Kimberlee Orenstein is the director and owner of Yoga Loka. While some places seem more obsessed with kick-butt, power yoga, Orenstein has helped gear classes so that the focus is on total health for all sorts of people’s needs. For more information, visit www.yogalokareno.com.
You have yoga classes for kids, for pregnant women, for seniors, for construction workers, for people with HIV, for depression. What made you decide to narrow in on those groups?
Mainly it’s that yoga is really for everybody. I keep getting these comments from people—'I can’t do yoga, I’m too inflexible; I can’t do yoga, I’m too old; I can’t do yoga, I’m too stiff, I can’t bend my body like that.’ And as you know, yoga is so much more than just moving your body. There’s the whole mental component and the whole breathing component that’s just so beneficial for everybody’s health and well-being at any stage of their life in any occupation that they do. By offering these classes—therapeutic yoga, for people with chronic disease—by titling them as such, people feel more welcome into a class. That’s what the Loka is—a sense of community, a sense of belonging. We try to offer that to the people to feel comfortable that they belong there, as opposed to a gym yoga class or [walking] into an ongoing kick-butt yoga class.
The last one I went to was like that. I actually left feeling mad. I thought, ‘Whoa. Something’s wrong here.’ It seems you’re more into overall health than just attaining the perfect yoga body.
I think we’re the only studio in town that offers a 9-month teacher training. Our teachers are well trained. I think that makes a difference. Not that there aren’t other places with trained teachers, but just that there’s more care with what the instructors know, other than just the postures. And each teacher has their own expertise. Like the guy teaching yoga for construction workers was in construction for years. People come to yoga because they feel their life can be better somehow. You know things can be better, but you’re not really sure how or what or why. It’s hard to even put your finger on why yoga works. Normally you come out of yoga class, and you don’t feel mad. You come out euphoric. You come out smiling at people. I think people intuitively know it will work, but they don’t know why.
How did you get into yoga?
I had a lot of opportunities to practice yoga in my life, but I think I was waiting for the right teacher; I didn’t know this, but I came to yoga because of knee surgery. I was a professional dancer, and I was in the fitness industry. I came to yoga as a healing for my knee, kind of, but I found the right and perfect teacher was right there in front of me, who led me to the path into teaching and encouraged me to share my wisdom.
How long have you been doing that?
I would say about 10 years now. I’ve been teaching for that long. Practicing for longer.
You hear “Yoga Loka” and you think of the Spanish “loca"—crazy yoga. What is “Loka"?
I love it that people think it means the crazy yogi. “Loka” means a realm or location. There are 7-8 lokas—an earth loka, atmospheric loka and beyond beyond beyond our comprehension. We define our Yoga Loka as a place of community and joining together with others in the spirit of love and compassion. But not just with other people—it’s a place of joining with yourself, too, connecting with yourself.