BY: LAURA BERGELLS
PHOTOS: TJ HAMILTON
“Seva means ‘selfless service.’ And the teachers, the support staff, and students really embrace that,” said Melissa Tungl.
Melissa and her husband Tobi own and operate SEVA Yoga at 2237 Wealthy Street SE, Suite 120 in the Gaslight Village business district of East Grand Rapids. The studio, now in its eighth year, is well-known in the area. The Tungls took over operations just last year.
But why is Seva Yoga different than a yoga class that you may find online, on video, or even take at your local gym?
“We do a lot of community classes where we take all the funds that we collect and donate it to different parts of need in the community. We’ve donated to Kid’s Food Basket, God’s Kitchen, and Humane Society of West Michigan,” said Melissa.
And that’s just for starters.
At Seva, they support the notion that Yoga should be accessible to everyone regardless of their financial situation. If the pricing structure at Seva is beyond your financial means, please come enjoy the classes simply by making a donation to the studio. Donation meaning “the act of giving”, please simply give what you can afford.
Melissa Tungl glows when she talks about yoga and her commitment to community. She strongly feels that everyone can find something to love about practicing yoga.
“I have always been interested in yoga and wellness,” she said. “It’s been a path that’s always called to me. It’s a joy and honor to share my enthusiasm with my students. When they’re here, I can see it. And I can feel it. I know that it’s making a difference.”
It was while first living in Caledonia, that Melissa visited many different yoga studios. When she found Seva, she says she finally “found her yoga home”.
“I enjoyed the practice style and the good community here,” she said. “Moving forward, I decided to become a yoga teacher. I took my training here at Seva. I was a teacher here at Seva. And then we bought the studio.”
Beyond the style of practice and the community, Melissa felt assured by the studio’s reputation for excellence. Seva not only holds a State of Michigan propriety school license, but it also offers a rigorous training program to become a Yoga Alliance 200RYT certified Yoga instructor.
“The teachers are really known in the area,” she said. “People who have their certificate from Seva are some of the best.”
The Seva Yoga studio offers a variety of different classes, with different styles, instructors and pacing: something for every body type.
“We offer anything from really gentle yoga, which would be really good for someone who’s got a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, depression,” said Melissa. “It would be good for people recovering from injury. Gentle yoga is really therapeutic and one of our slower classes. And then we offer everything from that base level all the way up to your really high, Vinyasa, cardio-based hot yoga class for those people who want to really move and really sweat.”
But what about a person who is ‘yoga curious’ but feels too intimidated to drop in for a class?
Melissa sympathizes. She’s been there.
“Oh, man, it’s so hard to get on your mat for the first time,” she said. “It can be really intimidating. You see all these pictures in magazines of these beautiful women just like pretzels, totally, totally unrealistic. And you realize that’s just the marketing of yoga. That’s not really what yoga is.”
So what is yoga? Melissa smiles and offers this suggestion:
“Sit at home. Just sit down. Close your eyes. Take ten deep breathes. Feel that awareness,” she said.
“And that,” said Melissa, “is yoga. Yoga is not the picture on the magazine. It is not the woman with the leg behind her head.”
“It’s that awareness and really deep connection, which is what everyone is looking for. Everyone. And I think that’s why yoga is so popular now.”
The studio also offers drop-in, student, and senior rates; as well as unlimited monthly packages. Weekend training for 200RYT Yoga Alliance certified Yoga instructors begins in September 2014. Visit the Seva Yoga website for more details.