“All you have to do is lie down and not fall asleep,” said Erika Malorzo, founder of the commUNITY Yoga Space.
Malorzo was explaining yoga nidra, a form of guided meditation she offers that aims to help restore the body and mind.
In September, Malorzo opened commUNITY Yoga, which is located on the first floor of a snug row house in the heart of Midtown Harrisburg. When you enter the space, it feels cozy and welcoming. Natural light bathes the room via the large picture window in the front, and the scent of incense floats gently in the air.
commUNITY Yoga’s central location is by design, as are many other components of the studio.
“The reason I’m here is to give back to the community,” explained Malorzo, herself a Midtown resident. “I’m here to serve the community and to show them some ways to take care of themselves.”
To further this, every class at commUNITY Yoga is offered on a pay-what-you-can basis.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to have a safe space to breathe, to let go, be a little healthier, to stretch, strengthen their body and mind, and to meet their neighbors,” she said.
Malorzo has long been intentional in her desire to connect people with yoga. She earned her 200-hour teaching certification in kripalu yoga years ago, but is also certified in yoga nidra, laughter yoga and yoga for children.
Kripalu, which centers around compassion for oneself and others, underscores Malorzo’s interest in providing classes for everyone. With modifications and tailoring based on the participants, she stresses that the classes are for all abilities.
“These classes center around gentle strengthening and stretching, but also fun,” she said. “Whatever works for your body, because everybody’s body is different.”
Another unique characteristic of commUNITY Yoga is its lack of a digital presence, beyond a phone number and address on Google. This is also by design, Malorzo explained, saying that she wants people to discover the studio organically.
If you’re interested in trying out a class, simply call the studio or stop by. A blackboard sits out front, decorated with friendly-looking script and a detailed class schedule. (The January to March schedule is now available.)
So far, Malorzo said, the community response has been heartwarming and positive.
Nicole, a Harrisburg resident, talked about discovering the studio while out walking her dog one day. She’s now a regular attendee at the morning classes, as well as yoga nidra.
“I really do appreciate it, and my body appreciates it,” she said.
The pay-what-you-can structure was a game changer for Amy, another studio attendee. She shared an anecdote about taking an introductory power yoga session and loving it, but soon discovering that the associated cost at many studios priced her out of attending.
“Even working a full-time job, there was just no way I could fit it into my budget,” she said.
Then her co-worker (also a studio attendee) mentioned commUNITY Yoga.
“It came at the right time,” she said. “I think it’s really sad that something like this usually costs so much and that it’s not accessible to more people. I really appreciate what Erika is doing here.”
For Mark, a studio regular, commUNITY Yoga has helped him turn over a new leaf in terms of self care.
“One of the things that makes this place special is the yoga nidra classes,” he said. “They give you clarity and space in your mind. They’re restful and rejuvenating all at once.“
Heather has experimented with almost all of the classes, but likes the laughter yoga classes best of all.
“It always puts me in a good mood, and it gives me a lot of energy,” she said.
Curious about laughter yoga? Laughter, Malorzo explained, has a host of benefits, including increased blood oxygen levels, more positive feelings and higher energy levels.
To experience this firsthand, I participated in a laughter yoga introduction. Malorzo had us stand in a circle as she briefly oriented us to the practice.
“Imagine you’re putting on your bathrobe, and you realize there’s a praying mantis inside,” she said.
She then briefly and wholeheartedly acted this out, laughing joyfully as she hopped and danced around the room.
Then it was our turn.
It was an atypical experience, but Malorzo made us feel comfortable. We wriggled, jumped and laughed around the room in our own interpretations of the prompt. It was endearing and silly and life affirming.
“Laughter is good for you,” she reminded us. “Laughter is good for your body, and you can feel its effect on you.”
With the new year upon us—a natural time for self-reflection—commUNITY Yoga offered the perfect setting to begin a new chapter, complete with rejuvenation and even some laughs.
commUNITY Yoga Space is located at 1417½ N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-856-0263 or see the blackboard outside the space, which lists the class schedule.