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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

True Grinnellian: Monica St. Angelo

Monia St. Angelo is a devoted community member in Grinnell. Photo by Mai Vuo Phuoung.

Sometimes it’s hard to find peace in your life, a reality that Grinnell students know all too well. But Grinnell resident Monica St. Angelo has found a powerful way to relieve stress in her everyday life that she hopes to share with Grinnellians: yoga.

St. Angelo is in charge of Locally Grown Yoga in Grinnell, where she works as an instructor and administrator. She also teaches two free yoga classes every week in the Faulconer Gallery, on Mondays and Thursdays from 12:15 to 12:50 p.m. The Faulconer Gallery classes provide a way to relax among art work, as St. Angelo encourages everyone practicing yoga to go at their own pace and do what makes them comfortable. Apart from being a good form of exercise, St. Angelo sees yoga as a way to connect with oneself on a deeper level.

“The most basic philosophy of yoga,” she said, “is that when you quiet your mind you have a chance to see your own nature. I think in general it can just be a really good tool to relieve stress and help you be centered and grounded in your life.”

What sets yoga apart from other forms of exercise is that it is intended as a spiritual practice as well as a physical one. St. Angelo discovered the healing power of yoga almost by accident when she decided to try it out at her local gym and it quickly became an important part of her life, taking her from being a yoga student to owning a yoga studio.

St. Angelo’s friend, Jenny Zink, started Locally Grown Yoga when she decided to put the then-vacant space above Bikes to You in downtown Grinnell to good use. After talking Bikes to You owner Craig Cooper into allowing her to use the space, Zink began transforming it into a setting where people would enjoy doing yoga. St. Angelo became Zink’s partner, and when Zink moved away, St. Angelo took over the studio, which she has run and taught at ever since.

“I hope it’s a place people can feel comfortable,” St. Angelo said of the studio. “It’s a happy space to be environmentally. It’s got high ceilings and brick walls and faces east. There’s also a really comfortable, supportive group of people, and I hope that it’s a positive addition to people’s lives if they choose to come.”

Since becoming a yoga instructor, St. Angelo has also taught yoga to trauma survivors as a way to help them heal.

“Oftentimes people who are survivors of trauma have a real separation from their body and yoga has been shown to be a good tool to kind of take back that aspect of yourself,” she said. St. Angelo guides trauma support group members through breathing and gentle movements, helping them connect to their bodies in a new way. Although the program has been dormant for a couple of years, St. Angelo hopes to revive it soon and bring it to more people.

Apart from being a yoga instructor, St. Angelo is involved in other aspects of the Grinnell community, including volunteering for the Band Boosters for Grinnell High School, where her two children are students. The organization hosts fundraisers that allow the band program to replace uniforms and instruments as needed. She also helps with Local Foods Connection, which assists Grinnell residents in accessing local food. The organization saves money to purchase food from local farmers and then provides that food to locals in need.

St. Angelo has been a resident of Grinnell for eighteen years, but she didn’t always think she would live in such a small town. She grew up moving a lot with a father in the army, and lived in New York City, Wisconsin and Rhode Island before moving here with her partner, who works for the College.

“I love the people here, whether they’re connected with the College or with the town. They’re really thoughtful and interested in making a better place for everyone here,” she said. “I’ve never lived somewhere so small in my life and when you live in bigger places you always think, ‘They don’t have this there, they don’t have that there,’ but I feel like for the most part we’re all looking out for each other in this town.”

If Grinnell’s community is what makes it special, St. Angelo should definitely be counted among those doing important work to make it better. Whether by teaching yoga at Locally Grown or in Faulconer Gallery, helping trauma survivors, volunteering for high school music or helping distribute local foods, St. Angelo is invested in helping Grinnell be as good as it can.

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