connecting the community through gift-based yoga – The North Wind

Unity Yoga Co-Op is a quaint space on Washington Street where anyone can go and forge a deeper connection with themselves, with other members of the community, and with the practice of yoga.

“Yoga has touched my life in a way that has inspired me to share my practice with others,” said founder and yogi, Connor Ryan. “When I started practicing yoga, I recognized it as a physical practice, and it was kind of my foot in the door to learn more about spiritual practices and the philosophy of yoga.”

Ryan was inspired to share this modality of yoga with others, to serve as a similar level playing field for anyone seeking a deeper practice through presence and awareness.

“Every person, every body is different, and so showing up to be present with whatever comes up that day, is the best way to implement yoga practice,” Ryan said. “[And] to maybe realize that we’re all in this together, and that we’re all striving to find peace and freedom in our lives, to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

Unity offers a variety of courses with all instructors teaching in their own unique way and style. Some of the yoga styles taught are Hatha, a more restorative, slower-paced yoga, and Vinyasa, a faster-paced yoga that focuses on connecting breath to movement.

“The cool thing about Unity is that we don’t subscribe to one modality or another,” Ryan said. Each instructor brings their unique style, so this way each instructor is going to provide a unique experience.

Spiritual strength sessions are also offered every Sunday at 7 p.m. which explore yogic philosophy, as well as meditation, and most Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Ryan gives a class with live music.

All classes at Unity are gift-based, an ideology aligned with the yogic principle of selfless service and creating a space where all are welcome to develop their practice and way of being.

“What I’ve learned over the years is give first and everything else will follow,” Ryan said.

Yoga can be especially important for students because it offers the opportunity to slow down and become more present. Unity has facilitated the perfect environment for this, where one can show up and just be and release the pressures of everyday life.

“University is a very crucial transition period in life where one develops practices that serve them … and in the development [yoga] practices, maybe one can become more efficient and less bogged down by stress, less bogged down by drama, less bogged down by influences that don’t serve them,” Ryan said.

Indecisive sophomore Emma Miller believes yoga is important to her because it helps distract her brain from constantly thinking about schoolwork.

“And it’s like you still see the people who go to school with you, but in a totally different setting. It’s like you’re more part of the Marquette community than the NMU,” Miller said. “It’s really important to get away from it all and have time and peace with yourself.”

Miller also believes donation-based classes help attract more students who don’t necessarily have extra funds, making yoga more accessible to everyone.

“I also think it’s really cool that the instructors put so much effort into their practice and get to know everyone,” Miller said. “Maybe they wouldn’t get as much money, but it’s not like the way they act or the way they teach differs.”

Olivia Luplow, a sophomore in Spanish and a sociology major, finds time in her busy schedule between work and school to take Unity Yoga classes to help balance her life.

“It’s definitely been very squashed into my schedule,” Luplow said, “but I think because it’s something that’s important to me and I’ve noticed it benefits me mentally and physically, I’m okay with really saving myself to go there.”

Luplow first heard about Unity because his partner’s band was playing one of the Wednesday classes.

“I wanted to do yoga and I wanted to listen to him play music and support him in that,” Luplow said. “I went there and saw the space and knew right away that it was something that matched my values…It’s so full of light and air and just a good energy.”

Located on the second floor of 147 W Washington Street, the windows face the street and soak up the early morning sunlight or the multicolored Christmas lights from Dig’s across the street during an evening class.

“[Unity] takes away the idea that you have to be a certain type of person to participate in yoga,” Luplow said. “You don’t have to have a certain amount of money or fancy clothes or a lot of experience to go to Unity. You just have to show up and be willing to do what you can and pay what you can pay.

Luplow believes the instructors take pride in their craft and ensure that everyone has an experience that matches their needs.

“I really enjoyed the spirituality of the classes I attended,” Luplow said. “I think they focus a lot on the holistic effects of yoga and not just the physical practice of doing it.”

Ryan always rates his classes based on the energy in the room; when it feels a bit low, the practice will flow slower. But on nights when there is live music, there is some kind of magical energy in the air from the combination of physical movement and music playing in real time.

“It’s a trifecta because you have the participants, you have the person playing the music, and you have the Hatha yoga instructor, all communicating with each other in the same space,” Ryan said.

Marquette’s local band, Audio Obscura, played in some of the yoga classes and accompanied Ryan and other yogis to create a dynamic, flowing energy. An example of one of their performances, along with Ryan’s teaching, can be found here. Audio Obscura can be contacted at [email protected].

“I really encourage anyone reading this or thinking of going [to Unity] at all, just try because you really can,” Luplow said. “You have nothing to lose.”

For more information on classes and schedules, visit The unit website.

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