First City Movement Yoga brings yoga, workshops to area
On a very warm Tuesday afternoon, Debbie Dunn is finishing up leading a session of restorative yoga for a small group of attendees at First City Movement, in downtown Vincennes. The restorative session is one of many different styles of yoga practiced at First City and is geared more toward relaxation than things like building strength or increasing flexibility, as some of the other types are. Class attendees go through fewer, less demanding yoga poses, hold them longer and, in general, relax and recuperate from the daily stresses of life.
To Nash and Debbie Dunn, the husband and wife who own the studio, First City Movement is more than just a place to practice yoga, it’s a nerve center of positive energy for people looking for self-improvement. Improvement of the mind, body and soul is what the Dunns have seen happening at First City Movement since it officially opened its doors in late 2015. Since that time, things have taken off faster, better and in ways that neither of them could have predicted when they first got the notion to start teaching yoga on Saturdays for free.
The Dunns were still in school back in 2015 but their own love of practicing yoga led them out to the Vincennes Farmers’ Market to teach early morning classes for free to anyone who wanted to come out. It was early spring then and people were bundled up, but they still came out to do yoga, a testament to its drawing power.
“Through doing this stuff at the farmers market, we met all these people and they said they couldn’t afford to join a gym and we thought people should be able to do this regardless of being able to afford it,” Nash Dunn said.
Around that time, the building on the corner of First and Busseron streets became vacant after several failed attempts to maintain a restaurant at what used to be the St. Louis Street Soda Shop. The Dunns approached the building owner and asked if they might use the now-empty space to hold free yoga classes on Saturdays. Given the green light, they took to it and the people took to them.
The classes became more well-attended to the point that the Dunns decided they should make the building they had been using temporarily the permanent home of First City Movement yoga. They kept the Saturday classes and decided to make all of the yoga donation-based, to keep it accessible to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.
As the classes grew, the Dunns decided not only to expand the types of classes offered, but to find a way to undergo yogic training to become better teachers. They started studying with a local teacher, who was teaching at another yoga studio nearby and eventually, after studying for a while, the Dunns convinced their teacher to come over to First City Movement to teach classes.
The breadth of yoga the Dunns offered at their studio kept increasing, adding to their own background in the art.
“We have a background in power yoga, a lot of movement. That’s how we started, mainly,” Debbie Dunn said. “We’ve taught a few different classes to figure out what our practitioners really need. We teach basic postures for someone who’s just beginning, one day a week I teach restorative yoga.”
Debbie said one of the classes she enjoys practicing more is a yoga session involved what are called singing bowls – quartz bowls made to resonate at a particular pitch. The bowl is played with a hard mallet and, for lack of a better word, sings. Debbie Dunn said the different frequencies of each bowl affect different parts of the body or some of the less physical aspects of being.
“To get those areas more free flowing, loosening up where we might be holding tension,” she said. “Also, there’s a mental aspect. Whenever we play them in class, in those moments the tones are so powerful, it helps release the mind, as well.
“It’s amazing the things people have said after this class. Literally, like someone was pushing on them while I was playing the bowl.”
The practice of yoga is something the popularity of which is impossible not to notice. Studios for practice are constantly showing up on the American landscape and schools teaching it are flourishing, too. Just like any other pursuit, there are people at all levels of dedication and skill, from casual practitioners to detailed devotees. Debbie and Nash Dunn are somewhat of the mind that yoga is not to be done by the dilettantes and, certainly, not taught by them. They hold a high standard for who conducts the practices at First City Movement.
“A lot of people out there are doing yoga without really respecting it properly,” Debbie Dunn said. “It’s a very old way of doing things that is much bigger than us. We decided that we wanted only trained, certified instructors here.”
First City has also begun holding various types of workshops, both for yoga and non-yoga-related subjects. The yoga workshops are for those whose dedication to the practice is more than a passing interest, things like yogic self-care, which engages in natural cleansing and eating habits and a Sanskrit chanting class, during which the instructor plays an organ instrument, called a harmonium, and leads a group in a call and response chanting.
“We think things like bringing different trainings and expanding our knowledge to bring those things, more things, here, bringing teachers here, that’s been really exciting,” Nash Dunn said. “We never thought that the studio would ever be here, let alone have a yoga teacher training program.”
While yoga is hugely popular all over the country, some might wonder how a small town, like Vincennes, has received what to many is still a very foreign concept. But the Dunns say that the interest and response has been so overwhelmingly positive that even they have been surprised.
“We really don’t get a lot of, ‘What are you doing in there?’ The biggest trip-up for people is letting down their own guard, physically and mentally enough to do it,” Nash Dunn said. “People being afraid to explore their bodies and master their minds. But I think that’s not just (in Vincennes), that’s everywhere.”
“One thing that helped us is that we walked in at a time where it was being explained as ‘anybody could do yoga.’ That might have put some minds to ease about it,” Debbie Dunn said. “It’s hard to even imagine what will happen because we had no idea it would even come this far.”
For more information
To learn more about First City Movement and see class schedules, visit firstcitymovement.com or visit its Facebook page.
By Rama Sobhani