Center your heart and add a yoga or tai chi practice into your life. Behnje Masson and Rick Powell, spouses and co-owners of From the Heart Yoga and Tai Chi Center, not only share a passion for these practices, but also a love for fostering the community’s wellbeing and health.
In 1997, while teaching at the Dominican Center at Marywood, Masson and Powell wanted to create a place that was devoted to enlightening others on the practices and benefits of yoga and tai chi. “We wanted to expand and cultivate an educational setting, a space that was dedicated just to these practices,” said Masson.
Since moving into properties on Fulton Street in 2000 and Wealthy Street in 2010, Masson and Powell have continued their tradition of providing a place where community members can learn to center themselves and find calmness in their lives.
“Life throws a lot of things at you, but when you start a yoga or tai chi practice, it’s all about finding the middle and finding your center,” said Powell. “When you’re rooted, grounded and strong, things don’t tend to knock you over as easy.”
“How haven’t these practices benefitted us?” Masson asked herself, reflecting on how their center has been “the central support” in their lives. “Much of what we have is a direct result of these practices. We have had the great good fortune to meet so many different people through having this center. Each one of them has changed us and helped us grow as people and teachers in some way.”
Now, after eight years on Wealthy Street, Masson and Powell have found a new home for their center at 776 Leonard NE. With “an expansive feel to it,” overlooking the treetops, Powell said there is a unique, natural quality about this space. “It’s like being in a tree house.”
Excited about this new space, Masson and Powell invite newcomers, advanced students and everyone in between to try out a yoga or tai chi practice at the center since it has classes for all levels.
Even if you have never heard of “down dog” before, years of teaching have taught Masson and Powell the importance of starting their students off with the basics because “you should have a strong foundation in anything you do,” said Masson. “In any kind of expressive art form, whether it’s painting a picture or doing tai chi or yoga, you always learn the basics and then out of that you explore it more and go further with it. You’re always progressing, you’re always evolving.”
Although many other studios may direct their attention towards the fitness side of yoga and tai chi, Powell explains that their goal is to focus on the whole self and “the spiritual, physical and mental aspects of each practice.” By giving care to breathing and meditation, it provides students with a well-rounded practice, and through attention to the proper alignment, “the freedom experienced is so much greater,” said Powell.
Because one of the components of a full yoga practice is service to humanity, From the Heart also encourages its students to engage in service events around the community. Since Masson and Powell like to focus their efforts on one organization at a time, they have connected with local nonprofit Well House, which aims to end homelessness in Grand Rapids by providing safe and affordable housing to the community.
In addition to volunteering, From the Heart also hosts selected classes throughout the year to support Well House by donating 100 percent of the contributions received during these classes.
From the Heart Yoga and Tai Chi Center is located at 776 Leonard NE on the second floor. To learn more about upcoming classes and events, visit From the Heart’s website.
*Photos courtesy of From the Heart