featured-fitnessfitnessIssue 18

Yoga in the Woods

Valley Yoga main health issue 18


By Alex Cantatore

Imagine waking up in a magnificent, massive handmade wooden lodge. Take a stroll to the deck, breathe in the clean mountain air, toll out a yoga mat, and stretch out with the trees as your neighbors.

For years, that was Debbie Wolski’s dream. And now, it’s her reality — the longtime owner of Village Yoga Center has purchased a mountain lodge to host regular yoga retreats in a truly natural setting.

Wolski has long believed that yoga is best taught in a quiet, calm setting. It’s a belief that drove the former health club yoga teacher to open her own, yoga-centric studio in 2000.

At first, Village Yoga Center occupied just a small, 600 square-foot, second-floor suite in Modesto’s McHenry Village. In the past 15 years the studio has enlarged three times, knocking down four walls in the process.

That growth has been sustained, Wolski says, because so many local residents have seen the value in yoga. It’s been proven to help both the mind and the body.

“Yoga has been practiced for 5,000 years,” Wolski said. “It’s not some flavor of the week.” Wolski can vouch for the medical benefits of yoga. When she was just a child, she was

diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Doctors said she’d need surgery if it got much worse, and that she could find herself confined to a wheelchair by age 30.

Then Wolski found yoga, strengthening her back. And now, Wolski’s back is better than ever.

Village Yoga Center specializes in therapeutic yoga. Many clients are referred to the center by doctors as a form of physical therapy.

“It’s not the wild and crazy, legs behind your head kind of thing,” Wolski said.

This yoga is for people of all ages and all fitness levels, Wolski says, as she looks at a classroom full of seniors. There’s no need to be flexible to start, or to push yourself too hard — just do what feels right, and you’ll get better.

“It’s for every body, and it’s for everybody,” said Cynthia Christensen, a yoga instructor at Village Yoga Center and a partner in the lodge.

Yoga improves your strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular performance. And it makes you feel better, too, with breathing practices that calm the brain.

“It gives that feeling of deep peace, when everything feels right,” Wolski said. “Once you get your mind to stop that spinning, it changes lives.

“It’s so quiet of a change that sometimes you don’t notice it. Other people notice it in you.”

And though women seem to be more naturally attracted to yoga, men are starting to see the value in it, too.

“Once they figure out it improves their golf game…” Wolski trails off with a laugh.

With nowhere else to expand and ever-increasing demand, at first Wolski didn’t know where to turn. But then she had an idea — why not buy a lodge, a yoga retreat where students could get away from the hustle and bustle and technology of everyday life?

Wolski and her husband looked for years in the Tahoe area before her husband said, “Why not look closer to home?” And before long, they found the perfect lodge, in Twain Harte.

This magnificent yoga retreat is a 5,500 squarefoot, 7 bed, 5 bath lodge with a separate mother-in- law unit. It features 16-foot ceilings and massive, custom beams. The deck can fit 25 yoga mats, and a game room can entertain husbands who aren’t that into yoga.

This wasn’t just the lodge of Wolski’s dreams.

“It was better,” Wolski said. “It was way better.”

Wolski went in with two other families to buy the lodge earlier this year. The first retreats have been huge successes, combining yoga classes with meditation, biking and hiking in nature, and good food. Some retreats have special themes — the September retreat will be 10 days of complete silence — while others are fairly straightforward.

If all goes well, the lodge will bring this tight knit yoga community even tighter. As the yoga classmates share vegan brownies brought by a class member, students can’t stop sharing their experiences — and how much yoga has changed their lives.

“From the second you put your foot to take the first step, you are a different person, from head to toe,” said student Iris Lyon. “I like to say it’s my second home — and my cheapest mortgage.”


For More Information, visit villageyogacenter.com


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