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Commentary: O.K. Carter: Yoga instructor stretches herself with road trips

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Take the show on the road to potential customers who might otherwise be too intimidated to try something new.

It’s difficult to turn oneself into a one-person tipping point crew, but when it comes to creating a growing cadre of yoga enthusiasts in Arlington, Marissa Soto Weiland clearly has found the magic viral strategy.

The two-point strategy: If those interested in yoga won’t come to her, go to them, with a unique, fun spin. Secondly, use social media – lots of it and relentlessly – to get out the word. And that word could be about:

· Brunch yoga at the Sanford House courtyard.

· Beach yoga at Viridian Lake.

· Sunset yoga at Lake Arlington.

· Hike and yoga at Cedar Ridge Preserve.

· Yoga perhaps followed by a craft beer at Legal Draft Brewing or New Main Brewing.

· Kitty yoga – maybe puppy yoga on occasion – at Union Worx Coworking.

· Sound bath yoga (traditional yoga accompanied by meditative sounds from crystal bowls, gongs or brass cymbals) at the Arlington Museum of Art.

· Goat yoga? Sure, now and then.

· Yoga at Arlington recreation centers? Absolutely.

Credit, or blame, Soto, 33, for all the above.

She and her husband, David Weiland, also 33 (a yoga master with a UTA philosophy degree), own Arlington Yoga Center in Arlington, which is busy enough with half a dozen instructors and two or three classes – sometimes more – every day.

But for Soto, yoga – the center teaches the classical Dharma form – is both a calling and a business she wants to grow.

It helps that she grew up in Arlington, attending Lamar High School and the University of Texas at Arlington. She knows people. With a personality the spectrum opposite of shy, she’s also discovered that taking Dharma classes to small businesses like Union Worx is good for both their enterprises and hers.

Quick history: Yoga originated in India, dating back 3,000 years. Though in this country it tends to be a posture-based physical fitness, stress-relief and relaxation discipline, in some forms it also has meditative, philosophical and spiritual qualities.

“I discovered that there’s often a sort of hesitancy about first coming into a yoga studio,” Soto says. “It can be kind of intimidating, sort of like going to a new church the first time. Plus, I wanted a way to support the smaller local businesses in town by introducing new people to what they’re doing.

“My thinking was that we would make yoga a mobile class and provide fun experiences that also incorporated yoga. People tend to come to such events a little more relaxed, often with an adventurous friend or two. If they’re new at it they typically say to themselves, ‘Wow, I just experienced yoga.’ ”

What she also quickly discovered was that many businesses were receptive to hosting the classes.

Further, that people enjoyed them and that – once past the novelty – many showed up to take more extensive classes in the center’s smallish Abram Street studio. Once there they tend to find a considerably more serious and focused tone in the nuances of downward-facing dog, plank form, mountain pose and the benefits of breath control accompanied by meditative body positivity.

She’s also developed an expertise in social media, using those tools to extensively promote yoga-based events and to communicate with a growing base of interested yoga aficionados.

“Yoga is very much about improving mobility and agility, preventing injury, and quieting the mind, giving people a set of tools to complement whatever else they’re doing in life,” she said.

She’s also found the Arlington reception to yoga gratifying.

“Both Fort Worth and Dallas have had a big yoga presence for years, but it’s been slow coming to Arlington,” she said. “It’s safe to say it’s here now.”

Arlington Yoga Center, 1011 W. Abram St.


O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.

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