Marcela Xavier opened the Bread & Yoga studio in 2009 in Inwood (Northernmost Manhattan), a neighborhood with many health-conscious individuals, but few wellness-oriented business. While opening a yoga studio in a neighborhood filled with families, actors and performers made business sense, Xavier was actually just looking for an excuse to create community.
Xavier finds that living in a big city can often feel isolating and overwhelming, but she says, “I feel that we live better lives if we are engaged in a community. As human beings, we need to know and be in contact with the people around us, be a part of something bigger. My life is a lot richer because of a strong community.”
Indeed, Bread & Yoga has become a staple of life for many residents of Inwood. By delving into inner peace through yoga and pilates, participants have an impact on community in a positive way. Additionally, B&Y offers an extensive after school program which improves kids’ lives by offering them things they’re not usually exposed to in an urban school environment (i.e. arts education, wellness, food, nutrition classes). And through the kids, B&Y has access to families. They want families to be part of the community in Inwood and the life of the yoga studio. Indeed, B&Y has become a gathering space, giving parents an opportunity to connect with each other.
Bread & Yoga also connects with the outer community through its annual holiday market. This creates opportunities for local vendors and artisans to show their work and for the community to support them. With such diverse talents, there is something for everyone at the holiday market. During the summer, B&Y reaches the larger community with its free yoga and capoeira classes in Inwood Hill Park. This is where Xavier sees the community blending the most. People from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all levels of experience take advantage of the classes in the park. It creates opportunity for everyone.
And certainly, Xavier’s investment in the community paid off, as in January 2012 the B&Y yoga studio was destroyed in a devastating fire. But out of this tragedy came a stronger sense of community, not only for B&Y but for all the businesses affected by the fire. Holy Trinity Church offered its sanctuary as a temporary space and members of the community spontaneously organized fundraisers and other events to support the local businesses.
In true karmic fashion, even though B&Y is still in a temporary space, it has continued to give back. Most recently, after Hurricane Sandy, which mostly spared Inwood but wreaked havoc in much of New York City and surrounding areas, B&Y organized a benefit concert which attracted over 130 people and ran a week of donation classes whose $2300 in proceeds went to hurricane relief.
B&Y is also moving more into awareness and inclusiveness. Information is essential to be an active participant of a community. For example, they’re organizing a benefit screening and talk of the film Gasland to raise awareness about fracking. B&Y is also teaming up with other local businesses for various events, from a variety show at Darling Coffee to the Holiday Market at the Inwood Center. “For small business owners, it’s essential to unite. If you’re doing something, and doing it well, offering a good service, then there’s room for everyone,” says Xavier. “Small businesses are the life of a community. People living and investing in their community can have a huge impact on residents’ quality of life.”
Bread and Yoga’s Annual Holiday Market will be on December 8, 9, 15 and 16 at the Inwood Center – 5030 Broadway at 213 St., NYC.
The market will kick off with the Scribble Art Workshop’s Arterie Opening on Friday, December 7th, featuring art made by students enrolled in the after-school program.For more information: Bread & Yoga: www.breadandyoga.com and on Facebook Scribble Art Workshop: www.scribbleartworkshop.com and on Facebook