Root Yoga brings positive energy to Oxford during COVID-19

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Photo by Root Yoga

Root Yoga sponsored weekly, safely distanced yoga classes in Oxford’s Memorial Park this summer.

By Fiona Lawler

Root Yoga offers group exercise in Oxford with safe social distancing, holding classes both outside and online. 

In April, owner and operator Emily Bufler contacted the city about hosting free yoga practices in Memorial Park, Uptown. These sessions happened throughout most of the summer once a week for one hour on Wednesdays. They switched from evening to morning classes, each starting at either 7:30 a.m. or p.m. respectively. While the last class  — Sept. 2 –was canceled due to a rise in COVID-19 levels, Bufler is waiting to hear from the city on whether they will be able to host their next session Wednesday, Sept. 9. 

“By offering virtual and outdoor class options, we are fostering a sense of community amongst ourselves and giving people a way to stay positive,” said Miami alumni, Anna Conese. She has been practicing with Root and working as a part-time instructor for four years. She has been one of the leaders of the sessions in Memorial Park.

The Root Yoga studio, located at 22 W. Park Place, has been a part of the Oxford business community since 2015. Bufler took over the studio in 2018. She first became interested in yoga years ago, after suffering from a lower back injury. The exercise helped her back, and she went on to become a certified yoga teacher.

Root Yoga has expanded since then, offering a variety of classes from power vinyasa flows to restorative yoga. With multiple instructors from all walks of life, both local Oxford residents and students, it is an all-inclusive space that also offers a yoga teacher training program for those who wish to join. 

When the pandemic hit last March, Bufler had to close the studio’s doors because of state-ordered restrictions limiting indoor gatherings. Yoga is an active exercise, involving a lot of breathing techniques; therefore, continuing in a small studio space wasn’t safe. 

The restrictions were eased June 1; however, Root was able to reopen under guidelines that limit indoor classes to eight people. Those who attend the class must bring their own yoga mats and water bottles to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“One thing we are passionate about at Root is our array of yoga props. With COVID-19, we can’t offer these during practice anymore,” Bufler said. Root previously had offered yoga blocks, blankets, bolsters and resistance bands for a more hands-on practice.

Bufler said yoga is beneficial not only for physical health, but also for mental health. Offering clarity, calmness and stress-relief, it is an activity that can help relax people during this pandemic. A natural way to lower blood pressure and a good way to exercise, yoga helps to improve one’s health and gives a sense of community, she said.

Before COVID-19, the studio was able to host around 30 classes per week with 25 people at a time. Because many of these classes had to be canceled or cut down, virtual classes became another way to allow members to continue classes at Root during the pandemic. 

Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases locally, Root has once again shut down classes in its Park Place studio. However, virtual and outdoor classes continue. 

This past summer, Bufler also organized sunset yoga classes at the Lavendel Hills lavender farm, 10237 Ohio 732, Camden, Ohio. She also held classes during the summer in the pavilion of the Oxford Community Arts Center. Class sizes for these options were limited and students had to register ahead of time. While the classes were free, a donation of $10 could be given to the Oxford Community Arts Center as well as the instructor of the class.

“Offering these outdoor practices seems like the right thing to do, as it provides the community with physical and mental relief during an incredibly stressful time,” Bufler said. 

She encourages the instructors to offer students a gentle flow class so that it remains accessible for everyone, including beginners to practiced yogis. Gentle flow classes offer stretching and strengthening poses while focusing on breathing techniques. 

“We have the option to get creative with the gentle flow and offer modifications for poses that are more difficult. This allows the practice to be inclusive for everyone,” Savannah Hofer said. Hofer completed her training from Root last year and now teaches in-person classes in the park.

The yoga sessions in Memorial Park have drawn between 25-30 people per class. Lori Gloeckner, another instructor at Root, is a sixth-grade teacher at Talawanda Middle School. She said she loves to teach, whether in school or yoga practice. 

“The Uptown yoga sessions have drawn a diverse crowd, and has been a great way to expose yoga to community members who maybe haven’t had the chance to try it,” Gloeckner said. 

Root Yoga tries to offer the community inclusive yoga practices and is doing everything it can to continue to be a resource. They offer a peaceful environment and stress-relief during COVID-19, said Bufler.