Unity Yoga: connecting the community through donation based yoga


Olivia Apa/NW

MEDITATION – Connor Ryan teaches an evening class at Unity Yoga Co-Op. Ryan is the founder of Unity Yoga and provides yoga classes in a variety of styles to accommodate every person.

Olivia Apa, Features Writer

Unity Yoga Co-Op is a quaint space on Washington Street, where anyone can go and forge a deeper connection with the self, with others in the community and with the practice of yoga.  

“Yoga has touched my life in a way that I was inspired to share my practice with others,” said founder and yogi, Connor Ryan. “When I first started practicing yoga, I recognized it as a physical practice, and that was kind of my foot in the door for learning more about spiritual practices and the philosophy of yoga.”

Ryan was inspired to share that modality of yoga with others, to serve as a similar foot in the door for anyone seeking a deeper practice through presence and awareness. 

“Every person, every body is different, and so showing up to be present with whatever shows up that day, is the best way to implement the yoga practice,” Ryan said. “[And] to perhaps realize that we’re all in this together, and we’re all striving to find peace and find freedom in our lives, to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.”

Unity offers a variety of classes with all of the instructors teaching in their own way and with their own style. Some of the yoga styles taught are Hatha, a slower-paced more restorative yoga, and Vinyasa, a faster-paced yoga that focuses on connecting breath to movement.  

“The cool thing about Unity is we don’t subscribe to one modality or another,” Ryan said. Each instructor brings their unique style, so in that way, each instructor is going to provide a unique experience.”

Also offered every Sunday at 7 p.m. are Spiritual Strength Sessions that explore yogic philosophy, as well as meditation, and most Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Ryan teaches a class with live music.  

All classes at Unity are donation-based, an ideology in alignment with yogic principle of selfless service and creating a space where all are welcomed to develop their practice and way of being. 

“What I’ve learned over the years of doing it, is give first and all else will follow,” Ryan said. 

Yoga can be especially important for college students because it offers the opportunity to slow down and become more present. Unity has facilitated the perfect environment for that, where one can show up and simply be and release the pressures of daily life.  

“College is a very crucial transitional time in life where one is developing practices that serve them … and in developing [yoga] practices, one can perhaps become more efficient and less bogged down by stress, less bogged down by drama, less bogged down by influences that are not serving them,” Ryan said. 

Emma Miller, sophomore undecided major, feels that yoga is important for her because it helps to take her brain away from constantly thinking about school work. 

“And it’s like you’re still seeing the people who go to school with you, but in a totally different setting. It feels like you’re more a part of the Marquette community instead of just NMU,” Miller said. “It’s really important to kind of get away and have some time and peace with yourself.”

Miller also believes that the donation-based classes help to draw in more students who do not necessarily have extra funds, making yoga more accessible to everyone. 

“I also think it’s really cool that the instructors put so much effort into their practice and getting to know everyone,” Miller said. “Maybe they wouldn’t be getting that much money, but it’s not like the way that they act or the way that they teach differs.”

Olivia Luplow, sophomore Spanish and sociology major, finds time in her busy schedule between work and school to attend Unity Yoga classes to help balance her life. 

“It’s definitely very squished into my schedule,” Luplow said, “but I think that because it’s something that’s important to me and that I’ve noticed benefits me mentally and physically, I’m okay with really booking myself up in order to go there.”

Luplow first heard of Unity because her partner’s band was playing at one of the Wednesday classes. 

“I wanted to do yoga and I wanted to listen to him play music and support him in that,” Luplow said. “I went there and saw the space and just immediately knew that it was something that aligned with my values … It’s so full of light and air and just good energy.”

Situated on the second floor of 147 W Washington Street, windows overlook the street and soak up early morning sunlight or the multicolored Christmas lights from Dig’s across the street at an evening class. 

“[Unity] takes away the idea that you have to be a certain kind of person to participate in yoga,” Luplow said. “You don’t have to have a certain amount of money or fancy clothes or a lot of experience to go to Unity. You just need to show up and be ready to do what you can, and pay what you can pay.”

Luplow believes that the instructors take pride in their craft and make sure that everyone has an experience that suits their needs. 

“I’ve really appreciated the spirituality of the classes that I’ve attended,” Luplow said. “I think that they focus a lot on the holistic effects of yoga and not just the physical practice of doing it.”

Ryan always gauges his classes off of the energy in the room; when it is feeling a little low, the practice will be a slower flow. But on nights when there is live music, there is a certain sort of magical energy in the air from the combination of physical movement and music performed in real-time.

“It’s a trifecta because you have the participants, you have the person performing music, and you have the Hatha yoga instructor, all communicating with each other in the same space,” Ryan said. 

Local Marquette band Audio Obscura has played at a few of the yoga classes and has flowed with Ryan and other yogis to create dynamic, fluid energy. An example of one of their performances, as well as Ryan’s teaching, can be found here. Audio Obscura can be contacted at [email protected]

“I would really encourage anybody who’s reading this or thinking about going [to Unity] at all, to just try it because you really can,” Luplow said. “You don’t have anything to lose.”

For more information on classes and schedules, visit Unity’s website.