On the mat // Finding a new path

Brandyn Herbold and Mario Negri are building a new yoga community in Tangletown

Brandyn Herbold was at a crossroads when the idea sparked for her new studio Sigh Yoga.

In early 2008, she sold her shares in SKY Sotheby’s International Realty, the upscale real estate company she co-founded. She was also recovering from a kidney transplant she had at the Mayo Clinic the fall of 2007.

“I thought, ‘now what?’” Herbold said. “[This business] has been my identity for 15 years.”

So she turned to her yoga mat to find some answers. She had been practicing hot yoga since 2004 and decided to enroll in the two-month teacher training program at CorePower Yoga in downtown Minneapolis last May.

After completing the training program and meeting the founders of Off the Mat Into the World, an organization based in Venice, Calif., that does yoga outreach projects all over world, she knew she wanted to share her love for yoga with the community and open her own studio with her fiancé Mario Negri, who also practices yoga.  

Despite the rough economic conditions, the North Loop couple felt passionate about their idea and confident they could launch the business since they both have experience starting their own businesses.

They opened Sigh Yoga + Boutique at 54th & Lyndale in Tangletown earlier this year. The 1,900-square-foot studio offers a variety of classes catering to people of all levels, including traditional hot yoga, vinyasa, restorative and jivamukti — a distinctive style that focuses on integrating the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of yoga.

Their mission is to create a studio that serves the neighborhood and embraces what they consider their core values, which are listed on their website. On top of their list is integrity. “When you say something mean it; do it! It’s that simple,” they wrote.

Considering what the couple has gone through in the past couple of years, launching a new business doesn’t seem particularly challenging.

They met in October 2006 through mutual friends. Herbold had recently moved to Minneapolis from Sarasota, Fla., and Negri had returned to the city to be closer to his family after living in London.

They knew they had a special chemistry right away, but had no idea how their lives would unfold.

Herbold has a genetic condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease. In June 2006, her health started to deteriorate. Her sister has the same condition, but she wasn’t able to donate a kidney. Negri, however, was able to donate his kidney just as Herbold faced going on dialysis.

On their one-year anniversary of dating, they underwent the transplant surgery at the Mayo Clinic in October 2007.

“The experience was surreal. My surgeon took my hand right before I went under and asked me if I could have one wish what it would be. I said to marry the man saving my life in the other room,” Herbold said.

Recovering from the surgery was a painful and humbling process. When she started up her yoga practice again, she shed a lot of tears.

“Yoga has been a real healer for me,” she said. “Physically, spiritually and emotionally.”

Since opening in March, the studio has been attracting many people new to yoga who live in the neighborhood.

Jamie Kell is one of those new students. She lives in the Windom neighborhood and decided to try a class. She got hooked right away and now practices several times a week.

She had been looking to start a new fitness routine, and has found yoga not only physically challenging, but also a good way to deal with stress.

“I’d have to say it’s been a life-changing experience,” Kell said, who works for a healthcare startup. “I’ve met so many people in the neighborhood.”

Jo Mary Fahey, one of the teachers at Sigh, echoed Kell’s thoughts about the studio.

“It’s a really special place,” she said. “It’s very homegrown and organic.”

Sigh Yoga is one of several yoga studios in Southwest.

Jeffrey Bores, one of the city’s most popular yoga instructors who is the director of taraNa, a studio in Kingfield, said studios come and go. Successful ones have competent and compassionate teachers who can provide high-quality, individualized instruction. They also have a sense of community.

“I’m glad more and more people are turning to yoga, because it has the potential to change people’s lives from the mundane to profound,” he said.

Herbold and Negri are working to connect more people with that type of experience.

“If you want to shop, eat or practice yoga at a locally owned place that is hip, cool and unique, or whatever adjective that fits your need, then it requires someone to take the risk and do it,” Herbold said. “One of our favorite quotes, ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world,’ by Gandhi, hits close to home for us.”