We are busier than ever these days, and with that incessant busyness comes added stress. We forget to take a break and check in with our mind, body and spirit.
Few know that better than Margot Broom, the creative entrepreneur whose wellness oasis, Breathing Room Yoga in New Haven, is celebrating 10 years. These days, Broom has an army of wellness practitioners and a calendar packed with activities in her expanded space. Things started out much smaller.
Yoga has been a part of Broom’s life since she was 13, when her friend’s mother, a yoga teacher, introduced her to the practice. Broom went to her classes and was drawn in by her teachings. “I was definitely the youngest in the room for many years,” she recalls. Broom started a yoga program at her high school which carried into college.
With a degree in business, a passion for interior design and a longtime love of yoga, Broom had a burgeoning trifecta of success under her mat. She just needed the forum to bring it to life. She had worked for an architectural firm as a design assistant before the market crashed in 2008. She soon found herself at a local antique shop designing vignettes on the shop floor. Broom then struck a deal with the owner and converted the back of the shop into her own yoga studio. With the charm of exposed brick, lanterns and a tall ceiling, Broom created makeshift walls by hanging fabric with good ol’ binder clips. Little did she know, it was the birth of the Breathing Room.
Broom would work in the shop between 8 a.m. and noon, teach a class, get back to work until 5 p.m., then teach yoga again at night. Slowly but surely she grew the practice. “In 2011 I realized we needed walls, and more space,” Broom says. With $12,000 from online fundraising, construction began on a new space on Chapel Street. “I drew the floor plans and helped take down walls and pull up flooring. A year later we took over the room across the hall.”
Community building became a natural extension of her efforts. But there were challenges. Despite the positive feedback and growth, Broom knew the business would quickly grow out of the Chapel Street space. Her design chops kicked in and she began searching for Breathing Room’s next home.
The Crown Street building has triple-vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces and a barrel-vaulted lobby. Broom says “it was an architectural dream,” but still only large enough for one yoga classroom. Soon, the landlord informed her that the connected building was open. “There was 5,000 square feet of completely raw, untouched-for-20-years space. No electrical, no sprinklers, completely raw … I was able to negotiate [terms] with the landlords, the city and the state to join these two buildings together and create a full 8,000-square-foot wellness center.”
In 2017, Breathing Room opened for a free class. Broom was floored when 98 people showed up. “We packed yoga mats into the main classroom, lobby, hallway and cubbie rooms.” It’s one of her proudest moments.
Today Breathing Room has a lobby, boutique, three yoga rooms, a room with 12 aerial hammocks, a naturopathic doctor’s office and common wellness space. It is airy and clean, and both large and intimate. It is a model of cooperative space with practitioners in every wellness field you can imagine. “A year after we opened I had the opportunity to help out multiple practitioners who needed space for their massage and pilates businesses,” Broom says.
With a fleet of directors, desk employees and more than 35 contracted teachers, the wellness center now runs more than 50 classes a week and hosts teacher trainings, workshops and national events.
During a recent visit, I ask Broom how she finds time to breathe; despite its calming nature, Breathing Room is still a bustling business. “Self-study, or swadhyaya in Sanskrit, has been a huge tool for me to bring balance into a busy life of teaching and running a business. Through learning from my teachers … going to therapy as well as meditation, I have been able to find my breathing room within myself.”
Breathing Room Yoga, naturally, offers loads of yoga and workout options. But we asked Margot Broom what activities she’s most excited about.
Acro: “You get to work with a partner on various sequences that combine yoga moves, partnership and acrobatics,” Broom says. It typically involves one person lifting a partner or balancing on them. Picture a stretching, backbending circus act. If yoga is the melding of mind, body and spirit, Acro is the melding of two people’s minds, bodies and spirits.
Aerial flow: You slip into a sling-like hammock that’s hanging from the ceiling and make your gravity-defying moves. “Students practice balance, inversions and various moves for flexibility,” Broom says. You can hold poses, such as headstands, and do tricks, such as swings and back-flips, and use it as a trainer for various exercises. And when it’s time for a rest? “The hammocks at the Breathing Room will soon be used for good, old-fashioned (scheduled) nap times,” Broom says.
216 Crown St.,
2nd floor, New Haven