Peel away the layers at an inner city yoga studio

16 Comments Just B Blog

Lately some of the calls to Just B Yoga have had a similar theme:

“I don’t think I’ll be comfortable there.”

“Will I be safe?”

It’s been a difficult one to respond to without having a defensive edge in my voice. It’s also been a sad reality to face about how we’re perceived.

The Just B Yoga studio is next to a junky old car lot with smashed out windshields, flat tires and missing parts. Quality Dairy semi trucks make tricky three-point…no, often five-point reverse parking jobs several times a day in front of our window. Most of the store fronts along Washington Avenue as you head toward our street are old, run down, blighted.

There’s an active train line not 100 yards from the back door. The three cooling towers from a coal-fired power plant – BWL Eckert Station – loom high above.

Welcome to our neighborhood.

There’s no ornate landscaping, no freshly-paved asphalt parking lot. There’s weeds in the sidewalk I try to yank up. And oh, yeah, there’s a party store a few blocks down.

We are  south of 496 and our buildings carry the wear and tear of the declining economy that’s been strangling Lansing and that apparently means we’re in a “bad part of town.”

But there’s been no stabbings, shootings, armed robberies or rapes that I can recall in the last year. There’s been no meth lab busts…and the medical marijuana place is a whole TWO blocks away!

Still the perception is that we are in a “rough” area.

106 Island Avenue found Just B Yoga. We weren’t looking for space. The universe presented opportunity and we took it.

We’ve got really great neighbors who are happy to smile and tip their hat at the yoga people as they go in and out of the studio.  The kids around the way have dropped in curious about “what is tai chi” and “can kids do yoga too?” And if you spend a moment talking to the owner of the car lot on the corner you find a sweet, generous man under a rough (and loud) exterior.

In the year that we’ve been here, there’s been one act of vandalism that we all chalk up to kids being reckless, not mean-spirited.

Maybe we are in “da hood” by some standards, or at least by the general perception of Lansing. But where I come from, my “hood” was where people stuck together. We held fast to fight off drugs and crime. We celebrated each other’s successes. We planned how to revitalize – even if it was potted plants and window shade.  We shared food and clothes, when someone else didn’t have them.

“Was it safe?”

I’m not naïve. I have friends who’ve died in city/street violence. I know Lansing is struggling with violence and crimes of desperation. But I also know it’s upon each and every one of us to deny the perception of bad to corrupt the good of the seeds we plant.

So if you’re thinking of checking out Just B Yoga for a class, we hope you come. We hope you peel through the layers of perception and step through the doorway.

Inside you will find a warm space of practice and loving community, because that’s what we are.

And if you feel you can’t take that step because of what you see on the outside, maybe you’re not ready to practice yoga, and not just with us. Because if you’re not peeling away layers in your yoga, you’re not practicing.



(Photos of the inside of the studio were deliberately not posted. There’s plenty in other posts if you search. But we’d rather you drive over to our side of down and roll out a mat instead)

16 thoughts on “Peel away the layers at an inner city yoga studio”

  1. I never felt unsafe at Just B–even when I was by myself on a cold winter’s night closing up the studio after teaching a class. There’s a little neighborhood there and the people are friendly. Peel away!!!

  2. Angela says:

    I also have never felt unsafe at Just B Yoga–even leaving the studio after dark. REO town may have been much rougher in the past (I don’t know, I’m not a longtime Lansing resident), but the neighborhood has made huge strides to clean itself up in the past year alone!

  3. says:

    Tremendous blog post. We need more of this kind of candor within the yoga community at large and the Lansing community in particular. Yoga is more about stretching the mind than it is about stretching the body, and having an open mind about a yoga studio that’s not in a “cool”or gentrified part of town is part of that growth we can experience with yoga. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Carla Larzelere says:

    Just B is a beautiful space because of the character and people in it! I have loved the classes I’ve attended there and can’t wait to practice there again soon.

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We love having your smile in the room!

  5. Will Metz says:

    I think Just B has made a great start by fostering an inviting community with lots of warm, welcoming people. That’s meeting them more than halfway, and sometimes that’s all you can do. There are some folks who may never be ready to join this community because of certain prejudices and perceptions that they have. That’s too bad for them, but it’s been going on in the Lansing area as long as I can remember. I’d love to change those perceptions, but I’m not always sure how.

    Building a studio that is centrally located, convenient, and a part of the community does bring the risk that some people might look down on you. Some people would be more comfortable practicing in a suburban mini mall storefront, but I bet they’re never going to find the kind of community we have in our own little “hood”.

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      Will, what a wonderfully thoughtful response.
      We are investing in ourselves.
      Investment: to use, give or devote (time, talent, etc) as for a purpose or to achieve something.
      We are using our time, giving of ourselves and our energy and money, we are devoting our spirits to a new now and a better future.

      You are a huge part of that and I’m grateful for your brotherhood.


  6. floodmouse says:

    Heck, I practically live in this neighborhood – just a hop, skip, & jump away. I honestly never even thought about this issue until I read Belinda’s blog. The studio is in a “normal people” area, not an upscale yuppie zombie mall like East Lansing or Okemos (no offense, ELfsters). The location is great – it’s total urban hip.

    P.S. – In my neighborhood, nobody ever steals nothin’. Kids swiped the handle off my outdoor tap once, but nothing else ever disappeared from my yard.

  7. Molly Benjamin says:

    I totally agree with all above posts.
    I have never felt unsafe traveling to or from Just B.
    I always thought the neighborhood is pretty cute in fact and I tend to feel even more comfortable in this type of neighborhood than other “nicer” parts of town. It feels more real to me. A result of our location and financial accessibility is that we attract so many folks who otherwise might never experience yoga, most of whom really need it. I totally appreciate Just B for all it is, for all who show up. It’s just as it should be.
    Thank you to Belinda and the rest of the Just B community for allowing the studio to be here.

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      We love you too! Thanks for your kind words and your support of what we’re about. Maybe we can be a catalyst for transformation…and it doesn’t mean we want to be anything other than what we are, but that we can be the best “us” we were meant to be.



  8. Kim Krohn says:

    I think Just B Yoga is exactly as it should be. Personally if it was a exclusive studio in a posh area I likely would have never checked it out. I have never felt unsafe and often bring my Daughter with me without a second thought. Her comments “wow Mom there are so many beutiful houses around here” I feel blessed and proud to be part of the Just B community and am deeply saddened that irrational fear stands in the way of others ability to experience this amazing community.

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      Thank you Kim. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  9. Alicia Armbrester says:

    Just B Yoga is a jewel. Not your everyday diamond, but one of those amazing finds, hidden away for centuries though always ready to offer a facet…every angle revealing something new and extraordinary to you.

    I have two local yoga studios that I LOVE and would not trade my classes and interactions at Just B for anything. It is a warm, welcoming, caring and nurturing environment, a family, opening doors to all and opening all who enter to new discoveries.

    As others have said, if the studio facade or those surrounding it make you wary, take a moment to reflect on the myriad human facades that we encounter every day. Those can be far more deceiving, hiding many more dangers. Just B is just what is says it is: a yoga (and tai chi) studio. Not fancy, not cosmetic; just like your best friend—there for you for whatever you need to reveal. The studio doesn’t outshine the student; it helps the student shine out.

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      Wow. Alicia, what an amazing and heartfelt comment about the community and the studio.
      We are honored and blessed to have your energy and support.
      Thank you for your kind and gracious words.

  10. Brittney Horton says:

    Wow… what an amazing blog! I am coming to check out Just B Yoga! I have been looking for a yoga place for months now and i think i have found the perfect place!

    1. BelindaThurston says:

      Thanks for finding us. We’re happy to have you come join us for a class, or two, or three 🙂

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