Indy’s yogis now have a new space for cultivating community and practice, and this new studio is all about inclusivity. Haven Yoga Studio, located in Indianapolis’ Butler-Tarkington neighborhood at 309 W 42nd St., aims to be a place where yogis can practice in peace, no matter their size, race, or experience level.
Haven Yoga Studio founder Charlie Redd has been practicing yoga for eight years and teaching for three. She says her studio will be a dedicated space for marginalized groups to explore holistic health practices.
Redd practiced yoga for the first time as a high school student when her dance instructor incorporated yoga into her training. When she saw a black woman on the cover of Yoga Journal while browsing her college library, her interest grew.
“I was like, yo, I can’t believe we do Yoga! This is something we regularly do?” Redd said. “Sometimes it doesn’t register that something is for you or accessible to you until you see other people like you that are doing it.”
When Redd moved to Indianapolis, a friend encouraged her to attend a hot yoga class. She soon started practicing every other day. Today, with eight years of practice and three years of teaching under her belt, Redd opened her own yoga studio.
“Basically, there are not a lot of spaces in Indianapolis that allow marginalized communities to be their authentic selves in practice,” said Redd. “My own stories of being othered or tokenized as a black woman, and also being tokenized for my other identities, drew my attention away from being present in practice while people are staring and analyzing my every move.”
Redd feels most yoga studios cater to white, heterosexual, thin, able-bodied women with disposable income. When asked to elaborate on being tokenized, Redd shared a story about a white woman who stopped her after one of her first classes to inquire about her practice.
“(She) said (in a shocked voice) “you have a really nice practice?” There was a question mark at the end like it wasn’t possible for me to practice yoga and be passionate about it.” said Redd. “In this particular class it was dark in the classroom, so I don’t know why she was peering at me that hard. Also, the tone was so similar to “you speak very well to be black.” it was really uncomfortable for me and unnecessary.”
That’s why Redd is intentional about making sure all of her students, whom she refers to as her community, feel comfortable. Redd shared a story about an elderly woman in her class who had difficulty getting on the ground, which caused Redd to go home and research ways to teach with that person’s abilities in mind. Redd says good instructors are adaptable and do not try to treat everyone’s body as if it should fit into one specific formula.
Redd wants to make sure people of color and people from other marginalized communities feel safe enough to give yoga a try.
“I hate to be cliche, but yoga really is for everybody, and it is a tool, not a magical formula, but a tool that you can utilize to gain control and awareness of your body, your breath, how to navigate stress and heal from trauma,” said Redd. “It is an opportunity to build community with others in a healthy way. It doesn’t matter your body type, age, gender, race or religion; it’s a tool that can be utilized under the umbrella of all of those things to help you be a more connected person in mind, body, and spirit, whatever that looks like for you.”
Keshia McEntire is a freelance writer residing in Indianapolis, IN. You may find her online at keshiamcentire.wordpress.com or on Twitter @keshiamc12.