(Jake Rozin photo for boston.com)
Entering the Inner Strength Yoga studio in West Roxbury, one is met with a blast of warm air. Whirring fans come together with faint chanting music to set the scene.
Inner Strength’s studio has been open for only a few weeks, but already there are enough mats to fill the room. Some students come from Inner Strength’s other studio, in Watertown. Others wander in from the neighborhood.
Many attend for the instructor, Roman Szpond, an ex-Marine who has been teaching yoga for 15 years. At his studio in Watertown, he has built a reputation for creating an encouraging, non-competitive atmosphere.
Now he is opening his doors to a new clientele – different from the Newton and Chestnut Hill suburbanites who flock to his other location.
The idea for the new studio stemmed from Szpond’s desire to bring yoga to a more urban setting.
“How can we reach more people?” Szpond described as his main motivation. “How do we show them that there is a better quality of life for them?”
While there are other yoga studios in the area, Inner Strength’s niche is in offering “sophisticated, mature teachers who are educated on safety, alignment, philosophy, and [most importantly], the consistency of classical yoga,” Szpond said. He teaches some of the classes and hires experienced instructors for others.
West Roxbury resident Leslie Ajl used to attend Szpond’s classes in Watertown, but the new studio is just a five-minute drive from her home.
“It’s nice to have him local,” she said. “This new location is bringing in many different groups. We don’t have many [other studios] here.”
Szpond spent the last few months sprucing up the vacant building on VFW Parkway—a space he had rented as a studio once before, but then closed for personal reasons.
In his own class, he begins with breathing exercises. The distant smell of incense, the dim lighting and subtle colors put one at ease. At first, the yoga positions are easy and the transitions are slow. But not for long.
The positions quickly become more difficult, and the pace quickens.
“Warrior pose. Low push-up. High push-up. Upward dog,” Szpond instructs.
Szpond joined the Marine Corps after high school; he said the experience taught him personal discipline and the value of camaraderie. He tries to take those lessons and apply them to yoga, which he was drawn to initially because of the physical workout it provided.
While he worked as a personal trainer at a gym in Watertown, a client had invited him to India for a month. He remembers starting yoga on a beach.
“It was incredible,” he said. “Those thirty days opened my heart and mind so much.”
When he came back home, Szpond said he knew he wanted to teach yoga full time. “This is it,” he said. “This is what I want to do.”
At the end of the class, sweat glistens on the foreheads of students and teacher. The participants roll up their mats, collect their water bottles, and return to busy Boston lives, outside Inner Strength’s doors.
Client Carol Harris feels rejuvenated.
“Yoga is good for stress and conditioning,” she said. “It really transforms you if you stay with it.”
This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Jake Rozin, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (firstname.lastname@example.org), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.