Yogi builds on a lifetime of experiences to manage a new studio.
Jillian Walker feels empowered within the boundaries of a 6-foot by 2-foot space.
Far from constrained, Walker uses her yoga mat to center herself and practice mindfulness of both her limits and those far beyond.
“This tiny, little mat has the power to transform the way you feel about yourself and the world around you,” Walker said. “What’s happened in the past and what you’re looking forward to, within an hour, can undergo massive transformation.”
Walker, now a practicing yogi in a new studio on Siesta Key, first experienced yoga at 14 when she joined her grandmother in a class. “It was magical. I remember being so entranced by these strange but really cool movements that made my body feel really good,” Walker said, adding her grandmother still participates at age 92. “At the end, with savasana, I felt a peace unlike anything I’d ever felt in my entire life.”
From that point, Walker knew yoga would play a major role in her life. She caught the occasional class as a teenager and began practicing more frequently as an environmental studies student at New College of Florida.
Years later, during her pregnancy with her son and following his birth, yoga became a regular practice.
“I would go to class as often as I could after my son was born,” Walker said. “It’s just what my body was craving as a new mom, and you need that. You need a place just for yourself.”
The practice also helped Walker process her grief when her brother died in 2014. Shortly after, Walker began training to become a yoga instructor. She now holds certifications for yoga, reiki and singing bowls.
Walker recently struck out on a new venture: managing a new studio, Studio Yooga. Walker helped set up and run the studio, which is owned by Michael Schindele.
The studio, in the heart of Siesta Key Village at 5212 ½ Ocean Blvd., often attracts out-of-towners looking to continue their practice.
“More than 50% of the people coming in are here on vacation, and they’re so excited to have a place of wellness and mindfulness, where they can center themselves while they’re away,” Walker said.
Because it serves a wide clientele, Studio Yooga offers an array of classes, including power vinyasa, restorative yoga, gentle yoga and vinyasa flow.
The main focus of the studio, though, is hot yoga where students participate in various flows in a room heated to 95 degrees. Walker said the heated classes require students to check in with their bodies and focus on their breathing.
“We’re not taught how to breathe, and people will look at that statement and say, ‘Why do I need to be taught how to breathe?’” Walker said. “But in yoga philosophy, it is said that we only have a certain number of breaths we can take in life. So if that’s true, what does it mean if we’re never breathing deeply?”
Walker first began work on the studio in January. In three weeks, she built the class schedule, a website, social media pages and branding, and she hired Lauren Nevius, Cher Smith, Lesa Livermore and Jill Almond to teach classes with her.
Studio Yooga celebrated its grand opening April 3 and is now open for classes seven days a week. In the future, Schindele plans to open a boutique in the front of the studio to sell yoga equipment.
Those interested can schedule a class online or walk in.
Whether people are interested in one class or several, Walker said she hopes her students leave the studio feeling lighter.
“I hope they breathe more deeply and recognize that they have a lot to be grateful for because we live in a beautiful world,” Walker said. “I hope they walk out a little bit lighter, not so attached to the things they were carrying in their life.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated Jillian Walker owned the studio space. It has been updated.
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