Shakespeare wrote in Othello, “Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners,” and while it’s uncertain whether old Will squeezed in any asanas between sonnets, a new yoga studio led by a former Shakespearean actress has been tending to the wellbeing of a growing number of students since opening in Wickford in November.
For Radiance Yoga founder Eliza Richmond, yoga isn’t just about community – though that is a central part of her practice – but also family. Richmond took her first yoga class with her mother, Julie Beth Andrews, when she was 15, as a way to offset some of the physical and mental strain of performing ballet. “Going to that class gave me most of the things I loved about ballet, but focused on healing instead of being critical,” she says.
The stage still beckoned, however, so the Jamestown native pursued a theater career after graduating high school before deciding to transfer to Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the only Buddhist university in the U.S. “The movement aspect of performing was what I liked best, so I decided I wanted to teach people how to move their bodies better,” she explains.
Richmond worked at yoga studios and programs in Colorado and California, as well as the Kripalu wellness center in Massachusetts, for more than a decade, including running classes for people in hospice care and in recovery from addiction and PTSD. She recently returned to her home state with the goal of opening her own studio, and discovered what would become the home of Radiance Yoga on a random stroll through Wickford.
The former location of the Mermaid’s Purl yarn shop on Brown Street has a large, open studio space with vintage hardwood floors, where Radiance Yoga runs 3-6 classes daily and workshops on yoga and wellness on the weekends, the latter organized by her mother (Richmond’s father, John, keeps the books).
Richmond has nothing bad to say about “exercise yoga,” but wanted her studio to have a more balanced focus on the physical and meditative aspects of the ancient Hindu healing art. “I wanted to create a space where all of my instructors and comfortable teaching from their own lineage, to let them lead classes in their own authentic style and voice,” says Richmond. “We’re unique in Rhode Island in a lot of ways. We’re not here to provide comprehensive services. We’re small on purpose because we want people to get to know each other and their teachers, not just pass through.”
Richmond also sees Radiance Yoga as a way to give back to the community, whether that’s by helping clients become better partners in relationships and coworkers, direct giving through charity, or specialized programs aimed at communities in need. In addition to more typical flow and vinyasa classes, for example, the weekly schedule includes sessions dedicated to the specific needs of athletes and a sliding-scale Community Yin Yoga class, as well as sessions focusing on specific regions of the body, like hips, shoulders, and back.
“We offer a lot of meditative and mindful options,” Richmond notes. “Even the most physically challenging classes, we’re still very committed to meditative practice and breath. There’s no point in our practice where you’re moving so fast you forget
Richmond hopes that people who miss the community aspect and personal connections of taking a fitness-oriented yoga class at a gym will find a new home at Radiance Yoga. “You need to find a teacher who helps you be yourself and feel your best,” she says. “We can talk to you about your goals and what you love in a class, and connect you with a teacher who can help you with that.”