Resolve to Evolve

A sanctuary sits near the busy crosshairs of restaurants, grocery stores, and big box retailers on Route 235 in St. Mary’s County. Evolve Yoga + Wellness is like a beacon inviting the community to seek a greater sense of peace, ease, and overall wellbeing. Since opening in 2010, people of all ages, sizes, and levels continue to explore Evolve’s offerings in an effort to take better care of themselves and each other. No other place in Southern Maryland offers such an array of wellness classes, workshops, certification trainings, and special events.

Evolve offers something for everybody, as a scan of their schedule proves. The traditional yoga classes are there, as well as Tai Chi Ch’uan, Sin Tien Wu Ji Qigong, Pre-& Post-Natal Yoga, and even Christ-Centered Yoga. Recently, they have provided workshops on Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, Applied Anatomy, and Self-Awakening Yoga Therapeutic Essentials. Courses like these provide an opportunity for new and experienced practitioners to deepen their practice and increase self-awareness, which are cornerstones for healing and thriving.

The center’s founder, Ann Hunt, experienced her first yoga class in the early 1980’s as a dance student, which led to a lifelong love of the practice. She became a serious yoga student about 20 years ago to integrate movement into her private massage therapy practice. She also wanted another way to take care of herself, not just physically, but also for the centering, and meditative benefits that yoga offers.

After several years teaching in various locations around Southern Maryland and leading a few local yoga teacher training programs, it became clear that Southern Maryland was ready for a dedicated yoga space. “(We had) a good pool of skilled teachers who needed a place to teach. The time was ripe and ready for a community studio here; other metropolitan areas of our size have them, and there was a need and a niche to be filled to help take care of people. And not just a physical need, but a heart and soul need.”

That need has become Evolve’s most important work. “We create a unique environment for people to step away from their busy day-to-day lives to have a time and space to drop into a quiet place, to reconnect with themselves and realize what matters most in their lives.”

In addition to the benefits of the physical and meditative practices, students find a unique gathering place and sense of community that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Southern Maryland. Ann is most proud of this contribution to the community, stating that “by opening the studio, bringing the facility to Southern Maryland, we have created a place for people to explore new and healthy ways of being through yoga, breath, meditation, workshops, special events, and one-on-one yoga therapy. We have created a place that people can come and do the work that they have been meaning to do for a long, long time to make positive shifts and changes, through eating habits, fitness, stress reduction, and better sleep.

What’s been the easiest part of running a thriving yoga studio? “Teaching and sharing yoga,” she says, “because that’s what I love and what I believe in.” The reality of owning and managing Evolve has been the most challenging aspect and required an acute personal evolution on Ann’s part. “I was self-employed for 30 years, so it was a huge shift learning to be a manager and administrator of 50 people (including managing and scheduling 25-30 teachers and 15-20 volunteer desk staff). My intention has been based on love, love for everybody that walks through the door, love and gratitude for all the support that we have to make the place run, for all the dedicated teachers and knowledgeable, friendly desk staff. I set my intention to build a business that’s based on love and gratitude.”

What about people who haven’t tried yoga? “There is a lot of mystery about what yoga is about. At Evolve, we work hard to balance our offerings and practice a style that is acceptable to absolutely everyone, from prenatal mommies, kids and teens, to beginners, advanced practitioners, and athletes,” Ann said. Private specialty classes are also offered and are tailored to the specific group of participants, e.g. yoga for swimmers, or soccer.

“If you think you are not flexible enough for yoga, then you will remain inflexible. But, if you get yourself on the mat, you will open the possibility of stretching the body. And that leads Current offerings can be found online at www.evolveyogawellness.com to exploring the idea of opening the blockage of perception and awareness that says, ‘I am inflexible,’” she said. “For me, yoga is beyond what happens on the mat and has really become how I live my life. It’s about how we choose to be in relationships with other people, how we choose to react to difficult circumstances, and the choices we make on an ongoing basis.”

What’s New at Evolve

ROPE WALL YOGA
Working with the rope wall o ers the opportunity to experience yoga postures with support and greater ease. Experienced instructors lead students through a series of poses that use gravity to balance length with strength while equalizing tone, tension, and ease.

MELT METHOD
This simple yet effective practice (created by Sue Hitzman) provides self-release and hydration for the connective tissue. Practitioners work with foam rollers to stimulate fluid movement through the body and rebalance the nervous system, thereby reducing pain and stress while reprogramming misalignment and bad postural habits.

AROUND TOWN
Evolve’s reach extends beyond the main studio at the Wildewood Shopping Center! Check the schedule for Evolve-sponsored events like free outdoor classes held monthly during the summer at the beautiful Leonardtown Wharf and a series of basic, one-hour classes at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

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Crystal Brandt
Crystal Brandt is a freelance writer and contributor to WOMAN magazine. A Southern Maryland native, she lived in New York City for almost 8 years before returning to St. Mary's County in 2007. She has taught writing and literature in Maryland and New York, including courses at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Pratt Institute, and Brooklyn College. She earned a B.A. in English (2000) from the University of Maryland - College Park and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2006) from Brooklyn College. In addition to writing, her interests include making and talking about music, practicing yoga and meditation, and experimenting with her blender and bread machine.