WINDSOR, N.S. — There’s an overarching sense of calm that befalls a person visiting the old Clifton House in Windsor.
The stately, historic home located on Clifton Avenue near the Haliburton House Museum has been renovated to serve as a place of tranquillity and learning.
It currently houses Fit Yoga and two other holistic businesses.
“I started yoga about eight years ago, just on and off. I got really interested in it about five years ago,” said Sarah Dunham.
“I was pretty broken and I needed some healing. I turned to yoga for that and it just helped me so much that it totally became a part of my life and I wanted to share that with other people. I know how it can impact you and how it can help you.”
Dunham travelled to Costa Rica about two years ago and met Balazs Heller, the man who invented Fit Yoga, at a retreat.
“I just fell in love with his style and his teachings and his beliefs and how he shared yoga with me,” said Dunham, adding when she returned home, she contemplated becoming an officially trained Fit Yoga instructor.
In October 2017, she listened to her inner voice and travelled to Malta for a month-long training session. She’s now the main ambassador for Fit Yoga in Canada.
Dunham describes Fit Yoga as being “really active and dynamic” and says it’s unlike any yoga that’s available in the region.
“It's combining a really strong fitness element and (incorporates) the spiritual touch to it as well,” said Dunham.
Fit Yoga uses Pilates, Hatha yoga and Vinyasa Flow, she explained.
“A lot of people think yoga is just to get flexible. This is to build strength in your mind and find balance in your life,” Dunham said.
‘Next level yoga’
“We sweat; we get sore. But people want to keep coming back. You can feel yourself growing… Something kind of shifts internally when you start giving yourself time and attention,” Dunham explained.
Dunham said she could have easily set up a yoga studio in Halifax but wanted to offer Fit Yoga in her hometown as her family lives locally.
“It's empowered me to want to do more, to share yoga with this community and this town,” she said.
“It's just such a good vibe here. The people who have been coming to my classes, they're becoming addicted to it. I can see it changing them. It's really lovely to share it.”
Sonia Edwards, who has been practicing yoga for about eight years, is one of her ‘addicted’ clients.
“It took me until January to actually show up to a class and I was instantly addicted. I love it. I try to get there three times a week,” Edwards said, noting she plans her work schedule to accommodate the sessions.
Edwards said she has seen — and felt — the changes.
“I feel amazing. I was starting to see changes in my body really quickly, which is probably a good incentive for most people,” said Edwards. “Yoga is my workout of choice and this is like next level yoga.”
Rob Sedgwick wasn’t sold on taking a class when he first agreed to try it but now attends biweekly.
He says it’s a “beautiful blend” of physical activity and meditation.
“I didn't really enter yoga wanting to buy into the meditative side of things but I'm completely into it now. I find it extremely enjoyable,” he said. “The breathing exercises are ultra-important and I'm starting to appreciate and realize what that does for yoga.”
Sedgwick said he’d recommend a Fit Yoga session to anyone interested in physical fitness, spiritual improvement or a combination of the two.
“I would encourage everyone to try everything at least once and this might be a very interesting once for a lot of people — it could lead to twice, thrice or beyond.”
Class sizes generally range from six to eight people but Dunham said she can accommodate up to 16.
“It's definitely going to challenge you,” said Dunham. “But I think in life we have to be challenged. You want to be pushed. When you step out of your comfort zone is when you actually grow.”
Spreading good karma
When Dunham learned of a friend’s need for a double lung transplant, she instinctively set up a Friday night karma class.
“It's not for me to gain anything from it. It's to share with others,” said Dunham.
All funds from the class will go towards John Campbell and his fiancee Katie Nodding. The local couple needs to move to Toronto in order to be added to a double lung transplant waiting list.
“I just want to do as much as I can for them,” she said.
In May 2017, Campbell’s lungs began to fail. Since September, he has been connected to a constant supply of oxygen, Dunham said.
Since breathing plays such an integral role in yoga, Dunham said the ongoing fundraiser ties in perfectly with trying to help Campbell and Nodding move to Toronto for the chance for Campbell to receive a new set of lungs.
Karma classes are held most Fridays from 6-7 p.m. and admission is a freewill donation. It will be an all-level yoga class, so it's not as intense as her Fit Yoga classes generally are.
Guru hosting upcoming retreat
Fit Yoga’s creator, Balazs Heller, is coming to Clifton House to host a four-day retreat later this month. It’s something that Dunham can’t wait to be involved with.
“He's going to do a self-realization retreat. It's going to be amazing. You can either do the full four days or just (get) a day pass or break it down into different workshops,” said Dunham about the May 18-21 retreat.
“He's just got this beautiful light and has all this energy and love. It's about bringing health and happiness and joy to people and sharing that connection. That's what yoga is — it's building a connection,” said Dunham.
If you go
What: Fit Yoga and Self-Realization Retreat with Balazs Heller
When: May 18-21, 2018
Details: This four-day retreat will feature workshops like yoga alignment, meditation, spirituality, plant-based nutrition.
Where: 329 Clifton House, Windsor
Info: 902-401-1109; fityogawindsor.com; fityogateachertraining.com.