We had the good fortune of connecting with Christine Cown and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Christine, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Trust the unfolding process.

My business partner, Johanna and I (Christine) signed the dotted line of a love letter contract to own our yoga studio on Valentine’s Day of 2020. Little did we know that three weeks later, our entire world would be put on pause. During the following months, our build out halted as we held our breath (literally and figuratively). We watched countless yoga studios that had been firmly rooted in our community permanently shut their doors. Throughout the days that followed, we asked each other many times if we should abandon our vision for Haven Yoga and take this pandemic as a sign. Each time the doubt surfaced, Johanna and I were met with the same quiet push to keep going. As an act of faith, we moved forward building out our studio space without knowing if the pandemic would end, if people would ever feel safe again to practice yoga indoors, or when we would be able to open our doors.

Our mission at Haven Yoga is to cultivate a safe and loving environment for the community to move, breathe and meditate together. If this meant, forsaking our building plan for a while, we would simply choose to pursue our vision in a different way. Trusting the unfolding process meant looking up from our plan and seeing the people around us who were desperate for community, for movement, for open air to feel safe to breathe. Once summer came, we took to the outdoors, spreading our mats in the grass of a local park and welcoming all who would attend. During these Wednesday evenings, seeds of hope were scattered not only in our growing community, but also in our hearts as business owners. Each new (and old) face that showed up week after week was a reminder to not despise humble beginnings. It was also a reminder of the why behind our mission: people.

By the end of the year, our build out was complete. Walls furnished, lights hung, doors ready to receive all who were willing to enter. City officials had not returned to their buildings, however, and it left Johanna and I unable to receive our business license. Each day we checked our email box, hoping for some good news. Our brand new, beautifully cultivated space sat empty. We grieved the loss of not being able to share our studio with those around us. During a pandemic where many feel isolated and afraid, we understand that people need yoga now more than ever as a daily rhythm of life. A few days after Christmas, it finally came. We were given full permission from the city to open our doors. After 11 months of waiting, on January 4th, we held our first class at Haven Yoga.

Growth has been slow going, as people awaken from hibernation of being away from public spaces. Our vision for packed out classes and close-knit community has been temporarily replaced with temperature checks, social distancing, masks and lots of disinfectant. However, it has not stopped the spread of joy, self-compassion, and love that we hoped to build in our neighborhood. As we inch forward, we continue to trust the unfolding process just as yoga teaches us – gratitude for what is, letting go of what no longer serves, and finding freedom within.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I discovered yoga over fifteen years ago inside a friend’s living room with a pre-recorded video tape. My continued practice has led to an expanded awareness of God, my community and myself. With the encouragement of a counselor friend, I took an opportunity to complete a trauma-informed teacher certification, which changed my life. Not only did I experience deep inner healing, it also affirmed my desire to walk alongside others who are on the same journey. During this time, I met Johanna Bunch who invited me to partner with her in opening Haven Yoga ATL – a yoga studio on the westside of Atlanta. I aspire to cultivate a safe space for others to grow in their own self-inquiry through the practice of yoga, coming to the mat just as they are and leaving feeling a bit more like themselves. Yoga continues to serve as a sacred space to deepen my understanding of the body, mind, heart and soul. Yoga is a spiritual practice as much a physical one – a moving meditation.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My brother-in-law, Randy Pechin owns Little Spirit cocktail bar. I can’t say I am not a bit biased, but I think they serve up some of the most deliciously creative cocktails in Atlanta. I’d encourage you to grab a bike or take a stroll down the beltline, stopping in at Root at Ponce City Market for a croissant sandwich before shopping at Citizen Supply. If you’re on the Westside, take a class at Haven Yoga then go downstairs to Bellwood Coffee before going to lunch at Nuevo Laredo, hit up Jeni’s icecream, then dinner at Westside Provisions – Redbird or Aziza. Plant shopping at Flora & Fauna is always a treat, too! For a different experience, you can peruse the Battery, check out Garden & Gun for a great Old Fashioned before seeing a game.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Haven Yoga cannot exist without the loving support of our community on the Westside of Atlanta and all who venture there. Historic neighborhoods like Whittier Mill who have graciously hosted our outdoor classes, the Eddy at Riverside Landing and Reformation Brewery who believed in us enough to partner with our mission.

Website: havenyogaatl.com

Instagram: @havenyogaATL

Facebook: facebook.com/havenyogaatl

Image Credits
Johanna Bunch

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