The Austin community is getting its first ever yoga studio.
ACT Yoga, 1140 N. Lamon, is set to open this month, but studio owner and founder Marshawn Feltus, 38, says this is not “your grandmamma’s yoga studio.” His studio integrates deep breathing, correct posture and stretching techniques associated with yoga with its spiritual side.
“We really want to affect the threefold living of mind, body and spirit,” Feltus said.
Located in Bethel New Life’s Lamon campus, Feltus’ business is all about Awareness Change Triumph — the acronym in the studio’s name. The goal, he said, is for people to reach their full potential in a way ordained by their spiritual beliefs.
“Whatever your spirituality is, I invite you to bring that, but I then challenge you to dig deeper into it so you can maximize the benefits of that spirituality for yourself,” he said. “It does nothing to say I go to church and you are not applying anything that you are learning from church.”
Yoga, he says, is like “the armory people wear to deal with all the stresses and stressors of life.” Breathing, for instance, he says, can bring physical relaxation and mental clarity when done with the correct posture.
“Breathing does so much,” said Feltus, a West Garfield Park resident. “It helps with our circulation. It helps de-stress you. It helps to rejuvenate you. So yoga is that application to teach you how to use what you already have but …in its best way of using it.”
Feltus plans to offer such variations of yoga, including yoga massage and full impact yoga, similar to zuumba. Feltus discovered the benefits of yoga in the most unlikely place: jail. He served an 18-year sentence for murder prior to his release two years ago. He owes his introduction to yoga to a knee injury suffered while playing football “on the yard.”
Unable to walk for nearly six months, Feltus saw an inmate nicknamed “Buddha” on the yard doing different yoga poses—Feltus thought they were martial arts moves. He eventually approached the inmate, who told him what yoga was all about. He invited Feltus to join him. Skeptical at first, Feltus was hooked after his first session.
“My first yoga class was so refreshing,” Feltus said of that 2007 class.
He was suffering at the time from other ailments. His body building regimen eventually wreaked havoc on his muscles. “The exercise was so soothing,” Feltus said. “My muscle’s felt relax…I was brand new and I wanted more of it.”
A yoga class soon started up in the prison, which took some convincing of prison officials. Within a couple of months, the student became the teacher. Feltus took over the class when Buddha was offered a higher-paying gig at the prison. Now, Feltus is completing the last leg of his yoga certification.
But Feltus believes his path to opening the yoga studio was order by God. Out of prison, Feltus volunteered as a janitor at Bethel New Life and later hired on staff through its ex-offender reentry program. Soon after, he was encouraged to turn his passion of yoga into a business. He was already headed in that direction as a part-time personal yoga trainer.
After enrolling in and compiling Bethel’s entrepreneurial training program, ACT Yoga was born.
“I am more convinced than anything that this is my ministry…,” Feltus said, noting that yoga has helped him in so many ways. “Without my faith and yoga, I really don’t want to think where I might be.”