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Dedicated yoga studio a first for Island

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Lucky Elephant Yoga owners Alex Hasselkuss, left, and Tali Gabai-Maiato. Mrs Gabai-Maiato has practised yoga for 20 years (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Eleven yoga instructors teaching a variety of styles in a dedicated studio.

Lucky Elephant Yoga is a first for the Island.

Owners Tali Gabai-Maiato and Alex Hasselkuss were long-time yoga enthusiasts who’d struggled to find their ideal setting in Bermuda.

“When I came to the Island ten years ago there were a lot of different teachers spread all over the Island,” Mrs Gabai-Maiato said.

“You couldn’t just drop in on a class on any day. I wanted a proper studio where you could drop in at any point.”

Her businessman husband Chris Maiato encouraged her to go the extra mile, and open her own place.

“[He’s] always pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I approached a number of my friends who were teaching yoga, and basically Alex was the last one standing.”

The pair found a space on the corner of Burnaby and Church Streets, and had a soft opening on July 1.

“The reception from the public has been overwhelming,” Mrs Gabai-Maiato said. “We opened during the summer months when people are generally doing other things here and we’ve [been impressed] by the turnout we’ve had.

“People have been coming out of the woodwork; people we’d never seen [in our yoga classes] before; people who’d never tried yoga.

“It’s been pretty amazing.”

Mrs Gabai-Maiato, who is originally from Canada, has practised yoga for 20 years and became an instructor in 2011.

She was certified by international yoga master Noah Mazé, and trained in yoga therapy, prenatal yoga and yoga philosophy.

Mrs Hasselkuss got into yoga after moving to Bermuda from North Carolina about a decade ago. In 2013, she took “a leap of faith” and quit her job in catastrophic risk management at ACE to become a full-time instructor.

She took advanced training with Noah Mazé, and got her certification the following year.

The women gave careful consideration to the business name. Said Mrs Hasselkuss: “Why an elephant? In many cultures, elephants are a symbol of mental strength, wisdom, earthiness and responsibility.

“In Indian mythology, the elephant-headed Ganesh is the remover of obstacles and the granter of new beginnings, as he provides prosperity, fortune and success.”

The Hamilton studio is spread over 27,000 square feet.

Two group yoga rooms are separated by a removable partition; two smaller rooms are used for one-on-one or small group instruction.

The space also includes changing facilities, four showers, and a retail space for yoga clothing and accessories.

One of the yoga rooms can be heated to 95F with 60 per cent humidity.

It’s a novelty for Bermuda, yoga, and can really intensify the impact, Mrs Hasselkuss said.

“It’s something nobody else on the Island offers. In any heated environment your muscles get a bit loose and it helps a lot with flexibility. There’s more strengthening, lengthening your muscles.”

Yoga can benefit everybody from children to senior citizens, said Mrs Hasselkuss who lists Oracle Team USA among her clients.

“There are more and more men who are becoming open to yoga although the majority are still women,” she said.

Lucky Elephant Yoga will have its grand opening on Friday at an invite-only event. The public is welcome to attend free classes at the studio on Saturday and Sunday.

A range of private and group classes are on offer.

Lucky Elephant Yoga owners Alex Hasselkuss, left, and Tali Gabai-Maiato, who says they wanted a studio where people could drop in at any time (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Lucky Elephant Yoga owners Alex Hasselkuss, left, and Tali Gabai-Maiato. Their studio is at the corner of Burnaby and Church Streets (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
<p>Yoga benefits</p>

Scientists have found there are physical and mental benefits attached to yoga. Lucky Elephant Yoga owners Tali Gabai-Maiato and Alex Hasselkuss explain some of them:

• It helps with muscle stiffness, flexibility, joint mobility.

• Posture. People sitting at desk all day often develop chronic back pain. Yoga strengthens underutilised muscles.

• It helps with depression, insomnia and stress relief. Part of that is bringing focus to your breathing. It helps you to put aside what is going on outside.