Soothe Your Soul

By+Kathe Brunton

YOGA OFFERS RESPITE FROM A STRESSFUL WORLD

Photos by Bruce Veclotch - Photography by Bruce

It took three months away from the United States for Liz Nierzwicki to truly understand the meaning of the word “stress.” But it wasn’t being away from home that prompted her newfound knowledge. Rather, it was the return.

“During college, I spent a summer in Finland studying international marketing,” she explained. “The lifestyle there is different. It’s a slower pace. When I returned to the States, I was astounded at how fast the pace of life is here. It was the first time I’d ever experienced anxiety in my life.”

Liz found relief through yoga, a mind-body practice with roots dating back 5,000 years. Having started yoga in high school, she found that this age-old methodology has helped her cope with many stressful times in her life. For example, after college, Liz lived in St. Louis, worked in sales, and practiced yoga on the side for its calming benefits.

“There was a lot of stress in the working world,” she recalled. “Yoga helped me deal with it in a positive way. It became a more calming way for me to tune into my body, as opposed to an active workout. And I liked doing something that made me feel connected to something deeper.”

The owner of Solace Yoga Studio on Edison Road in Mishawaka, Liz believes everyone can experience the benefits of yoga and its transformational nature.

“Many people think yoga is just stretching, but it is much more than that. During a yoga class, you are activating muscles to build up internal body heat, which helps the muscles stretch, tone, elongate and strengthen. In fact, a lot of people sweat in yoga! I was a dancer in high school and when I started yoga, I was surprised at how much of a workout it actually is,” she said.


Yoga Bliss

 

Over the years, whenever Liz would travel, she liked to attend local yoga classes. Three years ago, she was visiting California and joined a friend in an evening class.

“I remember that the room was dim, lit only by candles,” she recalled. “You could hardly see the other participants, but it was such a challenging class, you could hear them breathing.”

What came next took her completely by surprise.

“When I left the class, I felt as though between my steps I could float,” she said. “My friend told me, ‘That’s the yoga bliss.’ Although I had been practicing yoga for 12 years, that experience hooked me. I needed to know more, so I began a deeper study of yoga.”

Liz enrolled in teacher training, which involved classes one full weekend a month for nine months. At the end of the program, she was certified and registered with the Yoga Alliance® and eager to open her own studio.

During her studies, Liz learned about gamma-amino butyric acid (or GABA, as it is commonly known), a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood. When GABA is increased, one’s mood is improved and anxiety is decreased. Liz found research done by Boston University in 2010 in which two groups of people were studied. In one group, the participants did only yoga. The other group did only walking.

“Both groups showed an increase in GABA levels after walking, but the yoga group was higher,” she said. Liz believes the measured breathing done in yoga has a lot to do with increasing GABA.

“When we are stressed, our breath is shallow and fast. When you take deep breaths, everything slows down in the body,” she said.

 

Oasis of Calm

 

Born with an entrepreneurial spirit and armed with this newfound knowledge, Liz decided to open a yoga studio to share this experience with the world.

In the midst of frenetic lifestyles, Solace Yoga Studio is an oasis of calm.

“Our tagline is ‘Soothe Your Soul’ and it’s so true,” Liz said. “People come in feeling stressed and leave feeling 100 percent better.”

Open only since January, the studio has already transformed lives.

“One of my clients is a psychotherapist who listens to other people’s life problems and challenges on a daily basis. Because she has a sensitive nature, she needed some stress relief herself. She started yoga and now says she has realized the stress-relieving benefits. In fact, yoga has done so much for her that she has decided to become a teacher,” Liz said.

Many men also attend classes at Solace. “Some of our classes are composed of half men and half women. The men like the hot yoga and power yoga classes. Older men like the gentle yoga; many of them come because their doctors recommended it for their back problems,” she said.

One of Liz’s male clients has succeeded in losing 15 pounds and gaining muscle tone and strength. Another man, who started yoga thinking he would just “try it,” has experienced significant peace and relaxation that is helping him deal with his high-stress job.

In addition to yoga, Solace offers a small clothing and accessories shop, as well as lifestyle programs that can help attendees improve their lives and well-being.

Drawing on her college background in nutritional studies, Liz created the Clean Eating and Wellness Cleanse programs for Solace clients.

“A lot of people don’t know how to eat healthy,” she said. “These two programs give you a wealth of knowledge that you can use at the grocery store, at restaurants and at home. You become more aware of your impulses and why you reach for a bag of chips or a candy bar. One of my clients has lost 17 pounds. It’s amazing to see her transformation.”

Body Sculpt is another class and lifestyle program, designed for people who want to take their fitness to a more challenging level by gaining muscle tone and strength.

Solace also offers a variety of workshops that help clients enhance or change their lives. For example, a recent workshop called “Listening to Your Healthy Voice” taught attendees to focus on their thoughts and to turn negative ones into something positive.

Sometime this winter and next spring, Liz plans to offer off-site yoga retreats. Some may be within driving distance, while others are planned for across the country (Colorado, Oregon or Wisconsin) and even out of the country (Mexico or Costa Rica).

“It will be a chance to get out of town. We will center the retreats around healthy eating, yoga and fun activities,” she said.

Of course, there are clients who feel they’ve left town just while in the studio. With its calming colors, quiet atmosphere and spacious yoga room, the Solace Yoga Studio is a world unto itself.

“A lot of people who come to my studio say it doesn’t feel like you’re in South Bend or Mishawaka,” Liz said. “It is truly a place of peace.”




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