PeaceLab Yoga

Sharing the Art and Science of Yoga

PeaceLab Yoga opened in 2012 as the first yoga studio in Grandville, MI.  The studio offers classes 7 days a week to students of all ability levels.  Classes fall into one of 3 categories: Lab classes, Flow classes, and ReNew classes.  Lab classes are teaching- based, Flow classes are vinyasa(movement)-based, and ReNew classes are gentle and restorative.

A dude walks into a Yoga Studio...

Hi, my name is Tom. I am a student, as well as a teacher, at PeaceLab Yoga. I teach Basics Lab every Tuesday at 6pm. When Melanie (studio owner) asked if I would be interested in writing something for the website blog, I was more than eager. 



November 30th was my “yoga anniversary”, the date I first took a yoga class. Thinking about this date made me reflect on my yoga journey. 


Before yoga I had jogged for a few years, which I did enjoy. Jogging was peaceful, my mind focused only on that it was great to hear the sounds of the city and nature around me, (no ear buds for me). After that, I started going to a gym and jogging on the treadmill as well as working out on some other contraption.   I still have no idea what it did, but I did break a sweat when I was on it! The gym was really boring, impersonal, and very unfulfilling and so I began going less and less.  I knew that some form of exercise was needed and so after searching the Internet I came across the PeaceLab Yoga site and bought a 10-class pass. I had never even thought about yoga, even less about purchasing a class pass, but the deal for 10 classes was too good an offer to pass up. If I had just bought a “drop-in” class that might have been a one-and-done thing. If you know me well, you know I’m frugal, not cheap mind you (maybe I am, but I like the term ‘frugal’ much better), but I pick and choose where to spend my money. So, whether I liked or did not like my first time at a yoga class I was going to get the most out of my investment. My first class was a Monday night Basics Lab class at 6pm.   I walked in with my newly purchased, cheap, flimsy mat.  I checked in, signed the waiver and walked to the far corner of the studio and set myself up, just trying to hide and find out what this was all about. Before class started, this blonde woman walks up to me and introduces herself, “Hi, I’m Melanie”, “Hi, I’m Tom” I reply. The only thing I remember about the rest of the class was that we did “deep thigh stretch at the wall”, and that is it!  If you know “deep thigh stretch at the wall” you understand why that is memorable. If you are unfamiliar with this unique pose, please tell me and I’ll be sure to work that into my next class plan. Class #2 on that pass was the following Saturday morning. “Interesting,” I thought,  “It wasn’t the same class as the previous Monday.   It’s not monotonous, and that’s a good thing!” Still to this day, I remember driving home that morning after class. It was sunny out and I felt great!  I told myself that I found a place to go and exercise, and after the second class I was hooked. So in one week, I had used up two passes of my ten. Once the ten-class pass was used up, I bought another, and then I was burning through the passes so quickly that I decided a membership would be better so that I could go as much as I wanted. 


The people at PL, the students, and the teachers....I have never come across a group like this. Everybody is encouraging, accepting, and respectful of one another. A true community like this doesn’t happen everywhere.


For me, yoga is mentally stimulating as much as it is physically rewarding. The idea of seeing a pose, working towards it, then eventually getting (sometimes not getting into, but getting closer) into the pose, is amazing to me! Everybody is different; shaped differently, coming from different backgrounds, different jobs, and family get the idea. Watching someone next to me get into a pose, it gives me inspiration and I tell myself, “I want to do that.” Maybe you feel that way too? Don’t get me wrong, there are many yoga poses that I can’t do at this point of my journey, but it’s fun working towards something. There may be some yoga poses that I may never be able to accomplish, but it is more about the work, the journey, than the end pose. 


From that November, I began to practice more and more, going as much as time permitted, balancing work and being a single parent. When the following September rolled around, I noticed Teacher Training began and there was a bunch of new people in the studio and there was a feeling inside of me that said, “I want to do teacher training.” 

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To be continued...

Something just happened.......

#Last90Days update


So something I hadn’t anticipated just happened.

I was exchanging greetings in the after-school pick up line when my best friend offered me a Peppermint Joe Joe. 

You know the cookie, right?!  Just look up the word “decadent” in the dictionary to see a photo. Crushed candy cane bits placed perfectly on top of gorgeous dark chocolate = sooo good. These particular cookies only come around once a year, and I have been known to polish off a box or two every week leading up to New Year’s Eve. I pretend the rest of my household has a cookie problem, but we know who’s really doing the eating.

She offered me a Peppermint Joe Joe. I accepted.

Rather than devour it in the car, I saved the cookie to go with my next morning’s coffee. Made a plan for myself just to be a little mindful and fully savor the treat.

Fast forward to the next morning. I brewed my favorite Ethiopian pour over. (Misty Valley on V60 for you coffee lovers/nerds.) 

I took one bite. And it really was soooooo very delicious. More so than I remember from last year. The peppermint was fresh and bright in my mouth. I can still taste the chocolate when I think about it. Also, and here’s where it gets strange… I had no desire to eat any more than one bite. Which was good, I suppose. But strange. As a girl who loooooves cookies, this was so very odd. 

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I even snapped a picture and sent a note to my friend. 

I ended up offering the remaining portion to my daughter who was, of course, thrilled to enjoy it. This in turn, gave me joy. To share and experience the delight alongside someone else was such a sweet reward. This prompted me to ponder a bit of a transition I noticed in me.


Over time, my frequent overindulgence had actually resulted in diminished enjoyment of both simple and extravagant things. Being super intentional about my choices this past couple of months has provided increasedenjoyment of experiences I might otherwise take for granted. Foods, beverages, conversations and everyday occurrences that I continue to mark down in my gratitude journal. 


I notice that by practicing gratitude coupled with restraint in certain areas, I am able to give more freely to others. A cookie here, a slice of pie there, perhaps a word of encouragement or helping hand to provide for someone in need. In the season of gratitude and giving, I am finding abundant joy in contentment.

Unbreakable habit....or is it...?

How did January 2018 begin for you? I’ve got a hunch that much like me, you began with great intentionality, goal setting and a resolve to grow.

But somewhere along the way you felt a slide, a call from your old patterns and habits to just take the easy route of familiarity. So what would it look like if you ended 2018 by recapturing the drive you felt in those first weeks of the year?

I touched the play button on a favorite podcast recently and was challenged as I listened to author and speaker Rachel Hollis.

In January we often begin with resolutions and well-thought plans for the year ahead. But I definitely have a pattern of sliding into winter with a casual disregard for my better habits. And my best January intentions are often eclipsed by the pattern already in place from November and December. Frequently offering myself the easy out: “Well… I’ll just start fresh again after my birthday. After the holidays. After the end of the year.

Rachel Hollis and her husband Dave offered up a challenge: Finish the year stronger than it began. This is the Last 90 Days Challenge.

I’m both excited and crazy intimidated by this idea. If you know me well, you know I am a summer girl. A sun, sand and warm weather lover. I take it all in, as much as I can, and then soothe myself until spring. I wear flip flops until my frozen toes are screaming at me and I finally shut them up in wool-lined boots. This year I didn’t want to shift from Michigan summer into fall and then winter and just start bundling up and hunkering down. I didn’t want to give myself over to feeling down and moody, adopting a lack of discipline all season long. So I’m I accepting the challenge.

On September 17th I signed up at www.thechicsite/90Days and made a commitment to myself. I have explained it to my darling husband as well as a few of my closest friends who have chosen to take on the challenge with me. The official challenge began October 1st and continues through the end of December 2018, but you can join at any time.

The Last 90 Days challenge uses the 5 to Thrive model as a guide for daily practice.


I’ve been getting up an hour earlier and paying attention to the morning routine activities that nourish me. I’ve been making a point to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. Some days it means I go to the gym or give my dog an extra walk.  Other days I squeeze in a power walk or a run before yoga. I keep my favorite water bottle full with me all the time and refill it frequently.

In an effort to eat clean and healthy I’ve chosen to give up something in my diet that really isn’t serving me well: sweet sugar-laden desserts, especially cookies! (I might have a slightly codependent relationship with cookies, brownies, processed chewy bars and any sort of chewy gooey melty sweet treat.) The idea here is that you give up one thing. Just ONE thing for 30 days straight during this season, to break a habit and establish a new, better one. And the likely reality is for most people, it will take closer to 90 days to accomplish a solid 30 day stretch with zero cookies.

Finally I have added to my journaling practice a simple gratitude list. Every day, I end by writing out ten things I’m grateful for. Specific to today. Little things. Snippets. Glimpses of joy & gratitude and love. This is one of the hardest things to do, especially at the end of the day when I’m tired. I’m already noticing the effect though, especially when I make a point to notice things throughout the day and jot them down on my phone or in my notebook, and then review them in the evening and complete the list. Looking back over nearly two weeks worth already is so sweet.

My 90 days is only a couple of weeks old, but I’m already feeling the impact of renewed intentionality.

Are you up for it? Join me, and then feel free to let me know how it’s going by posting below!

Thanks for reading my very first blog post!


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Everything is not created equally...

It is that time of year when yoga studios, including PeaceLab, begin promoting and preparing for their fall teacher training programs.  The increasing popularity of yoga has more people than ever interested in becoming yoga teachers, which creates a proliferation in teachers and studios offering trainings.

I get so many inquiries solely about the cost of our program, which leaves me a little disheartened.  On one hand it makes sense.  People are simply gathering information, and for a myriad of reasons, with one of them being the cost.  On the other hand trainings are not created equally and it is really important to make a well-informed decision based many different factors, not just based on the price.  Please read on for some of the questions you may want to consider asking before you commit to any program.  Teacher training requires a big commitment of time and resources, and it is important to gather all the facts before you get started. (Disclaimer:  these are only a few.  Feel free to ask as many questions as you need!)


1.  What is the format of the training?  Weekend commitments, several weeks, several months, an intensive? 

I see many places offering a 2-week, one month, or 3-month long formats.  I get it, in today's culture we want it fast and we want it now, but it is a lot of information to take in over a short period of time.  I have found that the students who go through a longer training period are able to let the information sink in and take root (and have found that to be the case in the trainings I participate in personally).  The program at PeaceLab is a 9 month program and the feedback from students is the they appreciate how the program can fit in with their regular life off of the mat, and that they have time to integrate what they learn.  Additionally, we invest in the trainees (as they are a reflections of PeaceLab) to help mentor them along the way.  If the program were shorter in duration it would not allow us the time to develop this type of teacher/student relationship.  I desire to assist trainees in moving their own personal practice forward and love to be available to help them with any questions or concerns.  My teaching staff feels the same way.

2.  What can I expect to learn during training?

Will you memorize a script designed to support a franchise, or will you possess the ability to skillfully teach and address the needs of any class or student?  Learning how to sequence or create class plans is necessary to move towards actually teaching students how to improve their yoga practice and/or poses.  Will you learn the history and lineage of yoga, study the Sutras (or Bhagavad Gita, etc), learn the poses in Sanskrit and English, be given exposure to meditation/pranayama/bhakti yoga, subtle body anatomy, anatomy.....?  Will you be taught how to connect to a student's heart so as to inspire them to greatness off the mat as well?  Please ask to have an overview of the curriculum so you can compare and find the training that best suits your needs.

Yoga is a vast topic (more like a lifetime endeavor), and to become a yoga teacher with deep knowledge takes time.  I heard a well-respected yoga teacher once remark, "A 200 Hour Training simply gives you permission to learn MORE."

3.  What type of yoga will I be able to teach once the program is over?  Is this program Yoga Alliance Certified?

New students are generally surprised at how we teach vs. most of the other local studios, as vinyasa-based classes are currently the most popular style.  We focus on providing the students several practice options.   There is a common thread through all of our classes in that we are teach from a  foundation of alignment (I was an Anusara-Inspired teacher before that system imploded). Students may choose between teaching-based classes (we call them Lab classes), restorative classes,  and/or vinyasa classes.  Students in our program learn to teach in each of these settings as well as prenatal yoga, yoga for special populations, chair yoga, and wall yoga.  It is important you understand what style you will be taught and to know if you are comfortable with that style.  I encourage anyone and everyone considering a training to take classes at that studio with the Program Director and a few of the other teachers so you understand for yourself if you jive with what they offer to their community.

Please understand that I know Yoga Alliance is not the be all and end all but our program does follow along with their requirements.  If the training you choose does not align with Yoga Alliance it may cause issues later if you try to get a teaching gig somewhere else other than the studio you trained at.

4.  How long has the Program Director been practicing and teaching yoga?  Does he/she still study with a teacher?

On average, most studio owners/yoga teachers have a TOTAL of 3 years yoga experience!  Now, I understand everyone has to start somewhere (as did I) but you should still ask the question.  With the demands of managing the studio, teaching, and then training others it is important that I maintain a connection to that which first drew me to yoga.  I still have a primary teacher, whom I connect with in person and in online classes.  This relationship is an integral part of my daily life, and without it I would not keep myself filled up to offer to those around me.  I am constantly grateful for the many teachers who have helped in someway to shape what is now PeaceLab Yoga.  Especially when we are training others and giving so much of ourselves to so many it is imperative we have mentors also.  Ask who the lead teacher studies with so that you can also understand the lineage of what is being taught in that studio.

5.  What does the tuition include, and are outside workshops required in order to complete my training?  Are weekly yoga classes included in the training?

We try to make it as easy as possible for training candidates to understand what is included in their tuition by making it pretty all-inclusive.  Every studio has its own culture (again why it is so important to ask questions) and there are many ways to arrive at the final destination.  One woman shared with me that she was disappointed that the program she chose included a lot of additional work (disclosed after she began their program) like private lessons, workshops, and assisting the lead teacher at workshops in other cities.  Each of these required additional cost to her as well, yet she was too financially invested to back out.  She shared with me that there were several younger trainees who simply did not have the financial resources to complete the additional work, and ultimately would not be able to finish their certification.

The PeaceLab 200 Hour Program includes unlimited yoga, and students can take class with anyone on staff.  I have heard this is not the case with every program, and for different reasons.  It ranges from it not being included with you needing to purchase classes to being able to take classes only with certain staff.  If the training is being run by a 3rd party, you likely would need to pay for yoga and possibly not be mentored by the training staff or Program Director as they are not onsite with the exception of training weekends. 

Make sure to ask if there is a printed brochure outlining all the costs of the program, if there are payment plans in place (we do offer plans through the studio, not an outside vendor), classroom requirements, refund policies, attendance policies, and what you can expect from the program itself.  Read it thoroughly and ask questions if you need clarification.

6.  Would those who completed the training previously recommend the program to others?

Seek out past participants of the training to gain inside knowledge.  Did the training meet or exceed their expectations?  If not, how did it fall short? How did it excel?  Ask if they found the homework and reading requirements relevant and sufficient to prepare them for leading a class.  What did they enjoy the most and what did they find to be the most challenging?  If there were challenges, did the Program Director or teaching staff listen to their concerns and actively try to help, if possible?  This can be quite telling of whether the aim of the program is to cultivate confident and skilled teachers or simply to collect tuition.

7.  What is the general vibe of the studio and is there a sense of community?

As previously mentioned it is important to attend a few classes on different days/times to understand how the studio teaches and if you resonate, but is equally as important to assess the atmosphere and decide if you feel comfortable there.  How well do the practitioners get along with each other, and is there a sense of community?  Do they encourage each other to advance and do they provide support to one another?  Do they cheer for the successes of others?  Do the instructors and staff speak positively about one another?  Do the instructors feel supported in their teaching and feel good about the studio owner and how the studio is run?

Admittedly, I am biased as I feel that PeaceLab has the best community, classes, and training programs around.  In our training programs we aim for excellence and to provide world-class instructors.  You don't need to take my word for it.  Read the PeaceLab Facebook reviews (here and here) and on Google.  Reach out to current and past students, chat with trainees and instructors, and better yet come out and see for yourself.  Take a class, tour the studio, and ask questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  At the end of the day, compare and contrast the different teacher training programs and decide which one will ultimately serve you and your needs.

We'd love to meet you on the mat soon.  We will save you a spot!

In service and love,


(Deep pranams to Jessica, Amy, Jim, and Kate who helped me edit and clarify my thoughts)





The Yoga Of Baking

My love of baking started at a really young age, and was inspired and fostered by my grandmother, Geneva Hammitte.  I remember her rolling out dough for biscuits and cutting the dough with a drinking glass.  I loved spending time with her in the kitchen making homemade donuts, biscuits, cobblers, hand pies, etc.  She would share stores of growing up in a mining town in Fonde, Kentucky, and I loved to hear what she had to say about her family, my grandfather's family, and her experiences in the South.  She passed away too young when I was in my early twenties, lung cancer from smoking unfiltered Pall Malls all those years.  I miss her still, and am sad that my children never had a chance to spend time with her.  To this day, when in the kitchen and baking something for family or friends, her utensils still make their way into my hands as I prepare desserts and sweets to share.  When I am baking in the kitchen, my thoughts wander to the past and the present, my mind stills, and I am in "The Zone".  It is so very meditative and relaxing.  Just as Mommom (our name for her) infused her cooking and baking with love for her family and friends, I strive to do the same.  I read somewhere (don't quote me, as my memory is spotty) that there is a spa where the kitchen staff chants mantra while cooking, to infuse everything they prepare with good energy.   It is a form of yoga....creating something of beauty with the tools and ingredients at hand, following recipes passed down along the way, infusing it all with love from the heart to nourish and soothe...and I believe it is what makes homemade food so tasty and satisfying.  

Below is the recipe many have been asking me for.  It was adapted from the cookbook "Vegan with a Vengeance" by Isa Chandra Mokowitz.  Enjoy!

Crunchy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup chunky all-natural peanut butter
1/2 cup Succanat (dried cane sugar, you can find at Harvest Health)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan or regular)

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease two cookie sheets
Toss together the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl mix the oil, peanut butter, sugars, almond milk, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix. Add the chocolate chips. The dough will be very firm and moist.  With a spoon, take 1-2 TB of dough and make the size of cookie you would like and place them on the cookie sheets.  I press them down a bit, as they do not spread out very much while baking.  Depending on their size, bake anywhere from 8-15 minutes, until they are puffed and lightly browned.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes to firm up before moving off of the cookie sheet.  

You can choose to make these vegan by carefully choosing only vegan ingredients, or just use what you have at hand.

Me with Mommom, circa 1977-ish  Celebrating her birthday in August

Me with Mommom, circa 1977-ish

Celebrating her birthday in August