ST. LOUIS – The Collective STL is an entirely black-owned and operated yoga studio that is committed to improving the health and well-being of its students. Motivated by the concept "by us, for us," they have created a space for the black community to feel welcomed, accepted, and empowered while practicing.
"Going to a traditional yoga studio there are usually a lot of average size white people, and I feel out of place. I have to try and convince people, 'Yes, I’m here for yoga.' When I come here, there are other people who are like me and it’s very warm and inviting," said Rodney Whetstone, a student at The Collective.
The studio is completely donation-based, which means the classes are free. Students have the option of donating an amount of their choosing before or after each session. Others become a part of the Collective family and give $12 monthly, which includes a Collective Family t-shirt.
"We have the mats. We have the blocks. We have everything that they need here. All we need them to do is come here willing to try to move," said Alonzo Nelson Jr., Co-Owner and Yoga Instructor.
Another unique attribute of The Collective STL Yoga Studio is that all of the instructors are local school teachers.
"Being teachers, we know how to differentiate because in a classroom, in education, you have to do that. We know how to read the room. We can pick up on certain emotional cues,” said Ericka Harris, co-owner and yoga instructor. “That helps us to tailor the class toward our community.”
The Collective has seen an immense amount of growth since its opening just over three years ago and its impact is showing within the community.
"I feel like yoga has helped me through a lot of mental issues and it’s also inspired me a lot. I am now a certified yoga teacher,” said Jakadea Christmas, a teen yoga student. “A lot of times after you’re done practicing [at other studios] you’re ready to go, but I feel like after I'm done practicing [at The Collective] I never really want to leave."
The Collective STL Yoga studio is located at 1400 N. Market Street and holds adult classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.