Laura Colamarino, of Clinton Township, takes a break from her doga class at the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority to visit with Hannah the dog.

Laura Colamarino, of Clinton Township, takes a break from her doga class at the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority to visit with Hannah the dog.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Yoga becomes a new experience outside the studio

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 12, 2019

 Yoga instructor Aleksandra Schab leads a yoga class at Maybury State Park each year  on the summer solstice.

Yoga instructor Aleksandra Schab leads a yoga class at Maybury State Park each year on the summer solstice.

Photo provided by Aleksandra Schab, of Gazelle Sports

METRO DETROIT — If you’re moving soon, don’t even think about asking Tina Iulianelli or Amy Anderson to help haul your stuff.

Their cars’ trunks are filled to the brim with yoga mats, blocks and resistance bands.

The two are certified yoga instructors at a popular Royal Oak studio, but over the course of the past year, the ladies have taken their sun salutations on the road and created a nonprofit organization that brings low- and no-cost yoga classes to neighborhoods where residents don’t have many opportunities to practice yoga. They call themselves Motor Om.

“We realized yoga isn’t accessible to everyone. There are communities where this isn’t even on their radar as a way to deal with stress, physical ailments. There are all these benefits from yoga that help just walk around in the world and react differently to things, or react less,” said Anderson, of Hazel Park.

“We like to go into communities where there might not be a yoga studio nearby and do these classes, because walking into a studio can be intimidating,” Iulianelli said. “But if we go to them, to a space that’s familiar, maybe it’ll encourage them to try something new.”

Turns out their hypothesis was right: If you asana, they will come. Slowly but surely, Motor Om classes started to fill up at the Ferndale Area District Library, various Detroit Public Library branches, Drifter Coffee in Ferndale and other spots. The participants are of all ages and abilities, and there are no designer yoga duds or even mats required — they bring the equipment.

“It’s doing what we had hoped it would do,” said Iulianelli, of Ferndale. “Not having the monthly overhead of a brick-and-mortar studio allows us to keep fees low or just ask for donations. We don’t want someone to feel like they’re not enough. If they come and just sit on the mat and breathe, they’re doing yoga.”

That mindful breathing that’s so central to the practice of yoga isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If a yogi wants a true challenge, they could try to focus on their breath amid a myriad of distractions, like birds, wind and other people.

“Inside a studio, that’s all you have — four walls and sounds that you would expect. Outside, there are a lot of variables. You have to take that focus up a notch to shut down the outside world and be at peace with yourself,” said Aleksandra Schab, the store manager of the Northville Township location of Gazelle Sports.

With that in mind, Schab, a certified yoga instructor, hosts a yoga practice outside each year at Maybury State Park in Northville Township to honor the summer solstice. This year, the free session is open to the public and takes place at 7:30 p.m. June 21 as the sun sets, with LED flameless candles illuminating the natural outdoor studio.  

“Gazelle really tries to do things in the community. It’s very important to our company to be with the community and in the community and support the community, and when you can take that to the outdoors in Michigan, which is beautiful, it’s that much better,” Schab said.

If you add four paws and a boopable nose to an activity, there’s a good chance you can improve just about anything, yoga included. That’s right — add dogs to your yoga practice and you’ve got doga.

Christine Fox, the founder of Wag ’N’ Tails Dog Activity Center in Shelby Township, said that in her 20 years of experience in the dog business, she’s never seen anything as popular as her doga classes, hosted at her training facility and off-site at places like the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority complex.

“I think because yoga allows you to become more present, a lot like the way dogs are. They’re in the here and now. They don’t think about last week or have a to-do list. We could learn a thing or two from them,” Fox said.

There’s no need to bring a dog. All of the rescue pups are provided for the session and are available for adoption. There might be some accidents or not-so-zen barks, but the payoff, according to Fox, is well worth it.

“The combo, for whatever reason, is magic. It’s captivating in that room,” Fox said. “We have found homes for so many dogs and put smiles on so many faces.”

To learn more about Motor Om — including how to support a yoga class with financial, equipment or attire donations — visit

For a list of events sponsored by Gazelle Sports, visit gazelles

The next doga session will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at the Wag ’N’ Tails Activity Center, located at 56776 Mound Road in Shelby Township. The cost to participate is $30, and mats will be provided. To request a reservation, visit or call (586) 781-6400.