Studio Tahoe | Bending, twisting into a Zen way of life
December 12, 2011
The room feels tropical and balmy; heat lamps and humidifiers hum in the background. Candles flicker against the mirrors outlining the dimly lit space. A soothing melody plays softly as students gather, unrolling their mats, laying perpendicularly with the floor or sitting cross-legged in a meditative pose.A gentle voice enters the studio. Every syllable she echoes is welcoming, encouraging, loving, peaceful. Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned yogi, you immediately embrace the tranquility of the room and the feeling of comfort in your own skin. You’re ready to take on the twists and bends of Vinyasa Flow Yoga.For the past 15 years, Shaelah Morris has spread her passion for yoga in Tahoe City, Truckee and around the world. For Morris, yoga is a lifestyle, a daily practice, a means to achieving mental clarity, human compassion and an overwhelmingly positive outlook on life.”If everyone did yoga, there wouldn’t be so much negativity, so much violence, impatience and criticisms in this world,” Morris said during a quiet afternoon at Studio Tahoe in Truckee’s Pioneer Center. “It’s about getting connected to your higher self, being the best self you can be. We have all been trained to have compassion for others, but then when it comes to ourselves, either we’re too self-critical or too competitive.”In yoga, you can dissolve some of those limits that enclose you or bound you to a certain way.”
Growing up in the mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colo., Morris became a professional big-mountain skier and alpine ski racer at an early age andamp;#8212; a pursuit that cost her two knee surgeries and several stress fractures before the age of 20.”My mom’s really good friend saw me walking down the street when I was 20 years old and I was limping,” said Morris. “She convinced me to come to one of her (yoga) classes … I immediately fell in love and knew that’s what I was meant to do.”Morris is an advocate of all forms of healing from physical therapy to massage, but said she tributes yoga to her rapid recovery in overcoming these injuries.”Yoga helped heal my body in so many ways, and it helped heal my mind and overall well-being,” Morris said.A mere six months after that first yoga class, Morris pursued a 500-hour, nine-week-long teacher training in Los Angeles, providing her with the certification and experience to begin her yoga-teaching journey.
Like most migrants to the basin, Morris felt drawn to North Lake Tahoe for its unparalleled beauty and free-spirited lifestyle. In 2002, Morris left Colorado for Tahoe City, where she opened her first Bikram studio, Bikram Yoga Tahoe, later known as Mountain Lotus Yoga.For the next seven years, Morris concentrated her teachings on the 26-posture practice performed in a 105-degree environment. Her devotion to yoga and her hunger to learn more lead her to study with many legendary Bikram masters, including founder Bikram Choudhury.”After several years, I realized I wanted to expand my yoga teaching and travel around for a while, so I sold my studio and left Tahoe in 2009 and went to study with some teachers in the Bay Area and Colorado,” Morris said.It was during this time Morris discovered Vinyasa Flow Yoga combined with Bhakti Yoga andamp;#8212; an ancient sequence of poses that link together in harmony and continuity, love, and devotion.”I feel this is the evolution of Bikram yoga, so after a certain amount of years of doing the same practice every day, there is a stepping stone, a growth of your own personal journey to move the body in a different way,” Morris said.In October 2010, Morris’ yoga journey brought her back to Truckee where she opened the doors of Studio Tahoe, offering a variety of classes such as Vinyasa Flow, Mellow Flow, Bhakti Flow and Yin Yoga.”With this practice, we try to create a loving, open vibe and we encourage all walks of life, at any age, to come in and give it a try,” said Morris.Owning a Truckee-based studio does have its benefits, but Morris admits to missing life at her former lakeside studio from time to time. The seasonal challenges are the same, although business in Truckee is more consistent than Tahoe City thanks to a larger population. There isn’t a fresh-water lake out her front door to dive into after a hot yoga session, but she’s able to offer a more abundant class schedule, thus reaching a greater number of the Truckee community. She had a larger second-homeowner following in Tahoe City, but the local Truckee clientele is loyal and inspiring, she said.”I’ll never stop missing Tahoe City, but Mountain Lotus Yoga is still there and it’s beautiful. I love to go back and visit and take classes,” Morris said. “I really miss my students at the lake, but things shift and I love it here … it’s fabulous to be a part of Truckee.”And some of her students from the lake have followed her to Truckee, like seasoned yogi and West Shore resident Alex Carlson, who has been training with Morris since her Bikram days in Tahoe City.”Shaelah’s energy and the energy of all of her teachers at her studio is awesome; it completely resonates with who I am as a person and attending her studio fulfills my yoga practice in a way I haven’t experienced elsewhere,” Carlson said. “She brings such a vibrant creativity to all of her classes while maintaining the spirituality of yoga.”
As the evolution of yoga continues to unfold, evolve and expand, so will Morris’ journey. A recent partnership with Tahoe Mountain Martial Arts andamp;#8211; which provides cardio kickboxing and Lil’ Warriors Yoga andamp; Karate classes through Studio Tahoe andamp;#8211; has Morris pondering other directions she could take her business.In the near future, Morris plans to join forces with a Truckee-based massage therapist to launch “Zenergy” andamp;#8211; a massage therapy practice that will be offered under the umbrella of Studio Tahoe.Other foreseeable goals are to provide teacher-training classes, workshops and retreats, and to combine her passion for skiing and yoga by expanding her classes to the mountain where Morris said she will apply the techniques of yoga such as breathing, focus, flexibility, balance, confidence and strength to the art of skiing and snowboarding.”I see this business really developing into a wellness center or community arts healing center,” said Morris. “Running around in life can cause a lot of anxiety, distraction and depression even. So much is pulling us in this world with the media and all the different things that we see, and with yoga, you have the opportunity to sit, relax and just breathe.”