Don’t get down, dog. Flip Dog Yoga is turning the ideal of the yoga body on its head. Owner, Nick Dobkowski, has his mat on a mission to make the Grand Rapids yoga scene accessible to all shapes, sizes, and colors.
“I moved to Grand Rapids about five or six years ago,” he says. “I was a yoga teacher and went through a lot of different studios and didn’t find a place that fit. So, I decided to create my own.”
Opened at 1511 Plainfield Ave. NE in the Creston neighborhood in June 2018, Flip Dog Yoga strives for a welcoming, inclusive space. Instructors include Dobkowski, Melissa Andreychuk, and Andre Daley.
“In terms of what we do in the studio, we’re giving people a lot of different options for poses,” Dobkowski says. “Instead of saying, ‘If you can’t do this, do something else,’ we say, ‘Here is this pose and here are some different ways to get into it and the different things you are feeling, all of that is good.’ We help you find the form of the pose that makes sense for your body.”
Dobkowski also has good advice for people who want a yoga body. You have a body. Do yoga. He is quick to mention that yoga is not so much about the body as about the mind.Flip Dog hosts weekly outdoor yoga at Briggs Park.
“You access mental benefits through the physical practice,” he says. “Yoga is a time to quiet your mind and notice what is going on in your body—that takes the practice from something that is being done to you to something you are doing.”
Before COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Flip Dog classes included Flow Yoga, Flow 45 (Flow Yoga, slightly more convenient), Slow Flow, Power Yoga, Yoga for Dudes, and Yoga for Athletes.
“Generally, yoga is a practice marketed towards women,” Dobkowski says. “In a similar vein, classes for larger bodies and yoga for people of color gets at the idea that yoga really is for all people. You can’t just say it and then not do anything different. Sometimes people will say talking about race only makes the problem of race worse. I think you actually have to talk, talk about the lived experience of people of color to be inclusive.”
Instead of closing its doors in March, Flip Dog Yoga created innovative ways to keep students involved. Classes moved online and, when allowed, to Briggs Park. From June 20 to 28, Dobkowski led students in 108 sun salutations virtually, 12 salutations each day for 9 days, with options for varying body sizes and abilities. Usually performed all at once, Flip Dog broke them down to provide students a rhythm and routine in the midst of uncertainty, be more accessible, and help strengthen and uplift rather than exhaust.
The yoga in the park classes were designed to provide a safe way for people to connect as well as practice their poses. The drop-in classes cost $9. Designated “donation classes” have raised money for the Urban Core Collective
and Grand Rapids Pride Center
“The racism in our country has led to a lot of protests. The donation classes gave us an opportunity to serve those communities,” Dobkowski says. “That’s something we do every so often on Sunday afternoons. We want to get people out of the house and do yoga.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Flip Dog Yoga