By Sharon Gittleman
ROYAL OAK – Namaste Yoga owner Linda Makowski didn’t always teach people about the ancient spiritual and physical art of yoga. For 12 years, she inspired women to speed down the courts to victory as a woman’s basketball coach for Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Dayton in Ohio and George Washington University in Washington, DC. Later, she spent a dozen years helping others as a social worker before she took over Namaste Yoga in Royal Oak in 2003.
“I was a student there,” she said. “I was at a crossroads on my 50th birthday.”
Makowski said she never expected to buy the studio. She made that life-changing decision when her teacher, the previous owner, told Makowski she’d decided to move out of Michigan.
“I don’t know if it was instinctive, but I said ‘yes’ when she asked me to take it over.”
Yoga teachers and their students have a sacred relationship, said Makowski.
“The teacher is a conduit – not in a voodoo way. There’s a foundation of knowledge a teacher should have about body movement and a knowledge of how powerful the practice is,” she said. “It’s a little like holding a delicate flower. If you hold it too tightly, it’s crushed. If you don’t hold it tightly enough it slips through your fingers.”
Yoga is a 5,000 year old art, science and technology, said Makowski.
Yoga brings life to a grinding halt for an hour or two, allowing practitioners to obtain a deeper awareness of themselves, she said.
“All the craziness of the mind recedes into the background,” she said. “You slow down your breathing and let thoughts of the day slip back into the back of your mind. It’s energizing and calming at the same time.”
Many people in the West treat exercise as a bitter pill Ð a punishment for indulging and proof that our bodies aren’t good enough as they are, Makowski said.
“That’s what keeps people from doing things,” she said.
Makowski said Yoga was instrumental in helping her feel more comfortable with herself as a lesbian.
“The practice has helped me come to terms with a genuine love for who I am,” she said.
At Namaste, you’ll find dozens of classes, from basic level poses to the more vigorous Ashtanga Yoga sessions.
You might choose to attend the graceful flowing Anusara, the energy-building Kundalini, the deeply meditative Yin Yoga classes or the breath and movement focused Vinyasa sessions. Other choices include restorative, better back, pre-natal and toddler-and-me courses. Some classes include a mediation period.
“We have a lot of teachers and a lot of different styles,” she said. “We have 40 classes offered seven days a week.”
Diversity is Namaste’s specialty, said Makowski.
That diversity has won Namaste acclaim from students and others. Namaste has been selected as “Detroit’s favorite yoga studio” and the “best suburban oasis” by several Michigan publications.
The “oasis” designation made Makowski especially pleased. She said her practice of yoga over the years has given her a heightened sense of calmness.
“There is a natural melding of being present in my body as well as a deeper awareness of my spirit,” she said. “There is a sense of peace I’m able to experience.”
It’s that sense of peace Makowski hopes to share with everyone who walks into her studio.
“I think people are looking for something to tap into a little deeper,” she said. “A lot of us live on the surface of our lives.”
Makowski strives to ensure her studio lives up to its name.
“‘Namaste’ is a Sanskrit greeting that means, ‘The divine in me sees and honors the divine in you,'” she said.
Namaste Yoga offers walk-in and class packages, with reduced fees for seniors and students.