By ANNA WALKER — The word “serendipitous” could be used to describe the recent change in ownership of Love Yoga Studio on Baltimore Avenue. As Mimi Novic, lifestyle coach and author of Guidebook to Your Heart, says, “Throughout this journey of life we meet many people along the way. Each one has a purpose in our life. No one we meet is ever a coincidence.” Changing studio ownership from Monica Corry, the studio’s founder, to Asia Vianna Leak and her mother, Vicki Mack, reflects this view.
Monica Corry opened Love Yoga Studio in July 2014 after converting the building from a former hair salon. With a full-time career in Virginia, Corry began practicing yoga in the onsite gym at work.
“Initially, it was a social activity,” said Corry. “But I really got into the practice when I began feeling the difference before and after work. I found yoga calming [to me] personally and wanted others to experience calmness and peace.”
Focused at first on opening a studio for children, Corry became a certified yoga teacher for children and youth, later pursuing her certification to teach adults.
During a walk one day, Corry came upon the building that would eventually house Love Yoga Studio.
“Five years ago, nobody knew what the studio was,” said Corry with a laugh. “At that time, that particular street in Hyattsville had few businesses. I had a vision and wanted the studio to become a part of the renaissance happening in the community. So I would hand out flyers in the area to let people know about Love Yoga. Our initial students came from word of mouth. The community seemed happy to see a small business open in their neighborhood.”
Corry offered several children’s classes when she first opened her studio. Soon, however, she was getting questions from parents about starting adult classes. To meet this need, she began logging serious hours in the studio in addition to her full-time work.
“For the first year and a half, I taught every single class offered on evenings and on weekends with a rotation of assistants. Eventually, I was able to move more into management,” she said.
Part of Corry’s vision for her studio was to convey a message of inclusivity to the community.
“All are welcome to walk through the door of Love Yoga Studio — no matter what size, age, race, etc.,” said Corry. “Everyone has an idea of what a yoga student looks like. Our goal was to treat everyone with kindness and politeness. You don’t know what it took for somebody to walk through the door. We sought to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and to help students overcome any sense of feeling uncomfortable or lonely by creating a sense of community. Friendships blossom at the studio.”
Corry also worked to make yoga accessible and affordable for the community, and especially people who might be challenged financially. She offered donation-based classes, sponsorship classes and pay-what-you-can classes. Corry estimates that the studio has served over 1,200 students onsite and offsite during her tenure. She’s reached some of these students through community outreach sessions at schools and health fairs, and through her connections with other local groups.
With a family and a full-time career, running the studio became challenging for Corry after five years. “Should I close the studio or find new ownership? The community had embraced the studio, and I really wanted the awesome community-focused work to continue,” she said.
Enter serendipity in the form of Asia Vianna Leak. Leak became a student at Love Yoga in October 2015 and soon asked to become an assistant. In 2017, she became a certified yoga teacher and is currently registered through Yoga Alliance. Leak also holds a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and is a licensed professional counselor. To round out her credentials, she is currently pursuing registration as a dance movement therapist.
“I noticed Asia’s drive and enthusiasm and heard a lot of compliments on her teaching style,” said Corry. “She became a [part of the] fabric of the Love Yoga community.”
Earlier this year, Corry approached Leak about taking over the business. Leak accepted and officially became a co-owner last June with her mother, Vicki Mack, a long-time public school educator.
Leak and Mack are thrilled at the opportunity to own a family business.
“I’m very excited about having a family business intertwined with the profession of yoga. I’ve found the community to be very receptive,” said Mack.
The mother-daughter team plans to uphold Love Yoga’s philosophy of inclusiveness.
“Everyone is welcome — including the non-experienced with yoga, to the very young, to those with limited mobility,” said Leak. “Yoga is about uniting the mind and the body. The practice involves connecting your physical self with your internal self and helps you connect with who you truly are.”
The new co-owners are also seeking to expand their connection with the overall Hyattsville community.
“We have gotten positive responses from area businesses for collaborative networking opportunities that will help promote community development,” said Mack.
Rachel Debuque, a Love Yoga teacher, expressed confidence in the studio’s transition. “I was so proud to be a part of what Monica Corry built with Love Yoga, and I cannot think of a better person to move it to its next phase than Asia Vianna Leak. Asia is the embodiment of the Love Yoga’s inclusive spirit that strives to create a space for all to experience the healing power of yoga. In addition to her yoga teaching, her background in counseling and dance movement therapy offers a nuanced ability to connect with the community on many levels. I am excited to see how Asia will grow the Yoga studio.”
Corry is supporting the transition in ownership by continuing to teach classes once a week and sharing her institutional knowledge with Leak and Mack.
“This work was a calling,” Corry reflected. “My job is done. I like seeing someone else putting their stamp on it. I got what I set out to do — bring yoga to people who thought it wasn’t for them. The studio reflects the community. I believe the new ownership will bring even more robust programming and be responsive to what students want to see,” she said.
So far, under Leak and Mack, Love Yoga Studio has continued to develop both a love of yoga and a love for the community it serves.