By Abby Weingarten Correspondent for Herald Tribune
SARASOTA — Spirituality and philanthropy are synonymous at Pineapple Yoga Studio, a downtown Sarasota haven where guests come to both get fit and give back.
The boutique studio hosts a fundraiser every quarter for a selected local charity, with beneficiaries such as SPARCC, Selah Freedom, Southeastern Guide Dogs or Goodwill.
“Yoga allows me to find meaning and purpose in what I do by helping those that are most fragile in our society,” says Claudia Baeza, the studio’s owner. “Offering our space and hosting fundraisers for those organizations in the community gives us the opportunity to make a difference.”
The fundraising is only one part of Baeza’s altruistic mission. She initially opened her studio to serve at-risk communities, to offer a healing place for wellness, and to make yoga accessible to those who could not afford it.
“Anyone that is looking for a safe place to heal mental, emotional, spiritual or physical wounds is welcome, regardless of their ability to pay,” she says.
It was Baeza’s own personal struggle that led to the founding of the studio. After battling depression and anxiety, as well as handling the stresses of single motherhood, yoga became an outlet that helped her evolve. A Power Vinyasa class at Baron Baptiste Studios in Massachusetts in 2005 ultimately changed her life.
She moved to Sarasota in 2016, began teaching free yoga classes at Bayfront Park, and created the first free yoga program at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex. She also spearheaded a wildly popular program highlighting local studios every first Saturday of the month at Bayfront Park.
When Baeza is not hosting yoga classes at her own studio, she utilizes her building as an event space, known as Club 517, for charity soirees, corporate gatherings and even weddings.
Connecting with People
In November, Baeza raised $1,000 for Southeastern Guide Dogs, and all of the proceeds went toward funding the training and placement of a guide dog to a visually impaired person.
The first quarter of this year is dedicated to generating support for Goodwill’s Veteran Training Program in Sarasota, with a fundraiser held on March 11. The studio was scheduled to provide yoga instruction, food, beverages and entertainment, and include a presentation by the Goodwill team explaining the importance of helping veterans return to work after war deployments.
The second-quarter program will give the studio to Selah Freedom for a full-day yoga retreat to serve sex trafficking survivors in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Selah Freedom is an organization that offers education, training, outreach and safe housing for survivors. Baeza says she is honored to provide a safe place at her studio for the girls the organization serves.
For Baeza, yoga is a way to connect with people and to put her passion toward the greater good.
“I use yoga to illuminate my deepest values by taking responsibility on a corporate level, and as a citizen, to do what I can to help those in need. I truly believe I am living my yoga practice every day with the choices I make,” she says.
CREDITS: GIVING REPORT | Herald Tribune | March 2017