● By Amber Galusha
Jana Parker, Balance Yoga Center
“Good morning, everyone,” says Jana Parker, owner of Balance Yoga Center, as she sits cross-legged, hands on her knees, facing a class of some 30 students. “Let’s close our eyes and come into a comfortable seat.”
Outside the day is brisk and bright, but inside Parker’s yoga center, the space is warm and inviting. The dimly lit studio is quiet except for the soothing sounds of ambient music and steady, even breathing. “Let’s cultivate an awareness of breath,” says Parker. “Think about what you want from your practice today, then take a moment to set your intention.”
This welcoming environment coupled with Parker’s enthusiasm for yoga and her natural ability to make every student feel comfortable is what attracts beginners and experienced yogis alike.
Parker’s love of yoga began after graduating from Shasta High in 1994, when she enrolled as a dance major at University of California, Los Angeles. She was required to take yoga classes as part of the degree requirements, so for four years Parker practiced with Shiva Rea, an internationally known yoga teacher. “Shiva Rea lit the spark,” says Parker.
With a bachelor’s degree in dance from UCLA, Parker moved to New York to train and perform. Though her work was fulfilling, she knew there was something more. “My heart just kept bringing me back to yoga,” says Parker.
Eventually she moved home to Redding and enrolled in advanced teacher trainings and workshops. “Being a body mover my whole life, yoga spoke to me, and teaching was something that was always in me,” says Parker. “When I started doing teacher training, it just clicked.”
For two years, Parker taught yoga classes at a local dance studio. When her classes had grown to a size that she believed could support her own space, she opened Balance Yoga Center on Athens Avenue.
Since 2009, Parker’s mission has been to provide a loving, warm and supporting environment where students feel inspired to experience the joy and transformative health benefits of yoga. “The most important thing to me is that everyone who walks into my studio feels welcome, like they belong here,” says Parker.
Committed to making yoga accessible to all experience levels, Parker offers a wide variety of classes: Yoga Essentials, Chair Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Strong Core Flow, Kundalini Yoga and Energetic Yoga Flow as well as specialty classes including Prenatal Yoga, Baby and Me and Power Pilates.
Walking through her Balanced Yoga class, Parker says, “Each practice is unique, so do what you can.”She gently touches a student’s shoulders, making a subtle refinement to her pose, and adds, “Yoga is about honoring our bodies.” This attentive approach is a common thread among all teachers at Balance Yoga Center.
Parker and her instructors are dedicated to providing an eclectic experience by infusing their unique backgrounds – Iyengar, Anusara or Vinyasa Flow – into their respective classes, which are based on Hatha yoga principles. Hatha is a gentle yoga style that builds strength and balance, creates longer muscles and improves flexibility and mobility in the joints. It also benefits the digestive, circulatory and pulmonary systems.
“Yes, yoga is a physical exercise, and what we do on the mat keeps our bodies healthy, but it does so much more,” says Parker. “Yoga allows you to quiet your mind and find that deeper connection or spirituality within yourself, whatever that means for you.”
Though she opened her studio with only a few teachers and classes, every year Parker’s business has grown. Today she offers more classes and more teachers who are committed to making their students’ yoga experience fresh, exciting and engaging. To further enrich the yoga community, Parker invites respected yoga instructors from out of the area to teach special workshops, which give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the practice.
In addition to quality yoga instruction, Parker offers a retail boutique where yogis can find mats, props, clothing and other yoga essentials they may not find anywhere else in town.
Looking ahead, Parker sees growth, which means new teachers and classes as well as additional styles of yoga that she hopes will continue to create healthy change throughout the community. “Yoga is an amazingly transformative practice,” says Parker. “Taking yoga off the mat and into the world and into our relationships with others is one of the many beautiful benefits of yoga.”
As class comes to an end, students sit facing their teacher with their eyes closed. “Bringing palms together and hands to heart, let’s return to the intention we set at the beginning of our practice,” says Parker. She bows her head and adds, “With much gratitude, Namaste.” In turn her students respond with a collective, “Namaste.”
169 Locust Street, Redding • (530) 262-6298