Yoga takes off in Dickinson

It only took about 3,000 years, but yoga has finally made it to Dickinson. The ancient practice, which combines physical, spiritual and mental meditation, has taken off in popularity across the U.S. in recent years, and now boasts more followers ...

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Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Yoga instructor Jackie Blackwell stands in the doorway of her soon-to-open Peace Monkey Yoga studio. Blackwell, who moved to Dickinson from Houston, said she struggled to find a yoga community at first, but has helped to build one over time.

It only took about 3,000 years, but yoga has finally made it to Dickinson.
The ancient practice, which combines physical, spiritual and mental meditation, has taken off in popularity across the U.S. in recent years, and now boasts more followers than ever in the Dickinson area.
In addition to three distinct yoga classes offered at the West River Community Center, a new yoga studio will open next month downtown, providing a number of spaces in which the city’s growing yoga community can come together in practice.
Jackie Blackwell, founder and owner of Peace Monkey Yoga , which will share space with Burn the Floor Dance Studio’s Park Square Mall location in downtown Dickinson when it opens on March 1, said she isn’t sure exactly what’s behind yoga’s sudden popularity here.
“I wonder that myself,” said Blackwell, who is originally from Mississippi and moved to Dickinson about two years ago from Houston. “Because I’m new, I don’t know if it just wasn’t here, or if it’s an influx of people kind of bringing a new energy and that’s just spreading? Or if it’s just that no one has ever tried to build it? I don’t know.”
Blackwell said she started yoga about 10 years ago on a kind of fluke after trying a variety of at-home workout DVDs to no avail before stumbling on a yoga video.
“Something about it just spoke to me, and I absolutely loved it,” she said.
She became closely involved in Houston’s yoga community, where she met her mentor and eventually earned her teaching certification. Today, she can’t imagine her life without yoga, which she said has helped her learn how to be calm and “quell anxiety and worry and all the things that come with life.”
“It’s an integral part of my life,” she said.
But when she relocated to North Dakota to follow her husband’s job, originally expected to be just a two-year assignment, she struggled to find the same kind of yoga community she had enjoyed in Houston. The West River Community Center offers a number of yoga classes - there are three group classes in their current schedule - which Blackwell began teaching on a regular basis, but she struggled to find the “homey feel, just this idea of kind of a safe environment” she was used to.
“I searched and Googled and asked everybody I met about yoga and got nothing,” she said. “It just didn’t exist up here.”
A discussion with her mentor led her to an obvious decision: She would have to create her own community.
“And I thought, ‘Oh, duh,’” Blackwell said. “Just the idea that I could just be the impetus for the community and get people together.”
And it seems others were looking for the same thing. Blackwell’s Dickinson Yoga Facebook group has attracted around 90 members.
“That’s been a great tool in creating that sense of, that we are a community,” she said.
Classes at the West River Community Center are frequently at capacity with 25 to 30 students, mostly women and a handful of men, and span a wide range of ages.
Liliana Lebaron began teaching there in January and sometimes substitutes for Blackwell. After moving to Dickinson from South Dakota two years ago, Lebaron said she was surprised to find the center offered yoga classes. She had started yoga in her home state of California, where she said the practice is (unsurprisingly) much more common.
“I’m excited that it’s just growing,” she said.
As a vinyasa yoga teacher, she said, she emphasizes strength.
“I’m always trying to push myself just a little bit further, and push my students just a little bit further in holding their poses,” she said.
Like Blackwell, Lebaron said she doesn’t quite know why yoga is now taking hold in Dickinson. “Maybe it is more people in here, maybe they’re just liking the instructors,” Lebaron said.
Part of the expanding community will be Blackwell’s studio, which is hosting an open house March 1 and begins classes March 2. She said she would eventually like to offer teacher training classes.
Blackwell said she is anxious to see how many of her students follow her to the new studio, but so far, Dickinson’s burgeoning group of yoga enthusiasts has been supportive of the new venture.
“I think that other people were longing for that community, too, whether they knew specifically that’s what they wanted or just discovered it,” Blackwell said.
Faulx is a reporter for the Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207

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