When Stacy Pinto was searching for a yoga studio back in 2013, she had a specific idea in mind.
“I wanted a place that was equal parts fitness and om—a place where East meets West,” Pinto recalled. “I was new to the area and a new mom. I hadn’t practiced since I was pregnant and was desperate to get back on my mat.”
When she came across the newly opened “The Funky Om” in Huntington and met owner Milard Roper, Pinto knew she had found her place.
“Milard greeted me and I instantly felt he had that vibe—fitness and om,” Pinto said. “He was authentic.”
All of which is music to Roper’s ears. A Long Island native, Roper is also a licensed acupuncturist, massage therapist, Board Certified Chinese Herbalist and Kung Fu expert. When he opened the studio his goal was to create an environment that would incorporate this varied background.
“I wanted my studio to be the kind of place where I would want to practice yoga,” Roper explained. “It was important to me to tie the philosophies of yoga together with the fitness aspect.”
The Funky Om continues to gain popularity and recently expanded by opening up a second, larger location, The Funky Om 400 on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington. The Funky Om offers a wide range of yoga classes, such as Heated Vinyasa, Forrest and basic. The studios also provide a variety of wellness services, ranging from Chinese Herbal medicinal consultations to acupuncture and massage therapy. The Funky Om Café serves up delicious, wholesome food including salads, smoothies, chia pudding and carrot cake; all the food sold at the café is 100 percent organic (down to the salt) and is made on the premises.
Roper is trained in Forrest and Bkakti yoga (Forrest focuses on a strong physical practice and Bhakti emphasizes both the physical push as well as yoga philosophy); he is also a Kirtan (chanting) enthusiast.
“Kirtan has such a rich tradition,” he said. “Every culture does it in some way—everyone loves music. It lends itself to a deeper aspect of the practice.”
Soon after opening his first studio, Roper began offering free weekly Kirtan sessions.
“There are some who come only for the Kirtan and never take a yoga class, while some do both,” Roper explained.
The unique combination of wellness treatments, organic food and yoga classes with caring, expert teachers keep students coming back for more.
“Everyone at the studio is so welcoming,” said Amanda Martensen, who takes regular yoga classes. “The teachers really take care of you and there is such a sense of community and acceptance.”
Martensen was dealing with an illness when she first started practicing at The Funky Om and is now in remission.
“I’m convinced that yoga has helped heal me,” she said. “Being a part of this community has helped me both mentally and physically.”
The teachers share Martesen’s sentiments.
“There is a true energy within the walls that radiates throughout,” said Lauren Levine, who is also an art teacher and owner of Good Life Yoga. “Our teachers learn alongside our students; we work as a community to enrich one another with a variety of wellness practices. By teaching spirituality through the reality of everyday life experiences, our teachers use powerful philosophies and share them in comical, understandable and heartfelt ways.”
“As a special education teacher of 20 years, the concept of inclusivity has always resonated strongly with me,” added Leslie Van Bell, who teaches two classes a week at the studio and co-facilitates the 200-hour yoga teacher training program with Roper. “We have been able to build and sustain a community where people can move, breathe, sweat, connect, find stillness and sing their hearts out—sometimes all in one class. Teaching in this community truly nourishes my spirit and inspires me over and over again.”
The Funky Om hits the sweet spot on many levels. It’s a place to physically, mentally and spiritually nourish the body, and for many, the soul. It’s a place where people come to practice yoga and end up being a part of a community. A place where fitness truly meets om.