“You can’t be bad at yoga as long as you’re breathing. If it’s hard, that doesn’t mean you’re bad at yoga — it means you need yoga.” Mary Margaret Anderson joyfully, patiently, and exuberantly led us through different poses, pausing frequently to joke with us or laugh about something. The atmosphere was a delightful combination of calm quiet and light-heartedness; there was no hint of the stifling seriousness that can sometimes come with yoga. Mary’s studio, yogamn in Plymouth, was a welcoming haven from the nearby frantic rush hour on I-494.

It’s no wonder the yoga scene in the Twin Cities is booming. These warm and inviting spaces are antithetical to the cold, sterilized business of work and life and keeping up with the Joneses. When you search for yoga studios nearby, you’re bound to find at least three within a few miles of you. This shows there’s a popular need for slowing down, connecting with our bodies, and releasing stress.

Yoga is more than just a fitness routine. It teaches breathing techniques, improves flexibility, and works nearly every muscle in the body — including those in your face! Mary would often remind us to have “happy, open faces” during poses, which kept us from straining.

For Mary, yoga is something you practice every day, both inside the studio and out. “The truth is that the physical is only one third of yoga. We get to practice one third for the mind. Be present, be aware. The other third is the spiritual loving awareness. Strong body. Present Mind. Loving Spirit. I have to work on all of those things every day.”

My experience with Mary at yogamn was a breath of fresh air. Her class was filled with delightful people from all walks of life. Mary is a forward-thinker when it comes to yoga as a practice and philosophy, so her classes range from “When Pigs Fly,” a basic introductory-style class, to a few “Hot Yoga” classes (which are exactly what they sounds like!), to the curious “Laughter Meditation” taught at Little Church on the hill behind the studio.

Mary says “Laughter Meditation really gets to the mind muscles. Trying and trying to create the most positive environment for our minds to live and love.” But no matter the class, Mary doesn’t only focus on the feelings generated from yoga. As she leads you through different poses or stretches, she explains with the confident tone of an expert just which parts of the body affect others, as well as any lesser-known benefits of the activity.

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No matter what you do, Mary believes your first step toward wellness should be to “Know that you can’t do any of this wrong. Impossible. Small changes are really powerful. One long breath. A smile. Moments of stillness.” Wellness is about more than just physical health. Let yoga be the first step in cultivating wellness in every area of your life, and maybe even in the life of a loved one as well!

Whoever you are, Mary believes that yoga is for you. Yogamn offers local first-timers a free first week of unlimited yoga if they bring in a donation for the Food Shelf. Yogamn also offers complimentary tea and filtered water to keep you hydrated, and the shoe-free zone invites you to feel confidently unashamed at your need for a pedicure. Make sure to bring a towel, water bottle, and yoga mat if you have one. Be sensitive to others when you go and don’t wear perfume or cologne, but most importantly, just come!

By Whitney Grindberg