Grays Harbor’s premier yoga studio may have left the building – but one of their fabulous instructors stays on, now in her own business incarnation.
Claudette Stears, midwestern native and former instructor at Hoquiam-based Sitka Yoga, is now operating out of her “yoga wagon” as Essentially Yoga. She leads classes in several locations in Elma and Hoquiam – but she can easily come to you! You merely need a calm, inviting space, and you can provide your employees, family, and friends with an oasis in our oft-busy lives.
I first met Claudette in early 2014, sweating alongside me in a heated yoga studio at the now-defunct Sitka Yoga in Hoquiam. She was just another student, but clearly driven to take her practice further. After class she would often spend a few moments in an inversion, training up her shoulder girdle for strength. Her pleasant laugh often rang through the studio, and I found myself glad to see her whenever I attended.
In October of 2014, she and fellow student Karista Henniager Young traveled to the White Lotus Yoga Foundation in Santa Barbara, California to each receive their 200-hour Registered Yoga Training certification. Claudette continued as an instructor at Sitka – teaching Yin, Flow, and everything in between – until the studio closed in the summer of 2015.
Today, Claudette is teaching in four locations in Grays Harbor, three of them in Elma. Her clientele ranges from beginners (students who’ve never been exposed to yoga) to the avid practitioner who is looking to reconnect with their practice, or already practices on a weekly basis. As the general public becomes more yoga-friendly, and recognizes the practice as beneficial for pain treatment, stress relief, and as a cross-training aid, more students are interested in trying out the discipline.
And yoga is a discipline. Many first-timers jump on the mat and expect instant results – or practice too vigorously, injure themselves, then blame yoga itself.
For those who’ve had a bad experience with yoga, or who are afraid to try, Claudette offers up practical advice. “Arrive early and talk to the yoga instructor prior to class time to let them know your concerns. With any teacher/student partnership, it is important to communicate to help the experience be enjoyable for both. Feedback is also encouraged and welcomed in my classes, as well as questions.“
Yoga requires listening both to oneself, and to the instructor. Dawn, the proprietor and owner at Sitka and Claudette’s first mentor, often posited patience and persistence in one’s practice – accepting and loving your body how it is today. It’s an incredibly nourishing, effective attitude to have, and Claudette teaches in kind. From my first classes with Claudette, I am familiar with one of her mantras: “Release all competition, and release all expectations.”
It’s a great practice – for yoga, and for any endeavor we want to enjoy. It helps us be in the moment, and provides us with clarity of how we’re really feeling, and what we’re really thinking.
And indeed, it’s Claudette’s calming persona and her own discipline that make her so attractive as a mentor. I’ve probably taken yoga classes from about 40 individuals since first trying yoga in 2002. Claudette is a favorite due to her inclusivity, encouraging nature – and her wicked sense of humor. She is a friend to the beginner and advanced practitioner alike, and she advocates that yoga is for every body.
“Just try. No one is an expert at anything for the first time. Just arriving at your mat is more than half the battle. Before you know it you’ll be laying in your ‘final relaxation pose’ and you’ll find the benefits far outweigh your initial fears,” she says encouragingly.
Her practical skills are also wonderful, and make yoga less of the athletic series of contortions that some fear it to be. When Sitka closed, Claudette purchased several of their “props” that make yoga more accessible and more enjoyable: mats, blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets. (Yes, in yoga we use blankets! Doesn’t that make you want to give it a shot?) Always increasing her knowledge base, students can expect to use these additions – or forgo them – to increase the intensity or nurturing qualities of the postures.
Essentially Yoga, like Sitka before it, is a boon to Grays Harbor. But like any good thing, we have to use it or lose it. Claudette admits finding a good host location has been a challenge. She exhorts the community at large: “Open space! I have been fortunate to find a couple spaces that will allow me to teach, but I am always looking for creative ideas.”
I ask Claudette if she has any general advice for practitioners. Her words are short, and to the point: “Keep learning and arrive at your mat as if it is your first time. No expectations.”
No expectations. In a society of self-flagellation, over-stimulation, and weight-loss fixations, I rather like that.