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Local yoga instructors are joining together, using their practice to raise funds in support of a yoga studio that became the site of a senseless attack.

Yoga is the most peaceful of pursuits. So it was cruelly ironic that a gunman chose a yoga studio, Hot Yoga Tallahassee in northern Florida, to turn into a crime scene, killing two women and injuring others Nov. 2 before turning the gun on himself.

Marco Island yoga instructor Julia Szilagyi took the attack personally. She has a special relationship with the Tallahassee studio that was turned into a crime scene. As a college student at Florida State University, feeling adrift and gripped by anxiety, she took the advice of a friend and dropped in on a class at Hot Yoga Tallahassee. It changed her life.

The peaceful practice, the mindfulness and serenity Szilagyi found at Hot Yoga led her to alter her career path.

“My whole life, I had anxiety problems, and it heightened in college. When she started practicing yoga at Hot Yoga, “it transformed my whole trajectory. This was the place I felt very safe and supported,” she said.

Word of the shootings hit her hard, “like a violation, a broken trust.” Szilagyi reached out to Hot Yoga studio owner Brittani Whittington, to ask how she could help from hundreds of miles away.

“She said, ‘help us keep going.’ They still have that space closed” as a crime scene, but the business has a second location, said Szilagyi. In addition, the victims who were shot but survived have medical costs, bills to pay and lost income, complicating everything about their lives.

Along with her studio, Revival Yoga Fitness Studio at the Esplanade, Szilagyi contacted Laurie Kasperbauer, one of the partners in Marco Island Yoga, which holds their classes on the beach every day. The two groups agreed to co-host a fundraiser yoga class at Marco Island’s South Beach on Saturday morning, Dec. 15.

“I got the idea, and reached out to the ladies of Marco Island Yoga,” said Szilagyi. “They were super receptive."

There is no set charge to attend the yoga class, which is the standard practice at Marco Island Yoga’s sessions, but participants are encouraged to give a donation, $10 or whatever they can afford, to help those affected by what has almost become a routine event, another mass shooting in America – but one in which Julia Szilagyi’s case, feels very close to home.

She struggles to understand the mindset of someone who could gun down innocent victims, engaged in peaceful practices, with no rational motive and no consideration.

“What does it take for a person to walk into a church or a yoga studio and start shooting?” she asked. Julia has no answer, except to do what she can to help put the pieces back together.

In addition to the yoga practitioners, local healers and mental providers will be on hand at the beach, offering their services and explaining what they do. While the lineup of providers is fluid, Monarch Wellness, which offers therapy services including couples, family, and hypno-therapy, LIFE Home Health, a full-service home health agency based in Bonita Springs, and Jessica Yarab, the therapist/owner at Lotus Living Therapy, have expressed an intention to attend.

With the word spread to yogis of both Marco Island practices, and additional publicity, Kasperbauer and her fellow instructors Debby Amicucci and Megan Wood, along with Julia Szilagyi, are expecting a good turnout, with the number 50 mentioned.

Along with the yoga session by the waters of the Gulf, and the additional healers and their materials, there will also be raffle prizes offered by local businesses.

The event, “Yoga Means Unity,” will be held from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, on the beach adjacent to the South Beach public access point opposite Gene Sarazen Park, where parking is available. For more information, contact Julia@revivalyogastudiomarco.com.

'Yoga Means Unity'

What: A beachside yoga event to raise money for victims of a shooting at a Tallahassee yoga studio

When: 8:30-9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15

Where: The beach adjacent adjacent to the South beach public access point opposite Gene Sarazen Park.

Also: There will be no set charge but participants are encouraged to donate.

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