Yoga can seem intimidating for many people, with photos of very fit women and men executing headstands and complex twisting bends dominating many internet searches and magazine covers.
It’s a misconception that Rachel Davids is working to correct with her yoga studio, Santosha Yoga PNW, along with a team of yoga instructors that welcome and encourage yoga participation from all ages and abilities, body shapes and degree of flexibility.
“You don’t have to be a tiny person to be flexible and be strong,” Davids said. “(Yoga) is what it feels in you. If you feel a difference in yourself each time you practice, that’s what counts.”
Davids, 40, and her husband moved their family to Gig Harbor from Maple Valley early last year. A trained British nanny — a graduate from Norland School in England — Davids completed her 200-hour teacher training with Core Power Yoga in 2008 in Huntington Beach, California and started teaching yoga last summer at Mantra Hot Yoga in Gig Harbor.
You don’t have to be a tiny person to be flexible and be strong. (Yoga) is what it feels in you. If you feel a difference in yourself each time you practice, that’s what counts.
Rachel Davids, owner of Santosha Yoga PNW
When she heard that the studio’s owner, Margi Montgomery, was looking to sell the business and focus instead on her massage therapy practice, Davids was intrigued by the idea.
“I thought, ‘That’s an interesting adventure,’” she said.
Santosha Yoga PNW officially opened Jan. 1, though the only change that regular clients noticed was a shift in the schedule.
“We’re trying to offer a little bit of something for everyone,” Davids explained. “We’re trying to honor everybody.”
With classes beginning as early as 6 a.m. and running until 8 p.m. weekdays, with a few weekend classes as well, Santosha not only offers three different class temperatures — ranging from 75- to 78-degree “blue” classes, 85- to 90-degree “green” classes up to 105-degree “yellow” classes — but a variety of yoga types to attracted a wide variety of yogis or yoga practitioners.
From Bikram-style hot yoga to Ashtanga and Danyasa yoga, Santosha’s eight instructors are all trained and ready to provide modifications and instruction to help provide a safe and supportive space.
The studio also offers two classes —Yin Yoga on Mondays at noon and Gentle Yoga on Wednesdays at noon— that are specifically targeted to include beginning practitioners.
Tina Gilbert is a yoga instructor who began teaching three years ago at Mantra and stayed at the studio during the transition to Santosha Yoga PNW and regularly sees her parents attend classes.
“My parents come and they’re in their 80s,” Gilbert said. “My mom has a Parkinson’s diagnosis and she really enjoys the gentle stretching.”
This inclusive environment and community support is exactly the environment that Davids envisions for her studio, with a strong focus on the mind-body connection and less attention paid to the superficial.
“I don’t do the makeup. I don’t do fancy clothes. There’s too much about your appearance out there,” she explained. “I’m raising two daughters. I don’t want it to be about that.”
Santosha actually means contentment. To find your contentment on the mat. Don’t be looking around the room, leave your ego outside the door and be happy where you are today.
Instead, Davids encourages the mental practice and benefit of yoga, with a focus on breathing.
“Until you internally are happy with yourself, nothing external will change,” she said. “Come and find your contentment at the studio. You can all be part of the same community and support each other.”
This message of contentment is important to Davids, and why she chose her studio name. Santosha is a Sanskrit word meaning “contentment” or “satisfaction” and is one of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, a set of practices that form the ethical and moral framework for yoga practice.
“Santosha actually means contentment. To find your contentment on the mat,” Davids explained. “Don’t be looking around the room, leave your ego outside the door and be happy where you are today.”
Santosha Yoga is located at 5401 32nd Ave NW, Suite 106, in Gig Harbor and can be reached at 253-313-5184 or online at santoshayogapnw.com.