GTPulse: Get Outside This Summer With Sarah Townsend

Traverse City is a special place. I think there are many different pieces that make it so lovely. The beaches, the small-town quaintness, but mostly, the strong sense of community. I sometimes joke about how a neighbor downstate calls the cops if anyone looks at her the wrong way. My neighbors here smile and wave without knowing me. The couple across the street invited me to dinner and Euchre after I had only lived here a few months. Beyond that, the people that I’ve met in northern Michigan and Traverse City have shown me support and kindness akin to what my family would show me. Sarah Townsend knows that feeling too. The Traverse City yoga instructor gives back to the community she loves with her donation-based classes.

“So many people come to these classes and I’ve had 50 plus,100 people that have said they haven’t done yoga in 15 years because they can’t afford a membership at a local studio. And then I think that’s just not what this practice is about. So just having someone that can pay, you know, five bucks and that’s okay and $20 and that’s also okay.”

Sarah moved to Traverse City at 6 years old from North Carolina. As a kid, she figure skated competitively. Long practice sessions left her muscles aching and her coach required her in the other skaters to do yoga.

“The passion started with figure skating. We always did yoga as a supplement. It was definitely not something that I really enjoyed doing, it was just stretching,” she said.

It wasn’t until later in her young adult life that she really began to appreciate yoga in a new way. Instead of simply a way to stretch after physical activity, it became a spiritual way to connect her body and mind. She wanted to teach.

A course in Aruba earned Sarah the ability to instruct classes.

A funny thing happens when we really want something we either want to do it so perfectly that we paralyze ourselves with fear and don’t follow through. Or we jump in terrified, make mistakes and get it done.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done. So I came home and started teaching the next week because I’m just going to make myself nervous if I overthink on it for two months. It was all fresh. So I started teaching the outdoor classes at Hull Park, which in my mind was just going to be more like for family and friends.”

Her first class was a manageable handful of close friends and family. And when those friends and family told their friends, before Sarah knew it, her class size quickly grew to over 40 people.

“I told my mom that I don’t wanna teach a class that big!” Sarah said laughing. “But it’s been so great. That’s how the outdoor classes started.”

Her yoga classes have been going on for three years now, with her outdoor classes being a community favorite for the summertime.

Part of the reason her class has enjoyed so much success in the community is because of Sarah’s welcoming attitude towards yogis of all skill levels.

“It helps if you know the poses, but there are people who have never been on the yoga mat that and they do fine.”

Donation-based classes also make it easy for everyone to feel comfortable attending.

Sarah’s usual summer schedule includes a lot of outdoor classes on the beach or in parks. This year’s calendar will be exclusively outdoors due to the pandemic.

Attendees that don’t come to a class together are encouraged to space out appropriately also because the class is being held Outdoors masks won’t be a requirement wow practicing. Sarah also encourages attendees to bring their own yoga mat or towel.

“It’s more responsible for people to bring their own mat for health reasons, but I do have mats. We’re outside so towels work too, you don’t have to go buy a may by any means.”

When it’s not summer, Sarah teaches indoor classes around town at Press On Juice, and The Little Fleet’s yurt, among others.

Part of her favorite aspects of yoga in Traverse City is the supportive atmosphere she receives from other instructors.

“It’s so supportive. I love going to other people’s classes. I reach out for questions, especially being young and just starting out. I’ve been super thankful. There are a ton of opportunities to collaborate and work together.”

Next time you want some vitamin d with your yoga, check out one of Sarah’s classes. She’ll be at Hull Park Wednesday and Thursday nights at 6 p.m. and at East Bay Park Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m.

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Categories: GTPulse