By Maggie Beamguard
West End Yoga Co. has put a unique spin on cat-cow pose and is giving the downward dog a feline touch with a special yoga class called Kittens, Cats and Mats Class.
It’s exactly as it sounds. Humans bend and stretch on yoga mats while domestic shorthairs and tabby cats pounce, play, climb and nap. Call it “meow-ga” if you want.
The studio partners with Paws for Hope, a cat rescue in Seven Lakes. The majority of proceeds from the class go to support the rescue. Donations of cat food, litter and cat toys are also welcome.
The class is more informal and lighthearted with fewer poses than a traditional class. The rescue has brought between 14 and 22 of their youngest and most personable cats. The cats are free to wander and play and often welcome pets and cuddles.
While it may not be the ideal class for people with cat allergies, ailurophiles will enjoy their calming atmosphere, emotional support and inspiration for deep stretches.
Cat yoga is just one of many offerings WEYC provides to make yoga accessible for everybody.
A New Wellness Center
Jeremy Wellman, owner of the studio and one of its instructors, opened the studio a year ago at the end of January. In that short time, WEYC has earned a positive reputation in the wider community, placing third in its category for The Pilot’s Best of the Pines.
“The whole premise for starting the studio was to offer something to the community that helps build the community, but is easily accessible to everybody in the West End and Seven Lakes area,” he said.
The company is anticipating moving to a larger studio later this spring.The studio will become part of a new West End Wellness Center, which will include independent businesses with a focus on health housed under the same roof. The Wellness Center will include a chiropractor, a naturopathic doctor, a massage therapist and a social worker for talk therapy.
“This was always my dream from the very beginning,” he said.
The West End Wellness Center will start operations on Feb. 1 with a grand opening planned for later in the year when the yoga company moves its studio to the new location at 1163 Seven Lakes Drive, near the intersection with N.C. 211.
The new space will offer more flexibility, and the practice space will be separate from the lobby and lounge area, which will also feature some retail.
WEYC will also offer energy work such as Reiki and Sound Baths, salt therapy and red light therapy. Another smaller room will allow instructors to provide workshops and training such as the class on crystals they offered in December.
Wellman is eager to get set up in the new space, but his priority is to make sure he gets the design right. “We took a long time creating the space that we’re in, and it showed,” he said “The studio has a serenity and comfort.”
The Marine Behind the Yoga Studio
Wellman married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, who is also an instructor at WEYC. He served 10 years in the Marine Corps until an injury led him to work in the computer industry and, for a time, running a Harley Davidson dealership. Eventually he began working in Afghanistan as a security contractor.
COVID-19 caused difficulty with traveling and that is when he decided to pursue a career in yoga. He had been practicing yoga since 2005. He even took it overseas during deployments, sharing the practice with other tough Marines and exposing them to its stress relieving and healing benefits.
Wellman’s experience positions him to break down some of the preconceived ideas people have of what yogis look like.
“What people see on Instagram or TikTok is a very in-shape female twisting into crazy positions,” he said.
But for him, yoga is for everybody and every body: men and women, people with injuries or mobility limitations and of all shapes and sizes.
Yoga for Every Body
For Wellman, yoga is a lifestyle. It’s a way to incorporate movement, but it also offers more than just physical health.
“People think yoga is one thing. And it is not. There are many different modalities. There are many different types. And each one, even down to the individual teacher, can give you a completely different feel.”
One of those instructors is Bobbi Boisselle, an early supporter of the Wellmans.
“Jeremy and Jennifer Wellman are such a blessing to our community,” Boiselle said. “Jeremy’s wholehearted creation of WEYC has been birthed from a vision inspired towards bringing more healing and wellness experiences to our community.
“The classes and community of students and instructors at WEYC are warm and friendly and fun. I especially love the animal friendly and kid friendly yoga experiences that WEYC consistently offers.”
The instructors at WEYC provide a variety of yoga classes to fit different personalities and abilities. Classical Yoga, Qi Gong, Yin, Yoga Flow, Chair Yoga and Yoga Sculpt are some of the offerings.
“One thing I do love is we have a good amount of husbands and wives who come to class now,” Jeremy Wellman said. A popular couples class is the Candlelight Yin class offered on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. “It’s all about chilling and stretching and mobility and relaxation and mindfulness. All of that is rolled into a 60-minute class.”
A sense of community has been created around some of the classes.
“My class is very calming,” said Wellman, “but before class starts, when people are trickling in, it’s almost like a party. Everybody is talking and laughing.”
He jokes that he might need to hang up a mirror ball in the center of the studio. “But that’s part of it for me. That’s part of that community. There are people talking to each other in the room that never would have crossed paths before.”
Wellman wants people to think of WEYC as an entryway for all people interested in yoga, especially those who might feel intimidated by it.
“The good part is it has nothing to do with how deep your forward fold is,” he said. “It’s all about you showing up and taking that time to improve yourself and your health – both physical and mental.”
One practitioner, Jeff Mohn, testifies to the studio’s welcome ease.
“I met Jeremy through my wife, who had been practicing yoga for years,” he said. “I did not feel like l needed yoga until I started reading about yoga and the benefits online. I started going to Jeremy’s Yin Yoga class. I feel better, and I am much more flexible.
“I still have a long way to go considering I have never been able to touch my toes. I can’t say enough about Jeremy making everyone feel comfortable even if you have never practiced yoga before. Once through the door, everyone is family.”
Tori McLeod was invited by a friend to participate in a class at WEYC. While she was hopeful it would help her with flexibility, balance, coordination and mental relaxation following treatment for breast cancer, she was also reluctant to attend. But she found out one of her favorite oncology nurses, Jennifer, owned the studio with her husband and was willing to try.
“I was comforted to see all types of people in the small class of about 10 people,” she said. “There were people younger than me and senior citizens, skinny people and some with a little fluff, males and females, and not all of them in yoga pants and tank tops.” It’s yoga for normal people, she said.
The next Kittens, Cats and Mats Class is Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. For more information about it or any other classes at WEYC, visit https://westendyogacompany.com/.
Contact Maggie Beamguard at email@example.com.