Mastering Your Soul: Red Yoga succeeds with an atmosphere of community


By Celeste Kanpurwala

Red Yoga is all about community. Just ask Kelli Harrington, part-owner of the hot yoga studio located downtown on Liberty.

Harrington owns the business with her partner, Aric Shaffer, who runs the weekly free meditation classes on Monday afternoons.

Both Harrington and Shaffer can attest to yoga changing their lives for the better.

Red Yoga took over the former Center for Yoga at Stadium and Maple in August 2015. Harrington speaks to this, saying that it was too easy to do. She actually enjoyed the struggle of moving their location downtown almost one year ago, while taking over part of Orchid Lane’s space.

While some yoga students have complained, the end result is that their business has increased exponentially. In November, Harrington noticed their average class size grew from 24 to 48! The addition of the downtown Center for Yoga studio abruptly closing in December has increased their business even more – by at least 30 percent.

Why did Harrington start practicing yoga?

Kelli Harrington practicing a handstand in Chicago.

Because of Madonna – “her arms were amazing.” This was back in 1996, the same year that Harrington married her husband of now 22 years, which whom she has two boys – a freshman at Michigan State and a 12 year old at St. Mary’s Middle School in Monroe (where she commutes from). She began with Bikram yoga and later transitioned to vinyasa flow, which is what Red Yoga specializes in.

Harrington also used to run competitively but is no longer able to do so due to injuries – but make no mistake, she is one of the fittest people you will ever meet thanks to her everyday practice of yoga.

Every class that Harrington teaches has a purpose. She comes in with a goal to take her students through a process – to make them go to their own edge. The vibe in Red Yoga is perhaps unconventional, and very hip, with Harrington and many other teachers swearing throughout class to make their points or to make the students laugh, especially while in difficult poses. The heat is also infrared, which Harrington mentions is detoxifying. The quality of the heat is one of the reasons that Harrington decided to open her own studio, as she used to teach at Center for Yoga. She also says she was “talked into it” by some of her students who wanted to invest.

The community aspect of Red Yoga can be felt inside the studio, as friends meet up and greet each other before and after classes, exchanging sweaty hugs and even going out for coffee or a meal after classes. Harrington mentions that she has had doctors thank her for moving the location downtown so that they can re-explore their own UM stomping grounds.

Another difference between their studio and others is that all teachers are created equal and can sub for each other, making the schedule very flexible and one of the busiest yoga schedules you may ever see, with classes offered seven days a week and even on some holidays.

When asked what Harrington’s favorite poses are, she lists several – half moon, cobra, handstand, crow, and pigeon. All of these poses are favorites because of the heart-opening aspects, as well as the time it took to learn them. Harrington laughs and says that when she hasn’t practiced yoga for a day, she can tell; when it’s been two days, her husband can tell; when it’s been three, the whole world can.

Perhaps the reason that yoga has made such a positive impact on Harrington is that it has taught her to work hard for what she wants, bestowing her with humility and the realization that she is the only one responsible for her own happiness. She says that yoga has made her a better parent, wife, and friend. Harrington wants everyone to know that yoga brings out dormant passions and creativities, as well as a sense of balance.

There is never an end to the practice, always leaving room to grow. At the same time, she emphasizes the non-judgmental atmosphere, “which is essential this day and age.”

Harrington ends by saying, “Yoga isn’t about anything other than mastering your soul.”

Specials that Red Yoga has up and coming include a master class with Brian Kest this Thursday, Jan. 24 from 7-10 PM. They also offer workshops every Friday night from 6:30-8 PM, where you can learn something new or learn how to perhaps master a pose.

Take a class – it could be life changing.

For more on Red Yoga:

MAIN PHOTO: Some of the teachers at Red Yoga. From left to right in this pic: Kate Wilhelmi, Lauren McEachran, Emily Cedar, Alex Flores, Caitlin Concannon, Heidi Heiss, Igor Schrott, Kelli Harrington, Mary Ellen, Sandra Verissimo, and Aric Shaffer.

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