FAIRFIELD — Maria Betts’ goal is to help people transform themselves physically and emotionally.
She recently opened The Zen Den Yoga and Dance Fitness Studio in downtown Fairfield. Her customers do yoga-based stretching and meditation to help them maintain both their muscles and their inner lives.
Betts previously taught classes at the Kroc Center in Suisun City. But she wanted a place of her own, a place with its own, carefully molded atmosphere. She chose the storefront at 821 Texas St., Suite B.
This narrow storefront previously housed an indoor batting cage with blue walls and a turf-like green carpet. Now the cracks of the bats by youths learning baseball are gone. The walls are gray, the floor has the look of hardwood, the rooms are quiet.
Betts describes the decor as calming and designed to subdue anxiety.
“I wanted to create a sacred space where I could include more of the spiritual aspect that goes with yoga practice,” Betts said.
Betts grew up in New York. She recalled going to a Manhattan bookstore on a school field trip as a sixth-grader and seeing a book on yoga.
“I just started doing it in my room,” Betts said.
Betts went on to a career in Manhattan as a hair dresser and still does hair dressing work at The Zen Den. But witnessing the Twin Towers crumble during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, gave her another perspective on life. She said she wanted to get away from Manhattan and what she saw as an atmosphere of pushing and rushing.
“That showed me you can do all of that to get to work and you might not get home,” Betts said.
Her sister lived in the Fairfield area. Betts made the move.
“I said, ‘Wherever I end up, I’m going to make the best of it,’ ” Betts said.
She had a mobile business at first, doing hairdressing work for weddings and special events, showing up on location. She offered yoga classes at various locations.
“Now I have space,” Betts said. “I can be stationary.”
She chose downtown Fairfield for the location of The Zen Den.
“Ever since I moved here in 2001, I just knew it was the heart of the area,” Betts said.
Betts offers a gentle stretch class in the morning and yoga and dancercise in evenings. People stretch their muscles and release tension. Betts called the stretching a form of self-massage.
“I see us as working on the emotional and spiritual by way of the body,” Betts said.
Arlene Jones of Vacaville attends the morning gentle stretch sessions. She called the sessions “very relaxing.”
“I felt like my body, as I am aging, that it was tightening it up, with arthritis and different things setting in,” Jones said. “I wanted to lengthen and strengthen my muscles.”
Two weeks at The Zen Den made a difference in her daily life.
“I can bend down to get the pots and pans out of the bottom cabinet without pain,” she said.
Nina Rodriguez of Fairfield said she is almost 68 and wants to remain strong and flexible.
“I like yoga a lot because you use your body instead of using a machine,” Rodriguez said.
Betts offers different types of workouts for the young and the old. She also keeps an element of spontaneity in her work.
“Every class I do is different, based on the bodies that are there,” Betts said.
Go to www.zendenyoga.com or call 347-9363 for more information on The Zen Den.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.