Yoga Studios' Merger Is a Good Move for Tampa Bay

The entire Tampa Bay yoga community stands to benefit when Tampa studios The Lotus Room and Bella Prana combine forces in 2012.

I see the union of and yoga studios as fate weaving the two strong women and owners of two strong studios together into one fine garment of a yoga studio in 2012. 

This week, the fine fabric of the plan was revealed to teachers, staff and students of The Lotus Room, 1101 W. Kennedy Blvd., and Bella Prana, 2408 S. MacDill Ave. The two South Tampa studios will merge in 2012.

This is big news in the Tampa Bay yoga community. Roni Sloman, owner of Bella Prana, and Ali Mazza-White, owner of the Lotus Room, are joining together to create a new space and a new opportunity to unite the yoga community in Tampa Bay. The move combines their complementary nature and unifies them into one large, efficient and friendly space for 2012.

The story begins with one stitch of circumstances leading to the next.

Last year, Mazza-White took over ownership of The Lotus Room, sharing the name and student base with the Lotus Pond and former owner Val Spies. (You can read about it in my article .)

One early morning in October, Mazza-White was greeted with new “No Parking” signs all over the Room’s main parking lot. For more than eight years, the lot behind The Lotus Room had been the main parking for The Lotus Room, but the land is owned by University of Tampa. Until early October, there wasn’t an issue of who could park there, but when signs appeared, it left Mazza-White with a stark realization: “I knew that operating a 4,000-square-foot building without accessible parking was not a viable option for us; I attempted to negotiate with UT for several weeks, but we could not find a solution that worked.”

Coming to the end of a her lease, and pressured by the landlord to re-sign the lease without a parking resolution, Mazza-White realized her labor of love was being challenged. Mazza-White wanted to figure out how she could stay in the historic brick building and have space outside for her students, teachers, massage therapists, Rolfer and all the guests that came and went during the day.   

“Feeling emotionally raw, I was unable to find peace," Mazza-White said. "Right away, this allowed me to consider that something in our larger reality was happening and that it was OK that I did not have all the answers or any control over it. I was able to release any feeling of self doubt or fear and just breathe.”   

Mazza-White shared her dilemma with a close friend, who suggested that she speak to Roni Sloman, owner of Bella Prana.

“As I shared the situation with her and expressed my desires to take care of our students and teachers, her eyes lit up!,” Mazza-White said.

Unbeknownst to Mazza-White at the time, Sloman was coming to her own realization about her current studio setting. After being open for a year and a half and approaching her own lease renewal in June 2012, Sloman found herself threaded by fate in a meeting that was nearly a mirror reflection of her situation.

“Bella Prana (is) growing out of its current location, and I felt called to build a new home so that we can dream as big as we know that we are," Sloman said. "With the rich history of The Lotus Room and the unique vision that Bella Prana has for yoga in Tampa, Ali and I felt that this merging could be a powerful combination.”   

Using the tools of yoga and life path, Mazza-White said her final decision was based on “faith, goodwill, a deep core desire to serve and trust in a nonharming and beautifully benevolent universe.”

With regard to the current sister studio, a mass email from the Lotus Room and Lotus Pond read, “Although this merger does not include the Lotus Pond, we remain united in our love for yoga and offering service to our community.”   

The email assured students that both locations will still honor packages purchased at The Lotus Room until the merger is complete and “for a period of time afterwards.”

The merged studio will be conveniently located across the street from The Lotus Room, on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and South Edison Avenue, and will feature many amenities that the two studios don’t have now, including ample secure parking, two sun-drenched studios and showers.

All of the instructors from both studios and both schedules have promised to remain as close as they can to their current schedules for both locations.

“The proximity is ideal and will allow for an easy and graceful transition,” Mazza-White wrote to her students.

Yoga instructor Shelly Happel, a longtime and beloved teacher for both The Lotus Room and The Lotus Pond, said, “This deal is a win-win all around for students and the teachers. I am excited to be a part of it and look forward to lots of great things coming from it. The merger and new facility are a huge benefit for the Tampa Bay yoga community.”

Mazza-White echoed that enthusiasm. “Yoga is dynamic and beautifully diverse, and my vision for our community is that we all see ourselves as contributors and sustain a nonjudgmental, peaceful, and inspirational space for yoga to flourish in Tampa Bay," she said. "When they name the top 10 cities for yoga in America, I see us making that list within the next five years. Yoga in Tampa Bay is amazing … so spread the word!"

In her email, Sloman shared a powerful quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

We can all learn a lesson from these strong and courageous women. Whatever you want to call it — your weave, faith, serendipity, divine intervention — your thread is needed not only in your life fabric, but also to help strengthen another’s. Remember: One way or another, life will show you that connection, one thread at a time. 

If you want to keep up with the progress of this merger, subscribe to the Lotus Room newsletter by emailing thelotusroom@verizon.net.



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