Art & Yoga: Opening the mind while strengthening the body

After traveling around the world, living in Boston and London, Bristol Maryott decided to start her business, Jala Studio Yoga & Art, here in Providence, Rhode Island. “I wasn’t sure it would work really. Whenever you open any small business it’s hard to know if it’ll be possible,” Maryott said.

When visiting the studio to participate in a class, I found it extremely awkward. I mean, I had no idea where I should look. Luckily, there were pieces of detailed art on the walls so instead of creepily looking at other people, I got to see local artists’ work. That and there was this really nice almost spiral ceiling, that kept my attention. 

The yoga teacher (who happened to be Maryott) made sure not to push the other yogis past their comfort. She asked prior to assisting others  if they were okay with being touched. I of course asked for assistance as this was my first time doing yoga, like ever. She also offered multiple different poses at once and allowed us to pick what we were most comfortable with. 

At Jala Studio, there are many different types of yoga, ranging from gentle to vigorous. Form and Flow is on the gentler side, consisting of movement, breathing, and alignment instructions. Vinyasa Flow, a more vigorous style, leads you through postures and opens the body through “flowing movement.” They also offer prenatal classes for soon-to-be mothers as well as meditation and private classes.

I took one of their lunchtime classes which were made to help destress yogis and help them get back to work feeling refreshed. There were a few breathing exercises and a bit of meditation, and I remember laying on the floor thinking about nothing and somehow everything. It was so calming that I’m pretty sure the person next to me fell asleep.

“We have classes for different levels and everyone should feel comfortable coming,” says Maryott. It’s obvious that she supports and encourages her students, but she also makes sure to support the growth and happiness of the other teachers. Each class has 18 students at most, but if there isn’t a teacher available, the students are there to help each other as well.

Maryott has had around 20 different local artists come in and display their artwork for the students. She says, “Yoga and art are very similar in the way that they both explore consciousness and awareness.” While the students perform yoga and strengthen their bodies, they are surrounded by inspiring work, some of which are extremely detailed. There are some pieces that depict people doing yoga but in most cases, the art varies in style, colors, themes, and materials. “It’s what makes yoga magical and what makes the artwork magical.” 

There are art shows that happen every three to six months (less than usual due to COVID) and are also open for appointment. It gives people an opportunity to look around and if they are interested in a piece they can buy it. “For everybody, it’s a win-win because the artists get to show their work and have a lot of people coming through the doors, looking at the work repeatedly.”

Jala Studio also has workshops. “It’s mostly yoga workshops but occasionally we’ll have something different,” says Maryott. Some of the workshops include rolfing, breathwork, and Chinese medicine. Rolfing is deep tissue manipulation, which is said to help reduce muscular and psychic tension.

The specific type of breathwork they practice is called Conscious Connected Breathing. This is meant to push negative energy out and help one drift into “a full-body state of bliss.”

The Chinese medicine workshop teaches how to incorporate Chinese medicine into your yoga practice. The workshop includes yoga, meditation, self-acupressure, and pranayama.

For teacher training, Jala Studio offers both 200 total hour classes and 300 total hour classes. The 200-hour class teaches the skills you need to become a yoga teacher and lead a class.  “Yoga is not just a workout, it’s an entire system to attain enlightenment. And even if you don’t want enlightenment,” Maryott laughs, “Which maybe you don’t! But if you’re practicing yoga it’s important to know the historic underpinnings it comes from and the philosophy behind it. Especially if you’re teaching it.”

The 300-hour teacher training is something that you would take if you are already a teacher. The class aims to build additional skills or refine your teaching, and it gives students time to focus and create a more in-depth class. You can also expect  a bit of philosophy and Buddhism within the 300-hour training. 

Maryott is leading an upcoming retreat to Thailand in January. On the retreats, there are daily yoga classes, either gentle or vigorous, but deciding not to join is also an option. There are other things like meditation and talks on philosophy integrated into the classes. Yoga is just a portion of the experience. “There’s lots of yoga but we also make time so people get to enjoy some rest, some relaxation, and a little bit of the culture that they’re in.” She mentions walking along the beach, Thai massages, visiting an elephant sanctuary, snorkeling, and other excursions.

Taking a yoga class was definitely a positive experience, and seeing so many people in the zone and opening up was amazing to get to see. With all the benefits of yoga, I’m surprised I haven’t tried it before,  and as nerve-racking as the first experience was, I’m more likely to go again.