Mindful Places: Baltimore Area Offers a Range of Spaces, Styles and Philosophies for Relaxation and Connection


The terms mindfulness and meditation may conjure images of leotard-clad “hippies” sitting cross-legged on yoga mats chanting themselves toward higher consciousness. And while that may be the case for some, in a stereotypical sense, a quick tour of Baltimore-area mindfulness and mediation centers reveals there is much more to discover, and many more ways to tailor your unique journey to a healthier, more relaxed approach to navigating the world.

For decades, science has supported mindfulness and meditation practices as leading to improved overall health, reduced stress and better emotional control. So, if you are feeling the need to slow down and gather a little inner peace in this complex, frustrating, fast-paced world, find a center that fits your specific needs and learning style, and take the first steps on your inner journey of discovery.

Heather Hax and Justin Temple, Baltimore Yoga Studies (Courtesy)

For Mindful Yoga: Baltimore Yoga Studies
At Baltimore Yoga Studies, aspiring yogis work in a group setting to better understand their bodies and minds through yoga. Specifically, instructors and co-directors Justin Temple and Heather Hax teach Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga, which differs from traditional yoga classes due to its focus on one-on-one instruction and self-guided practice.

Rather than going through different poses during every class, students of Ashtanga yoga focus on perfecting and memorizing a few specific poses.

“Ashtanga, both the practice and the word itself, is rooted in the eight limbs of yoga in the Yoga Sutras,” Hax explains. “At Baltimore Yoga Studies, our goal is to impart not only asana [postural] practice, but also we believe that the combination of asana and philosophical practice offers students tools to build a better world.”

Baltimore Yoga Studies opened after the closing of Temple and Hax’s previous studio, YogaWorks. The yoga studio is also partnered with martial arts school Guardian Baltimore, and a portion of its membership fees help keep the school’s youth jiu-jutsu classes free and open to the public.

Hax says that Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is unique because of the opportunities it offers for closer mentor-student relationships between yoga instructors and practitioners.

“Practicing Mysore style allows students to get personal attention in a way that is not possible in led classes. Because we do not have to keep the pace of a class, we can work with students more closely, answer questions and offer specific feedback. Frankly, we think [this] is one of the best ways to develop a yoga practice,” she says.

TNAT Holistic Wellness Center (Courtesy)

For Mindful Cultural Practices: TNAT Holistic Wellness Center
Dennis “Ausar” Winkler offers an African-centric experience at the TNAT Holistic Wellness Center in Hamilton. The center primarily focuses on services for Black and Brown clientele, often incorporating African dance, relaxation techniques and even cuisine through an on-site restaurant.

TNAT offers both spiritual and science-based mental health programming. Every Sunday morning, community members are welcome to participate in weekly Mindfulness Meditation classes. And for mental health-related issues that require more professional assistance, Winkler also offers his services as a psychotherapist and counselor. He notes that being open about mental health struggles and seeking counseling has often been viewed as taboo in the Black community, so it is important for TNAT to offer a welcoming environment.

“We take an African-centered approach,” Winkler says. “We serve our community as family members, so we don’t cut any corners. With our psychotherapy offerings, community groups and food—my wife is our chef—the idea is to give the best of what we can to our community.”

For those seeking a more active approach to mental and physical health, TNAT also hosts several martial arts classes, from the stress-alleviating qi gong and tai chi to more intense sports like kickboxing and Okinawan karate.

For Mindful Classes: TRIBE School of Embodied Arts
While the new TRIBE School of Embodied Arts markets itself as a school, its owners and staff want it to be viewed as a place of fun and relaxation as well as one of learning.

Through classes in yoga, dance and martial arts, as well as wellness services like massage therapy, TRIBE aims to encourage people to make positive changes in their lifestyle and practice self-care.

TRIBE’s opening is planned for Saturday, April 6.

The owners previously owned Movement Lab, a fitness studio offering yoga and dance classes. But many wellness centers in the area closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging its management to make a change and try their hand at a new business.

“We’ve been very invested in what Baltimore is doing for the wellness space and the fitness-movement industry, and we wanted to come together to create something,” says Gary Grisham, TRIBE’s director of member experience. “The word ‘tribe’ is synonymous with brotherhood, sisterhood and community, and that’s what we believe the city, the country, the world is really in need of right now.”

TRIBE’s offerings are informed by the idea of the five elements: wood, represented by mixed movement arts; fire, tied to their yoga offerings; earth, related to dance and breath work; metal, represented by their massage therapy options; and water, because of their unique cold plunge services. Grisham says he feels that the latter really sets TRIBE apart from other wellness centers.

“I would describe [TRIBE] as where the art of wellness meets robust fitness and expressive modalities,” Grisham adds.

Geoffrey Bogg and Becca Steinbach, Inner Nature (Courtesy)

For Mindful Mysticism: Inner Nature
Nestled in the rolling hills of Finksburg, in Carroll County, Inner Nature takes a more spiritual approach to wellness. With a mission to “ground heaven on earth and inspire truth and love,” in the words of co-creator and steward Geoffrey Boggs, the wellness center describes itself as a soul community and works to act as a peaceful respite from the outside world for its clients.

For Boggs and co-founder and fellow steward Becca Steinbach, opening Inner Nature was a step on their own journeys of self-discovery and trying to live a more peaceful life. They hope to help others do the same through on-site classes, workshops and “playshops.”

Inner Nature’s two-acre property lends itself to the nature-based approach the business takes. Clients are offered the opportunity to help tend the land through gardening classes, as well as participating in programs that utilize the center’s vast green space.

“We have an opportunity to really incorporate working with Mother Earth, and to grow ourselves with the land,” Steinbach says. “We craft a lot of our workshops to help people live intentionally.”

Steinbach is a shamanic practitioner and reiki master, and often incorporates her expertise into Inner Nature’s offerings. Boggs does the same as a wellness coach and a massage practitioner. They offer both one-on-one programs as well as community events.

“We view ourselves as a place of nourishment and safety, where people can just be themselves and find calm in the chaos,” Steinbach adds. “We welcome everyone with an open heart and open arms.”

Christina Fraling, Virtual Oasis Meditation Service (Courtesy)

For Mindful Technology: Virtual Oasis Meditation Service
For those hunting for a truly unique, and even futuristic, spin on meditation and mindfulness, Virtual Oasis Meditation Service in Catonsville provides seekers with a panoply of experiences in the comfort of their own, quiet space through virtual reality.

CEO and owner Christina Fraling says that Virtual Oasis is the first dedicated virtual wellness center in the country. And while the idea of using virtual reality and augmented reality technology to improve mental health and offer a relaxing experience is not new, Virtual Oasis offers a designated space for it.

“It’s no secret that people are looking for a more effective, efficient, holistic way to incorporate moments of peace and mindfulness habits into their lives,” she says. “[Virtual Oasis] provides guests with private, in-suite, self-guided, virtual reality meditation realms within a safe, quiet space so that guests can comfortably escape their daily stresses to relax and immerse themselves in a peaceful, tranquil VR meditation experience.”

Meditating with the assistance of a VR headset can make the practice more accessible for people who are insecure about meditating in a class of people, as well as creating an immersive experience free from outside distractions. Through the VR meditation app Tripp, Virtual Oasis clients can meditate anywhere from on the beach to floating in space.

“One of the top five reasons people might be hesitant about meditation is that they struggle with the visualization aspect,” Fraling explains. “The visual effects and binaural beats we use help people focus, and allows them to destress and decompress more than traditional meditation might.”

This story includes Work by Susan C. Ingram.

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