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The Yoga Sanctuary Story: Our First 15 Years

The Yoga Sanctuary's space in 2007 at 403 Sullivan Street

In May 2007, Bonnie Yonker, yoga teacher and founder of The Yoga Sanctuary, opened the studio doors in the Swiss Connection Building at 403 Sullivan Street with just eleven classes on the schedule. The only teacher at that time, Bonnie led every single yoga class for six months. Sometimes only 2 or 3 people would show up. Other times, she’d have a packed room of 17. It was a simple one room studio painted yellow, with a tiny little boutique space. Students could brew a small cup of tea and then have a seat in one of the two classic IKEA birchwood chairs that sat across from the shoe bench. That very same bench and one of those chairs can still be found upstairs at 112 Sullivan Street today.

It was another 6 months before Bonnie had any other teachers to support her. In mid-November of 2007, her first addition was Gwen Burdick. Gwen had two young daughters and a love for sharing yoga with kids. She offered special kids yoga workshops, brought yoga into some of our local schools, and led the kids practice at all our outdoor community events.

A Note from Bonnie

When Jen first asked me to write something about TYS, a million thoughts flooded through my mind! But the greatest joy and blessing for me is that the The Yoga Sanctuary is still such a strong, beautiful community after 15 years! Congratulations to Jen and the TYS Team for such commitment and dedication!!!

As TYS grew, so did Gwen, moving from leading these special kids’ yoga events to writing about yoga philosophy and Vedic Astrology, while also offering birth chart readings for our community. Though the world lost Gwen in 2019, The Yoga Sanctuary still feels blessed by her supportive spirit.

Around the same time that Gwen joined us, Bonnie met a woman named Cody McClymont. Cody, who had training in the alignment-based, Iyengar school of yoga, added two more classes to the schedule bringing the regular weekly schedule up to thirteen. January 2008 then introduced Jennifer French to the teaching staff, and soon after, September brought us Margit Bannon, both just beginning their yoga teaching careers. In October, Sharon Fultz led her first Tai chi class at TYS. In this short time, the studio grew from one teacher to six, with a widening variety of classes available.

A Note from Margit

I’ve been connected to TYS since before its initial opening, when I was teaching elsewhere and met Bonnie, who encouraged me to get my 200 hr. certification through the Yoga Alliance. I was fortunate to be part of the original few teachers along with Jennifer, in the original building that was a special place that was like no other Punta Gorda had seen before. Years later, I remember walking into what was then the new space we hold now, before all of the renovations, and feeling that it just felt right. It had and still has the ability to draw an exhalation out of you as you enter, knowing that you are welcome with what you bring and add to our community. The Yoga Sanctuary is truly as its name suggests, not only a sanctuary for students but for teachers that share from the heart.


A Note from Sharon

Chocolate. My first visit to the Yoga Sanctuary was an accidental side trip. The imported Swiss Chocolates and exotic coffees brought me to the Swiss Chocolate building on Sullivan Street and curiosity inspired me to peek inside an open door where I was greeted warmly by Bonnie who was holding a paint pan in one hand and a paint roller dripping the sweetest shade of blue into the pan. From that initial welcoming into the Sangha (literally a community) where I had little knowledge of what yoga was, Yoga and the community have gifted me with friendships, education, health, and an expanded world view. That was in May 2007. Jennifer and Margit were there along with Cody who introduced me to Iyengar style in my first ever class. She told the story of Hanuman. I was charmed by the story, the movements, and the feeling of being part of a modality that would complement my Tai-ChiChuan practice and I am still charmed by the philosophies, the history, the myths, the legends, the joy of the movement, and so much more that TYS has brought and continues to gift to me. Sharing those gifts and learning is continuous.

A Note from Adrianne

A few months after They Yoga Sanctuary opened its doors, and without ever hearing about it before, I started to get a nagging feeling within me that I needed “yoga,” whatever that was. I had no clue. I was maybe 21 and I don’t even think I could say what one did in “yoga.” The nagging didn’t go away. I was being drawn to this mysterious thing without reason. At the time, I had begun nannying for a local family in Punta Gorda, and one day while I was at their house, I saw a light green trifold pamphlet on the fridge. I was curious because it said “yoga” and looked like it fit this feeling within me! I called…. Bonnie answered the phone “thank you for calling The Yoga Sanctuary, this is Bonnie speaking, how may I help you?” I asked about these “yoga” classes she offered, and how it all worked. Hung up, didn’t go, but still kept thinking about it. Then maybe a week or two later, I called back. Again, I asked the same questions, trying to figure this mystery out. I didn’t have yoga gear…. Props, stuff, clothes!! Clothes!! I asked what I should wear! She said that I could wear anything comfortable. Jammies?? Yes, she said loose fitted comfortable pants would be fine! So I attended my first class at TYS in a shirt and pajama pants! It was AMAZING!!! It was weird, uncomfortable (not physically but the newness of it), there were Sanskrit words I had never heard before. It was everything I needed at that moment, and what this nagging led me toward. In those first couple of months, I started working at TYS and learning everything I could! I had to balance doing actual retail work and learning about all these deities and traditions that were so brand new to me! (My cat is named Shiva by the way). I was also taking classes usually once or twice a week. I met Jennifer around this time and admired these two women, “yoginis,” doing the thing I had been drawn into, and seemingly so effortless about it. When they decided to start training new teachers, I jumped at that opportunity! I taught in other locations for about a year and did some more office work from time to time at TYS. As the years pass by, and life happens around me, I always find my way back home in yoga. Although I don’t practice nearly as much as I’d like anymore, the core of my existence now seems to stem from yoga. I had found my path nearly 15 years ago at The Yoga Sanctuary, and I always end up finding my way back… At least now I know what it is and what to wear!

Over the next three years, the schedule expanded to more than 20 classes a week with regular one-on-one sessions, workshops, special events, and more. Already we had seen a few faces come and go, but Bonnie worked to find just the right person to work the front desk, someone who would be there to greet and assist every student that walked in the door. First was Adrianne Butwell, who remained part of the TYS team in various ways for years, even participating in our inaugural Yoga Teacher Training Program. For a time, Jennifer also shifted from only teaching classes to working behind scenes of marketing, answering student phone calls, greeting students, and more. Finally, at end of 2010, Bonnie found just the right person in someone that had been part of the studio from the very beginning, Anna Martin.

A Note from Anna

I met Bonnie way before she established The Yoga Sanctuary and always felt that we had similar views on life, our duties, discipline and ethical values. After practicing with her for a few years when a situation presented itself, as The Yoga Sanctuary was growing and moving to 112 Sullivan St, I was given a gift of joining the TYS team. I have been here over 10 years and the reasons that attracted me in the studio are still the same as I continue my journey with The Yoga Sanctuary as the office manage and a yoga teacher–blessed and happy to be here.

At the turn of 2011, TYS had outgrown its original space. Searching for just the right space, Bonnie and her husband Terry discovered a unique property right down the road, but the whole building would have to be remodeled and made “yoga ready.” After much planning and a few snags and delays, TYS was finally able to make the move! We closed the doors of the old studio on 403 Sullivan on Christmas Eve 2010 and opened our doors at 112 Sullivan Street on Monday, January 3rd, 2011.

With our first ever Yoga Teacher Training program having started just the month before, this move also brought the addition of yin yoga with Annie Moore, energy healing sessions with Lisa Ahrens, massage therapy, and visits from guest teachers like Dr. Carrie Demers—who continues to join us annually to this day—as well as Bonnie’s own teacher, Alan Finger. It was an exciting time for TYS. A small humble yoga studio in a tiny little city in SW Florida moving into a larger space and inviting teachers from all over the country to visit us. Our skills as a team shifted from simply leading yoga classes to full event planning and coordinating.

A Note from Annie

When I first moved to Englewood, I was a regular yoga student looking for a vigorous type of class. That was not as available to me in Englewood. I was so happy to find Bonnie and The Yoga Sanctuary when it as on Virginia Street. I watched the business grow and move over to Sullivan Street and then became a teacher at TYS after the move. Being part of TYS has helped me in numerous ways, including teaching me valuable lessons about how to keep clients/students happy by providing a dependable, consistent atmosphere. Congratulations, Jennifer, on 15 years!

A Note for Melissa M

Happy Anniversary and Congratulations to TYS! Since the day I took my first class in 2008 I knew it was a very special place and I am so glad Bonnie had the vision and that Jennifer continues to keep TYS as a true sanctuary where you feel peace and joy surrounded by the wonderful teachers, yogis and historic charm. I am grateful that I participated in the first yoga teacher training class and started teaching when I graduated. That path led me to live a better life giving me the tools to get me thru life’s ups and downs. It also gave me the confidence to know I could accomplish anything I set my mind on. I have continued my practice all these years, although now I take classes online offered by the TYS as it is pure convenience to fit classes into work and snowbird life. All the teachers hold a special place in my heart for their dedication and offerings to us yogis. Punta Gorda would not be the same without the TYS…it truly is a gem with all the right energy and love!

Included in that team were the participants of our Yoga Teacher Training program, and some of these faces are still with us. Upon graduating that first group, we added two more new teachers, one of whom is Melissa Meehan, still a regular face at TYS as a substitute teacher. This first group also graduated Cathy Getz, a TYS student from Day One. Well, actually day three, as Cathy attended the first Sunrise class ever on the schedule—along with Margit Bannon!—and became a dear friend of Bonnie’s. Cathy is responsible for the growth of the TYS Boutique and worked as our Retail Manager through 2016.

A Note from Cathy

My TYS Story…. This is so hard to make short, as I have been blessed to be a part of this from the beginning. Memories: Bonnie, who has become such a mentor, friend and family member. Jennifer, and her first class she taught at TYS, and how nervous she was! All of the staff, past, present and to come, thank you for your effort and guidance. The guest teachers who brought so much to our practice, too numerous to name. And the Yogis who have left us, Gwen, Monika, Jane, Marilyn, Tracy, may they have reached Moksha. I’ve now physically moved on, but my heart still resides back there in the corner. Congratulations Jennifer and staff on 15 years of building Punta Gorda’s sangha. Hari Om Tat Sat.

For several years, things moved along smoothly. We continued to grow, we added classes, we grew our workshop programs, we developed community, all as we worked to enrich the lives of the people that walked through our doors.  Every other year a new group of students made the commitment to dive even deeper into their practice by committing to our Yoga Teacher Training program. And with each graduation we saw more teachers ready to share their love of yoga with the world around them. In 2013, after our second Yoga Teacher Training program, Julie Huffman and Sally Bartolotta began leading classes. Julie led seasonal classes and only stopped when she no longer returned to Punta Gorda—we still see her weekly zooming in with us from Missouri! And our sweet blue-haired Sally led evening classes until the day she and her husband Angel opened The Rock Box Music School and Stage in North Port, Florida.

A Note from Sally

My name is Sally Bartolotta, and I would love to share some of my fond memories and experiences of The Yoga Sanctuary, a space that is incredibly special to me. I first stumbled upon TYS when it was in its former location, back in early 2010. I had recently moved to the area and had been searching for just the right yoga studio. I was feeling a bit homesick and hadn’t met too many people yet. Punta Gorda was a bit of a drive from my new home in North Port, but there was something very special about this little place I had stumbled upon, and of my first teacher there – Margit Bannon who I first had the honor of taking class with. As a musician, my tour schedule was a bit hectic that year, so I took some time away, and the following year (September of 2011 to be exact), I received The Yoga Sanctuary’s newsletter regarding a wonderful Yoga Month challenge of 20 classes in 30 days, to benefit The Peace River Wildlife Center. I was a bit out of practice, and 20 classes in 30 days did seem like an impossible feat at the time, but the idea of devoting myself to my practice, to challenge myself in a new way, and all this to help raise money for our native wildlife was too important an opportunity to pass up. So, I decided to go “all in”, and I’m happy to say, I completed my 20 classes in those 30 days, and I just kept on going from there… This was my first time seeing the new (and current) building, and it literally took my breath away (good thing my awesome Teachers reminded me to breathe so often). The energy, the warmth, the vibe as a whole, was something inexplicable. I had finally found the sacred space I had been searching for, and I excitedly attended as many classes and workshops as I could, always feeling the daily pangs of anxiety right up until the moment my foot crossed the threshold of the front door, where it was as if a physical sheath of stress was lifted right off of me (like a maître-d removing your coat at a fancy restaurant). Jennifer, Bonnie, Margit, Melissa, and all of the other awesome and incredible teachers there at the time helped me nurture my practice in ways I never dreamed of. So, when The Teacher Training program was offered at the end of 2012, I put a lot of thought into it, and decided to go for it! And I want to go on record as saying that I had zero intention of ever teaching when I signed up for this immersive training. I simply wanted to learn all that I could about yoga as a whole. This Training changed my life in numerous and abundant ways. As I grew more confident in my practice, and learned more and more about myself, I felt myself nudging toward the idea of sharing all that I was learning, first with family maybe, or perhaps with friends. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of the class of 2013, earning my RYT-200 certification in April of that year, and of later joining the TYS family as a teacher (where I am honored to have taught until August of 2016, when my Husband and I opened a music school in North Port). As a teacher at TYS, I felt honored to be among the very same people who helped transform my life in amazing ways. Those 3+ years were some of the best I have ever experienced, and I reflect upon how very much I learned from my students and all I was lucky enough to share space with. It brings such a smile to my face to think back on all the little things that brought me to where I am today. Trying that first class with Margit in 2010, signing up for The Yoga Month Challenge in 2011, enrolling in Teacher Training, and going on to lead classes of my own… None of this would have felt possible without the loving kindness, guidance, and expertise of my Teachers, colleagues and dear friends at TYS. I feel such joy to know The Yoga Sanctuary is celebrating its 15 year anniversary! This space, and the loving people who fill it deserve the absolute best, and my hope is for another 15 years, and another 15, and another, and so on, and so on. This is truly a sacred space, an exceptional gem, and one we are incredibly lucky to have in our area. If you’ve seen me around lately, or have taken a private class with me, then I’m sure you’ve heard me say “check out The Yoga Sanctuary”, or “over at The Yoga Sanctuary”. I am constantly inspired and in awe of all of the amazingness that *is* TYS as a whole. I am eternally grateful and proud to have been a part of the TYS story in some way, and I cherish my time on the mat as a student, and as a teacher, each and every day. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU, and Happy Birthday Yoga Sanctuary!

A Note from Julie

The first season we were snowbirds we drove into PG and I saw a sign that said YOGA. I was a little homesick so I decided to take a class. TYS was then located on Virginia Ave. Bonnie adjusted my posture twice during the class. I was hooked and began to take classes regularly. My first impression of TYS was the friendliness of the staff and the warmth of the studio. The first studio was small but there was always enough room for everyone that came to practice. There was a tiny corner in the back of the room just big enough for a yoga mat! TYS has provided me with so many benefits, but for me the yoga 200 hour teacher training has been the best! It was challenging yet super rewarding and I treasure the time spent with fellow students. Bonnie and Jennifer were superb instructors! The next few years I was able to teach yoga classes at TYS while we were in FL. I continue to teach now in MO. One memory that stands out for me (and also very embarrassing) is the time I went to TYS as a teacher to open the studio one morning. I went in and entered my code and proceeded to go through the steps to open the studio. All at once a very loud alarm went off! Cathy Getz came down from upstairs. I didn’t know she was there and she didn’t know I was there. A police officer came to the door and also Jennifer and Gary. I was devasted! Luckily, all was okay and Jennifer was understanding:) TYS is a very special place! I’ve attended classes lots of places but none compare to the quality of teaching and overall professionalism. Not to mention the warm atmosphere and warmth of the studio as a whole. I am grateful to be able to take zoom classes here in my home in MO. It’s not the same as being there in person, but the instructors have a way of making even those of practicing at home feel like we are right there at TYS. The Yoga Sanctuary will always hold a special place in my heart!

It was this same year, in mid-2013, that brought us Melissa Goodwin. After living in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a number of years, Melissa and her husband took to travelling the states in their RV for nine months. They eventually landed in Punta Gorda and decided to make it their home. When she arrived, little did Melissa know that she would coincidently find a yoga home with a teacher that studied with her same teachers in New Mexico! Both Melissa and Jennifer name Tias and Surya Little of Prajna Yoga their primary teachers.

A Note from Melissa

I landed in Punta Gorda near the end of 2012, feeling ungrounded and rootless after a year of living and traveling in a motor home. I longed for a home base and I missed teaching yoga, which I had done for five years before hitting the road in our RV. The Yoga Sanctuary spoke of “home” to me from the moment I saw it. The building reminded me of New England homes (where I’m from), with its wooden floors, staircase, and charm. Everyone was friendly and made me feel welcomed. Serendipity was at work, in that the studio was looking to bring on an experienced teacher at just the time I showed up, and that Jennifer French and I shared the same primary teacher (a bigger coincidence than you might imagine.) I’ve been here 10 years now and finding TYS is a very large part of why we came to call Punta Gorda home.

Jennifer and Bonnie in the upstairs studio

A Note from Jennifer

It’s hard to believe The Yoga Sanctuary is celebrating its 15th year of service to our community. I remember when I first met our founder, Bonnie Yonker… It wasn’t long after I moved to Florida from Upstate New York. I happened to pop into a class at a local studio and she was the teacher. I came from a style of yoga that has an extremely specific kind of approach, and what I found in Bonnie’s class was very different from what I was used to. I remember thinking, “What are we doing?!? This isn’t how we practice back home.” It was new and I was missing home. Our paths would cross now and again, and we stayed connected. I eventually took my first yoga teacher training in Sarasota. Not long after I graduated and started teaching, Bonnie opened The Yoga Sanctuary. She came to a class or two of mine, and soon after that, I was on the TYS teaching schedule. A friend and mentor to this day, Bonnie created a place that allowed me to explore and grow, as both a yoga student and teacher. It didn’t take very long for The Yoga Sanctuary to become my home and I was no longer missing anything. That was few years ago… and my hope today is that those of you who find your way through our doors feel the same sense of community and support in your own practice that I did so many years ago and that we here at The Yoga Sanctuary continually strive (or just continue) to cultivate each and every day. And that no matter where you come from or where home may be, you feel that The Yoga Sanctuary is your home too.

With Melissa on the schedule, as well as our YTT grads, we were now able to offer 25 weekly classes in the summer and over 30 in the high season months. By early 2014, Anna had completed her own Yoga Teacher Training in India. In addition to working as the TYS Office Manager, Anna also began leading classes. Bonnie now had a three-year-old daughter and Jennifer Arnold had become Jennifer French. It was time for Bonnie to step away from ownership and focus more on motherhood. In February 2015, ownership of The Yoga Sanctuary shifted to Jennifer and her husband Gary. Since Jennifer, who was by then Director of Teacher Development, had been part of the teaching staff since January 2008 and had slowly taken on more and more of a managerial role, it was an easy and seamless transition.

Again in the middle of the Yoga Teacher Training, this time with our third cohort, we found ourselves in the midst of a shift. Bonnie stayed on through the end of teacher training while Jennifer slowly took the reigns of studio ownership. The 2015 graduates included Pat Francis, Heleen Schouten, and Sharon Fultz. Each of them still part of the TYS teaching team.  We also added another graduate, Diane Danaher, first as a massage therapist and soon after she too was leading classes. That was an ambitious group to be sure!

A Note from Pat

I took my first yoga class at The Yoga Sanctuary in 2011, which was a community class led by a teacher in training. I had no idea what to expect, and was interested mainly in the physical benefits, but quickly realized that there was so much more to it! Not only did I feel good physically, I also felt calm and relaxed. I kept taking classes, and eventually realized that yoga is not just a “class,” but a lifestyle. I wanted to learn more, so in 2015, I took the TYS teacher training program. I have been teaching ever since and am grateful to be able to share my love of yoga with my students.

A Note from Diane

When I think about The Yoga Sanctuary, the word “Gratitude” comes to mind. Since beginning my practice at TYS in 2010, and then, completing the teacher training program in 2016, I have grown and evolved to find balance on and off the mat. Thank You, Yoga Sanctuary, for your presence in our community, for the tranquil space, for the teachings of yoga, for your guidance, and continued love and support.

Over the next few years, we explored and expanded our offerings in ways that were new and unique to The Yoga Sanctuary. Lisa began offering more extensive Shamanic workshops, ceremonies, and programs, and together with Gwen, developed a moving and powerful blend of eastern and western traditions in their quarterly Sacred Ceremonies. Melissa began to explore the overlap between yoga and Buddhist traditions with a focus on how each tradition helps to unlock creativity. On our calendar you might find workshops focusing on physical anatomy, the energetic body, chanting, meditation, philosophy and more. By 2017, we had hosted notable teachers from all over the world, including Tias Little, Nicolai Bachman, Baxter Bell, Liz Owen, Kristin Leal, and of course, Dr. Carrie. And we continued to grow.

At the very beginning of 2017, Robin Lee joined the TYS team. Determined to grow the TYS massage, several therapists were interviewed. Robin, a TYS student since 2013, was a perfect fit from the start. She is still with The Yoga Sanctuary today. This was also the year of our fourth Yoga Teacher Training cohort. With a solid, talented, and experienced team behind her serving as Yoga Teacher Training mentors and leading individual sessions, 2017 graduated 8 more yoga teachers, including Gill Ward and Jim Cupo, TYS’s first male yoga teacher. Not long after, Karen Ascher moved to the area and found her yoga home at TYS as well.

A Note from Robin

What I love about TYS… My husband found TYS for me. Phillip had preceded my arrival in SW Florida for his work and knowing I was struggling with leaving our northern home and community he purchased me a class package at TYS. The first time I walked into 112 Sullivan Street I fell in love with the building. The beauty and the energy were welcoming and immediately felt like home. The warmth and skill of the staff was apparent from the start. TYS is a community. A place for me to grow physically as well as spiritually. So now I am blessed to be part of this lovely community. Thank you to Jennifer and Gary and Anna for keeping the home hearth burning. I know that sounds crazy when it’s 90 degrees outside. But that’s what TYS means to me.

The Yoga Sanctuary Staff continues to grow

A Note from Jim

I’ve been practicing yoga at The Yoga Sanctuary since 2015. The first yoga studio that I ever stepped into looking for a way to help control a movement disorder that I deal with. (Cervical Dystonia) I remember taking the gentle class for about two weeks trying to figure out how to advance to the level one class, making my way to standing, thinking that I had to pass some kind of level of fitness test. I started practicing with different teachers and all different levels and started to see improvement in my health and well being After a year of practicing, I was eligible for the teachers training course that I took and completed and received my 200-hour teaching certification. It was soon after that Jennifer asked me if I was interested in maybe trying to teach a class on my own and that I would try. That’s how it all began. The Yoga Sanctuary has opened so many doors for me with steady in studio classes of various levels and many offsite teaching opportunities. A Yoga Sanctuary teacher meets you at your level of practice. I’ve developed my own home practice which I love, finding my practice enhances all other activities. I think of teaching as a way to serve in our community. I’m happy to be connected with the Yoga Sanctuary. I’ve made many friends along the way and Costa Rica yoga retreat memories that will last a lifetime.

By our 10th anniversary, we were offering 28 classes during the summer months and upwards of 40 in the winter months. Our original mission, “to share our passion of yoga with the community by providing a warm, safe environment to develop the tools needed to incorporate yoga into everyday life,” was alive and well. And our vision mirrored this mission with each small step forward.

We continued to host teachers, kirtan artists, and guest speakers from within our local community and from afar. Our teacher training program, still led every other year, moved forward, graduating new teachers in 2019. Around that time we decided the next step was to offer the opportunity to dive deeper in a different way. Plans began for the first ever TYS Yoga Retreat, a week-long getaway that allowed one to leave their everyday life behind and immerse themselves in nature and practice. After lots of talking, tons of research, and what seemed like endless planning, we released the news to our community, and within two months we were filled to capacity. In January of 2020, The Yoga Sanctuary went to Costa Rica! Little did we know then, but the world was about to dramatically change…

In February of 2020, Baxter Bell came to lead a weekend of workshops, each filled with students from all over the area. Then Covid hit. The following month, we began to reduce our class sizes, no longer allowing the room to fill beyond 15 people. Props were removed and people started to bring their own or not use props at all. On March 20th, 2020, we were told that we had to shut our doors. The email went out; The Yoga Sanctuary closed.

Having a sense that this was coming, Jennifer spent hours and hours the previous week learning everything she could about teaching yoga online. Reading, watching webinars, signing up for trainings, you name it. The TYS team gathered online, testing out this new-to-us program called Zoom. Decisions and plans were made. With the doors closed on Friday, an announcement was made: Saturday and Sunday there would be a complementary online class each day to test our new way of being in the community. By Monday morning we had a full 12 class schedule available online. Classes were available every day but Sunday.

It was as if we were beginning again. But this time, it wasn’t just one teacher leading each class on the schedule. It was a full team. A team that had grown slowly over many years, a solid presence whose mission “to share our passion of yoga with the community by providing a warm, safe environment to develop the tools needed to incorporate yoga into everyday life” never changed. It simply adjusted to what was now.

That was 2020.

We learned so much that year. We learned the importance of connection. We learned the importance of being in community and sharing our yoga practice with others. We learned that connection and community go beyond being in the same physical space. We learned that our roots run deep, and that together we can accomplish anything. We continued to be present for our community and our community remained present with us. We offered online workshops and “zoomed” our private yoga sessions. We slowly added more and more options, and like a beautiful hibiscus that has been pruned back to its roots, we began to throw out new growth and bloom again.

At the end of 2020 we committed to move forward with our 6th Yoga Teacher Training Program to the largest group yet, graduating 12 new teachers in 2021. You’ll see a few of them on our schedule today—Debbie McGlade and Jackie Block now on our weekly schedule, and Donna Berry as a substitute teacher. 2022 even brought another trip to Costa Rica.

A Note from Jackie

Happy Birthday Yoga Sanctuary! Wow! 15 years has seen so many changes, and it just continues to evolve. My journey with TYS starts right at the beginning. I met Bonnie and Jennifer before TYS found its home on Sullivan Street, and we actually joined forces for a charity event for a non-profit that I was involved in at the time. I was NOT into yoga at that time – but started taking a class here and there after that event. I became a regular about 14 years ago, and of course life gets in the way – and while my journey has been hot and cold over those many years, the last 10 have really opened my eyes to what yoga has done for me. The Yoga Sanctuary is my yoga home! I remember a Thanksgiving Day class with Jennifer that seems like a million years ago – the room was jammed with yogis, and I was right up against the door. While it seems that an overcrowded room isn’t a positive part of the yoga experience, the thing I remember is feeling like a part of a community that I really belonged to. I remember Tuesday night Mixed level – I’d show up early, and mess around on my mat. I fancied myself an “advanced” yogi then – and well, I had no idea what that really meant. Every once in a while I’d be one of just a few students in class, and I always secretly hoped that there wouldn’t be any other students so that I could get that focused attention. I remember a time when I thought hearing people breathe and chant together was weird, and now see the beauty in hearing that in community. I remember trying and LOVING Ashtanga yoga for the first time, and really being sad that it was no longer on the schedule – and regretting that I hadn’t gotten to that class more often. I remember Melissa Goodwin’s Friday afternoon restorative class – that was the one thing that kept me from losing my mind working more than full time. The people I’ve met in class and other workshops, it really does feel like family in a way. Fast forward to 2020, right before the pandemic. I took a trip that redefined my life – I hadn’t been a regular at the studio for a little over 2 years, and I needed something. I got the email about the Costa Rica Yoga retreat – and KNEW that’s what I needed. I found myself in that jungle. I took an online teacher training over the summer in the middle of a pandemic, and December of 2020, I enrolled in teacher training with Jennifer. It was time. TYS is responsible for so many first for me, and I could not have had better teacher, a better community or a better environment to explore and grow as a student and now a teacher. I’m a yogi. The Yoga Sanctuary has helped me realize that. I’ve evolved as a person and student over the many years – and now I’m part of this amazing team of yoga teachers. It’s surreal – little did I know that my path would lead me right back to the door of TYS as a teacher 15 years after my TYS journey started! I am grateful, and completely humbled to be a part of this legacy that we are building in our little town of Punta Gorda, and to be a part of this beautiful community with all of you!

In the span of all our years, were other teachers, therapists and support staff that were with us for short periods of time. Victoria Barca, Christie Rosen, William Blackburn, Kim Bednash, Micaela del Solar, Barbara Melanson, Catherine Ouellette, Jaime Boswell, Katherine Jouan, Naomi Medrano, Sarah Carter, Sherry Bechtold, and Susan Shaw. Each left their mark on the TYS heart. We are sure that there will be others, teachers that share their love of yoga with us, students that share their curious and open hearts with us.

Our promise to you is this: we will continue to share our passion of yoga with the community by providing a warm, safe environment to develop the tools needed to incorporate yoga into everyday life for as long as we can. We will continue to provide a place of community and sangha, growing both with you and for you.

Tell Us YOUR TYS Story Here!

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The Yoga Sanctuary at 112 Sullivan Street