Local yoga instructor finds starting point for balance right under her feet

Published 9:19 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On a hot July afternoon, Shonna Storz’s studio is a breath of fresh air. Breezy white curtains and a bamboo-print window shade create a calming oasis in the midst of the summer, offering budding yogis a soothing escape from the temperatures and tasks that lie outside the door of Life in Balance Fitness and Wellness.

A fixture of South Fourth Street for two-and-a-half years, the studio is giving Storz a way to share the happiness that she herself has found in the practice of yoga.

Storz began yoga to ready herself for giving birth. (Photo by Chloe Games)

After a then-pregnant Storz took an experimental foray into yoga during a stint as the assistant fitness director at Florida State University, she quickly left behind the ant research of her biology degree to pursue a more dynamic career.

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Her newfound interest proved immediately practical. She says that yoga, “Helped a lot with pregnancy and the birthing process, just to be able to relax better and use my breath. It was super beneficial to just kind of breath through the pain of being in labor.”

Inspired by her own experience, Storz dove head-first into the field, rolling out her mat to teach classes at Plank and at Essence, a one-time yoga studio in Danville, before personally opening the doors of Life in Balance.

The benefits of yoga, she believes, can reach anyone. “A lot of people find that with yoga, it helps them in some aspect of their life to just kind of breath and feel more calm,” she says. And for Storz, the jump from the lab to the studio was simple. “Really, I just have always loved teaching. I kind of found my home with working with people and helping people be healthier and be happier,” she explains.

As beneficial as spending time on the mat may be, for many people, the idea of stepping into a studio can be intimidating. Storz finds that the media’s representation of yoga can stand in the way of beginners. “Everyone thinks, I don’t identify with that, I’m not skinny and I’m not super bendy. But you know, we all start wherever we are and we just move forward from there,” she says.

Storz practices this same inviting attitude in each one of her classes. In the beginning of a class, she’s reading the energy in the room and tailoring the time that her clients spend in the studio to fit their needs. “I’m looking at who is in my class today and what do I know about them and what do I know about their bodies and what are their needs,” she says. “I never teach the same thing day after day.”

Shonna Storz chose to hang plants that do not require soil to keep the studio smelling fresh at Life in Balance Fitness and Wellness. (Photo by Chloe Games)

Whether clients flow through the quickly-changing poses of Vinyasa flow yoga, or the slow-paced movements of Hatha yoga, they can always expect to end the session on a positive note. After laying for a couple of minutes in Shavasana, the relaxing ‘corpse pose’ that invites students to release any lingering stress, Storz closes the session with a meditative quote “to kind of lead them through the rest of their day.”

This parting gift isn’t all that clients take from the classes; immediately after the session, Storz says, clients can expect to feel the physical benefits of yoga in their bodies. The body “moves better and feels better for the next couple of days after they practice,” Storz says.

And the more that you practice, the more benefits you can find. “I think one of the even more amazing benefits of yoga is what it does to our minds,” Storz adds.

Explaining how yoga’s well-known emphasis on mindful breathing works to strengthen individuals even off the mat, she says, “If we continually come back to the breath and come back to the present moment, then we start to realize that our thoughts are just thoughts, and they can come and go without distracting us, that they can just be there, but in the present moment, we have our breath and our body and we can let go of all that junk that goes on in our mind.”

This is how yogis new and seasoned find stress-relief, in addition to pain-relief, in the practice.

For Storz, the work that she does in her studio doesn’t just impact her clients; it brings her happiness. Even on the occasional bad day, walking into a room of students washes any negativity away. “It’s really rewarding to be able to help people feel better and live happier, healthier lives,” she says. “I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to start this business.”