Curative Yoga Bigfork combines balance and breath to better your mind, body, and spirit.

By Katie Cantrell. Photograph by Mandy Mohler of Field Guide Designs.

I used to take a yoga class from a woman who had biceps like a Marvel comic hero. She seemed to get great joy from demonstrating her physical superiority by chatting breezily while holding us in chaturanga dandasana (in layman’s terms, freezing yourself in the down part of a push-up) while we hoped the sweat would camouflage our tears.

Curative Yoga is not that yoga studio. While I have no doubt that any of the instructors could breeze through a warrior pose while the quadriceps of everyone around them turned to mush, they instead choose warmth and encouragement.

At a recent morning class, the regulars entered the cozy upstairs studio on Electric Avenue with smiles. They bantered about having a case of the Mondays and the likelihood of one of them tipping over, again, during a certain pose. Holly Wielkoszewski, the studio manager and one of four regular teachers, greeted the class as a friend, not a taskmaster, creating an atmosphere where we were encouraged to be our less-than-perfect (and occasionally wobbly) selves. And, most importantly, we were encouraged to breathe.

“We work with the breath, the source of all life,” explains Naader Raphael Shagigi, Curative Yoga’s founder and master teacher. At Curative Yoga, breathing is as much a focus as the asanas, or poses, because their philosophy is that proper breathing is the key to progressing in the other three focal areas of yoga: stillness, mindfulness, and movement.

“From the very first breath we take to the very last, life is a series of breaths,” explains Carolina Cotman, Curative Yoga’s president and director. “Our breath is made up of oxygen and life force energy, or prana. Yet we don’t pay attention to our breath. What makes us unique as a yoga studio is the breathing technique instruction. The proper circulation of breath leads to feeling calm and peaceful. Peace becomes joy, and with practice that joy becomes sustainable.”

Wielkoszewski concurs. “Breath is what turns it into yoga, not just exercise,” she explains.

Focusing on breath might sound like beginner yoga, but Curative Yoga is for the experienced as well as the novices. “We really do welcome all,” Cotman emphasizes. “Some people are trying to heal their bodies. Some people have strong bodies and realize they need to heal their minds. We welcome every walk of life, every belief system. We believe our commonality is that we are all seeking happiness. Happiness is not sustainable in material things or the things of the exterior, so what we long for is this inner journey toward our natural state of being.”

Curative Yoga has been breathing life into downtown Bigfork since 2014, when Cotman and Shagigi expanded north from their studio of the same name in Pasadena, California. “Bigfork has a very special place in my heart,” Cotman says. “From the beginning, we thought the environment was so inviting. It’s a very special place. And we believe that to give is to receive, which is why we like to be an active part of the community.”

Putting that commitment into action, Curative Yoga holds weekly donation-based community classes at the Bigfork Village Market during the spring and summer months. They plan to continue the offerings periodically at their studio through the winter.

“One of the misperceptions is that Bigfork shuts down in winter,” Wielkoszewski, a Flathead Valley native, says. “We have a great community of businesses and a growing number of people that are here year-round.”

Whether you’ve been practicing for years or never set foot in a yoga studio, Curative Yoga welcomes you. “Don’t be put off by the headstand,” Shagigi jokes, referring to many people’s mental picture of a yoga class. “Yoga is for everyone who is breathing.”

Nuts and bolts:

Keep up with Curative Yoga’s schedule at, where you can sign up for their e-newsletter. The studio is also on the MindBody website/app, as well as Facebook and Instagram @curativeyogabigfork.

About the Author: Katie Cantrell is a local writer and the author of Have Stroller, Will Travel: Exploring Italy with Two Small Children and other Ridiculous Moments in Parenting. Follow her commentary on the parenting life on Facebook and Instagram @katiecantrellwrites or her blog,

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