Yoga Mastery Institute hopes to transform lives, in and out of the studio
New program incorporates mental and spiritual movements of yoga
Three East Coasters wound their way to Park City — one 16 years ago, one 14 years ago, another just over 6 months ago — and now they bring their passions together with the launch of Yoga Mastery Institute.
Melissa Garland, moving to Park City from New York, almost immediately found a community through her yoga practice. After over four years as a member at the Bikram Yoga studio, she bought the company and led it as Tadasana Yoga in Jeremy Ranch.
Audrey Lee, also from New York and a certified yoga instructor, found her way to Park City after earning her Ph.D. in exercise science in Austria and then falling in love with Utah skiing.
Jace Barrett, originally from Washington D.C., joined the Tadasana family and brought a martial arts background with him.
With the arrival of Barrett and Lee, and the influx of new fitness businesses in town, Garland felt the time was right for Tadasana.Yoga to undergo another transformation, she said.
Yoga Mastery Institute, launched at the beginning of October, is the project of immense thought, study and experience, said Garland. The idea hinges on teaching yoga in its original form, and its similarities to Eastern martial arts.
“In Eastern martial arts, there’s a curriculum that you learn — they talk about it as a learning pyramid, which is you build a base and then you build on top of it and grow and learn. … Yoga is actually intended to be learned in a way that is similar to that, we just don’t do it that way in the West,” said Garland.
Barrett, having practiced taekwondo since age six and now a black belt, was looking for a way to translate his life-long training into the world of yoga, noticing many similarities.
“It’s interesting. Taekwondo Front Stance is Warrior One. Just different hands,” said Barrett, moving into a staggered lunge. He moves again, “Goddess Squat is Horse Stance in taekwondo. Same pose.”
When it came to restructuring their program, Garland knew that she wanted to offer something beyond a workout facility.
“We’ve made a change from being a yoga studio to being, what I think of as, a personal transformation studio … with yoga at its foundation,” said Garland.
Why? “The need is great and the timing is right,” she said. This need is rooted in the mental health crisis, she said.
According to the University of Utah’ Huntsman Mental Health Institute, the need for mental health services in Utah greatly outnumbers mental health professionals, with 222 full-time mental health providers per 100,000 population according to their 2023 annual report. In the last year, the institute received 102,742 calls to their Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
The Utah Department of Health & Human Services reported that in 2021 Utah had consistently higher rates of self-reported lifetime depression than the U.S. rate, at 24.2% versus 20.1%.
What if yoga could help?
“The principles of yoga, all of it, not just the physical, but the mental and spiritual movements as well, when learned correctly are one great method or process to help us address the mental health crisis,” she said.
According to Garland, the widespread acceptance of yoga as a healthy practice opens the doors for the exploration of yoga as it was originally intended, now built into the fabric of her studio’s structure.
She decided to develop a curriculum which would lead members through the yogic practices from step one, to learn the physical forms as well as meditative practices.
Lee became extremely influential in developing the structure with her background as a health and wellness curriculum writer.
“The whole idea with curriculum is teaching people. Taking information and making it something that’s interesting and engaging and develop it in a way that draws people along. Its like a path on a journey,” said Lee.
While creating Yoga Mastery Institute, the group drew science and philosophy research from books like “Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity” by Peter Attia, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and “Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill” by Matthieu Ricard.
“The ethos and philosophy behind it is, what exactly are we doing here? We’re not doing what everybody else is doing, it’s not just about moving, it’s putting it all together, it’s developing this lifestyle,” said Lee.
Barrett’s martial arts background also added to the development of the curriculum, with discipline and structure to the progression of the yogic practices.
“There’s so many different ways to do yoga, same thing as when you’re teaching a kid to tie their shoes — Mom’s doing bunny ears, Dad’s doing rabbit through the hole, Sister’s teaching a different method — and it doesn’t matter which method you choose as long as there’s consistency,” said Barrett.
Similar to karate, where a student receives their ghee and white belt when joining, Yoga Mastery Institute members receive a mat and a white ribbon, tied to the corner of their mat.
These mats, created by Liforme, are made of recycled materials and printed with lines to help with positioning while flowing through yoga positions. They are also crafted with seven holes along the corner, where members will eventually earn colored ribbons as they progress through the course.
Now, their hours have shifted to set times daily, 6 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., so members can match classes to their weekly schedule and create habits to attend on a consistent basis.
Designed for members to make these classes part of their routine, throughout the seven-day week and in the same time block, Yoga Mastery Institute rotates through the various pillars of their training model — Learn, which goes in-depth on a specific yoga pose and a specific philosophical idea open for discussion, Strength, Restore, YM1 and YM2, which function like traditional yoga flows.
“What if your daily workout incorporated the things you keep saying you need? Certainly yoga but (also), meditation and breathwork,” said Garland. Barrett jumps in, “and a chance to speak and have a philosophical discussion, to be talking about what’s going on in your head.”
The introductory month is priced at $349 which includes the mat and unlimited Learn and Practice sessions. During their grand opening period, they will be offering two months for the price of the first month, and more information can be found on their website, yogamasteryinstitute.com.
Condensing the depth of knowledge into 36 lessons means the curriculum only scratches the surface, said Garland. But taking members back to the basics is the best way to ensure growth in each facet of the practice, the three said.
“For me, the heart of it is what I know yoga can do, with self-transformation,” said Garland, and she hopes others can see the value of the education they’re offering.
“We’re here because we want to have an amazing life. How do we do that? Well, start with your breath,” said Lee.
The Utah Avalanche Center reported Sunday that a longtime observer had triggered a large avalanche Saturday along the Park City ridgeline at West Monitor from 150 feet away, among similar reports of shallow soft slab avalanches in wind zones in the Salt Lake City region.
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