From Addiction to Ahhhh!
Yoga leader finds—and shares—a natural high
By Drew Myron
Shannon Red Cloud vividly recalls her moment of transformation.
“My first class was hot yoga,” she says. “At the end of class, every cell was thriving. I couldn’t believe I could feel this good naturally.”
Hot yoga is a vigorous form of exercise performed in a warm and humid studio, resulting in an intense workout.
By the third class, Shannon says she was moved to action.
“I clearly heard a voice that said, ‘You need to bring this to your community.’”
Since that day in 2004, Shannon went on to open the first yoga studio in The Dalles, create a yoga retreat welcoming people from all over the world, and share the yoga experience in schools, senior centers and the local prison and detention center.
Born and raised in The Dalles, Shannon grew up with an abusive mother and alcoholic father. As a young adult, Shannon struggled with her own addiction issues.
“Yoga has allowed me to navigate the many challenges of life,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone through the difficult things, I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do and connect with others. Truth creates connection. When I go to the jail, I sit down with them and I say, ‘I’m just like you. I could be in here, too. The three things that keep me out are God, sobriety and yoga.’”
Shannon has traveled a rocky road, complicated by struggle but fortified with faith.
“It was yoga that brought me full circle to my faith,” she says. “I was on a path of self-destruction with drinking and drugs. I was trying not to feel or deal. But I learned that I can feel good naturally with yoga. My yoga practice and teaching brought me back to God.”
Shannon says she teaches from a real life perspective, attuned to the trauma others have experienced and mindful of her language and tone.
“When I show up and allow myself to be vulnerable, I can use it to teach about trust, joy and perseverance,” she says. “Through honesty and vulnerability, that’s where true connection takes place.”
When Shannon was first drawn to yoga, she was encouraged emotionally but discouraged financially. A yoga training course ran $10,000, and Shannon had limited funds.
Mother to a toddler, she was working 2 jobs—days as an esthetician and nights as a server—and was making ends meet with government assistance.
A yoga teacher in Hood River offered to help pay for the training course if Shannon, once she became a certified instructor, would repay the debt by leading classes.
In 2004, Shannon completed the 10-week course. She juggled work, family and yoga instruction to pay off the expense.
In 2008, she opened the first yoga studio in downtown The Dalles, offering the only hot yoga classes within 100 miles.
Pure Yoga offers 12 different styles, from Vinyasa to Ashtanga, Bikram and more. The studio has a team of instructors providing beginner, advanced and expert sessions in cool, warm and hot settings. Pure Yoga is now one of four yoga studios in town.
2 months ago, Shannon sold the business to a colleague but continues to lead classes.
For Ana Lacy, a child welfare supervisor for the Oregon Department of Human Services, yoga provides a mental, emotional and physical relief.
“It helps my body and my mental state,” says Ana, who joined Pure Yoga five years ago and attends three to four classes a week. “It helps me clear my head, to let go and relax, and I feel so much better when I go back to work.”
With a thriving business humming along, in 2018 Shannon took on another challenge: training students to be teachers. Pure Yoga Teacher Training offers 200 hours of intensive instruction that provides the pathway for students to become certified and registered instructors.
The retreat center is 14 miles south of The Dalles on 40 quiet acres along the Mount Hood National Forest. The rolling gentle landscape, combined with expansive views and a large yurt where classes are held, is an ideal setting for the serenity of yoga practice.
The property serves as both retreat and home to Shannon and her husband, Gabe. The pair have been together 23 years and have two sons: Louie, 21, and Duke, 2. Gabe is a lineworker for Wasco Electric Cooperative, and Louie is a lineworker apprentice in Portland.
Approved and accredited by Yoga Alliance, the immersive experience is offered four times a year and accepts eight to 10 students each session. The cost is $3,500 and includes lodging. Students come from all over the world—Australia, India, Kuwait, France and more—and have ranged in age from 17 to 78. With Shannon’s guidance, 100 students have graduated from the program.
“Every group is very different, but every group forms a very special bond,” Shannon says. “Yoga is very intimate, embodying your full self—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s getting closer with yourself, being your own friend. It’s not surface level. It’s about going deeper.”
For more information, visit the Pure Yoga website.