It’s early February in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and the temperature is hovering between 103- and 104-degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve met up to talk about one of the most unique settings and inspirational places in the region—Ganesha Yoga’s hot studio. We stand in a circle and start the conversation but before too long, its just too hot for reflective conversation. Exiting the space, mirrors covering one side of the room from floor to ceiling show all four of us walking out. Everyone else has left for the night. After starting at 5:30 am, classes for the day are finally over. Floor heaters in the corners remain on. A ceiling heater keeps humming. Outside of the room, the air feels more refreshing than any room at normal temperature really should. The whole place has that feeling. There are more mirror-covered walls throughout the space. Where there aren’t mirrors, its brick or shiplap or decorative wood. The lighting is soft, and the floorboards seem to glow or shine despite all the use they get. Outside, the temperature and wind is the opposite of what it feels like inside. Through one of the front windows, snowflakes whip with the wind under a streetlight. We find a new spot at the front of the studio and spread out on the wide planked wood flooring.
We start talking about the yoga studio, why three women from the region joined together a year-and-a-half-ago to open it, what they’ve learned and among many other things, what they’ve brought to the community and their loyal yogis. Danielle Gregoire, one of the founders, is still in yoga gear, sweating from her last class. Cassie Thompson and Katie Thorson, also founders and certified instructors, are each there as well, unconsciously doing stretches and poses on the floor as they talk about their experience.
When we talk about the practice of teaching yoga, the women are so eager to explain their business and shared passion, that they do so almost simultaneously. When they get reflective on what they’ve learned about themselves or the people that utilize the studio, they each offer different answers with harmonized meaning. At the end of our discussion, the snow continues to sparkle under the street light. The light is still soft inside the studio. The air temperature feels perfect at a comfortable 72 degrees, and incredibly refreshing for a winter night. It’s hard to commit to wrapping up. Walking out, the mirrors show us leaving, and the calm and wellness that's reflected is hard not to notice. They look relaxed, content and unbothered by wind chill advisories or conference calls or errands and to-do lists. The people in that mirror look refreshed, like the reflections made possible only by being in that studio, are the best versions any of them can be.
What’s Happened At The Yoga Studio
Gregoire, Thompson and Thorson all began practicing yoga for different reasons. Since their starts, each has finished various forms of intensive training to become certified in different forms. When they met at Urban Stampede to discuss their thoughts and dreams on yoga roughly two years ago, they shared a singular vision for co-founding and running a studio in downtown EGF. After acquiring their space, they put in new flooring, shiplapped some of the walls, painted every room and installed mirrors and heaters (for the hot studio). “If you were related to us,” Thompson says, “you helped.” Friends provided services or materials. Thompson’s grandfather built benches for a waiting area.
From the beginning, support and belief in their vision for a yoga studio was always present from their family, they say, and from a community looking for more yoga. In addition to themselves, Ganesha has 11 different instructors to provide a wide range, from beginning yoga to weights to cardio-based routines. Running the studio and teaching classes is a full-time job even though the founders also work other places as well. Time spent remodeling the space has allowed them to host or rent for special events ranging from book signings to photo shoots to free community yoga classes. Ganesha also sells its own clothing line in addition to mats and other gear from the best yoga brands.
The studio has taught each of the founders the hours entrepreneurs must keep, the intricacies of heating and ventilation, and why they have always been drawn to the practice of poses.
“Being here is the least stressed I’ve ever been,” Gregoire says. “We’ve learned how to say yes to the right things.”
Thorson shares Gregoire’s affinity for using the studio as a place to find the right life focus. She also cherishes the natural happenings of their studio: everyone that comes in for a class becomes a friend. “We’ve been fortunate to create that here,” she says. “I think part of our success is also about confidence. People gain confidence here. We can help with that.”
Thompson, a former collegiate basketball player that hasn’t gone more than a day without performing yoga in a really long time (she guesses) since she first tried yoga, is always inspired by a unique element of the practice. She loves to see people get better, own find more confidence in their or physical movement during a series of classes, but she also knows that isn’t the only thing happening. “The best part isn’t always what happens on your mat,” she says. “It’s what happens off of it.”
All three agree and emphasize the space in EGF is more than a yoga studio. They’ll always stay busy teaching classes, and inspiring people, but they also have plans for more events and community gatherings in the future. Regardless of whether the founders or the teachers are helping someone with a pose or with their mindfulness of the moment, Gregoire believes spending time there or understanding the point of yoga—even if its on a paddleboard at the lake or a snow pile at a ski-resort (two places all three have practiced yoga poses before)—is about doing something so many in the region struggle to achieve. To-do lists get long, travel and work saps our energy. That’s what team Ganesha helps to fix, or even change, Gregoire says. “Sometimes yoga really helps us take time to focus on ourselves without feeling selfish.” G
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PHOTOS BY: MELQUIST PHOTOGRAPHY