For years, I knew yoga could improve the quality of my life. Yet, for an activity built on love and inclusivity, jumping into this unfamiliar practice felt challenging. I didn’t relate to the bohemian feel of some local studios, and the terminology used in class was intimidating and hard to follow. I felt like an outsider. Because of this, I avoided all things yoga.
And then I found Stretch. This Austin yoga studio was different. It was accessible and approachable by design, owner and instructor Kaysha Patel told me.
This is how a guy who’d never “namaste-d” or “downward dogged” before began his modest yoga practice…and can now (almost) touch his toes.
Going to the Source
Stretch, located on East Sixth Street, opened in December 2016. As with most ventures, the seeds were planted long before. Patel was doing the high-stress-New-York-City-life thing when she decided to take yoga teacher training.
Deepening her yoga practice proved to be life-changing. Eventually, she left her job and decided to travel to India or, as she tells it, “go to the source.”
Along the way, Patel taught yoga classes to fund her travels. At one point, she even managed a studio in Nepal, where she got a feel for the business side of yoga. This experience was invaluable to what would ultimately become Stretch in Austin.
“I didn’t want to just open a yoga studio; I wanted to fill a void,” she said. The market opportunity presented itself to her: yoga that preserves tradition, but is relevant to today’s lifestyle.
Filling a Void
“Accessible” is the key word in the Stretch philosophy. Everything revolves around this ethos. “I wanted to make sure I created a yoga studio that took a very traditional practice and put it in a modern context,” Patel told me. You can find many examples of how Stretch caters to non-yogis like me, including the approachable name of the studio itself.
There are three types of classes, all with names that are simple and to the point:
- Power Stretch (more intense)
- Deep Stretch (slower and more relaxing)
Another part of making yoga accessible is having classes scheduled around a person’s work day. During the week, there’s the early 6 a.m. for the super-motivated (shower available if you want to go straight to work after), a noon class for those who can get away for lunch, and then a few staggered classes starting at 4:30 p.m.
The studio is charming. “Clean and simple,” as Patel described it. This again, is intentional. You’ll notice there isn’t any iconography or overly-spiritual symbolism going on. Instructors are trained not to use words people don’t understand. “We get down to the basics in all the classes,” Patel told me. “We’ll throw in a ‘chaturanga’ every once in a while so people learn it, but there’s no chanting and that is by design.”
Patel hopes to lead people down a path, step-by-step, where ultimately they’ll be able to sit in meditation for up to 10 minutes. “I want people to get the basics down and learn how to create movement in their body, so that eventually, after consistent practice, you’ll be able to go to the next level,” Patel said. “That is the end goal, to get to a point of meditation.”
Don’t be dissuaded from coming to Stretch if you’re a long-time, experienced yogi. Accessible does not mean slow or easy. These instructors will make sure you get what you came for.
Intimate Experience in a Public Place
Stretch doesn’t limit its offerings to inside the studio walls. In fact, the local business is becoming known for what happens outside its walls, almost more than what happens inside. One way Stretch is doing this is through Stretch Soundscapes. These classes are held in public places, and each participant wears wireless headphones that “help you get into the zone,” according to Patel.
Music, often from a live DJ, along with the instructor’s directions, stream directly to your ears. Past locations for these pop-up sessions include the W Hotel’s pool area, The Historic Scoot Inn, and Whole Foods Market. “We want to take the vibe of our studio and bring it outside,” Patel told me.
You don’t need to be a member to join these events. Once again, the word is “accessible.”
Big Plans for Stretch Yoga Studio
As you may have noticed, Stretch isn’t afraid to try new things, and there are big plans for the future. Patel told me she hopes to one day hold meditation classes, as well as yoga. Also, “Stretch @ Work,” an arm of the business responsible for training instructors to teach classes in office spaces, will be launching soon.
There’s nothing more Austin than putting a new spin on a traditional practice. Stretch will continue to serve yogis and novices alike, with creative and accessible opportunities.
1621 E. 6th St., Suite 1113 – Website
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Have you been to Stretch yoga studio yet? New students get an unlimited month of yoga for only $35!