For East Lansing resident Jen Hayes, freedom was her motivation in opening her own yoga studio.
“I wanted a place where I could have the freedom to teach how I wanted,” she said.
Hayes, who has a background in both construction and accounting, opened Yoga State at 515 East Grand River Ave. in 2007.
“Location was important—I wanted to be near Okemos, East Lansing, and Haslett and I was set on being on Grand River for the easy access to students since there was nothing around like this for them,” she said.
The studio offers the lowest rates in Michigan, and goes out of its way to cater to MSU students, offering reduced rates and bulk packages that never expire. This adds a level of flexibility that makes it easier for people to fit yoga into their schedules.
“We try to make our pricing as low as possible so that more people can come,” Hayes said.
While the studio depends on their MSU student clientele, MSU students say they feel the same way about the studio.
“I’m dedicated to yoga because it helps me with school work, classes and keeping me relaxed. I actually depend on it to get me through the week,” MSU communications junior Kelly Clark said.
Clark, a former member of the MSU crew team, was seeking a fresh challenging workout like what she was used to from intense rowing practices, and found Yoga State during her sophomore year.
“It depends on where you go, but Yoga State yoga is so much more than just stretching, like a lot of people think. It’s as intense as what I was used to with crew and the studio gives off a vibe that makes it even more than a workout—it helps you mentally as well as physically,” Clark said.
Although yoga’s physical benefits may be more well-known, the emotional benefits of yoga are abundant as well.
“It teaches you how to deal with confrontation while physically keeping you at your all-around best,” Hayes said.
Whether it’s the physical or emotional benefits of yoga that lures students to attend classes, Yoga State attracts 30 to 60 students each day. Classes include ashtanga yoga, a tradition practice combining the same sequence of movements in every class; vinyasa yoga, where breath and movement combine to create a unique fast paced flow, and apprentice classes, five-dollar classes where newly trained instructors have the opportunity to teach. Times range from early morning to late evenings, Monday through Sunday.
“I try to practice six days a week–it’s pretty easy to go since its at the same time each day. I want to try everything so now I can’t stop coming,” Clark said.
In addition to the nine regular Yoga State instructors, the studio hosts workshops and events monthly hosting yogis from everywhere from Miami to New York City.
In October, the studio hosted Justin Barns, from The Jonny Kest Center for Yoga in Bloomfield Hills, who taught a special vinyasa class, and Saturday the studio will welcome ‘Yoga Dan’ to teach an Ahimsa yoga class at 5:45.
Yoga State provides a comfortable environment for both skilled yogis coming in for workshops and new yogis trying the ancient art for the first time.
“The first thing I noticed was the cool designs and how everything in the studio made me feel so comfortable,” Clark said, “Jen told me she made everything by hand and I think that really makes it like a home.”
From the studio’s handcrafted tile floor in the entryway to its large fish bowl in the front to the cork floor in the studio designed to hold in heat, Yoga State provides a unique professional environment for everyone.
“I couldn’t find a place with the right environment, there were always, windows, and mirrors and it was not welcoming, emotionally, so we had to build it,” Hayes said.
Hayes, who formerly taught at the Michigan Athletic Club, wanted a peaceful environment that was worlds away from the noisy busy gym atmosphere she was used to. Her dream became a reality with Yoga State where she has been able to share her love for yoga with much of the community, but taking the first steps to starting her own business was as challenging as holding a difficult pose for ten minutes.
“I didn’t think about it too much, I couldn’t over think it or I would’ve talked myself out of it. I’m still thinking about it,” she said.
While most of Yoga State has not changed drastically since they opened, they are still constantly developing and making minor changes, including adding new classes.
One of the main challenges for the studio, like most college town businesses, is the summer, Hayes said.
“The fluctuation of when the students leave and the families are vacationing is really hard. We offer specials during that time and market to the neighborhood more,” she said.
With whatever challenges Hayes faces, she, like many other Yoga State regulars, uses yoga as a tool to overcome whatever she faces.
“I treat yoga as something I have to do so I make time for it like a club or sport or school or work. I don’t think I could get through the semester without it—I think everyone should try it,” Clark said.