Zen Yoga Garage
Piper Parker knows a thing or two about client loyalty. In fact, the very first person to join a class at Zen Yoga Garage did so before the studio even opened its doors. “He signed up without even seeing us,” Piper says. “I just met him on the street! And he’s still coming, six years later, every morning at 6am.” Then, with a sly smile crossing her face, Piper adds, “He better not move!” And suddenly the space is filled with laughter.
Yoga, of course, is serious business, and it takes a truly dedicated person to keep a studio successful. But there is a distinct lightness found at the Zen Yoga Garage. Students and teachers alike, everybody within those four walls (or three, on the summer days when the garage door is folded up) is genuinely happy to be there. Even with new yoga studios cropping up all over Chicago, many of which holding names of recognizable franchises, people remain loyal to the Garage. A key aspect of this, Piper says, is inclusivity in the community. “When I was little I wanted to open a dance studio. That was before I discovered my passion for yoga.” She found that these studios were more than just places to practice a craft, they were “vital community spaces.” From day one, the Garage has always reached out to the Bucktown community, engaging with residents and business owners alike.
The garage aesthetic is part of this dedication to inviting all kinds of clients. Piper decided to keep the red paint from the Jiffy Lube that once occupied the space not only to harken back to Bucktown’s past, but also in an effort to attract more male clients. “This is such a traditionally feminine practice with female practitioners, and we wanted to make it male-friendly and appeal to everyone.” Also, she says, the red paint was “just really cool.” Sometimes that’s the best reason of all.
The choice to open the studio in Bucktown was an easy one. Having managed other studios around Chicago (notably in South Loop and Gold Coast), Piper found that Bucktown has “more community than any other neighborhood in [the city]. The history of artists in this neighborhood still rings true today.” She knows those might be fighting words for residents of Andersonville and Boystown, but there’s no denying that Bucktown has the highest concentration of locally-owned businesses in the city. It’s a theme we’ve found a lot in our profiles of Bucktown residents: there’s a deep communal connection here, evidenced by the support people show for each other in a way that is rarely found in many cities across the country.
Zen Yoga Garage currently teaches four formats of yoga: Vinyasa, Hot, Flow Burn, and Burn. They’re always changing, however, and are working toward starting construction on expanding the studio space in order to offer meditation classes, test out different yoga formats, and even have dedicated healing rooms on hand.
Finally, we couldn’t leave our interview with Piper without asking about her favorite mindfulness tip as we transition into the summer months. “Sun A, everyday,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a great way to greet the sun. I think of it as full body prayer, and it snaps me right in focus, connects me to breath, keeps me centered. I never miss doing it.” Even on days where Piper is too busy to start her morning with “Sun A,” she is sure to find time to perform the yoga move before the day is over.
Piper Parker is someone who shows up and does the work every single day, and that’s part of why we at Olive Well love Zen Yoga Garage so much. We see how hard our neighbors work, and we strive to keep up with them daily.
Photography by Alina Tsvor
Text by Eric Grant