It’s easy to say that intentional rituals of self-care are important, but it’s more difficult to find a ritual that is actually effective. Self-care can often feel selfish, lazy, or sporadic. As a result, it can be difficult to nail down a ritual that is really a healthy one.
When it’s yoga on a Tuesday evening on the rooftop of Alma Mater, though, self-care might be just a little easier — especially when the company offering it — Yoga Wild — does everything it can to remove barriers that prevent people from practicing yoga and mindfulness.
“Whether it’s cost, location, schedule, or child care, we try to help you get yourself here,” said Casey Hubbell, who co-founded the Tacoma company with Kelsey Alshememry in the spring of 2018.
The two moms, yogis, and activists started the company with the goal of encouraging community-building and empathy through yoga. The rooftop class at Alma Mater is one of many Yoga Wild drop-ins that happen across Tacoma, from their Courthouse Square studio location to Baltimore Park, where a class aimed toward parents comes complete with a nanny for the kids.
People can sign up for drop-in classes online through a platform that allows them to choose from a tiered pay scale: A supporter pays $10, a sustainer pays $5, and a community member pays in “good vibes” only. Typically, drop-in classes at a studio range anywhere from $17 to $25, Hubbell said.
Though the tiered scale is an important part of Yoga Wild’s business model, Hubbell emphasized that the purpose of the company is not to offer free yoga.
“We want people to show up when they need to, and we don’t want money to be a barrier to that,” she said. “But there are so many ways people can support in non-monetary ways, whether that’s sharing about it on social media or bringing a friend. That’s why we call it ‘good vibes.’ We want people to be a part of the community and contribute however they’re able.”
This summer, Yoga Wild is offering 18 classes per week — much higher than their original intention of offering at least one potentially free class per day. Four of these are outdoors — two on the roof of Alma Mater and two at Baltimore Park — and 14 are in the company’s new studio space that opened in April.
Though the studio helps Yoga Wild stay grounded, a variety of classes and workshops are still held in spaces throughout the community, from Lakewold Gardens to the Tacoma Nature Center. Many class times are offered throughout most days, reflecting the company’s mindfulness that everyone from students to stay-at-home-moms to full-time employees needs to find spaces and times to devote to self-care.
All of these elements are designed with accessibility in mind, hoping to get people out into the community to devote time to themselves, to become better acquainted with their bodies, and to learn to appreciate themselves as imperfect and always-improving beings.
But the philosophy behind the company extends beyond this focus on the self.
“Instead of just focusing on self-care, getting healthy, being fit, this more inward focus — which is absolutely necessary — we also think that the responsibility to take care of yourself should reflect in caring for your community and caring for the environment,” said Hubbell.
As a business, Yoga Wild practices this community care by donating 10 percent of proceeds to a local charity until donations reach $1,000 and by teaching free classes at Baker Middle School, The Rainbow Center, and Carson Home. The company also has “off the mat” community events called “Projects with Purpose.”
Projects have a wide range, from gathering to write letters of gratitude to loved ones to making Care Kits for the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
“When you have to figure out where to help, and what to give, and what to do, you get into a state of inaction,” said Hubbell. “We’re trying to make (activism) more accessible, too. People want to participate but often just don’t know where to start.”
Purposefully offering opportunities for people to extend yoga beyond the mat makes the mentality people achieve during their practice all the more impactful. In class, people hone their ability to be understanding, patient, and compassionate toward themselves; they then are encouraged to carry that attitude off the mat and spread it to others. While Hubbell noted that there are many physical benefits of yoga, one of the most important in her eyes is the ability to stay calm and patient even in stressful situations, and to spread that patience to others by treating them kindly.
And the connections that people make within their communities through structured “off the mat” practice simply feed into a better ability to practice intentional self-care.
“I think we tend to withdraw; we’re disconnected so much now,” Hubbell said. “Practicing yoga with others, volunteering with others, and getting to know the rhythm of the town by practicing in regular, imperfect spaces — (where you can hear traffic on Fawcett and the rooftop generator buzzing) — makes people feel like they are a part of something bigger and prevents disconnection and isolation.”
As for yoga studios that already exist and offer community spaces, Hubbell said that Yoga Wild’s intention is not to compete with them. Rather, she said, she wants to stand in a place of abundance, understanding that there are enough people in need of yoga who can afford to go to regular yoga studios and also plenty of people who cannot. For those who cannot, Hubbell simply wants to make the option available to them, to welcome them into the fold, and to be a hand in helping them have access to services that will improve their quality of life.
“I think that having something like yoga that can be used as an outlet is a necessity,” she said. “It shouldn’t have to be a privilege.”