NEWS: Yoga Farm Brings Yoga To Everyone Else

BY DAN VEANER

The name of one of the beginner classes is telling: 'Easy, Light and Fun Yoga'.  The class aims to make yoga accessible to anyone.  Yoga Farm owner Christopher Grant says that yoga can be accessible to anyone, which he calls 'yoga for everyone else.'  He says that his down to earth style brings yoga to people who wouldn't normally practice it.

"It's a simplified version of effective practices," he says.  "It's actually very effective.  It's not impossible postures and hard work for two hours.  We open the body and clear out stale energy, then let the body settle and have a short meditation.  People go away with big smiles on their faces.  You don't have to be a flexible twenty-something for most of the classes I offer here.  Most of the yoga is very simple.  It's really quite fun."

Grant offers a range of group and private sessions for all levels of practitioner.  His beginner classes seek to be accessible in many ways.  They offer benefits of yoga to people who are not necessarily naturally athletic, in 60 minute chunks that he says fit peoples' schedules better than a traditional 75 to 90 minute yoga session.  He takes a playful approach, offering small group sessions that top out at a maximum of ten people.

"A half minute of fairly powerful breath can be very energizing," he explains.  "There is one particular breathing exercise that we call 'yoga coffee'.  It really feels like a charge.  At three o'clock in the afternoon and you're dragging, or ten at night and you're driving, you can pull over and in 30 seconds you can charge the body."

As a new client you arrive at the  Conlon Road studio, fill out a little paperwork, then discuss your yoga experience, any issues you may have with your body and what you are hoping to accomplish.  Grant calls beginner sessions 'yoga light'.  The 'Easy, Light and Fun' session combines movements, breathing, simple stretching, and meditations, while the Vinyasa session is more for people who have more athletic capability.  He says either session is good for people who are new to yoga.

"The purpose of Yoga Farm is to offer an opportunity for wellness, for people to learn self-care techniques for their body and their mind in a friendly, accessible way," Grant says.  "Yoga is the science of the body, how we take care of it.  Much of yoga in America is wellness for well people.  I feel pretty good.  I like exercise.  The body needs to stretch, so I'm going to stretch and breathe and practice meditation to calm my mind."

Grant says his own yoga journey began with his search to find relief from an overactive mind in a rat-race environment.  After graduating with a computer science degree from the Cornell School of Engineering in 1992, grant sought his fortune in a burgeoning field.

"I went to New York to go make a million bucks," he says.  "As I was working that rat race I found myself in the physical side of yoga.  Stretching, using my body, getting myself tired out.  After a couple of hours, sometimes my mind would blissfully quiet down just for a split second.  That was my first clue.  That's the thread that I followed for 20 years, pursuing activities, practices, lifestyle -- bringing things into my life that helped me maintain the relatively sane state of mind I am experiencing now."

In 2005 grant joined Gorges, a high-powered Ithaca-based software and Web development company, but continued to practice yoga to balance that world.

"I was doing well in business and on the outside everything looked good, but on the inside I was very unhappy and my life was out of balance," he says.  "It was a carrot and stick.  The stick was the feeling that I needed to do something for my mind.  I came at yoga from the perspective of calming what I felt was a crazy mind."

While Grant began teaching yoga in 2010, he only recently committed to it full time.  He began transforming 'Indian Chimney Farm', an alpaca farm, to Yoga Farm, transforming an office space above an out building into an intimate yoga studio.  Initially he developed Satya Body Mind Programs, offering wellness sessions for corporate employees, but as he found there was little market for that approach in the ithaca area, he was drawn to a more personal approach working with individuals.

"I've largely handed off my responsibilities at Gorges," he says.  "My goal in this season was to search for a vocation that felt authentic to me without considering what the return would be.  Even though Gorges was successful, I wasn't happy.  My goal with Yoga Farm is to give myself over to the service world in a way that feels good to me and not worry about that so much.  Set aside the 'where is this going' and look to go one step at a time."

That may or may not lead to growth, and Grant says he is happy whichever way it goes.  Grant says that the business is not taking the path he foresaw when he started the group sessions on November 11th.  He was surprised when people began asking about private sessions, either for maintaining wellness or for yoga therapy for physical issues like sciatica.  

"I'm just watching as this unfolds," he says.  "Now that I'm enjoying these one-on-ones I am building program around that.  I'm speaking about private yoga sessions and people are saying, 'that's what I want.  I don't want to come to a group class.'"

Grant is offering a series of classes through the Lansing Recreation Department in January.  The program had a yoga offering in the past, but the Town Hall and community center have become increasingly more booked.  having a local yoga studio made the offering possible again for the Rec Department.  Participants will sign up for six classes for $50, one per week for six weeks.  Participants pick a weekly class from the schedule and sign up through the Rec Department.  Grant says it is a great way to find out about yoga.

 Christopher Grant

Christopher Grant

Grant says the future will bring... whatever it brings.  If the business grows he is ready for it, but he says that his increasing business in private sessions is satisfying.

"It's a small yoga studio," he says.  "We're out here in the country.  There is another space on this farm that is much bigger, but not winterized.  But for six months out of the year we could have much larger classes and workshops.  I'm looking into that for next summer, but now I am looking at it one step at a time."

The current step is to make yoga accessible for anyone who wants to give it a try.

"My favorite thing about what I am doing now is that I am able to make a difference for my neighbors," he says.  "I'm going door to door, giving them an invitation, a free class pass.  I feel like I can make a difference.  People find a reason to hope.  Part of the goal of 'Yoga For Everyone Else' is to make it accessible, and make it fit."

Mariko Jana Azis