Sue Pinto leads a class at her Chestnut Hill Yoga studio, Rebel. (Photo courtesy of Sue Pinto)

by Meredith Bernstein

“Yoga is everywhere,” yoga studio owner Sue Pinto said. “It’s a huge trend, and it’s oversaturated.”

Pinto is exactly right. Yoga is on an upward trend, but why? It could be because yoga is a great form of exercise, mental stability, and self-connection, but Pinto was introduced to yoga for an entirely different reason.

“I got ACL replacement surgery and was getting physical therapy,” Pinto said. “[My friend] saw me and said I should come to yoga. She said it would heal me. After taking yoga classes for a month, I was stronger in my mind and my body than I was prior to even getting hurt.”

Aside from recovering from her injury, Pinto also saw the physical and mental benefits to the practice. These benefits could be the reason why so many people decide to join the yoga bandwagon.

“When you practice yoga, it is a full body experience,” Pinto said. “It helped me connect the physical body with the mental body. Finding breath through yoga has helped me cope with different types of situations better, and it has given me a different level of confidence that I didn’t have before. I was hooked from there. I just wanted to keep going.”

Pinto tried to continue the practice in Philadelphia, but she ran into one problem. That is, no Philadelphia studios compared to her friend’s.

“[My friend’s studio] was inspiring, fun and hard,” Pinto said. “People were laughing and encouraging each other. It was like a family. When I came back to Philadelphia, I wasn’t getting that community feeling like I had gotten at her studio. That was the impetus for me opening Rebel.”

In November 2016, Pinto opened her own yoga studio in Chestnut Hill and called it Rebel. A year later, Rebel was named “Best of Philly 2017” in Philadelphia Magazine. Perhaps Pinto won the award so early on because she stayed true to what she knew and loved about yoga.

“One of the main things I try to strive for in my studio is to not confine my teachers to teach a certain style or to teach a certain class,” Pinto said. “I want them to teach the way they like to teach.”

I think with anything, if you’re doing something that you enjoy, you’re going to do it better than if somebody tells you how to do it. I try to bring in a variety of teachers that have all different teaching styles and all different personalities so that there’s somebody in there for everyone who comes through our door.”

Upon entering the store, you are greeted with a beautiful selection of yoga clothing and other activewear. Pinto says she included a selection of top brand activewear because she had trouble finding cute yoga clothes that everyone else didn’t have.

Further into the boutique, a community space, known as the studio’s canteen, holds healthy beverages and snacks.

“The canteen has kombucha on tap, snacks, teas, and coffee,” Pinto explained. “People come in, take a class, chat with friends, and bring their computers to do some work. It’s designed to be a community space.”

The hallway walls are lined with beautiful works of art from local artists, something Pinto is proud to do for her community.

“We find local artists and feature their work on our walls in the boutique space,” Pinto said. “It’s been a great way to include different people in the community. I’ve had artists come through who have never shown their work before, and I see them expose this very vulnerable side to them.”

Finally, make your way through an outdoor garden to the heart of Rebel: the yoga studio.

“This little boutique-type yoga studio allows for smaller classes, which allows people to kind of get to know each other a little more, to feel a bit closer,” she said. “I wanted to create a space where everyone could come and feel like this place was theirs to use in whatever way they wanted.”

From the beginning, Pinto wanted her studio to be the birthplace of friendship. Now that she sees great relationships forming, Pinto is proud that her studio has a strong community.

“People make friends through our studio,” Pinto said. “There’s five people from yoga who didn’t know each other before they came to Rebel, and now they come together for events like dinner clubs and baby showers.”

Others like Pinto love yoga because of its shared camaraderie and therapeutic nature. Pinto advises newcomers to try different studios, classes, and teachers because each one has its own personality.

“I encourage everyone to try it,” Pinto said. “I think for a lot of people yoga means different things. Depending on where you go, you’re going to find whatever that teacher probably connects to the most. Different teachers have different styles, and that shines through in their class.”