It’s one thing to operate a yoga studio, and another to operate a beacon of wellness. Phoenix Artemisia falls under the latter category with Watsonville Yoga.
The studio, located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Watsonville, is a space for yoga, capoeira, ballet, pilates, African dance, massage, acupuncture, salsa rueda, belly dance, hypnotherapy, and more. It’s a former bank building—as evidenced by the vault door near the massage room that opened in 2016—now operated with the local community in mind.
“For years now, people who have the money can go out and drink and eat, but what else is there?” Artemisia says. “Sometimes there are activities in the plaza here, but post-work and weekend evening activities are often lacking. So we are trying to have more opportunities for folks who want to do something else.”
Watsonville Yoga was one of the first studios in the area to offer bilingual classes, catering to Spanish-speakers who want to go to yoga and dance classes. “I think we are one of the only places outside of San Francisco that offers classes for monolingual Spanish speakers,” Artemisia says, leading the way to the larger of two studios, the Sol room, a 1,000-square-foot studio for classes including heated yoga and dance.
“Our intention and approach is inclusivity, bringing people who are curious about yoga together from all walks of life,” she says. “Sometimes there is shyness between people due to the language barrier in this community. I want to create an atmosphere where people can mingle and bond.”
In the past, the studio offered a yoga class for farm workers, though Artemisia says they currently aren’t offering it because of the teacher commitment and low attendance. Aside from yoga and wellness, the business also prides itself on local artwork and community events.
“We are juggling a lot of pieces to make it accessible, like we have discounted class prices at night to get more people to come out for the evening classes,” Artemisia says, noting that the morning classes are some of the most popular.
Most of the teachers at Watsonville Yoga are locals, specializing in specific practices like Tai Chi or healing arts. While the majority of the classes are yoga-centric, Artemisia says they want to offer something for everyone. The studio has collaborated with the Mount Madonna Institute, local schools and Arts Council Santa Cruz to bring yoga and wellness to the broader community. They offer weekly community acupuncture for $25 in hopes of making alternative medicine and wellness more affordable—a big perk when acupuncture often costs triple that amount.
“The response to what we are doing here has been good, but it’s taken a lot longer than it would have if we were in Santa Cruz or Los Gatos,” she says. “The concept that we have here has a lot of integrity, but being in downtown Watsonville was hard at first because it is under-occupied by businesses and was not in and of itself a destination of sorts. People use Main Street to be on their way somewhere, and for many years it hasn’t been a regular place to hangout or spend time. But I think that’s changing.”
Artemisia is particularly excited about the potential downsizing of Main Street from four to two lanes, which she hopes will bring an intimate, community feel back to downtown Watsonville.
“All of this traffic is a major problem for us. It’s dangerous for the public and pedestrians and bad for the local businesses,” she says. “This is a beautiful, old, historic place that, before the earthquake, people used to enjoy walking around and socializing.”
Artemisia says she’s noticed more people spending time downtown in recent years. “I think that newer businesses here, including Watsonville Yoga, are making it intriguing for people to come here to rediscover the really special attributes of downtown Watsonville while enjoying exciting and healthy cultural and social activities.”
375 N. Main St., Watsonville. watsonville.yoga.