KENDALLVILLE — Brittany Mazzola Leath’s passions for yoga, books and reading, and fitness came together in 2019 when she became an adult services assistant at the Kendallville Public Library.
“Everything is lined up,” she said.
It wasn’t long before Mazzola Leath was developing basic yoga and barre classes for the library’s adult patrons.
Little did she know, however, that a few months later she would be delivering many of her classes online for virtual audiences.
Mazzola Leath teaches yoga classes, called Flow, every Monday at 5:30 p.m., and barre classes every Thursday at noon. She will soon begin classes at the Community Learning Center and continues to teach in Fort Wayne.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her classes moved from in-person sessions to online sessions on the library’s Facebook pages. Registration for in-person classes is done through the library’s website. Anyone can join the online Facebook class, streamed live on the Kendallville Public Library page.
“The library (class) is the base level,” she said. “We use a chair as our only equipment. All ages are welcome, from 18 to 70. We do squats, leg raises and calf raises.
Individuals can do the exercises with a full range of motion or they can do what is comfortable. The library has yoga mats available at checkout in its Things collection. Although most of her students are women, men are also welcome in her classes.
“It’s a judgment-free zone,” she added.
Mazzola Leath is a certified yoga and barre instructor for all levels in a studio in Fort Wayne. Fitness classes at the bar combine yoga, Pilates and cardio exercises.
“I’ve always loved fitness classes,” she says. “Online is just the icing on the cake.”
Being forced to take her classes online because of the pandemic had an unintended consequence: She improved her own yoga and barre practice because she could see herself on the computer screen and correct her form. .
Online courses offered another advantage. Library patrons can watch the practice multiple times when it suits them. Students who are serious about the exercises often contact her for more advanced instruction after completing the basics of the library course.
“People tell me all the time that they like the video and do it multiple times,” she said. “It’s 100% helpful to people. You do what you can.
Mazzola Leath doesn’t see the online platform as a permanent avenue for exercise classes, but it will likely continue as an option even after in-person classes become the norm again.
Mazzola Leath thinks yoga and barre exercises can help people cope with the burnout and mental stress of the pandemic.
A teacher for 10 years, she turned to yoga and barre to manage burnout and quickly moved into a career change.
“I got certified in January 2020 and in March the whole world changed,” she said.
Mazzola Leath worked with the Noble County Suicide Prevention Organization to promote yoga and barre as a method to deal with the isolation people are feeling due to quarantines, virtual learning and lockdowns.
Her yoga and barre practice also helped center Mazzola Leath for other life decisions. She married in October in a masked, socially distanced wedding, with food and dancing in different rooms.
“It was a tough choice,” she said, “but I didn’t want to put life on hold.”