Yoga helps the mind, body and spirit. Now it can also help those less fortunate. Villa Pilates & Yoga studio in Newport Beach, Calif., is introducing a yoga class with a twist: All proceeds from the class will help fund charitable causes.
Every Thursday night starting Oct. 6, Villa will open its doors to anyone who wants to attend a yoga class and benefit others. Each week, a different yoga instructor teaches a one-hour music flow yoga class, and participants contribute donations to the featured charity of the month. Students determine how much to donate, whether $5 or $500.
The first beneficiary will be a family in Texas that recently experienced a tragic car accident. The mother and father died and two children were severely injured and possibly paralyzed.
“It was this horrific, really, really sad story, and we wanted to raise money to help that family,” Carly Farmer, studio owner and Pilates instructor, said. “We’re going to see how it goes.”
The idea for the benefit class originated when a Villa yoga instructor who knew the Texas family approached Farmer, saying she wanted to help the survivors. The two brainstormed and decided to organize a class that collects money for charity.
“It got me thinking, ‘Yes, of course, I want to do this [class],’” Farmer said. “I want this to be part of Villa.”
Music flow yoga involves typical yoga poses, but also features a strong dance element and music that is slightly louder than usual.
“You sweat a lot and flow to the music,” Farmer said. “It’s just a really awesome workout.”
Farmer, 25, was a competitive dancer who practiced Pilates growing up. During college at Loyola Marymount University, she took a job teaching at two different Pilates studios. But even after obtaining her certification in Pilates and yoga, she didn’t plan on making the hobby a career.
“I had always dreamed of opening my own Pilates and yoga studio but ... you know, people have dreams and I didn’t really think it was going to happen,” she said.
But when Farmer graduated from college, she said, “Things fell into place.” She found a space for the studio in Newport Beach, and Villa saw its first customers soon after. She was only 23.
“[Yoga and Pilates] just came natural to me and it came natural to teach it,” she said.
For Farmer, the business has always been about more than just fitness. While building the studio, she paid particular attention to creating an eco-friendly space, complete with bamboo floors and blinds, nontoxic paint, wood beam ceilings and dim, natural lighting.
In keeping with the studio’s “family-like, homey” vibe, Farmer keeps her yoga classes small. Yoga classes include about five to 15 students, and she limits Pilates classes to six participants; the studio also offers Pilates lessons for individuals and small groups. Students can choose from classes such as gentle flow yoga and power yoga, all held in a room with bare white walls and a picture of Buddha. Customers may also visit the studio’s shop, which sells alternative, organic brands, from workout clothes to herbal cleansing drinks.
Farmer feels the studio is best described as a boutique.
“It doesn’t have a chain feel,” she said. “There’s not a Villa in the next city. It’s a one-of-a-kind place.”
The fundraising effort is not Villa’s first venture into philanthropy. Every Saturday, the studio offers a free yoga class in which students can get a workout and then volunteer with Zero Trash, collecting trash to keep the beaches of Newport Beach clean.
Farmer says her studio is much more than a quick stop for exercise.
“People who come into Villa know that it is not just about the workout or doing a certain amount of sit-ups. It’s more about feeling good, inside and out,” she said. “We want them to leave feeling fulfilled and better and healthy.”
To her, health is about finding balance and listening to your body, rather than listening to what someone else tells you is right for you.
“I think it is really important to enjoy life and do things that make you happy, but always be moving your body in different ways and mixing things up,” Farmer said. “Being organic not just in what you eat but how you live your life … Everything else will come after that.”
The class will be offered 6-7 p.m. at Villa starting Oct. 6. Visit villapilatesandyoga.com for more information.