QUINCY -- In 1983, Jan Barrett was working as a therapist at a mental health center in Kansas when a flyer came across her desk promoting a National Wellness Conference in Wisconsin.
At the time, the native Missourian did not know why but she felt drawn to attend the event, which she says was the first conference to focus on promoting wellness rather than treating illness or injury.
At that conference, Barrett would receive her first introduction to yoga.
"That was a powerful experience for me," said Barrett, who recently celebrated 25 years of owning and operating Redbud Yoga studio, located at 640B South Fifth Street, in Quincy. Today, Red Bud Yoga has 40 students, which includes men and women of a variety of ages. "Iyengar Yoga was part of the conference. I had never experienced anything like it ever before. Ever since that day, Iyengar Yoga has become part of my life."
The local yoga instructor marked the occasion with an open house that was attended by former and current students. The open house also included demonstrations of different Iyengar poses.
Iyengar Yoga is the a form of yoga as exercise that emphasizes the detail, precision and alignment of the yoga movements. This form of yoga differs from other styles due to its use of props, such as belts, blocks, blankets, ropes, and other materials. The yoga style also has yoga poses or sequences of poses that can be used to target specific health issues such as depression, low back pain, cancer, scoliosis, and more.
"This is not Coco-Cola yoga," Barrett said. "This is not even generic yoga. Iyengar Yoga is focused on how the body moves and focuses so much on the details of the movement that for some people it is too picky, it is too much detail."
She says she has been asked many times over the years what the health benefits of Iyengar Yoga are. She says her response remains unchanged.
"Ask that question of your body after you take a class," Barrett said. "When your body gets done with a class then you will know. It quiets your mind, it calms you, but it also energizes you."
Barrett, who considers herself to be one of Quincy's pioneer women for complementary medicine, has been teaching yoga in Quincy since 1985 when she worked at John Wood Community College to teach a half-credit physical education class. She has taught at Personalized Health Arts, which was a home-based business, and at New Horizons studio, which was located at 1110 State Street and featured multiple massage therapists, a nutrition consultant, and Reiki master.
At that time she started teaching, Barrett said very few in Quincy knew what yoga was. Yet alone Iyengar Yoga was or who B.K.S. Iyengar, who is the founder of the yoga style and was considered to be the foremost yoga teacher in the world prior to his death.
"He is much like the Pope in his sphere of influence," Barrett said. "He has lifted the world of yoga into world-wide acceptance."
Barrett acknowledges that it has been a quite a journey -- both figuratively and literally -- for her since that fateful day the flyer crossed her desk. In December 1998, Barrett traveled to Pune, India, to take a weeklong course Iyengar and to celebrate his 80th birthday.
"I've been finding my way ever since that day (in 1983)," Barrett said. "I like to think I have been on the cutting edge of things in Quincy because I was the first one doing Iyengar Yoga. Now, it feels like there is a whole world of complementary medicine like yoga that is coming into its own. I don't know what caused that shift, but it is like all of a sudden there is a lot of complementary medicine in this town and I think that is great."
Despite the increased public awareness, Barrett said it hasn't been easy for her studio to survive 25 years.
"I just have a degree of stubbornness because many times I know I should have closed," Barrett said. "Maybe it is from being from Missouri, maybe it is from being from a Midwestern farm family, but I am stubborn to the point that I have let my heart discern that I am supposed to stay open. I know this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing."