Local yoga studio opens amid the pandemic

Six years ago, she was in a car wreck that left her with a pound of metal and very little strength in her right arm. Today, Tarasa Gardner has her own yoga studio and is stronger and more flexible than she was before the accident. 

Tarasa Gardner, a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance, has been teaching since 2017. Last October, she opened You, Yourself, and Yoga: a Yoga by TG studio. Photo by Genevieve Tlustos

Her studio, You, Yourself, and Yoga: a Yoga by TG studio, had its grand opening Oct. 17, 2020. Gardner wanted to open the studio earlier, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans.

Gardner, a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance, has been teaching since 2017. While there has been a strong yoga community in Kirksville, there hasn’t been an actual studio until Gardner opened her doors. In the past, she taught yoga at various locations throughout town, but she said having an actual studio is much more convenient. 

“The yoga community in Kirksville has been around and growing and maturing for five, six plus years, and so it’s time that we have a standalone yoga studio and space for that,” Gardner said. 

Gardner started practicing yoga with her young son after the aforementioned car accident. After having surgery on her arm and completing physical therapy, she thought doing yoga would help her arm to recover. 

When she first started, Gardner explained that she was frustrated with her inability to do simple poses, such as tabletop. As she continued practicing, she found that she felt much better mentally after the classes, because she had post-traumatic stress disorder from the accident and found that yoga helped her cope.

Tarasa Gardner, who opened a local yoga studio in October, began doing yoga after a car accident to regain strength and flexibility in her arm. The opening of the studio was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Genevieve Tlustos

“I kept coming back to yoga for the mental even though I went in the first place for the physical,” Gardner said. “And then the physical came eventually, and now I can do things that I couldn’t even do before the accident. I’m much stronger in all ways really.”

Gardner played a lot of sports, especially tennis, throughout her life and said that yoga has been different from all of them. While other sports are competitive and about pushing yourself, she said, yoga is about reducing pain and doing the best you can. It’s different from competitive sports in that it includes not only physical elements but also mental and emotional elements. 

Because of her experience, Gardner said she is able to empathize with people who struggle with the physical aspect and serve as an example of how much it’s possible to improve. She is able to more comprehensively understand why people start yoga in the first place, Gardner explained, and what brings them back.

Melissa Chapman, whose yoga business is called “9 Lemons Yoga” and who also teaches yoga at “You, Yourself, and Yoga,” said what she appreciates about yoga is how it makes people feel better in their own skin. It’s gentle and strengthening, and combines different aspects of the mind, body and spirit. 

In the spring before the studio opened, Gardner transitioned quickly to teaching online. She said some students who are not comfortable with in-person yoga still join virtually. Gardner also works as a teacher at Moberly Area Community College, so she said she was already familiar with Zoom because she used it to teach. However, there were some challenges with figuring out how to have audio of both her and the music, Gardner said.

Check out Gardner’s studio, You, Yourself, and Yoga: a Yoga by TG studio, here:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The studio has several precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are UVC towers that disinfect the air, yoga clients are socially distanced and clients cannot take off their masks until they are at their own mats. The studio can fit nine people total on mats with social distancing. 

Chapman, who is also registered and has been teaching yoga since June, said the most challenging part of teaching during a pandemic is that she’s not able to physically help clients with their poses. She’s had to adjust to verbally correcting student’s poses and staying six feet away. 

Another challenge, Chapman said, was that students have to bring their own yoga materials, such as mats, blocks and straps to class instead of the studio being able to provide them. This means that Chapman has to adjust to only using what clients have brought with them. 

While teaching during a pandemic has been challenging, Chapman said she has really enjoyed it, especially the community aspect.

“I think that it’s so valuable to have that community of people that you just sort of check-in with each other and practice yoga together, and it’s a wonderful way to share that positive energy and to meet new people and make connections with people,” Chapman said. “Yoga’s a great non-judgemental environment in which you can just come in and meet yourself on the mat, and you don’t have to be perfect, you can release yourself from any judgment or imperfection or anticipations and just be.”

Gardner said that in the future, she hopes to have more registered yoga teachers at the studio and expand class offerings. She also hopes that having a brick-and-mortar location will allow the studio to draw in more people. 

As it would be with any business, opening her own studio was a scary idea, particularly during a pandemic, Gardner said. While the process has been difficult, it has also been exciting. Gardner said Kirksville was ready and needed a studio, and she is really proud of the space.