MORGANTOWN—When Christopher Lazzell opened his yoga studio in Morgantown’s Greenmont neighborhood, he didn’t want COVID-19 or financial struggles to prevent anyone from having access.
“People’s wallets have hurt pretty badly,” Lazzell said. “I don’t want people to miss out on their health just because they don’t have enough money.”
Lazzell, owner of Barefoot Studio, began offering yoga classes in January. Classes are held every day at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. for $10, but on Fridays, anything you can spare will do.
Every Friday, the studio offers a ‘pay what you want’ option for both classes. A bucket is placed in the lobby, and participants are welcome to place any amount they would like into it before joining class.
“We don’t ask, we don’t care,” Lazzell said. “We just want you to come to class.”
Morgantown resident Kendra Brant started attending classes three weeks ago. She said she started coming with her friends and is glad to have an option that is accessible to everyone in the community.
“A lot of people don’t have the means to be spending to do this kind of stuff,” Brant said. “I think it is good to have something like this, just because it can be open to everybody.”
Morgantown resident Michele Chapman attended her first class Friday. She said she had taken yoga classes in the past and was excited to have an opportunity to start attending again.
Chapman said COVID-19 has made it difficult to connect with others, and is glad to have somewhere to meet new people.
“Everybody is struggling,” Chapman said. “I think it is important to connect with people, and we have not had a lot of opportunity to do that during this crisis.”
Opening a business during COVID-19 was something Lazzell said he was not concerned about because he saw the need for it in his community. He said he was driven to open the studio after seeing the impact COVID-19 has had on mental health and opioid use.
“I saw a massive void in the community,” Lazzell said. “I was not scared to open this place because what I was more scared of was the mental health and the physical health of our community.”
Two different types of yoga courses are offered at the studio throughout the week. The 6 p.m. course uses the ‘five rites of rejuvenation’ method, which is a combination of five movements used to stimulate all areas of the body. The 7 p.m. course teaches the ‘Prana Tula Dhyana’ method, which is a form of breathing meditation.
Yoga is not the only activity the studio offers. An ecstatic dance class is from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays. Lazzell said this class is intended to provide an alcohol- and drug free-zone for dancing, and participants have to follow a list of special guidelines. These include not speaking, requiring participants to communicate through body language and movement.
Sign-ups for all classes are available on the studio’s website for a discounted rate at $9 per class. Walk-ins are welcome, depending on the amount of space available. Blankets are set up for use, but participants are encouraged to bring a yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing.
A projector screen is also set up in the studio, which Lazzell hopes will eventually allow students to attend classes taught by yogis and instructors virtually from other parts of the world. The studio space is also available for rent to instructors in the area to host in-person or virtual classes.
“This is a place to come and experience joy,” Lazzell said. “People can come here to experience joy and reconnect with themselves.”