Community Spotlight on Yoga Den SouthsideSep 01, 2020 09:18AM ● By Erin Lehn
Connor James, owner of Yoga Den Southside, in Jacksonville, got his first taste of yoga in his early teens while visiting family in Jamaica. “One of my favorite cousins, a yoga instructor, convinced me to practice with her on that trip.” While he found the experience relaxing, James admits he didn’t give it much thought afterward.
Around the time of James’ high school graduation, his yoga instructor cousin moved to South Florida. Again, she persuaded him to do yoga. This time, something clicked. Soon, he was taking daily yoga classes in the months leading up to his first semester at the University of North Florida. “Yoga was becoming an integral part of my life,” recalls James. “I knew I’d want to continue taking classes when I moved to Jacksonville.”
James began researching Jacksonville yoga studios and discovered that Yoga Den Southside catered to university students due to its proximity to the school. “Around this same time, I sat next to a woman who was taking her first yoga class after being in a car accident. We began chatting and I learned that her daughter practiced at Yoga Den Southside.” James took this as a good sign. Soon after he arrived in Jacksonville, James signed up for his first class at that studio. “The minute I stepped into the space, I knew I was home.”
Yoga Den became James’ sanctuary, and after practicing yoga almost daily for a year, he enrolled in the teacher training program. “I wanted a deeper understanding of how this breathing and movement was changing my life so much,” says this yogi, who began teaching at Yoga Den Fleming Island as soon as he completed the course.
After a few months of teaching back-to-back classes, James became Yoga Den Fleming Island’s studio manager. “I loved being able to support myself through college doing something that was so aligned with my values,” says James.
After graduation, James began an extensive job search and eventually accepted a position at a company in West Palm Beach. “It was a really stressful sales job, and while I learned a lot, the most important thing I learned was that I missed teaching yoga.”
Soon after this realization, James was back in Jacksonville attending a Satsang concert. “I looked around at all the people surrounding me. Again, I had that strong feeling that I was home.” Unable to ignore this strong inner calling, James immediately secured a new place to live in Jacksonville and within days was back teaching at Yoga Den, this time at the Southside studio.
James, now owner of Yoga Den Southside, is in awe of how much synchronicity played a part in his career path. That, and his ability to stay true to his heart. “The overarching theme of my life is about making choices from a place of love. How can I create more love in the world? Staying at that other job, I had to fight my heart—every day. I knew I couldn’t continue that path any longer.”
However, the Yoga Den philosophy was always something James could wrap his heart around. “The core of our community is inclusivity and a willingness to accept anyone regardless of ability, disability, race, gender or sexual orientation. This is a community that doesn’t have to work hard to see the best in others. We’re all on our mats for different reasons. Why we’re there doesn’t matter. It’s inspiring to be a part of it. It’s so nourishing for the soul.”
Even with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Yoga Den team strives to uphold those standards—whether it’s through online class offerings or ensuring emotional and physical safety in the studio space. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to create a space where that beautiful, magical, collective yoga experience can occur,” assures James, who adds that the addition of the CASPR (Clean Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction) system, along with implementing other important safety protocols, helps his studio maintain those high standards.
James feels confident that Yoga Den Southside is a safe and healthy place for people to practice. “We’re so grateful to have the online platform, but there’s nothing like being in the studio, smelling the incense, hearing the giggles and sighs. It feels so good to be back in our vibe.”
Yoga Den Southside studio is located at 4195 Southside Blvd., Ste. 102, in Jacksonville. For more information, call 904-888-6880 or visit Yoga-Den.com.