Yoga Oasis has been teaching the residents of Woodbury and beyond how to bend, stretch and twist themselves into better shape since they first opened their doors for business in September 2002.
Located on 100 Woodbury Rd., Yoga Oasis is owned by Mary Grace, a bright and energetic woman who has made the ancient art of yoga not only her profession, but a template for how she lives just about every aspect of her life as well.
“Yoga is an art form. It’s been around for thousands of years,” she said. “The proof is in the practice. People who practice yoga live a long life and find a freedom from physical and emotional suffering. Yoga has so many teachings that anyone can study. It’s not just coming to a class, it’s also about learning the mind-body connection.”
After talking with Grace for a few minutes, it’s easy to see that she is a woman who has packed a lifetime of traveling and learning into a relatively short amount of time. Born and raised in Melville on a horse farm, Grace was a competitive rider in horse shows for many years. However, when she turned 19, she began to feel a need to expand herself and took a trip to Israel in an effort to study the world’s religions, she said.
It was in Israel that she learned about backpacking and crashing in local hostels. Upon her return to the states, she continued to trek about the country and it was while doing so that she learned about the art of yoga, Grace said.
“I got into it in California. At the time, people were way more into it there then they were here in New York,” she said. “So, I started traveling and finding yoga teachers all over and following them. I studied with lots and lots of different teachers and after I eventually got certified as a teacher, I went to India and studied there with a 90-year-old man whose lineage was famous for being the first to teach yoga to both women and westerners.”
Grace’s initial goal with yoga was weight-loss, she said. However, after experiencing the art at its source and discovering its unique and enlightening philosophy, it didn’t take long for her to realize it was more than mere exercise. It was a lifestyle and one that she eventually decided that she wanted to impart upon others.
“I went gung-ho after that and traveled all over the world and studied with all the greatest teachers,” she said. “Later, after I had come home, my mother called me and told me that she had found the perfect place for me to open up a school—my current location here in Woodbury—and we decided to do it. She loaned me the money and I paid her back in six months.”
Yoga Oasis has been quite successful in its 14 years of existence. Grace is certified in many different forms of yoga and in addition, her school also specializes in “hot yoga,” in which her studio is heated during a class in order to bring the healing benefits of high temperature to her clients.
“We have a state-of-the-art heating system that brings plenty of oxygen and humidity into the room and we also use aromatherapy, so the room smells great,” she said. “Heat is great. It makes you sweat, loosens up your muscles and fascia, it gets the circulation going. It essentially cooks out the poisons in the body, just like when you’re sick and your body is running a fever.”
Grace also owns another yoga school in Maui, Hawaii. She travels there every few months to visit, she said. She had also owned a second local school in Dix Hills, although that one has since been sold to another owner.
Grace is content, she said, not only with her ability to make a living doing something that she truly loves, but also to be able to live a rather nomadic lifestyle that de-emphasizes worldly possessions and greed in favor of a more enlightened existence. The fact that she has been able to share that philosophy with so many others just makes life all the more satisfying, she said.
“We’ve seen thousands and thousands of people come through our door,” she said. “I’m the only teacher around who has lived in a tree for five years and has trained with all these yoga teachers from all over the world, so I think I can offer my students a great deal. To teach them that possessions aren’t important, it’s living life by building yourself up from the inside instead of the outside.”
To find out more about Yoga Oasis, visit www.yoga-oasis.com.