Service Doesn’t Recognize Distance

By Erin Austin

“Wait…you’re on a board of an organization several states away? How does that work?”

The answer is simple: When it’s an idea you believe in and people whose dreams and expertise you trust, geography isn’t a barrier.

Let me back up a little bit…

In 2009, I joined Inspiring Actions (Hudson) as a new instructor. I was living in St. Paul at the time, but I grew up in River Falls, so teaching across the border felt natural. At that time, Inspiring Actions was in Webster Square, and it looked significantly different: one studio space, a small schedule of classes, and a slowly-but-surely growing community.

Despite its look changing significantly over the years, the feel of the studio never changed. Inspiring Actions is unlike any other; it isn’t cookie-cutter. From day one, I loved being a part of a community that included students whose bodies, ages, fitness levels, and experience in the practice all varied greatly.

Over the years, the studio grew: it outgrew its original location, the schedule expanded, more instructors joined, and a new location opened in River Falls. During this time, I grew too, and that growth brought me to Fort Collins, Colorado. I still teach at Inspiring Actions when I visit Wisconsin, and for many years I’ve been the staff writer, working on everything from website copy to instructor bios.

Tracey Mortensen, Inspiring Actions’ founder, is unique among yoga studio owners. She didn’t open a studio on just a whim and a love for the practice; she has a background in business and a degree in finance. Second, she’s incredibly open. When instructors or students have ideas, Tracey’s response, after gathering information, is usually, “Let’s try it!” New ideas excite her, rather than deter her. Tracey envisioned yoga serving the community in other capacities, but her vision had limitations in the traditional business model.

Enter: Lucy Pirner, one of my colleagues at Inspiring Actions. Lucy had parallel visions of service. As a professional therapist and yoga instructor with the highest credentials the Yoga Alliance recognizes (E-RYT 500), her expertise is perfectly situated to serve students not always represented in western yoga spaces.

After I moved to Colorado, Tracey and Lucy established a joint dream: the Abundant Yoga Community (AYC). With a nonprofit, they knew more of the community could benefit from yoga, and they could reach different populations—namely, those who traditionally have found it hard to access classes because of financial, geographic, or ability barriers, to name a few.

After the AYC became official with the state, Tracey approached me with some copywriting needs. I could do the work remotely, and I was moved by the mission, so I was on board…and then, eventually, on the board. I wasn’t the only one moved by the mission either; the team was already growing with board support from service-oriented locals.
The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to unite.” In her book Embrace Yoga’s Roots, Susannah Barkataki writes, “If it’s not about unity, it’s not yoga.” And that’s what the Abundant Yoga Community is about: bringing people together. This means bringing new people to yoga, and for me, it means keeping ties to the St. Croix Valley. As its tagline goes, the Abundant Yoga Community is where connections are made, barriers are broken, and growth is supported.

The St. Croix Valley is no longer my primary home, but the AYC’s mission doesn’t have borders. And I, for one, hope that its reach and influence grows to extend far beyond its roots…maybe even to Colorado someday.


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