Centered

Centered

B reathe in on your way up to Breathing Room Yoga Center. In the lobby, you’ll probably smell the spicy aroma of Thai food. But as you climb the stairs and open the second floor doorway, the scent of woody incense takes over. Throw pillows, prayer flags and a high, arched ceiling signal that you’ve left the urban grit and bustle of Crown Street well behind.

Just as yoga students learn to expand their breath and their minds, the little yoga studio that owner Margot Broom (pictured above) once created in the back of a Chapel Street vintage shop has expanded well beyond her original vision, leading her to literally tear down walls and build something new. The Center, a wellness-themed enterprise on the second and fourth floors at 216 Crown, encompasses not only Breathing Room, but also Good Medicine Naturopathic Health Center, PuRest Float Center and five more wellness office spaces currently rented by a Pilates instructor; craniosacral, yoga and massage therapists; and a rolfing practitioner. In the near future, Broom hopes to add a reiki practitioner, an ayurvedic doctor and a counselor specializing in LGBT clients. “I think the community really needs a space for all these [practitioners]… offering their services, and then my job is trying to figure out how we can all do it together,” she says.

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It all began with yoga. After losing her job at an architectural firm in the 2008 financial crash, Broom went to work for Chapel Street’s English Building Markets, now known as EBM Vintage, helping to design their displays. At the same time, she was teaching yoga. She took over a rear storage space “and turned it into this fun little kind of haven with squishy floors that looked like wood,” she recalls. “I hung lanterns and all these curtains…, and that was kind of the first generation” of Breathing Room. About two years later, Broom moved the business to 817 Chapel, where “people just kept coming.” So did yoga teachers, so she started a teacher training program. Last September, Broom found the 1920s-era Crown Street building, originally an Elks Club, with its soaring ceilings, wood floors, oversized windows and fireplaces and knew she could fill it with students.

Owning a yoga studio, much less an entire wellness center, wasn’t Broom’s original plan, though she did earn her degree in entrepreneurship and small business management. The daughter of a builder and restorer of antique homes, she always expected to become an architect. Now her flair for design plays out instead in The Center’s calming colors and whimsical touches. The “forest room” yoga studio, for example, features full-sized saplings stretching up the walls and reaching their branches across the ceiling.

The soaring yet cozy-feeling entry of The Center leads to a wood-floored yoga studio big enough for 50. That, along with a sizable locker room, would be enough for most yogis. But a 5,000-square-foot space in the rear of the building houses a comfortably furnished den and two more yoga studios. Broom designed The Center with “the five elements” in mind: fire in the “hearth room,” where the fireplaces are; earth in the “forest room” (“the forest…in the yogic tradition, is where you go to meditate”); air in the “cloud room,” a studio with aerial silks; water in the float center; and the ether on the fourth floor, The Center’s newest space, dubbed “The Center Elevated.”

Almost every evening, all three studios are in use, Broom says, and more than 1,000 people pass through The Center’s doors every week, some of them repeat customers, to attend one of the more than 50 classes on the schedule. Broom herself teaches a mixed level vinyasa flow class she calls “really fun and fluid,” as well as portions of the 200-hour yoga teacher trainings.

Broom is aware that all this looks like a resource for the privileged few. She intends to change that. “There’s a big movement towards… making sure that there’s more diversity and more openness and expansiveness for everyone to be able to come to learn from these traditions,” she says. To that end, Breathing Room offers several options. Payment for Y12SR Yoga—for those in 12-step recovery—is by donation. Last summer, Breathing Room teamed up with Connecticare to offer free yoga in Scantlebury, Edgewood and Quinnipiac River Parks three times a week. There’s special pricing for retirees, and community classes open to anyone are donation-based. Volunteers can perform light tasks to earn free classes. The studio’s second annual Gratitude Gala aims to raise funds to keep the free classes coming, and Broom says her goal by the end of 2019 is to have at least five free classes a week. “It doesn’t always have to be about money,” she says.

Though The Center didn’t exactly come into being overnight, it seems to feel like that to Broom, who marvels at the mushrooming of her business as she literally opens door after door on a tour of the spacious building. Her little dog Ru (“light” in Sanskrit) trots ahead of her, clearly at home. It’s time now, Broom says, pausing on the threshold of an as yet undeveloped space, to focus her energy differently. She’s already decided on a mantra for 2019: Do less, but better.

That “better” includes teaching people not only that wellness can be found in ways they might not have imagined—a sensory-deprivation float in salt water, for example—but also that yoga itself is more expansive than they may realize. “We want to make sure that people are understanding that yoga is not just movement,” Broom says. “It’s about your breath, it’s about how you interact with the world, with yourself, how you’re meditating, how you’re removing yourself from… things that are happening in order to then be a beneficial presence and share that.”

Ru leads us back into the elevator. We’re only traveling two floors down, but for Broom and The Center, there’s a bigger journey ahead.

Breathing Room Yoga and The Center
216 Crown St, New Haven (map)
(203) 562-5683
www.breathingroomct.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg’s associate editor. She’s also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Join her this month on Goodreads for a guided winter reading of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein.

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