Soul Yoga instructor A.J. Fewell teaches a morning power flow class. Tabata Gordillo | Mustang News

Two months after its grand opening, Soul Yoga became a donation-based studio March 18. The donations made by the students contribute to paying the yoga instructors and keeping the studio doors open.

When Soul Yoga owners Laura and Jason Rogers decided to open up a studio, their initial idea was to have a donation-based business that would benefit the San Luis Obispo community. After running the first couple months of business conventionally, the owners decided a change needed to be made.

Soul Yoga became a donation-based studio, two months after its grand opening. The donations made by the students contribute to paying the yoga instructors and keeping the studio doors open.

According to Jason, a wide range of community members expressed that yoga was not as accessible as they would like.

“We felt that, here is this great, very beneficial space for people to help themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, but they had very limited access to it or they couldn’t afford it,” Jason said.

Laura saw this pattern when she taught yoga at a rehabilitation center people with drug and alcohol dependency.

“A lot of the people’s favorite part about the program was when I would come every week and teach them yoga,” Laura said.  “It was amazing to watch their growth, but a lot of them couldn’t afford to buy a membership.”

This vision of a donation-based yoga studio was also shared by their roommates, Jerry Cortes and Troy Phounsavath.

Cortes, an environmental engineering senior, began his yoga journey taking classes at the Cal Poly Recreation Center. After training to be a yoga teacher in India, he decided to give back to the Cal Poly community by teaching at the Recreation Center.

“It’s so cool to be able to teach college students because I can relate to everyone,” Cortes said. “We all go through the same cycles and I just feel a deeper connection with Cal Poly students.”

Because he wanted to become a yoga teacher to give back to the community, Cortes had set a goal to manifest a donation-based yoga studio in San Luis Obispo before 2020. Once he shared this vision with Phounsavath, they reached out to the owners of Soul Yoga, offering to help make their dream a reality.

“We both brought the enthusiasm and we wanted to help in any way that we could,” Cortes said. “We wanted to help envision how the transition would take place.”

The couple saw this as their opportunity to give back to the community. Making Soul Yoga donation-based would make yoga accessible to every demographic, allowing them to practice the yoga and donate the amount they felt was right.

According to Laura, this new policy holds similar values as the traditional Buddhist thought process known as Dana, a philosophy of generosity and charity.

“Students who come into Soul Yoga are actually helping their teachers keep the doors open,” Laura said. “The doors are open, we have amazing instructors, it’s a beautiful space, and if you can only bring oranges or tea to share with the community, then so be it.”

Once this new change is well-established, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to non-profit organizations in San Luis Obispo County.

Cortes, Phounsavath and the Rogers are all confident that this transition will positively impact the San Luis Obispo community.

Cortes said that this is an opportunity for people of different backgrounds to come together.

“I can really see it bringing together people who are passionate about creating positive change in the community, helping bring leaders together, and allowing people to experience the benefits of a yoga practice,” Cortes said.

Laura said she believes the new policy at Soul Yoga will create a domino effect of positive change in San Luis Obispo.

“One of the reasons that we do yoga and love yoga and opened up a yoga studio is because we believe that the more people that do yoga, the happier people become and the more compassionate they become,” Laura said. “We hope that this change brings about this place of compassion around yoga that is not just fitness, it’s about this wholeness of who you are.”

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