Inspired by one of Mahatma Ghandi’s famous mantras — “we must become the change we wish to see in the world” — Open Yoga Gallery, a yoga studio with a mission, will launch this weekend at 4736 Lorain Avenue in Ohio City.
“One of our goals is to get people onto the yoga mat for the first time,” says April Arotin, the studio’s founder. To that end, Open Yoga offers several classes per week that merely suggest a donation. During the opening weekend, the studio will offer free classes on Saturday from 12-6 p.m., as well as a free workshop for beginners on Sunday.
Open Yoga is a labor of love for Arotin, who lived in San Francisco before she moved back to Cleveland last summer. The studio is located in a storefront that was last used as an antique store — 10 years ago. Arotin and the friends whom she corralled into helping her spent six months renovating the space.
To cut costs and keep with their green business practices, Arotin reused much of the existing space, cleaning the 1940s tile floor, for instance, rather than replacing it with shiny hardwood planks.
“Ninety percent of the furniture in our space is up-cycled,” explains Arotin, meaning that it’s been reclaimed from other spaces or purchased from thrift stores and refurbished. In addition, the studio has set an ambitious goal to produce zero waste.
To encourage walking, bicycling and carpooling, Open Yoga offers patrons a chance to win free classes if they choose alternative transportation. The 1,000-square-foot studio also functions as an art gallery, with local artists’ work adorning the walls.
Although yoga is not often associated with inner city neighborhoods, Arotin wants to change this. “There’s a perception that yoga is only for a specific demographic — women with a lot of disposable income — but we want to make it accessible,” she says.
After all, yoga is not just about staying healthy and flexible; it’s also about unlocking the potential for change. “Yoga helps us move our bodies in a way that we never thought possible,” says Arotin, “and that can help us realize our true potential.”