Local Folks: Sonya Hanlin

Local Folks: Sonya Hanlin
Sonya Hanlin at the Grand Canyon.

Yoga therapy is not only Sonya Hanlin’s passion and career, but also what she attributes to shaping her into who she is.

“I really credit the practice of yoga therapy as to what helped me evolve into the person that I get to be today, which is a much more stable and present and available adult,” she said. “It’s one of the most natural things I’ve ever done. It’s always felt comfortable.”

A mother to, Rayne, 16, and Stella, 9, Hanlin was born and raised in Jacksonville and found yoga about 13 years ago after leaving a store manager position at Gate gas station. She didn’t realize how much stress the job was causing and how much it was masking her mental health imbalances.

Rayne and Stella with their mom, Sonya, at Florida Caverns State Park.
Rayne and Stella with their mom, Sonya, at Florida Caverns State Park.
Ranye, Stella, Jessica Meyer and Sonya Hanlin at Niagara Falls.
Ranye, Stella, Jessica Meyer and Sonya Hanlin at Niagara Falls.

“When I left, I sort of crashed and became really deep into depression and my anxiety was really bad,” Hanlin said. “My mental health was really struggling in that period of my life.”

Someone suggested she try a yoga class, and she ended up falling in love with it. She joined Soluna Yoga Spa’s Energy Exchange team. While in this program, one could exchange a small amount of work before and after class for a free class.

“It really helped me get deep into the practice of yoga, because I was able to attend more classes,” Hanlin said. “It wasn’t long until I really started to notice just profound shifts in myself and my mind, my emotions.”

She then found the practice of yoga therapy, her now-specialty. While training for yoga therapy at the Amrit Yoga Institue, she was also growing her role at Soluna Yoga Spa, eventually becoming the studio manager. Soon, clients and students started asking Hanlin when she was going to start teaching classes, which she has now been doing for six years. Then, in 2023, Hanlin won Folio Weekly’s best yoga instructor.

Sonya Hanlin teaches a workshop at Soluna Yoga Spa.
Sonya Hanlin teaches a workshop at Soluna Yoga Spa.

“I didn’t expect to be a teacher, but it just was the natural progression at Soluna to go from being a student to being a teacher,” she said.

Yoga therapy is a type of body psychology, Hanlin said. The theory of body psychology is that inside of the body, people store incomplete experiences. Maybe these situations were too stressful or too traumatic to handle.

“The philosophy is that we store stress trauma emotions inside of the body, and the longer that we store those things, the more we become out of balance in our physical, mental and emotional aspects of life,” Hanlin said.

Yoga therapy helps facilitate the process of feeling those experiences, allowing those experiences to have their say and their expression.

“That’s really where I found a lot of profound healing and just the ability to connect to a part of myself that I didn’t know was inside of me,” she said. “That enabled a lot of personal empowerment, strength and confidence.”

Hanlin also owns a microgreens business called Be Well Greens Company, which she bought in 2021 with her partner, Jessica Meyer, who had farmed in the past. They grow different types of microgreens, pea shoots and sunflower shoots, and sell the products at two different farmer’s markets.

Sonya Hanlin with her microgreens.
Sonya Hanlin with her microgreens.

“To be in a farmer’s market setting and to be able to connect with people on a personal level about their nutrition, their health, where their food comes from, is so important and so fun,” Hanlin said. “A lot of people have such a disconnect from their food.”

Prior to Be Well Greens Company, she co-owned a produce company with Meyer. At the time, their entire front yard was devoted to growing greens.

“We essentially called it the yard market,” Hanlin said. “And we sold greens to people who passed by or wanted to talk about food.”

Be Well Greens Company has been well received, and many people in active chemotherapy treatments are buying their products because of their cancer-fighting properties.

By Jennifer Jensen
Resident Community News

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