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    The elephant leans against a wall. His name is Jude. He has dark, reassuring eyes. A third eye glows gold from the middle of his forehead. He was painted by Gabriella Gaona, who co-owns the Inner Warrior yoga studio with her mother, Sabine. To them, Jude is like the Hindu god Ganesh: lord of beginnings, remover of obstacles.

    It was a feat moving Jude from the boutique’s original location on Frankfort Avenue in Clifton to the new one in Distillery Commons off Lexington Road. They had to saw Jude out of the wall. From that wall, Jude had watched the small studio grow a big heart. Sabine, 54, and Gabriella, 24, knew from the start they wanted to host pay-what-you-can yoga classes, making it accessible and approachable for all. The first class in 2014 had two or three people. Soon, 31 — the space’s max. Mat to mat to mat. Yoga twice a week, workshops, meditations, live music, “sound-healing” ceremonies. “On top of that, people would come in on a daily basis, tell us stories about what they’d gone through,” Sabine says.

    Eventually, the shared heart beat out of its chest. Chill bumps form along Gabriella’s arms — dark like her Spanish father’s, in contrast to Sabine’s German-rooted light complexion — when she talks about the decision to move for more room. “When people walked into the Inner Warrior on Frankfort Avenue, it was like a sigh of relief,” Sabine says. “I wanted to make sure I could bring that energy (to the new location).” How to transplant all that love? How to move an elephant?

    Jude was like a real elephant: heavy. Some guys from the yoga community helped lug his wide frame up the metal stairs at Distillery Commons. Almost lost him. Sabine screamed, and the men roared like lions, pushing Jude into the space that’d been transformed from offices into openness, all those walls torn down. Sabine, Gabriella and volunteers knocked down and kicked in drywall. They removed the drop ceiling, exposed hidden bricks, wrangled insulation. One yogi who’d just finished electrical school fixed the messy wiring. The crew kept the wooden support beams and wood floor in place.

    Jude sees all. All the yogis, new and years-practiced, circulating through for the now-daily vinyasa or hatha or “wild card” classes. He sees the same desk, the one that Gabriella and Sabine made with wood from a wildlife sanctuary in southern Indiana where they often wander. Jude sees the donations from the community: the healing gong, the copper meditation pyramid, the rose quartz sphere that absorbed all the heart from the old space. He sees the lion, Durga, which Gabriella painted on the opposite wall. Durga’s mane is textured from knots in the wood, her face courageous, knowing. Together, they see the light, which pours in through the warehouse-style windows, illuminating everything.

    Inner Warrior will host a community blessing event for their new location this Friday, August 3. Stay up-to-date with the studio by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Photo by Danny Alexander

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