The dull yellow interior walls of the Forest Moon Yoga studio in downtown Washougal are bereft of any decoration whatsoever. There’s no artwork, no photographs, no shelves, no signs ? absolutely nothing. One would never be able to tell the space formerly housed a tattoo parlor.
The lack of adornment is an intentional statement on the part of owner and instructor Pam Rollins, who hopes to provide her students with a literal and metaphorical “blank slate” when they enter the new downtown Washougal business.
“The walls are blank on purpose,” she said. “(People) come here, take their shoes off, roll their mat out and practice, and that’s it. I don’t want to force any thoughts or ideas or words or pictures. There are very (few) things to distract them. I’m hoping (the studio will be) a blank canvas that we can fill over time.”
Rollins opened Forest Moon Yoga at 1830 Main Street on Monday, July 19, offering daily instruction through a variety of hatha, yin, restorative and vinyasa yoga class sessions.
“The first week was super exciting. We got to see familiar faces, meet new people and start to cultivate the personality of what Forest Moon Yoga is all about,” said instructor Angie Cherry. “It’s a friendly, welcoming, inclusive culture. It’s been absolutely wonderful, especially coming out of COVID and being so isolated for so long or practicing online. This is a fresh start for the studio, but it’s also a fresh start for everybody because we’re coming back together as a community.”
Instructor Mari Coryell is also excited about the studio’s present and future.
“I was really happy for Pam (when the studio opened),” said Coryell, Rollins’ mother-in-law. “I’m so proud of her. She’s put so much work into it, and the thought that she’s put into it has been phenomenal. She didn’t just paint the building and open the doors. She has a philosophy that she’s really sticking with. She has a really well-thought-out plan, and I think that’s pretty darn cool. I believe in her and her vision.”
From 2012 to 2018, Cherry owned and operated a downtown Washougal studio of her own called Body Bliss Yoga, where Coryell taught for several years and Rollins occasionally served as guest instructor during her visits to east Clark County.
“I think (Forest Moon Yoga) could be successful because Pam’s bringing on instructors that are known in the area and that have been practicing and teaching there for over a decade,” Cherry said. “The amount of experience she has in her studio starting out is definitely going to be beneficial for her. Also, because the instructors have been teaching and cultivating their own following, for lack of a better word, we’re going to already have a built-in base for our classes. We’re not starting from scratch.”
Coryell believes “there’s opportunity on so many different levels” for Forest Moon Yoga to succeed.
“Intrinsically, community is built into yoga,” she said. “People make friends at the gym because they go at the same time and see the same people and begin to feel comfortable and have some familiarity and have something in common. I think a yoga space is like that, too. Pam is offering a variety of classes, so we can offer people (environments) where they feel comfortable and the kinds of practices that they want to have.
“The other thing that’s kind of cool about yoga is that it’s so inclusive,” she continued. “We can easily scale classes up or down for whoever walks in the door. There’s so many approaches (to yoga), and it has a lot of broad appeal. If we can pull off creating a space that’s not only inclusive, but nonjudgmental, that’s where you really want to be. And it’s a complementary form of movement to a lot of different kinds of exercises.”
Military officer finds inner peace through yoga
Rollins started practicing yoga in 2012 when she was living in Seattle as an active member of the United States Coast Guard. She knew that she had to make a change for the betterment of her well-being and found what she was looking for in the first yoga studio she visited.
“(Yoga) flipped my life upside down,” she said. “I was a very intense, high-stress, angry person, and the military kind of forced me to be that way because to be taken seriously as a woman in the service, you kind of have to be a little bit of a hard-ass. It was almost killing me stress-wise. I found yoga and it showed me that I don’t have to be that way and also that I wasn’t that person, that I could just handle things in a way that didn’t need to be so high-speed all the time. I could , slow down and take it step by step and build pieces.”
Yoga instructor Sylvia Mordini pulled Rollins aside after her very first class and told her that she should consider teaching yoga. Rollins was hesitant at first because she didn’t believe she was qualified, but was eventually convinced by Mordini to register for an instructor training session.
“In my training, it was probably like 70-30 (of people who) wanted to teach vs. just wanting to deepen their practice. I was on the fence because I thought I might be a little bit of a poser, like I didn’t know enough about yoga,” Rollins said. “But once we got into the practicing teaching portion, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I just landed in that spot where I was like, ‘This is where I want to be. This is what I want to be doing.’ It made the switch in my body and my brain that I needed.”
Rollins taught at several Seattle-area studios during the next several years while operating a small coffee shop (Damage Control Coffee) on her Coast Guard base. When her husband Jacob expressed a desire to move back to Washougal in 2019, she had one request: “If you’re making me move and leave everything — my business, my students, my home, everything that I’ve loved for 14 years — I’m going to open a yoga studio.”
“(In Seattle), everybody was like, ‘You need to open your own studio,” said Rollins, who is still a member of the Coast Guard as a reserve officer. “But Seattle is very competitive and also super expensive, and I didn’t have the following or the money. I kind of had it in the back of my head forever, and once we made this move, I was like, ‘This is where I’m going to do it.’
“I know it’s weird, this whole idea of an outsider coming in, but I’m not looking at it from that perspective,” she continued. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long and something I want to provide for the community. I don’t think there’s any other business I could open that would mean as much to me. This one matters.”