Yoga Nook members pose for a picture after class.
Yoga Nook members pose for a picture after class.

STRETCHING BOUNDARIES

Mary Jo Huelskamp and Deb Bagley open a yoga studio in West Chester, providing an intimate space for the community.

Nestled in West Chester, Ohio, a relaxing haven sits. Surrounded by clean white walls and decor consisting of the most calming colors, a yoga class takes place inside. 

 

The Yoga Nook was opened in August of 2023 by co-owners Mary Jo Huelskamp and Deb Bagley. Bagley began her discovery of yoga in 2002, when her doctor advised her to give it a try to strengthen her back. 

 

“I was a runner at the time and had some back issues. I started with Pilates classes at a business called The Wellness Circle off Tylersville Road. I noticed the yoga classes and students and thought it looked like something I might want to try, so I started a beginner yoga class,” Bagley told Spark.

 

Bagley said that she was initially shocked by the level of strength that yoga requires. Despite the shock, she was pleasantly surprised with how she felt mentally and physically afterwards. Though she was once intimidated by the practice, she began to see improvement and a higher degree of comfort in herself as she continued.

 

“In the beginning, I practiced Ashtanga yoga which is an athletic type of yoga with a fixed order of postures. There are six different practices that one can advance through. Later, I practiced Ashtanga Vinyasa, which is a creative form of yoga where poses are linked with the breath in a flowing sequence,” said Bagley. 

 

At the time of her introduction to yoga, Bagley was employed by the Mason City School District as an administrative assistant at the Early Childhood Center. After ten years of practicing yoga, she decided it was time for a change and signed up for a yoga teacher training course. Bagley participated in a 200-hour base training course through Yoga Home in Cincinnati. 

 

“I didn’t sign up because I wanted to be a teacher, but rather to understand more about yoga and why I gravitated toward it,” said Bagley. “Part of my training required Karma service, and I chose a women’s shelter in Cincinnati called The Bethany House to go with a group to lead the women through a practice. Doing this caused me to see how helpful yoga was for others, and I decided to start teaching after my graduation.”

 

Upon her graduation in 2012, Bagley began teaching at Drishtiq Yoga in Mason. While working at Drishtiq Yoga, Bagley met fellow instructor Mary Jo Huelskamp.

 

Huelskamp said that she actually began teaching yoga before she truly practiced yoga. Working in corporate health and wellness at Kimberly Clark, Huelskamp taught a variety of health and fitness classes. When it was requested that employees be taught yoga, Huelskamp was sent to receive yoga instructor training. 

 

“I was told that the employees wanted yoga so I reluctantly decided to go through teacher training and started to teach yoga, and realized how much I loved the practice. I then received my 200-hour registered yoga teacher training in 2014,” Huelskamp told Spark. 

 

Huelskamp worked as an instructor at Drishtiq Yoga with Bagley. She also managed a store in Mason called Moss and Ivy. In 2022, the effects of the pandemic forced Drishtiq Yoga to close, and Huelskamp and Bagley were forced to look at new job ventures.

 

“After Drishtiq closed, I tried out different studios in the area, and nothing really felt like the right fit for me. A friend of mine, Deb Bagley, who also taught with me a Drishtiq, started to talk about potentially opening a studio of our own,” said Huelskamp.

 

Huelskamp said that she and Bagley were in similar positions, searching for something that they just could not find in the area. She also said that Bagley has additional training that has always caused her to look up to Bagley for education and advice. 

 

“A lot of yoga studios now are more corporate or chain types of yoga studios. Deb and I were looking for something a little bit more personal and on a smaller scale where she and I could make all the decisions for what we envisioned for the studio,” said Huelskamp.

 

Huelskamp’s husband, Todd Huelskamp, said that there is not necessarily a specific demographic that the studio appeals to. The social media account is geared towards informing the community.

 

“Social media is targeted towards those that are seeking an interest in yoga and community,” Todd told Spark. 

 

Mary Jo said that the space’s landlord did most of the work in readying the space to be a functioning studio, but Todd stepped in to help with the finishing work to be able to open the studio. She also said that her daughters helped to create the studio’s logo. Together, they decided on a lotus flower for the logo.

 

“When we looked up the definition of nook, it was a small, cozy space. A small, inviting, comfortable space that we wanted everyone to feel welcome in,” said Mary Jo. “The lotus flower is a representation of coming up through the mud or a challenging time and turning it into something beautiful. We wanted that to represent our journey of how we came to be.”

 

When designing the studio, the goal was for the space to feel calm, clean, inviting, and serene. The idea of plants in the studio was a favorite in order to provide it with clean air. 

 

“It is a very family-focused studio, with my son painting the walls, my daughter creating the logo, and my husband doing a lot of the interior work. It has been a family commitment,” said Mary Jo.

 

Todd remembers Mary Jo coming home and saying she just could not find what she was looking for in the area. He said that once the ball got rolling with space, an investor, and a doable business model, doors were able to open. 

 

“There have been ups and downs, challenges, successes, but never a complaint,” said Todd.

 

Mary Jo said that customer feedback has been extremely positive.

 

“Everybody feels welcomed in our space. We really feel like we are creating a community. Everybody is getting to know each other, talking with each other,” said Mary Jo.

 

According to Mary Jo, the best way to give the studio a try is to sign up for a free intro offer. This includes 14 days of classes for $45. The studio also offers special pricing for students and seniors.

 

Currently, Mary Jo and Bagley split the majority of the classes at the studio, according to Bagley. This means that they each teach seven regular classes and share the administrative responsibilities. They have seven other instructors employed at the studio as well. 

 

According to Bagley, a typical class consists of three to eight clients, while weekends and weeknights might have anywhere from eight to twenty students. 

 

Bagley often says that yoga “gives you a toolbox full of tools ready for your use when you need them.” 

 

“First and foremost,Breath! Yoga teaches you to breathe and to become intimately familiar with using your breath in times of stress and chaos to help you access a calmer, clearer, more focused state of being. It has a direct effect on your nervous system and helps you balance the SNS (sympathetic nervous system – “fight or flight”) and the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system – “rest and digest”),” said Bagley.

 

Bagley said that her advice to anyone who might have an interest in yoga is to take the risk of beginning to learn. 

 

I think so often people think they need to be flexible to start, but that is simply not true,” said Bagley.” Yoga benefits anyone, regardless of where they are, with an increase in strength, flexibility and more importantly, mobility. The practice isn’t just physical; it also has huge benefits for stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.”

 

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