Yoga Barn Breathes New Life Into Historic Space

By Chelsea Harrison

If you’ve ever driven through Severna Park down the Earleigh Heights Connector, you have likely noticed a unique building sitting astride the B&A Trail. At 44 W. Earleigh Heights Road, on a large lot surrounded by suburban communities, there stands a barn with red sides and a burned wood plank face with two wide welcoming barn doors. While the barn used to look like just a misplaced rural structure, local residents have noticed some attractive changes in the last 6 months. The Yoga Barn, a co-op of yoga and wellness instructors, opened in this space in November 2021, and has been breathing new life in the property ever since.

Cindy and Doug Shafer purchased the barn and some surrounding property, including the Listman market property across the street from Nelly and Conrad Listman. The Listman market buildings date back to 1929 and housed a general store and butcher shop into the early 2000s. The barn was built in the 1960s and served many functions over the years such as an art studio, storage space for the store, and even antique car storage.

The Shafers have big plans for this property in the heart of Severna Park, says Cindy. “Our dream is to have a place where we’ll have family gatherings, a stage where local musicians can play, a firepit area, hopefully there will be a market over there [in the location of the Listman buildings]. A sense of community is what we’re looking for, a gathering spot for everyone.”

Carleen Birnes and Cindy Schafer collaborated on the idea to open a yoga studio in the barn space. Birnes, who has many fitness connections from her involvement in Howl Health and ChesSUPpeake, was approached with the idea of leasing the space for her own businesses. Instead, Birnes had the idea of a co-op structure, in which instructors could share rent costs and be paid directly by clients.

Yoga Barn opened with a group of ten instructors, with the idea to try out the co-op model for a few months to see how it would work. The community has embraced Yoga Barn and offerings have been growing ever since. Birnes says the model has been successful because “when people pay you direct, you can set your own prices and have a sustainable living teaching and helping elevate people’s health and wellness.”

The system benefits client, as well, since different styles and modes of yoga are offered by a variety of teachers. Some of the courses offered include Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Slow Flow, Therapeutic Yoga, Dharma Yoga, and Turn Up Dance Fitness.

Yoga Barn hosts wellness events for all ages, including Stress Buster workshops for teens & tweens, a kids yoga series, and events with local musician and storyteller, Frolic the Fox. They also plan to host food trucks on the property in coming months. The Barn is also available to rent for private events, offering a centrally-located, blank canvas space.

When I attended a community yoga class with teacher Heather Gwaltney on a Wednesday evening in May, the class was well attended by yogis of all ages and abilities. The white walls inside are adorned with handmade tapestries and art, much of which is for sale from local artisans. Yoga mats and props are available to borrow.

Gwaltney was very welcoming, offering each student to draw an intention card before starting class. The pace of the course was solidly intermediate, though modifications were mentioned throughout class to help students increase or decrease the difficulty level depending on their goals. Since I had only attended online yoga classes since the beginning of the pandemic, my Yoga Barn experience reminded me what is so nice about practicing in community with a live teacher: personal feedback, social interaction, getting out of one’s own space (and head), and a sense of communal encouragement and achievement.

No reservations or memberships are required to attend a class: