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A travel guide to wellness: New Bainbridge yoga center offers community and variety of healing practices
At the new Dayaalu Center on Wyatt Way, a stream trickles around three sides of the building.
When the lower windows of the main studio are open, the water washes in and over students sitting in the natural light that filters through the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Six months ago, Dayaalu opened its doors for the first time. It has since proven true to its word.
It is a place for community and a hub for a whole range of healing practices.
“I feel like we are a birthing vessel for a seed that is really going to help shift consciousness around healing and around living,” said Sue Steindorf, the founder of the nonprofit and co-op yoga center.
“To take some of the shame around healing and realize it’s a privilege to heal. It’s not something to be embarrassed about.”
Visitors may walk in for a beginners pilates class but leave with a newfound confidence to give meridian-based tapping a try, a stress dissolving practice based on acupressure.
With a variety of wellness practices in one space, Dayaalu acts as a trustworthy travel guide to new ways of caring for and fortifying the body, mind and spirit.
The center offers almost 30 classes that range from yoga for teens to restorative-based practices like community meditation and posture workshops.
It also contains a treatment and therapy cabin with an infrared sauna; a Sukhi Kitchen which provides affordable gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan meals on-the-go; and retreats for traditional and alternative practitioners alike.
“Food is such a huge part of healing and wellness that we wanted to make it easy for people to get healthy food,” Steindorf said.
Chef Nancy Travis has been serving vegetarian meals for 20 years. At the Sukhi Kitchen she offers simple food made from fresh, local ingredients.
Here, students can drop in for their weekly class, and leave with a lunch in hand so they can continue a clean, healthy path outside of the center. Non-students are also invited to come in just for the food if they choose.
In the same way, depending on the day of the week, visitors to the center can drop in for a half-hour community meditation either from 12:30 to 1 p.m. or 1:30 to 2 p.m.
The center is an open house during this hour for anyone interested in taking a time out from work or daily life.
“Just to have a quiet place to sit,” Steindorf explained. “Again, it’s just to encourage people to take care of themselves and to give themselves a pause.”
The meaning behind the name is one way of explaining what rests at the heart of Dayaalu.
“Dayaa” means compassion in sanskrit, and “lu” is its verb ending.
“Dayaalu” translates: to offer compassion.
Another way of looking at it, is the name begins with “day” and ends with “lu,” Latin for light.
As Steindorf said, the people and practices at the center are the “aa” that connects the two.
Light-to-light, for Steindorf and Dayaalu’s patrons, the center is a place to share knowledge, good intentions and fellowship. Compassionate action is the underlying theme of it all.
Like most things good, Dayaalu began with a series of ideas.
Steindorf wasn’t always interested in yoga. Its restorative qualities were realized later in life.
She had been with the Bainbridge Island School District for more than 13 years as a physical therapist working with students with disabilities.
She worked with some of these students long enough to see them go from age 3 to their teens.
But over the years, it became apparent that there was nothing for these students to do in the community to continue their therapy outside school. No matter the work she and they did, they were socially isolated. Many became depressed and overweight.
“What I started to see is that no matter how much I might work on how they walked or how they moved, there was no place for them to walk to,” Steindorf explained.
“As a practitioner, as an educator, as a healer, I just started to get really sad that we were spending all this time and all this money, quite frankly, from the school district.
“I really didn’t feel I was able to make a long-term, lasting impact on their lives, because I had nothing I was preparing them for.”
One thing led to the other.
She began a school program called BRIDGE Fitness where her Bainbridge students could participate in adaptive physical education that includes everything from soccer to martial arts.
She would bring in a coach, train them to work with students with disabilities and develop a program that would take them out to soccer fields in the community and in touch with peer buddies.
One could say that this was Steindorf’s first crossroads, to give students with disabilities an outlet to continue therapy in the community.
Yoga was crossroads number two.
Through BRIDGE she started to think about yoga as another accessible activity for her students to do.
She attended a one-day training by an instructor who was trained by Sonia Sumar in the Yoga for the Special Child program.
At the end of the session, the instructor said, “If you really think you want to pursue this, I highly recommend her training. It will likely change your life.”
Steindorf researched the program and registered to attend it at the Intrical Yoga Ashram in Virginia.
As the instructor said, it changed her life.
“I had taken six classes,” Steindorf said.
“I had never meditated. I was going to Yogaville, and I actually jokingly said, ‘Yeah, right, I wonder if I’ll see Mr. Rogers there.’ And I was making fun of it saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to get wrapped up in that ‘Om’ crap. I’m not into that.’”
“That’s who left,” she said.
At the time, Steindorf said, she was a typical stressed-out, working mom. She hadn’t slept well in about 10 years and averaged about three hours a night. She was on medications for it.
She had allergies and asthma.
“I had a lot of energy and at that point my energy was really chaotic,” Steindorf said.
The training was difficult and painful at first. She wasn’t used to sitting for long periods of time in meditation. Her mind was racing.
By day three, the sun came out and the power of yoga and meditation began to manifest itself.
Like the sanskrit sutra “yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” teaches, yoga is the stilling of the natural turbulences of our thoughts.
“When I came out of it … I was so overwhelmed with the sense of just the senses of life, sounds and smells,” Steindorf said. “I literally just hit the deck.
“There’s a reason, you’ve probably heard the line, ‘There’s a (fine) line between enlightenment and insanity’ because it’s overwhelming to be thrown into the present moment.”
As her practice progressed, her asthma and sleep deprivation faded away.
Yoga became a way of life.
Steindorf has since dedicated her work to bridging the gap between a whole spectrum of practices and sharing the healing nature of yoga and meditation to those with and without disabilities.
It was from this that Dayaalu was conceived.
The pieces of a yogic community center seemed to fall together just at the right time, in just the right way.
When she found the building and began drawing the floor plan, every wall Steindorf drew fell where existing weight-bearing walls were already set.
“That was the beginning of me understanding that this already existed,” Steindorf said.
“It was in perfection, and I was just trying to not mess it up.”
The same day the city said she would have to pay $60,000 for a site plan review, one third of her budget, she received a call from a fellow therapist asking if there was room to add her therapy business to the center.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I get it,’” Steindorf explained.
“It’s supposed to become more than a single-room operation. Maybe it’s supposed to be a healing center, and then the doors started flying open.”
From the ground up, the center grew and the building bloomed.
The stream, which was dedicated in the memory of a familiar little boy, Owen Marshall, is just one detail in a whole arrangement of intentional architecture.
Every facet of the new Dayaalu Center was constructed with the overarching mission for health and wellness in mind.
Underneath the sheetrock, sanskrit prayers, poetry and chants are scrawled over the building’s walls.
The main studio lights are contained in onyx shades, a type of stone with healing qualities for peace, harmony, balance, strength and flexibility, Steindorf explained.
“So when you’re lying here, that’s the energy that’s coming out of the light, into your body,” Steindorf said.
This — combined with the wall-enscribed prayers, sounds of water and natural light filtering through floor-to-ceiling windows — create an interconnected house for an interconnected experience.
By teaching, learning and healing together the center is filled with a sense of community that, Steindorf said, emanates Dayaalu’s compassionate foundation.
“Sometimes it’s been confusing to me because I don’t have a lot of money, why I was so driven to create a place with so much beauty and make this nice, quite frankly,” Steindorf said.
“But I feel like creating a place where people want to be, a place that really emanates tranquility and peace will help people slow down and want to create a sense of community. So that people will feel connected on their path.”
To get a taste, the Dayaalu Center will be offering an opportunity to sample six different practices and instructors Saturday, April 26. The 2 ½-hour event is free of charge, but limited in space.
To register early or for more information on Dayaalu’s offerings, visit dayaalucenter.com.