Evanston resident Lisa Weber opened Heaven Meets Earth Family Yoga Studio in 2005, aiming to make yoga and healthy practices a part of her local community. Now, five years later, the neighborhood studio will expand from its northwest location at 2746 Central St. to the south of Evanston.
The studio is teaming up with Zen Shiatsu Chicago, a therapeutic massage training center at 825 Chicago Ave., to offer an experiment – making yoga accessible to people of all income levels. The donation-based yoga classes are taught at the 825 Chicago Ave. location.
The purpose of Yoga by Donation, according to the Zen Shiatsu Chicago website, is “to allow every student to dedicate themselves as fully as physically possible to their yoga practice, removing finances as a potential limitation.”
The per-class suggested donation is $16, but donations at any level, whether more or less, will support the mission of the Heaven Meets Earth studio and help to sustain the community of active, (practicing) yoga students.
Ms. Weber was thrilled when her friends at Zen Shiatsu Chicago asked her to offer classes at their space.
“Our philosophies are very much aligned, and they have a beautiful studio that is so warm and inviting,” says Ms. Weber. “The studio’s location, (just south of downtown near Main Street) has different demographics from our north side location and we thought it would be a great opportunity to expand.”
Prior to opening Heaven Meets Earth, Ms. Weber says her desire to open a yoga studio was so strong it often kept her awake at night. She wanted a space near her home in Evanston, where she lives with her husband and two children. She also wanted the studio to be in one of Evanston’s residential areas.
“I believe that if everyone in the family is practicing yoga, then the family relationship improves and is healthy,” says Ms. Weber.
Upon entering the Central Street studio, one feels that all members of the family are welcome. The brightly colored walls are decorated with powerful affirmations. One wall is devoted entirely to artwork (made) by children participating in the “Child Yoga” classes. A boutique in the front of the studio is designed for men, women and children and offers clothes, cards, candles and other items to nurture the spirit.
A wide range of family-oriented classes is offered every day of the week, from “Mommy and Baby Yoga” to “Teen Yoga” to “Yo-Guys,” a class designed just for men. All programs are rooted in Vinyasa and Kundalini yoga systems.
The studio was recently recognized by Barefoot Blog, created to inspire the practice of yoga, as a leading “green” yoga studio.
Ms. Weber envisioned an eco-friendly studio and chose to use all sustainable building materials for the construction, despite the higher costs. The studio has bamboo floors and low- and no-VOC paint. Water is available for students to fill their reusable water bottles, and all paper products are made from recycled paper.
The studio uses e-mail technology for receipts rather than paper. Workshops in holistic nutrition and green practices are always available.
Ms. Weber says being green is part of her personal passion. “I ride my bike, I recycle, I buy organic and I was determined to carry that way of life over into my business practices,” she says.
She notes that running the yoga studio has been more rewarding and fulfilling than she could have imagined.
“I intended this to be a wonderful small business, but I never dreamed it would change people’s lives,” she says. “It’s like a magnet bringing people together. The friendships that have been made, the community that is created … it’s just beautiful.”
Ms. Weber says she hopes to expand even further someday by adding a café.
“Sharing food is nurturing,” she says. “We’d love to have a dedicated space where people can come and eat together. People are often rushing out of here back to their busy lives. It would be better to nourish themselves with good food after class, and then be on their way.”
Ms. Weber says she sees her studio as an oasis where people can relax, connect and heal.
“We all need love, we all need connection and we all need joy,” says Ms. Weber. “It’s like medicine. If we can understand that and place a value on it and cultivate it, then we can have heaven on earth.”
On June 12 Heaven Meets Earth celebrated the opening of its Chicago Avenue location with a benefit concert featuring Chicago folk singer Daphne Willis.