Walking into the Monona Yoga Center for the first time this afternoon I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of peace and comfort. The smell of incense filled the air and the quiet space on the lake felt warm, comfortable and relaxing. Having practiced Yoga over the last 15 years with varying degrees of dedication and intensity, I've been in more yoga spaces than I can recall and this one certainly impressed me from the start.
I was greeted by owner, Kat Casey, sitting in a quaint reception area that features shoe cubbies, comfortable seating, changing stalls, an assortment of Yoga accouterments for purchase and tea for members. A short tour of the facility revealed an inviting yoga studio with a full wall of windows offering natural light. Next to the main studio there is a well-done children's room that houses the after school program and child watch.
After the tour I had the opportunity to sit down with Kat and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the journey that took her from special education teacher to Yoga Studio Owner. It's not often you find someone who radiates positive vibes, bravery and strength the way Kat Casey does. The Monona Yoga Center was born out of a long-time dream Kat had started manifesting as she grew into a Yogi. Kat's transformation from special education teacher to yoga-studio owner grew gradually over time. She started with yoga therapy for children with special needs, followed by teaching kids as part of an after-school yoga program and finally in 2005 when she felt ready to teach adults her yoga training continued in India. After having her second child Kat started thinking seriously about how she could make her dream become a reality which would allow her to spend more time raising her children while sharing her love of Yoga with the World. Finally on January 8th, 2015 the doors to the Monona Yoga Center were flung open for business, and the dream was a reality.
Of course, as dreams go, there are always challenges along the route. Kat started out working as a teacher while she was running her yoga studio which meant working from sun up to sun down while raising two children. As the saying goes, anything worth having isn't easy to achieve and opening this business was just like opening any other business - even if it is a business dedicated to de-stressing and relaxing.
What sets the Monona Yoga Center apart from all the others? Having tried SO many Yoga studios in my life, I wanted to know the answer to this question. To answer that question Kat explained that the Monona Yoga Center is a small, community-based studio centered around honoring the student/teacher relationship. She feels strongly the students of her center should develop a relationship with their instructor making the practice more meaningful. The Monona Yoga Center also prides itself on offering traditional yoga that is not "watered down or heated up." By watered down, Kat explained, the practice is not changed to be "safe" or heated up to make it seem you are working harder. She debunked the myth I had bought into that hot yoga is a better workout, is better for your muscles and burns more calories. According to Kat, despite being a certified hot yoga instructor, hot yoga isn't safe. She explained that tricking yourself into feeling like you are working harder due to the heat can actually cause more damage to your muscles. She said if you want to be hot, take Ashtanga, one of the many types of yoga offered at the center.
The children's program Kat offers to kids from Winnequah Elementary in grades K-5 is a one-of-a-kind program in the Madison area. The kids are dropped off at the center via the school bus where Kat greets them at the center with a snack to get the afternoon started. Following snack time there is yoga, homework time, structured and non-structured play, crafts and sometimes even a movie day. The after school program fills quickly so anyone interested in that should register in the Spring prior to the following school year. This year's program had a waiting list so lets hope Kat can grow her space soon!
Beyond the normal yoga classes, you will also find community special events such as book club, Chakra Dance, yoga series and self-guided practice time. If you are interested in learning more about the courses and programs offered at the Monona Yoga Center, head on over to their website at https://www.mononayoga.com/.