ST. JOHNSBURY — Heart Space Yoga and Movement Center founder and owner, Andrea Thibaudeau, was named the St. Johnsbury business person of the year by online small business site, Alignable.

The award was voted on by local businesses.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Thibaudeau took her business online with Zoom sessions.

Her business was in the same location on the second floor on Railroad Avenue since 2008, but the rent was more than she could afford since space was not being used and her income declined so quickly.

Thibaudeau contacted the St. Johnsbury town office to see if they could help her find a spot downtown that she could afford, so her longtime business could stay afloat.

They steered her to the NVDA location, and the team at NVDA offered her space at a fraction of her former rent costs. She moved in November, and now is accepting smaller numbers to offer socially-distanced, low-number classes in the space, which is just a little smaller than her former location.

She said she’s grateful to have been chosen for the honor. She said she operates the practice as a community member committed to helping spread good health and joy, and to be honored for doing something she loves means a great deal.

Heart Space studio, “Over the years has grown into a beautiful community of people supportive of one another,” shared Thibaudeau.

Finding a way to keep the important connections of yoga practice and community was critical, and early in the pandemic, Thibaudeau said she scrambled to figure out how to make that happen.

“We really needed contact and connections with each other … to be able to be with people in the heart space,” She said.

Her new space is on the first floor of the building that houses the Northeastern Vermont Development Association. Thibaudeau transformed a former beige conference room into a warm space illuminated with light, lotus blossoms and a welcoming sign by the door, Namaste.

“If we get to the other side of this pandemic and people are comfortable being with each other, we will be able to have 10-13 people, maybe even 15, in the space,” said Thibaudeau. She shares the space with two other teachers who have long been part of the practice, Dominque Meyers and Marci Mikesell.

The space also offers natural, beneficial products made by Belly Hazen Apothecary, made by Danville resident Donna O’Malley.

Thibaudeau, 50, was first drawn to yoga as a teen who had scoliosis and back pain. She found yoga gave her relief, and ultimately, she chose to become a yoga teacher and devote her professional life to the practice.

Thibaudeau is also certified to train yoga teachers, and has been working to bring that training online, so the pandemic time has seen her adapt that aspect of her business plans, too, which has involved a lot of learning, she said.

When she and her family first moved to Vermont, Thibaudeau was a traveling yoga teacher, bringing her gear and teaching at locations that included the Burke Club House in East Burke, the Shambala Center, and at a church.

“I was always lugging my equipment,” she said. She finally put down roots at the center’s longtime home at 446 Railroad Street.

Thibaudeau is originally from Deerfield, Mass., but a Vermont resident for more than a decade, lives in Kirby with her husband, Chris, and their teenage sons, Colter, 16, and Casey, 13.

“I love it more than anything,” shared Thibaudeau of her calling to teach - and practice - yoga. “It is the perfect way for me to connect with people and help people.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a business person, but I’ve never considered myself a business person,” says Thibaudeau. “Really what I do here is about love. I am motivated by love, the fact that you can also call that a business … I really appreciate being chosen for this.”

For more information, visit heartspaceyogacenter.com

Reflections From Heart Space Students

“I have been a student of Andrea at Heart Space Yoga for more than 15 years. Andrea has an enormous repertoire of asana to draw on so her classes stay fresh and valuable each time I attend. They are never repetitive or boring. Her knowledge of anatomy means I know I am safe as she takes us through the warm-ups to each posture. I am 79 years old and working with her and her alignment knowledge keeps me strong and flexible. She has brought other very talented teachers to join her at the studio. They all bring their expertise which enhances students’ experience there and it is obvious that combined with the warm caring atmosphere makes being a student of Heart Space a meaningful experience. During this time of COVID-19 I have really loved her classes on Zoom but I look forward to the time we all can rejoin her in the community of the studio.”

- Elizabeth Robbins, Lyndonville

*****

“I’ve been a student with Andrea for more than 10 years. She is such an incredible teacher because she continues to be a student herself. She reminds me of a jazz musician in her ability to take familiar things and put them together in unique ways to become something completely new in her classes on a daily basis. To continue to do so in the face of a global pandemic and ‘pivot’ by moving her studio, utilizing zoom, and now resuming classes in person is incredible. I have nothing but praise for Andrea and her creation of Heart Space Yoga.”

- Stan Baker, St. Johnsbury

*****

“We are so fortunate to have Andrea and all the Heart Space Yoga Teachers in our community. Andrea always tells her students, ‘come as you are and we’ll meet you there.’ You don’t have to stand on your head or touch your toes! Which is great, because when I started practicing yoga, I couldn’t do either! Heart Space Yoga Center is a place where people can come together, practice yoga and leave feeling uplifted emotionally and physically. Andrea and her professional teachers have created a community that is whole, supportive and continuously connected. My life has changed because of Heart Space Yoga and I am forever grateful.”

- Nicole Bartlett, Barnet

*****

“Teaching at Heart Space Yoga has been an honor and a privilege. It has felt like a community gathering space and like a home. We have been able to infuse our studio with inspiration from our favorite teachers and teachings. Our extended community has evolved through times of love and joy, deep community devastation and loss. Thanks to technology and the persistent efforts of our deeply loving leader (Andrea) we have barely skipped a beat through the pandemic lockdown because of loyal students both near and far. I love that some of our students who feel isolated at various distances from the physical studio have felt right at home on Zoom classes. I know it doesn’t work for everybody, but the devotion and steady attendance I have experienced have kept my heart buoyant through it all. I know I am not alone in looking forward to a time of expansion into more onsite classes (mine have remained online since the pandemic was declared).”

- Dominique Meyers, West Burke

*****

“Heart Space Yoga welcomes people of all ages, races, abilities, and gender orientations. I’ve been going for over a decade, and can attest that Andrea teaches with her whole heart, and has a very solid grounding in yoga. To me, this yoga center has been transformative and healing. As a business, Heart Space Yoga has survived a Railroad Street fire, two recessions and a pandemic, and is truly a Saint J gem!”

- Jerry Ralya, Craftsbury

*****

“I have been practicing yoga with Andrea for over 6 years. She is an extraordinary yoga teacher. I have studied with many other teachers over the years and I have to say she is brilliant. Whether someone is seeking to do yoga to simply make the body healthier and to calm the mind or you wish to explore the rich history and spiritual depth of yoga there is no better teacher.”

- Former NEK Resident, Dan Lewis

*****

I am delighted to share about Andrea and Heart Space Yoga Studio. I have been attending classes and yoga trainings with Andrea at Heart Space Yoga Studio for years. Even though I live 50 minutes away, it is always a gift to be able to enjoy Andrea’s classes and worth taking the time to go. Her passion and love of yoga and helping people to be healthy and well shines through everything she does. She has the ability to be humble, vulnerable, and relatable, while at the same time teaching with great knowledge and wisdom. She is quite skillful at teaching to multiple levels at once, giving modifications and alignment cues that keeps everyone safe. I always leave Andrea’s classes feeling better body, mind and spirit. During this pandemic, she has made a big effort to stay in business and continues to offer yoga on Zoom and in small groups in the studio. She obviously loves her community and wants to be of service. I highly recommend her classes and yoga teacher trainings. She is an inspiration!

- Nancy Phillips, Northumberland

*****

“I came to Heart Space Yoga in search of physical practice that would address my health issues. Unsure of a next step, I reached for yoga and found Heart Space in St. Johnsbury. Andrea welcomed me with open arms and a spacious heart. Her warmth and vitality blended with the skillfulness of a longtime yoga teacher and therapeutics expert had a significant/positive impact on my overall health and outlook on life. Andrea’s commitment to passing along the teachings of yoga has never waned. She’s found many avenues to meet the interests of regular and new students and now to those who have arrived through the online learning route. Developing that is no small undertaking! Right off the bat, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Heart Space Yoga teachers made classes available to students over Zoom. My regular guided practice routine hardly missed a beat!

From Andrea I learned to never give up, because she never does! Heart Space Yoga Center is a place many call home. The Studio is now open for limited safe live classes, and the option for virtual participation remains. Arranging for all that takes flexibility and persistence! I learned much more than how to yoke the body with the mind through my experiences at this studio. It aides in my health recovery but I’ve also learned to see the Light in myself so it can meet the Light in others, which is what Namaste’ means. Our communities needed more of what Namaste’ is about. I am grateful to live in a community with businesses that stepped up to the plate of change, turning this crisis into an opportunity for many.”

- Donna O’Malley, Peacham

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