Paula Figgatt and Zoe Berg, respectively the owner and lead instructor at Birdseed Yoga, make clear what they want to grow in Waynesboro: “If you don’t have peace in your life, you don’t have anything,” says Paula.
“Yoga forces you to sit with yourself,” echoes Zoe. “It invites you to move past the turmoil and anxiety into the calm.”
A Young Practice with Strong Roots
Paula and Zoe are both longtime Waynesboro residents. Paula recounts stories of serving popcorn as a teenager in the now refurbished Wayne Theatre, and the two met years ago when Paula was teaching Sunday school to Zoe in a church that sits only two blocks from their recently opened yoga studio in downtown Waynesboro. While their personal histories stretch far back into the community, Paula is quick to note that “we’re in the early stages of yoga in Waynesboro.”
They don’t see being early as a challenge so much as an opportunity, however. Paula talks about family experiences with obesity, community experiences with addiction, and the need for calming and healing spaces that are welcoming to all. To better serve a broad spectrum of the community, many of her classes are offered by donation only. “Often,” she says, “this is the first time the students are experiencing yoga.”
The studio’s pledge to welcome every body (regardless of shape, size, fitness, or income) means that they are often designing classes to fit the community. “I’ve planned entire classes, and then completely scrapped them because when I walked in, I knew we needed a different approach,” says Paula. Working with many different community niches, Zoe tailors yoga classes to the particular needs of athletes, and Paula is sharing her passion for hiking and backpacking by offering her first outdoor yoga trip this November.
Their flexibility speaks to their dedication to create a space of peace and healing. “People will text me with devastating news in their life,” says Paula. “They say, ‘I just need to come to yoga.’”
A Reluctant Teacher Finds her Place and Passion
Asked why she decided to found a yoga teaching studio, Paula is quick to speak of others: “I did it because I didn’t want yoga to leave downtown Waynesboro.”
When the last downtown yoga studio closed due to its instructors moving away, Paula began reaching out to other instructors. Zoe adds, “We had no ideas how any amazing instructors lived right here in Waynesboro.”
“What really inspires me are teachers like Zoe,” Paula says. “I felt her passion and it has ignited something in me.”
Finding Talent, Building Community
Today, yoga classes and teaching opportunities seem to spring up wherever Paula goes. The interview closes in time for her to lead a lunchtime yoga class for UVA faculty, several doors down from her day-job office.
Turning to her community for support, inspiration, and participation is a consistent theme in Paula’s narrative. She offers advice to fellow entrepreneurs to connect with and value their communities, while recounting the many area nonprofits that Birdseed Yoga has chosen to donate proceeds to on the first day of each month.
“At the end of the day, I want to pay the rent,” says Paula. “And on the first of each month, we want to give back to the community.
Birdseed Yoga offers beginner yoga classes, meditation, yoga for kids, deep stretch, as well as more advanced courses such as Power Vinyasa and Vinyasa Flow. You can read more about their instructors, class schedules, and community outreach at birdseedyoga.com. Plus, check back often at GrowWaynesboro.com for ongoing updates on the new entrepreneurs joining Paula and Zoe in growing a thriving (and peaceful) local economy.