Stretching the Boundaries of Yoga

Photograph by David Lewinski

Designers tend to be conceptual, big-picture types. But even given that, pairing yoga with architecture and urban planning seems a stretch, so to speak.

It’s a connection that makes sense, however, to urban designer-cum-yoga instructor Barbi Stalburg Bell. “One is creating a physical space and one is creating a mental, spiritual, and physical space,” she says. Bell, who has a dual master’s in architecture and urban planning from the University of Michigan and is certified in urban design, chatted recently with Detroit Home.

How do you balance being an urban designer [Barbara S. Bell Design in Birmingham], and teaching yoga [Yoga Shelter in Birmingham, West Bloomfield and Royal Oak]?

I am focusing a whole lot more on yoga right now. Because of the economy, the independent consulting dropped off as the yoga picked up. I just take on small projects here and there, but mostly focus on yoga right now.

How has the economy affected your yoga business?

The yoga business has picked up as people look for ways to decompress and to de-stress and find inner strength in a changing environment.

Did you want your home in Birmingham to follow yoga principles?

I think design is about creating a series of experiences. As you move through yoga practice, it’s about creating a series of experiences within yourself and externally.

Is the practice of bodily alignment similar to the geometry of architecture?

No. The body alignments are essential in terms of tapping into a physical process. There are several types of yoga beyond the physical. The physical practice — what most people think is yoga — is really just one small, teeny-tiny piece.  b