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Open house for yoga and healing

April 16, 2011

by Adam Clark

An open house Sunday at Heartspace Yoga and Healing Arts will feature free yoga classes, dance and music.

Classes and workshops for beginning and experts will include Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Essential Oils and African Dance . The event runs from 9:30 a.m. until 6:45 p.m.

During an average week Heartspace hosts 27 classes offered by 21 different teachers. In total there are more than 120

New Heartspace logo designed by Nick Parslow

classes available at the center. Special events and workshops are occasionally held in the two studio spaces there.

Rooms are rented to four different licensed massage therapists, while one room is rented by a holistic therapeutic counselor.

Currently the most popular classes include  Jivamukti,  taught by John Smrtic; Hot Yoga, with Jen Bettini; and TGIF Yoga with Sarah Peters.

The center has launched a new website, expanded its email list and implemented an online account system. The owners have also introduced class pre-registration on the internet.

A new logo has been released by the center, designed by Nick Parslow of Verdentity. “It conveys a sense of space that allows for openness, stretching beyond our boundaries, stability, strength, and lightness” said Andrew Kasius, one of the current owners. “These are qualities we seek to build in the practice of yoga.”

Current owners of Heartspace, Andrew and Elizabeth Kasius (Courtesy- Andrew Kasius)

Kasius hopes to offer an even wider variety of classes to the center, including meditation and pilates. He plans to attract more clientele, including children, seniors, and prenatal moms. Musical and educational events for the community are also on the agenda.

“Many of our clients and students live locally in the Pine Hills neighborhood, students, professionals, trades people. All types. There are also many who come from the region to take classes, including surrounding counties,” said Kasius.

Robert and his wife Elizabeth are the fourth owners of the studio, which was originally housed in a small meditation room at 75 Willett St. and named Washington Park Yoga. The business was founded by Nancy Polachek on May 2, 1999. Polachek saw a need for a more intense style of Yoga in the Albany area since the only style offered at the time was the gentle Kripalu Yoga.

The space quickly filled on Willett Street and moved to 747 Madison Ave., incorporating a more vigorous Ashtanga style of Yoga. “Originally I was the only teacher, offering 13 classes a week,” said Polachek. “Then Leslie Abraham joined me and others quickly followed. I ran the studio like a fine restaurant where I personally saw to every detail with a mother’s loving eyes.”

In 2002 Polachek turned the studio over to Leslie Abraham. The studio was not sold, since she was honoring the yoga tradition that teachers of yoga and meditation should be financially independent of their students. “This was a gift from the heart,” said Polachek.

“Teaching yoga was and still is a joy to me, but I quickly learned that running a yoga studio requires endless administrative work and headaches. I realized I was happier just teaching,” said Polachek. She now teaches weekly yoga classes at the new Schenectady YMCA and Orenda Yoga studio, also in Schenectady, both of which are walking distance from her home.

Nancy Polachek and Daniel Navilia at Washington Park Yoga (Courtesy- Nancy Polachek)

Leslie Abraham sold the studio to Robert Cuozzi who, according to Polachek, made the most significant changes. Cuozzi added a tea room, an office, multiple massage rooms, two extra bathrooms, a second smaller studio, along with new floors. Cuozzi in turn sold the studio to Andrew and Elizabeth Kasius.

Some clients have attended classes throughout the entire transition of Heartspace, including Bonnie Steinbeck, professor of philosophy at the state University at Albany. “Nancy was the best yoga teacher I have ever had. She challenged students to go beyond their current ability, and more importantly, taught students to do what they did not know how to do.”

According to Steinbeck there have been many challenges at the center throughout the years, including multiple floods that caused the carpet to smell, and eventually, to be replaced with hard wood floors.

“There is more competition these days – I saw a new yoga studio has opened up on Fuller Road off of Western,” said Steinbeck, “I hope WPY – as I always think of it; that ‘Heartspace’ stuff is too new-agey for me –  will survive, because yoga is wonderful, and there’s a real community at WPY.”

The Kasius family is excited to continue offering an enhanced selection of classes and improving the studio space. “We thought [the studio] would be a great opportunity to contribute to the community while building an established business that serves a large number of people both in the neighborhood and throughout the region” said Kasius. -30-


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