AUM STUDIO for WELLNESS: Where Yoga is Just the BeginningOct 01, 2023 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton
Yoga Room (Photo: Anastasia Alkema)
Even though about 70 percent of the classes at Aum Studio for Wellness are yoga classes, owner Yuliya Stepanov decided not to put the word “yoga’ in the studio’s name. She didn’t want to limit it. So, while yoga remains at the heart of the studio’s identity, it makes up just a part of Stepanov’s expansive vision for it.
The studio blossomed into existence incredibly quickly. Just last year, Stepanov had been working independently, teaching yoga, leading art classes, taking people on retreats, conducting women’s circles—even teaching people how to stand on nails—as a part of her passion to help people feel more balanced, enhance their self-awareness and thrive more in their lives.
So it was a surprise when Stepanov woke up on January 1, 2023, with a “very clear and confident idea” to open a space that would nurture well-being and help people feel that “life is getting better,” she says. She knew several professionals in town who had valuable practices, techniques and workshops to share with the public, but they had no space from which to teach. After spending nearly two weeks asking the hard questions and having deep discussions with her husband, businessman Eugene Stepanov, about it, they decided to launch the business. By February, they’d found the Alpharetta studio location and fell in love with it. And on April 23—in just over three months—Aum Studio held its grand opening with nearly 200 people in attendance.
Something for Everybody
Stepanov planned to offer a wide variety of yoga classes for the studio, but her instincts guided her to also offer classes and workshops that would support creative expression, self-inquiry, building of community, and even having fun. Dance classes, Pilates, meditation, journaling and belly dancing are now regular class offerings. But the studio also offers unique workshops that deepen awareness and creativity and facilitate personal and spiritual development. Become Your Unstoppable Self, Goddess Yoga, a Mandala Art Workshop and a women’s circle are a few of the selections.
Alison Gurevich, a yoga and meditation teacher and certified Grief Movement Guide who teaches at Aum, loved what she saw being built. “I love the physical practice [of yoga],” says Gurevich, “but Yuliya recognizes that it can be a gateway to so much more. I love that she is so open to exploring way beyond just the asana, and I was fascinated by her approach—that she wanted to approach dance and art and kids club and make it into a whole community.”
“I wanted to bring something for everybody,” says Stepanov. “I have people who come to dance classes. They’re not interested in yoga, but they can connect with us, and they can connect with themselves, and they really have fun and enjoy taking a dance class. I have people who just come for the art classes. Maybe they have their own physical practice, and they just come for the art classes and enjoy that. I have people who come just for the workshops and, again, some don’t care about the classes—maybe they live far away, and they can only come for the transformational workshop that’s happening over the weekend. And I love this idea that we can communicate on different levels with different people, depending on their needs and where they are.”
While it might sound like a smorgasbord of disparate choices, there is a palpable aura of connectivity among all of Aum Studio’s classes and workshops. To Stepanov, all of the elements have the intention to help people nurture their wellness and well-being in common.
Gurevich says her experience in the studio’s five-hour meditative art class transformed her “lack of” artistic skill, thanks in part to Stepanov’s knowledge of sacred geometry. “Everything she brings together is so thoughtful, with nourishment for mind, body and soul,” says Gurevich.
Welcoming Family and Building Community
Another way that Aum Studio goes beyond the expected is that it is a place for the whole family. “Where some yoga studios are more of a tiny retreat space,” says Gurevich, “I think what lands most uniquely about Aum Studio is its family dynamic. There will be gatherings on a Friday night with kids and spouses and siblings and just people coming out.”
Aum Studio offers several classes just for kids, including Kids Yoga, Kids Dance and Kids Discussion and Games, but its most unique and ambitious offering for young people is its Kids Club membership. From 4 to 6 p.m., kids can hang out, take a class or do something creative in a room set aside just for them. “They can choose what they want—they don’t want to be forced to do something after school,” says Stepanov. She’s seen kids play with colored paper, play board games, and even teach themselves how to knit. There’s always studio staff to watch the kids, and parents are welcome to hang out with them or take a yoga class if they want.
Stepanov believes in the power of community—that conscious communities of like-minded people can foster well-being. She surmises that part of the rampant depression in our times is that people feel alone; they feel that nobody understands them. Community can be a powerful antidote to that. “It’s like what happens in our women’s circle. When they feel safe to express themselves, when they can relax—wow. Magic happens,” she says.
A Safe Space to Grow
Creating a safe space for people to explore, create, move and learn without limits is a priority at Aum Studio. “I never used to prioritize myself,” says Chhavi Mehrotra, a math teacher who has been attending classes at Aum since it opened. She faced challenging health problems last year and needed healing and time to recover. “I knew my life needed something, so I tried many classes [at Aum]. And I’m just loving it. It’s been a perfect way for me to combine my spirituality and my fitness needs.” Mehrotra says friends and family have commented on how great she looks. “I’m just enjoying my journey through this,” she says.
With such a diverse and extensive set of offerings, is Aum Studio trying to do too much too fast? No one knows, of course. The studio is still in its early stages and is growing and evolving quickly. Stepanov seems to have a system that works for her. “I trust myself and go with the flow; I choose things that feel right to me. I’ve learned more and more to listen to my body and how it reacts to things. I don’t know exactly where I’m going to be in a year, but I love to be where I am.” ❧
Aum Studio is located at 11550 Webb Bridge Way in Alpharetta. For more information, visit AumStudioForWellness.com.