Building community one breath at a time

At Camas’ newest yoga studio, youth and families take center stage

Children play at a summer yoga camp held at Body Bliss yoga studio in downtown Camas on July 26.

Children build a fort inside Body Bliss yoga studio on July 26, while studio owner Jacquie Michelle (center) talks to employee Phoebe Schram (right).

It’s a warm Friday afternoon in late July and the Camas Days Kids Parade has just finished winding its way down the town’s main drag. On the other end of Camas’ downtown core, children are starting to pour into the recently opened Body Bliss yoga studio.

“This is the last day of camp,” says Body Bliss owner Jacquie Michelle, before explaining that her studio, which opened in the former Rushing Water Yoga space on Northeast Birch St., in May, held three youth summer camps this year and that this Friday marks the last day of the last camp.

After placing their shoes in a cubby inside the Body Bliss lobby, the elementary aged children gather inside the yoga studio. They collect yoga mats and small-but-sturdy yoga blocks and begin an activity familiar to any parent of young children.

“They’re building a fort,” Michelle says, smiling at the children’s progress.

The fort is a big part of the yoga camp, giving the children a few minutes of much-needed playtime before they work on things like breathing and moving into postures that require concentration as well as creating a safe space for children who need a space to get away from the group and gather their thoughts in a quiet, secluded zone.

After the fort has been built, Michelle and yoga instructor KC Johnson lead the children into a series of warrior postures and discuss things like “what does it mean to be a humble warrior?”

Although the camps and youth yoga classes offered at Body Bliss offer the same physical and stress-relieving benefits of yoga practice, Michelle also wants her young clients to develop a deeper emotional intelligence from their yoga practice.

The focus on youth is one thing that sets Body Bliss apart from other Camas-area yoga studios — Michelle offers toddler-and-parent, preschool and elementary-through-middle school classes for her “little warriors” and “junior warriors” and will soon take her program to the Camas School District’s UPWARD program, a week-long summer camp developed by Camas mother Heather Fresh that helps hundreds of incoming sixth-grade students weather the transition from elementary to middle school.

Focusing on youth and the greater community was one thing Michelle hoped to do when she took over the Body Bliss studio in early 2019, after the then-Washougal-based studio’s original owner, Angie Cherry, sold the business to Michelle, a yoga instructor who had worked at Body Bliss for a few years and who had trained in 2013 to become a children’s yoga instructor.

After taking over the Washougal business, Michelle said her intention was to “create a community space where people of all ages are practicing together.”

That vision is still in full effect at the new Camas location, which Michelle moved into May 1, after Rushing Water Yoga owner Paul Cheeks made the tough decision to close his thriving yoga studio after health concerns made running a small business nearly impossible.

Keeping Cheeks’ vision of “yoga studio as community space” was important to Michelle, who likes to say her yoga studio is designed for “every body.”

“Paul was here a long time and he was very focused on community,” she said. “I hope to carry on what he was doing.”

Inside the Body Bliss studio, the lobby space has local artisan goods, including locally made teas and wares by Washougal painter Anni Becker Furniss and her woodworking husband, John Furniss. Massage therapists Melinda Sophia Angell and Peggy Anderson-Deardorff lease space inside the Body Bliss studio — and there is space for more therapists — and Michelle offers discounts to several groups and their families, including active and discharged military members; K-12 teachers, police officers, firefighters, 911 operators and other first responders; and university students.

“My intention is not just to have a yoga studio, but to (create) a space where people can come to find friends and connect to their community,” Michelle says. “My parents had a small business in The Dalles, (Oregon), when I was growing up, and they were pillars of their community.”

Michelle is planning several community building events throughout the year, including “Tales and Tea” get-togethers, in which storytellers share tales set to a specific theme and participants listen and sip locally crafted teas. The cost of the event, $10 per ticket, will help benefit local nonprofits and participants will contribute to local food banks, Michelle said.

The yoga studio offers a variety of classes paced from “very low intensity” to “higher intensity and more physically demanding” every day of the week. The majority of classes, however, tend to fall into the “low intensity and slow-to-medium paced” or “medium intensity and faster paced” categories.

To learn more about the yoga studio, visit facebook.com/bodyblissyoga or bodyblis syogastudio.com; check out Instagram posts at @bodybli ssyogastudio; or drop by the studio at 417 N.E. Birch St., in downtown Camas.

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