Reflect Yoga Therapy, nestled above Studio Helix in Downtown Champaign, is the latest addition to C-U’s growing yoga scene. The studio has offered classes since early January, including a form of yoga that isn’t offered elsewhere in C-U: aerial yoga.
Aerial yoga is practiced on swing made out of parachute fabric that can hold up to 300 pounds of weight.
“I’ve noticed a really beautiful opening in my practice as I’ve gotten more serious about aerial yoga,” said Jodi Adams, co-owner and senior instructor at Reflect. “The swing has gotten me to places that I don’t know if I would have gotten to without it. You can be lazy in the swing and let it do all the work, but as a yogi I’m aware of that and can choose to have a more heated or muscular practice.”
Kristina Reese, a junior instructor, agreed about the joys of aerial yoga, although she noted that she was initially skeptical.
“I got an aerial swing as a gift last year, and at first I wasn’t sure what to think. Then we had someone come here this past November from the Shanti School of Yoga in Traverse City, Michigan. A couple of us in the area got certified. I found that it really opens up the practice, especially in terms of balance. Because the swing supports you, you can come into a full variation of a pose that you either wouldn’t have the confidence to try or wouldn’t be able to manage because you’re still building stability. With the swing, you can’t fall. You can also strengthen with the swing and take really big steps forward.”
Adams added that the swing adds a degree of accessibility to a yogic practice that students might not otherwise experience.
“A lot of my students can’t access that inversion on their own,” said Adams. “They can’t do a headstand or a handstand on their own because they don’t have the strength. Practicing with the swing is non-weight bearing and easy on the joints. So everyone has been able to access all of it — the flying aspect of it. I’ve seen overcoming during the aerial classes. I’ve seen transformation in an hour and a half. And people get to reconnect with the fun and the joyousness of moving.”
Reflect offers a number of aerial classes, but Jodi was quick to stress that first and foremost, Reflect is a yoga studio: they offer plenty of traditional yoga classes on the mat. “I don’t think aerial yoga should be the end all be all,” said Adams. “But it can definitely add a wonderful element to your practice.”
People interested in flying on the aerial yoga swings at Reflect can take Aerial 101, an hour and a half training, before joining an aerial yoga class. Aerial 101 is offered monthly (three trainings are being offered the weekend of February 14–15) and costs $35. The trainings introduce people to the basics of yoga, as well as how to adjust and use the swing during classes. “Some people do it just to get a taste, just to say they’ve done it, and maybe that’s enough for them. But many return to our classes,” said Adams.
According to Adams, Reflect started when Hayli Peterson (co-owner of Reflect and a certified yoga therapist) approached Laura Kalman, the owner of Studio Helix, about renting a space to offer yoga to her students. Then Hayli brought Jodi into the mix to help teach the U of I Women’s Tennis team as part of a module healing program. The three recognized the benefits of this training as the perfect model for a yoga business, so they brought Anni Poppen (owner of Mowgli Studio) on board as the co-owner for her marketing expertise.
“I’ve always been interested in aerial,” said Adams, “and this space is perfect for that. And there really aren’t too many yoga studios in Champaign. One [The Living Yoga Center] just moved here, but most are housed in Urbana. We wanted to offer yoga in this location.”
Reflect’s partnership with Helix is based in a shared perspective on body work. “Laura has been relatively exclusive in terms of her clientele,” said Adams. “Helix is not an open gym. If you’re a client of hers, you can use her space. We’re thinking about expansion, but we do want to keep the space more private. We don’t want a gym vibe. We look for people who are looking to build from the inside out.”
Helix and Reflect are expanding access through an Executive Program, which they have in the works. The program would give people who work downtown the chance to take short, 45-minute yoga classes two days a week and have access to Helix on two other days during their lunch hour. “We are working with Dancing Dog Eatery on the potential offering a bento box lunch as part of the program so people can eat at their desk when they return from their workout,” Adams said.
Another partnership that Reflect has developed in its short time is with Christie Clinic’s Department of Foot and Ankle Surgery. “We’re doing a lot with their Yoga for Runners program,” Adams said. “Most people who train for a marathon end up injuring themselves. We’re going to help them in their training process. When you work the body hard, you need to honor with body with time for stretching and healing.” The studio will soon begin offering a special “Yoga for Runners” class.
And there are still many new developments in store. Adams said that Reflect is focused on remodeling and expansion. “We’re still going to build out on the second floor. We want to have more studios and a meditation room. Our plan is to have a rooftop garden this summer and to be able to practice on the roof in the summer. This is a nice healing space, and we want to be able to encourage more like-minded people to share this space with us.”
But even as they continue expanding, Adams emphasized that she wants to make sure Reflect stays grounded in the principles of yoga.
“Yoga is about taking the practice off the mat,” said Jodi. “It’s about being able to be able to be present, to speak my truth, and to hear your truth. It’s much more than being flexible or wearing the latest yoga styles. It’s about having more authentic interactions with other people. We are drawn in so many different directions, so we need to cultivate a calm center. If we can cultivate that every day on the mat, even if it’s only for ten minutes, it’s a gift to ourselves.”
Photos courtesy of Sam Logan