SANGER – A new yoga studio in Sanger is hopeful that a welcoming, accessible environment will open up the practice of yoga to individuals who thought it could never be for them.
Free Mind Yoga, which opened its location on Academy Avenue and North Avenue in June, does this by hosting a weekly class in the inclusive practice of “chair yoga,” where individuals hold yoga positions while seated or by using a chair for balance. Studio owner Montana Clement said chair yoga provides the same health benefits as its traditional counterpart and is great for people with differing mobility levels.
“A lot of people are really intimidated to try it, but chair (yoga) is something that we find so many people being really grateful for,” Clement said.
Clement was introduced to teaching chair yoga after she helped out a friend who had signed up to teach a course through the Fresno County Public Library. She said immediately after she taught that class, she fell in love with the practice, so much so that it was one of the first classes she started offering at her new studio.
“I fell in love with its accessibility,” Clement said. “It was really grounding, and it brought in a lot of people who we don’t normally see practicing yoga.”
While chair yoga can involve both seated poses and standing poses that use a chair for balance assistance, Clement said that for most of her chair yoga classes, everyone remains completely seated.
For every yoga pose, called an asana, there is an equivalent seated position that can be adapted to the needs of an individual’s body, Clement said. The yoga instructors at Free Mind — who all are fully certified — work to help each person find the best variation of a pose, no matter what their physical restrictions may be.
Whether someone is older and cannot move as much, has an injury or has a physical disability, chair yoga can be adapted to allow them to participate. Clement said she teaches a private monthly class for a group of children with mental disabilities as well, and she feels that chair yoga in general is a good space for people who may not fit into the mold of a standing vinyasa yoga class.
Clement started teaching yoga in 2021 through classes at a wedding venue she also owns. By May 2023, she was ready to open a dedicated studio location, and Free Mind Yoga hosted its first class on June 7. As a business industry that is relatively new to Sanger, she said the chair yoga classes are also a good way for her to introduce individuals to the practice of yoga as a whole without it being too challenging.
Many Free Mind instructors are also bilingual and offer classes in Spanish, Clement said, as a way to increase accessibility to the Sanger community. Complete accessibility of yoga is especially important to Clement because of how beneficial she feels it can be for a person.
Some of the benefits that chair yoga — and yoga in general — provide include physical elements, such as increased flexibility and muscle strength, and mental elements, such as stress reduction. Clement said she wanted to open a yoga studio to spread more light on those benefits.
“I started yoga because of my anxiety and found a lot of really great mental health benefits to it,” Clement said. “I fell in love with the physical practice and knew that it was a healing modality that I really wanted to share with people.”
Free Mind Yoga offers multiple pricing plans, including a three-class package for $40 and two weeks of unlimited classes for $55. All class schedules and other business information is available on the yoga studio’s website at freemind-co.com and the business also has an app its customers can use to view class schedules and other yoga resources.
Free Mind Yoga is located at 1811 Academy Ave. Suite #102 in Sanger. Chair yoga classes are offered weekly at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and cost $17 to attend.