Head north from downtown on the B-Line Trail. As you cross North Fairview Street, you will see a funky blue building with whimsically painted blocks on its patio wall. Tucked away behind one of the doors is Ekah Yoga studio.
Ekah is the Sanskrit word for “one.” In naming the studio, founder Crystal Olry made tangible her life’s guiding principles. “‘Truth is One, Paths are Many,’ wrote Swami Satchidananda,” she says. “What that means to me is, I don’t want to hear about one sect of religion, culture, gender, philosophy, or yoga, for that matter, that is considered better than the other. As you might guess, I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with division and disparity. They have led me to foster safe and brave places both in my home and in the Ekah community.”
With a quiet zeal, Crystal gathered a group of dedicated yoga teachers, even while raising her two daughters with partner, Steve, and working as a dietitian and diabetes educator. The studio attracted loyal students and has never turned away a single person who could not afford a yoga practice.
Live music and Pot Luck gatherings were hosted on the patio. Family nights and kids’ activities were a common sight, too. The studio grew along with Crystal’s vision.
“Implementing a community garden was for me!” she exclaims. “With a higher good in mind, the act of caring for yourself by eating healthy food and enjoying vegetables straight from your garden shines out and in turn cares for so many others.” Volunteers plant and weed and water a tiny spot of earth alongside the parking lot. Squash and zucchini flourish. So do tomatoes, kale, and herbs, and even strawberries, all in their time and season. Everyone is encouraged to partake, regardless of their studio affiliation.
Money never was the focus, until it was.
The studio survived the worst of the pandemic. “We hopped right onto Zoom before the lockdown began,” says Crystal. “We were lucky to do this without missing a beat. And I felt that we were able to maintain that sense of community even in the most isolating times. Practitioners told us that these classes and connections saved them.” She and her staff led a Teacher Training Program that kept the studio going too.
Post-lockdown has been less rosy. While more yoga students are returning to live classes, the studio is at less than 50 percent capacity. The Little Yoga Studio that Could is now on life support. An emergency plan is in effect. “We need donations to stay alive,” Crystal says. “Over half of our yoga teachers donate their pay, our landlord gave us a month’s free rent, and even our payment processor gave us a free month.
“We are planning a fundraiser,” she says, “a Halloween-themed ‘Spooktacular Event’ on Saturday, October 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the spirit of our community’s clean green principles, a garage sale with a Halloween theme should prove to be a howling good time. Not to mention baked goods, face painting, a lemonade/cider stand, and pumpkins!”
Meanwhile, we wait.
“Are more students going to come back to their mats?” asks Crystal. She is hopeful, but not sure. But she is certain of the value of yoga and of community. “It’s not just exercise, it’s deep soul work.” Even if you show up with the sole intention of burning calories and getting in shape, a yoga practice will surprise you in ways you never imagined. It is a workout and a work in.
“Yoga provides this vessel of introspection that helps you see your life, your purpose, and your essence,” Crystal says.
Crystal’s Savory Peanut Butternut Squash Soup
From my family to yours, inspired by West African peanut soup, this soup is now a staple in my bag of gourmet tricks. It’s a wonderful recipe to have on hand if you’re looking for something to do with an abundant harvest of butternut squash. —Crystal Orly
Serving Size: ~1.5 cups
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium sweet pepper, diced
2 cups shredded kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves pressed garlic
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter
2 1/2 cups butternut squash
3 ounces tomato paste
15 ounces crushed tomatoes
45 ounces vegetables broth
3 cups seitan or roasted shredded chicken
*Optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground red pepper for added kick
Over medium heat, sauté onions, pepper, and kale in olive oil for 5–7 minutes. Add ginger and garlic for another minute, then add the rest of the spices for another 30 seconds. Add broth and butternut squash and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
Ladle one cup hot broth into a bowl, whisk in peanut butter, then tomato paste until smooth.
Add peanut butter mixture, seitan, and crushed tomato to soup pot. Cook soup over medium heat for an additional 5–10 minutes.
Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro as desired.