After discovering the benefits of yoga and meditation, Daniel Sernicola and Jake Hays opened their own yoga studio to bring the gift to others.
Danja Yoga opened their doors Dec. 12, 2020. The studio located at 1125 Oak St. offers a variety of yoga classes for students at every experience level and welcomes participants with open arms to embrace their individuality while finding a safe place to breathe and meditate.
“People view us as two large guys with bulk,” Sernicola said. “We want to bring yoga to people that wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
Aside from opening Danja Yoga as business partners, Sernicola and Hays share their lives together.
“We met eight years ago on Facebook and started dating,” Hays said. “We then started lifting together and doing yoga stuff.”
Being bullied throughout his life, Sernicola said he wanted to take matters into his own hands and start working on himself and his physique. He started to build muscle, but then lost flexibility in his joints, reaching a point where he was unable to tie his own shoelaces.
In 2014, Sernicola and Hays started taking yoga classes for beginners at Life Time Fitness in Dublin and immediately fell in love with the practice. They said they wanted to garner the additional benefits of yoga beyond the physical aspects and started to venture to other yoga studios, including Yoga On High.
Sernicola and Hays taught yoga to groups throughout Columbus, including the Ohio State men’s crew team, the Westerville crew team and the Upper Arlington crew team. Additionally, the duo said they work with youth experiencing trauma and were distinguished for their instruction by the Board of Directors of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center in 2016.
“Yoga has helped me, and I wanted to offer that gift to other people,” Sernicola said.
Danja Yoga took three years to create, but the owners said their plans did not include a pandemic. However, Sernicola and Hays remodeled the studio to make it safe for students to practice.
“We are operating at a 25 percent capacity,” Sernicola said. “We’ve installed a state-of-the-art energy-recovery ventilation unit that pumps fresh air into our space.”
Sernicola said the studio is cleaned and sanitized twice every day. Students are required to wear masks throughout the entirety of sessions to ensure the safety of all members in attendance.
Opening the studio during the pandemic was a big challenge, Sernicola and Hays said. Yet, when the decision came to decide whether they should proceed with the construction back in June 2020, they decided to take a leap of faith and go forward with the project.
“We want to promote healing in such a rough time,” Sernicola said. “To teach people how to take a few breaths and quench their anger.”
Sernicola said Danja Yoga brings together friends, neighbors and students, offering those who have experienced trauma in their lives an hour each day to relax and find peace. He said a compassionate community begins within the individual.
“We want our students to get outside, take the peace and calm and give it to the community,” Sernicola said.
Barbara Ellen Held, one of the instructors at the studio, said she teaches Reiki, a form of yoga for healing, and Gentle Yoga on Mondays and Wednesdays. Held said she fell in love with the facility and the way Sernicola and Hays make her feel welcomed and taken care of.
Held said she starts her classes by asking students whether they have any special requests or areas in their bodies that hurt them, in order to make their experience as personalized and accommodating as possible. She said she encourages all students to come and try yoga for themselves.
“Please try it. It will transform your body, mind and change your life,” Held said.
Danja Yoga offers a free drop-in class with the code 112020 as well as a 10 percent discount for Ohio State students and faculty members.
“You will find every excuse not to come,” Sernicola said. “Every single student experiences feelings of inadequacy or feel uninvolved, and we want everyone to feel that they belong.”
To register for classes, visit the studio’s website or the Mindbody App/Online.