Sangha Yoga Studio and Wellness greets namaste to Austin community with new ownership

Published 7:06 am Tuesday, August 20, 2019

During the regular business day, Trish Harren serves as the Mower County administrator. While she may have to juggle multiple responsibilities, such as assisting the county board and acting as the head of several different departments, Harren also has another role that requires some flexibility.

Harren took ownership of Yoga Studio of Austin on Aug. 5. Yoga Studio of Austin has been around the community for about three years and was based at 401 N. Main St. on the second floor. A couple months ago, the studio was moved to 18th Avenue NW in the same building as Total Fitness. This space, however, was too small and too noisy for a proper yoga session to proceed in a meditative manner. So, Harren approached Kelly Kingland, the original Yoga Studio of Austin owner, about her concerns. She didn’t expect to end up becoming a new owner of a yoga studio after the conversation.

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Kingland expressed her confidence that Harren would take care of her studio and help continue to grow the yoga community in Austin. Taking to the studio’s Facebook page, she wrote a post that shared her sentiments about her beliefs that Harren “will continue to help this community thrive in health, happiness, and love.”

“Although I write these words with tears, I am truly happy,” Kingland wrote. “I am happy knowing YSA will be in good hands, (and) that the studio will continue to grow. I am happy you, the students, will be able to continue your yoga practice in a great space, with knowledgeable, sincere instructors. I am happy to have met all of you, to have had the chance to share a yoga class with you, a smile, a conversation. It’s brought so much joy to my life, and I will carry and cherish these memories forever.”

Since Harren works full-time as the Mower County Administrator, she needed approval from the Mower County Board to have this personal side venture as it could be seen as a potential conflict of interest. She said that the commissioners were fully supportive of her endeavors.

Harren also needed to have someone run the day-to-day operations at the studio. She entrusted Heidi Harrabi, who is one of the yoga instructors at the studio, as the new studio manager.

When Harren was interviewing for her current county administrator position last year, she was staying in Austin and wanted to find a yoga studio. She came across Yoga Studio of Austin and joined a class. Since she moved to town, Harren became a committed student, and as fate would have it, Harren was taking Harrabi’s class.

“(Trish) came to my yoga class,” Harrabi said. “One of our mutual friends said ‘you gotta meet Trish.’”

When Harrabi and Harren first met, they found a connection that sparked a genuine friendship. The two would congregate after yoga classes and “dream” about owning their own yoga studio that built a community for those who wanted to practice it. Looking to build upon the presence of yoga as a welcoming and inclusive place, Harren changed the name from Yoga of Austin to Sangha Yoga and Wellness. The word “sangha” derives from Sanskrit, which translates into “community.”

“That’s what we want to build,” she explained. “We want yoga to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability and income.”

Then, Sangha was moved back into its old location on Main Street. Harren noted how the plans fell into perfect alignment with the timing of her gaining ownership of the yoga studio, along with her and Harrabi’s aspirations to go into a yoga studio business together.

“We started dreaming about giving wellness services to the community,” she said. “It really is a perfect partnership. I can see the bigger picture and bring leadership to this business, and Heidi brings her professional business knowledge and technical aspects of healing.”

It seemed to be that the two were destined to become friends and embark on this journey together as business partners, all while sharing the love of yoga with others.

“We developed a friendship and I think we were meant to create something together,” Harrabi enthused. “We started visiting possibilities and look where we are now. We put our energies out into the universe, and the universe has blessed us. We share the same visions. It’s really serendipitous.”

Building a community

Inside Sangha Yoga and Wellness, the studio underwent some renovations and changes. The walls were painted earth tones that corresponded with different chakras and a calming atmosphere was spread throughout the space. Changing rooms were placed near a main studio that’s heated, and a private studio where individual yoga sessions are offered was also encompassed into the floor plan. Along with the sale, the Sangha Yoga and Wellness inherited 130 memberships as well as seven instructors (eight including Harren, who is not currently teaching any classes because of her full-time commitment to Mower County).

Harren and Harrabi changed into their yoga attire and stretched. The two laughed as they performed partner exercises together, the duo attuned to their exercise and focused on meditation. Doing yoga was their comfort and their refuge from the hecticness that’s taking place out in the world.

“Yoga is really powerful,” Harren said. “I find myself wanting to ease the suffering of people, and my journey with yoga has really grounded me, and I’m ready to share yoga with others. Those types of things will change your life and permeate your spirit.”

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated from India and is a group of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines that contributes to the overall wellbeing for those who participate. Medical studies show that regular yoga helps with relieving lower back pain as well as cardiovascular health.

Sangha offers various forms of yoga classes for those at different levels, such as beginner’s yoga and even a barre class where students would do pilates, ballet and other forms in a heated studio to workout.

A common misconception of yoga is that because of its Hindu origins, it is also a religious practice. Harren explained that though the practice is “spiritual” it is not by any means a religion. Rather, it can be a spiritual experience to help connect a person to whatever deity or higher power they believe. Or, it could simply be a therapeutic way to exercise and calm the mind.

“It’s misunderstood,” Harrabi said. “Yoga is a road to spirituality, but not a religion. It helps connect with your higher self, and resonate with your deity or higher power, or with whatever you believe. I think that if you’re a leader in yoga, you should have a journey of healing yourself and be completely immersed in it.”

It was almost as if Harrabi and Harren were meant to become friends, and yoga would be the connecting piece.

Both women found yoga 24 years ago. Harrabi wanted something to help manage her depression and anxiety. She couldn’t find anything “mainstream” to help her. One day she came across some yoga video tapes at her library and decided to try it out. She soon discovered was her innate love for the practice and became hooked.

“It was a huge change, not just in exercise, but me as a completely different person,” Harrabi said. “Yoga has really transformed my life. I don’t think we could do our jobs without it. Yoga is a big part of my life.”

Harren’s journey was different. She had a college professor who firmly suggested that she take up yoga and meditation while obtaining her degree. At first skeptical, Harren tried it and soon became enthralled with yoga after finding herself grounded and managing her stress better. She traveled to various yoga conferences around the United States and obtained her yoga instructor license.

“I’m really intense and high-strung,” Harren said. “Yoga helped me find my ground and manage stress while maintaining balance. I really fell in love with it. It has brought me to this place where I found balance in the chaos of the day-to-day.”

Heidi Harrabi, left, will help manage Sangha Yoga & Wellness, which is under the new ownership of Trish Harren, right. Eric Johnson/

Holding a vision

The spread of yoga’s popularity in the Midwest was a long time coming, Harren shared. While the movement may have been more commonplace in metro areas such as Los Angeles, New York City and even Denver, yoga made its way in the Twin Cities and slowly started spreading throughout Minnesota.

While Austin does have several offerings of yoga classes through the YMCA, Community Education and some sessions at Austin Congressional UCC with Pastor Shari Mason, there wasn’t a dedicated facility for passionate yogis like Yoga Studio of Austin.

Harrabi is also an independent contractor for Sister Moon Herbals and Ayurveda.

“I started making herbal products in 2014 and opened an Etsy shop,” she said. “I love natural medicines that help you be well. Yoga was originally meant for holistic therapy and students would receive herbal remedies, and it’s only part of a bigger wellness program.”

After taking ownership of the business, there were bigger aspirations and goals that Harren and Harrabi had for their newest adventure. They envision opening up a retailer inside where students can purchase equipment and attire. There were also plans to open an apothecary shop that deals in natural herbal medicine and massage therapy.

“It really is a beautiful thing that we’re living our purpose,” Harrabi said. “We’re using the gifts that were given to us to share with the reset of the world. Everyone has a purpose, and we wanted to share that.”

It seems that Sangha Yoga and Wellness was ready to continue growing its reach and spread its message that those who love yoga, or are curious, would be welcomed.

“We’re holding this vision,” Harren said. “We are hoping to outgrow this space and build a community. To build a sangha.”


If you’re interested in taking a yoga class, the first session is free. Contact the studio at 507-210-7636 for more information or to ask about class schedules.

Address: 401 N. Main St. Suite 200, Austin, Minnesota 55912