Have you seen more people doing yoga downtown? Meet the movement behind Discover Yoga Fort Wayne

If you're active on Instagram in Fort Wayne, you've probably seen pictures of groups doing yoga in unusual locations. Sometimes, they're outdoors on The Landing in front of Utopian Coffee. Other times, they're inside local businesses, like 2 Toms Brewing Company. 

This is the movement and passion project of Chelsea Vona, Owner of Discover Yoga Fort Wayne. It's an inclusive group for newbie to advanced yogis with bodies of all types, helping them experience the city and the practice of yoga in new ways. Chelsea Vona

Each month, Discover Yoga has been creating unique experiences for its participants, often utilizing public, outdoor spaces during the pandemic to help residents learn a new skill or improve their mental and physical health. By partnering with groups, like 2Toms Brewing Company, to host classes, they're driving business to local entrepreneurs during the pandemic, too.

Along with its weekly $15 Tuesday night classes at 2Toms, Discover Yoga Fort Wayne is hosting free, monthly classes this winter in partnership with the Fort Wayne Parks Department at their pavilion downtown. The free classes will be at 10:30 a.m. on the second Sunday of every month from December to February, starting this weekend on Dec. 12. 

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Vona to learn more about Discover Yoga Fort Wayne's mission and their plans for a new, permanent location downtown in the near future.

Chelsea Vona leads a class for Discover Yoga Fort Wayne.

IFW: Tell us about your journey to becoming a yogi. What led you to want to create Discover Yoga Fort Wayne?

CV: When I was a child, I lost my sister unexpectedly. My father turned to spirituality and tried to get me to meditate and repeat affirmations. I was young and traumatized and thought he was crazy. Years later, I felt very lost in my life, and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with myself. While on vacation with family in Florida, I pulled out a yoga DVD by Rodney Yee. I did that same routine three days in a row and finally decided to take my first public class while there. The teacher's name was Stacy, and she made me feel very included, accepted, and started a great foundation for what turned into what I feel like is my "dharma," or inner truth.

Chelsea Vona leads a class for Discover Yoga Fort Wayne.

I started practicing yoga for the physical aspect, but yoga changed my life in more ways than just the physical. It has helped me see who I was and how I was showing up, which helped me build a better relationship with myself and with others. It has helped me learn that my mind often lies to me, that my emotions are valid, but I don’t need to let them hold control over me. It taught me to talk back to negative self-talk and change the narrative to something positive. It brought me the confidence to be myself. And because it has done so much for me, I want to pay it forward. Everyone needs to know their own worth, and everyone should have tools to feel good in their bodies and minds. 

Outside of my yoga story, I danced competitively for 15 years, starting at the magnet arts schools here in Fort Wayne. All my life, I hated all other forms of working out, and then I found yoga. Because of this, I teach from a light-hearted approach. My creative dance style is infused into my yoga sequences, so my classes flow like a dance with the discipline of yoga.

Discover Yoga Fort Wayne classes accommodate participants of all body types and skill levels, from beginners to advanced.

IFW: Yoga can be intimidating. Tell us about how you're helping more people "discover" the power of this practice in Fort Wayne?

CV: When it comes to yoga, the hardest part can be showing up. But if you have the right teacher, you’ll realize that there isn’t much to be afraid of. Ask your studio questions before you go, such as how they help beginners in class, and what they offer when there is a pose you don’t want to do. 

I know there are plenty of images that portray yoga to be for skinny and fit women, but that's not what yoga is. True yoga is inclusive of all bodies, races, and genders. I will always make that the forefront of the business. Everyone is welcome; beginner to advanced, we have something for you to discover. 

Discover Yoga Fort Wayne classes accommodate participants of all body types and skill levels, from beginners to advanced.

IFW: What plans do you have for Discover Yoga Fort Wayne this winter?

CV: I'm offering free community yoga monthly with the parks department in their pavilion. That offering is the second Sunday of December-February at 10:30 a.m. The next class is on December 12th, 2021.

I also teach every Tuesday at 2Toms Brewery, just outside of Fort Wayne. 2Toms is closed on Tuesdays, and we use their beautiful private event space. It feels like a real yoga studio. It's intimate, fun and the community is great. Not to mention, 2TOMS has a top-notch selection of beverages, from hard seltzers to craft beers. That class is $15 per session, and 2Toms offers $1 off draft pours right after. 

Discover Yoga Fort Wayne classes accommodate participants of all body types and skill levels, from beginners to advanced.

IFW: Do you have a brick-and-mortar studio in the works?

CV: YES! We will have a permanent home at the beautiful Belle Castle located at 420 W. Wayne St. in Downtown Fort Wayne. Designed as a private residence, The Belle Castle boasts exceptional craftsmanship and unique character. The studio space will include large windows that boast views of Downtown Fort Wayne. 

Discover Yoga Fort Wayne classes accommodate participants of all body types and skill levels, from beginners to advanced.

IFW: What’s your goal for every student who walks into one of your classes?

CV: To feel good and to get a break for one hour. We are so busy in life, worrying about our jobs, our kids, our family, and our to-do lists. I love being able to give people a break where they can let all that go, just for an hour. I want to help them feel good in themselves and remind them that when they take care of themselves, they are taking care of everyone else. You can't give your all to your loved ones, your job, and your tasks if you aren't giving that same respect to yourself. You deserve a break, and I love holding space for that. 

Come as you are. That is my goal, and I promise I will never forget this and will continue to work on making it inclusive for all. Not only will it be inclusive for beginners. With over 2,000 teaching hours and five certifications, I bring a strong flow for advanced yogis to be challenged. With that said, every single class will be taught in a way offering many different modifications and options for all bodies there.