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The Suburbanite
  • Yoga business is personal for Portage Lakes woman

  • The heart of the Portage Lakes, home to lakefront bars, restaurants and associated summertime revelry, seems like an odd place for an oasis of meditation, contemplation and social conscience.  And yet, in the shadow of the clock tower is a storefront where women in tights and sweat pants come and go on a sunny afternoon carrying towels, pillows and yoga mats.

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  • The heart of the Portage Lakes, home to lakefront bars, restaurants and associated summertime revelry, seems like an odd place for an oasis of meditation, contemplation and social conscience.  And yet, in the shadow of the clock tower is a storefront where women in tights and sweat pants come and go on a sunny afternoon carrying towels, pillows and yoga mats.
    Inside Embrace Your Essence Yoga, Emily Fatkins led students through some meditation at the beginning of the class that set students’ intention for what was to come. Sometimes she strummed a guitar as she talked, encouraging students to find their own pace and treat each other fairly in their daily lives.
    “I just wanted to talk a little about non-violence,” Fatkins, 29, told the group. “In the ‘60s there was civil rights, women’s rights, everyone was working to get rights they deserved. But it was only Dr. Martin Luther King who advocated non-violence. He proved there was a way to get rights in a peaceful way, and to reach everyone.”
    Fatkins kept talking as she guided the group through floor moves and sun salutations, tying her spiritual lesson to the physical moves.
    “That non-violence is something to work for and to take note of in how we’re treating our body,” she said. “When we are firmly invested in non-violence our world will settle down.”
    Throughout the class it was mind, and spirit, over matter. “Embrace your struggle,” Fatkins said. “Be where you are. If there’s a voice in your mind saying you can’t do this, just breathe it out.”
    Fatkins has been teaching in the Portage Lakes for about a year, since February in her own studio at 499 Portage Lakes Drive.
    She started her own yoga practice in 2004, while a graduate student in New York. Since then she’s lost 140 pounds and has been taken off prescribed thyroid     medication.
    “Somewhere along the line, I am studying these principles of psychology and I thought, ‘It’s probably time to start applying this to my life’.”
    She initially intended to study the effects of yoga on mental health, but her professors weren’t supportive.
    “They believed in prescriptions, and I thought, ‘Well, I believe in yoga.’ So I decided to become a yoga teacher first. Now I am going to Ursuline for a dual master’s in art therapy and counseling. It’s a perfect fit for me.”
    Susan Walak, of the Portage Lakes, has been studying with Fatkins since she walked in to redeem a Internet coupon.
    “I did yoga at a fitness center,” Walak said, “then on television and finally here, so I guess I have been in the market for a class.
    “I keep telling her she should call the classes ‘Yoga and Stress Relief.’ I’m busy all the time and I have a lot of stress, then I come in here and Emily calms you,” Walak said.
    Page 2 of 2 - “She really gets into your head. One day she said, ‘Think of someone you should forgive or help.’ I  did and ended up crying!,” she said with a laugh.
    “Another time, she played guitar at the end and I fell right asleep.”
    Fatkins is a Portage Lakes native and attended Hoban High School. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2005, then relocated to Buffalo to study for her master’s before returning home in 2010, the same year she obtained her certification as a yoga teacher.
    At the Portage Lakes Studio, Fatkins gives classes for adults and adolescents. She said the practice is beneficial for teenagers in some surprising ways.
    “Yoga does a lot for kids,” Fatkins said. “The relaxation helps with focus and concentration, which improves grades and study habits and improves memory.
    “Especially with young women, yoga helps with self-esteem and body image,” she said. “It’s a period when they become disconnected from their bodies, but yoga brings them back in touch and helps them be more loving, especially toward themselves.”
    Fatkins regularly holds what she calls “off the mat” public service benefits for homelessness and human rights issues, as well as yoga camps for kids.
     For more info visit www.embraceyouressenceyoga.com.