Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Samdhana Karana Yoga

// New yoga studio offers sliding scale classes and a center focused on community

A new yoga studio joined the 6th Ave. business district back in September, and though Tacoma already has a few yoga studios in business, Samdhana-Karana Yoga has a few elements that make it stand out.

The yoga studio is not only a place where individuals can go to relax, rejuvenate and pose, but it is also a non-profit center where adults can be empowered through their practice. It also serves as a space where many community events can take place.

Creator, co-director and teacher Pamela Higley has been practicing yoga for 12 years. She originally started practicing as a result of her being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at age 5.

“Yoga became a great way to manage stress, grad school. It helps you handle things that come at you when working, traveling, etc.,” Higley said. “The more I practiced the more I was, like, this just makes me feel so good, physically and mentally.”

After leaving corporate America, Higley started to research what it took to become a yoga instructor in 2006. She visited the nonprofit Samarya Center in Seattle. “I found this website that had people of color, all different sizes and mobilities -- in wheelchairs, on crutches -- all doing yoga," Higley said.

“Most places you find really skinny women, but that’s not the norm! If I wanted to teach, I wanted to represent what I am. I’m not this tiny girl, I’m a very physically fit woman. I just loved it and embraced it and started teaching immediately and haven’t stopped.”

Higley acknowledged that she was inspired by the Samarya Center, but also, inherently, by the philosophy of yoga, which inspired Samdhana-Karana’s mission: “to make yoga accessible and available to persons of all incomes and abilities.” As a result, the non-profit offers its classes to the public on a sliding scale, something that is not offered at any other South Sound studios.

“If we want to have people practice yoga, the average price is $18 per class in Tacoma,” Higley said. “After I learned to teach, I went to studios when I needed to learn something new.

Higley met Vania Kent Harber and told her that she was planning on opening her own studio and soon found out that was Harber’s dream as well. In a month they sat down and plotted a way to make their mutual dream a reality.

Thus far, the community has been extremely supportive of the nonprofit.

“We have people who say ‘I have nothing,’ and we’ll take it,” Higley said. “Or, ‘here’s my loose change.’ We have people who say here’s my $18 donation to the studio. It’s a range of people who come in. I have regularly seven or eight people at my class, and that’s a healthy, good-sized class. To have that within two months, we’re serving the community and meeting something they wanted or needed. They’re very supportive of us.”

Together, Higley and Harber both make a great team. They each have unique training that meets the needs of their yogis.

“I am a doula, and Vania is trained in both pre and post-natal yoga,” Higley said. “We both bring different styles and students get everything they can imagine. Vania has been practicing for a few years, but brings a wonderful teaching of focused spine alignment.”

Both Higley and Harber chose to open their studio in Tacoma because it is where they live and they both wanted to be near their kids’ schools to foster community.

In addition to yoga, she has plans to use the space for more than yoga, including showing documentaries, kids painting workshops, and the center already has meditation that takes place on Sundays. She said “samdhana-karana” translates to “active healing,” which is what the multitude of activities aim to deliver.

In terms of the styles, Samdhana Karana offers hatha style yoga, but Higley teaches a vinyasa flow base, and can switch the intensity of her classes based on the students’ needs.

“We can work hard and some others don’t need to,” Higley said. “Vania does some flow as well, but also does iyengar style on teaching intensive alignment, pre and post-natal, restorative, meditation and yoga nidra, whch is a guided meditation. We have many different things under one roof and focus on the 8 limbs of yoga, with lots of emphasis on breath work.”

Samdhana-Karana Yoga is located at 3014 6th Ave. Classes take place seven days a week, and schedule changes regularly. For more information, class schedule or to contact the studio, call (253) 254-6157, e-mail or visit the website at