group and she said I’m thinking of selling. I looked at my husband and I said, “You think I need a yoga studio?” He said, “If what you want is a yoga studio, if that is your dream, then we are going to make it happen.” Miranda bought the studio in August 2020 and I think that her intention was to get it through the pandemic, and she did such an incredible job holding the business together, holding space for the students. I am so excited to make this a yoga home for lots of people.

You work full time, now at Boys & Girls Club of Springfield as director of operations. Why did you want to get involved in teaching yoga?
I’m not quitting my day job. I love what I do. When I first started practicing yoga, one of the first things that I realized was how great it was for my anxiety. Yoga is really a place for me to find acceptance with myself, my body, quiet my mind, connect to my breath in ways that I really never had before. I actually enrolled in yoga teacher training just because I like to know things, and I wanted to know what yoga teachers know. I wanted to have an opportunity to hold space and build community, a part of nonprofit work that I love, for other folks. I really believe that you can’t continue to work on all of the things that you love if you’re not finding that outlet to also support yourself.

What’s your niche at Essential Yoga as it relates to your services and client base?
What I’ve loved about the studio is that the primary demographic is usually middle-aged to older folks, or folks who aren’t necessarily focused on the fitness of their physical bodies only. Maybe they’re looking for that connection with themselves spiritually or through their breath. For older folks or people who are newer to yoga, they’re looking for a safe space where they’re not going to be judged. Most of our classes are gentle flow classes. It’s in a nonheated space. It’s really important to me that anybody who comes into our doors does feel welcomed and does feel like they’re able to explore wherever they’re at in their practice, even if they’re very brand new. I just got my trauma-informed yoga teaching certification, so I’m very excited about that from a trauma-informed framework. My goals over the next year are to bring in classes that are more accessible to families with little kids or to older folks who maybe have limited mobility issues.

What does the research tell us about yoga’s impact on health and wellness?
Yoga has an extremely huge benefit on our ability to manage stress, our ability to stay mindful and connect with the world and the people around us. It has extremely positive benefits on our physical bodies, as well, through strengthening and lengthening our muscles, making us more flexible and in some cases more mobile. I would argue that it also makes us more adaptable to what’s going on in the world around us, both mentally and physically. There’s a positive impact on all of our organ systems, our cardiovascular system, our respiratory system, just being able to take that time to strengthen those parts of our bodies while we’re also moving at whatever pace we’re moving. When you’re experiencing mental health issues or really any illness, it can feel really hard to connect with and identify with your body as your own. Sometimes our bodies feel like our enemies, and I think that yoga is a really great way to connect with your body and to be able to honor it and respect it and accept it for what it is able to do for you.

How many teachers do you have and how many classes do you offer?
We’ve got right at 10 that teach regularly. We have at least one class every day and up to four classes on certain days. Our classes range from restorative classes, gentle flow classes, vinyasa-style classes and then we also have a meditation class that’s free on Thursday mornings. We have candlelight flow on Fridays. Our average class size right now is usually between eight and 10. I am really excited to grow membership and to grow class size, but I think that one of the beautiful things about the studio is that it will probably always be smaller class sizes, 15 to 20 max. Most of our classes are offered both in studio and virtually.

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