LA Finfinger and her husband, Paul Wetzel, are two certified yoga teachers who moved to Baltimore in January 2015. Shortly after arriving, the couple decided to fulfil a person goal to offer expert-level yoga classes free of charge to anyone who asks. In July of last year, Free Baltimore Yoga was established, and one year later, the classes continue be well-attended as Finfinger teaches the Baltimore community to relax and breathe.
The two gurus aim to entice those who normally would not practice yoga to give it a try. The “endgame”, as Finfinger calls it, is to train new yoga masters who would go on and spread their influence on the rest of the city by training others. To Finfinger, it is a way of respectfully giving back to the community.
Althogh Finfinger and Wetzel themselves are experts, the courses are designed for all skill levels. They provide the mats, the instructions, the time and date, and little else. Other than that, “There are no amenities.” Finfinger playfully jabs on her website “We are not running a hotel.”
Free Baltimore Yoga offers three classes every week at three separate locations. Tuesday sessions are held at the Patterson Park Youth Sports and Education Center, Wednesdays are at the Pixilated Photo Booth headquarters, and on Thursday LA can be found teaching at the Parks & People Foundation. In the upcoming months, Finfinger hopes to expand her schedule to include even more courses at even more untraditional locales.
Finfinger feels confident that she can provide a new mentality for her students through these classes. She is passionate about spreading the healthy virtues of yoga and turning her courses into a close-knit fellowship that works to help not only themselves, but each other.
“True wellness means taking care of all aspects of your life – mind body, and soul,” Finfinger writes of Free Baltimore Yoga in her blog. “I love the notion that your money is no good here. And I’ll add that I don’t know and don’t give a damn who can and cannot afford the class.”
As her colorful language shows, Finfinger is not one to quibble or mince words when it comes down to getting to the essence of Yoga. She was born in Pittsburgh, where she became a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) for vinyasa yoga, a form of yoga which concentrates on synchronizing breathing movements, and is sometimes called “flow yoga” due to the smooth transition from pose to pose. Aside from being a yoga master, Finfinger describes herself as a “writer, mental health advocate, and speaker”.
A lifelong bout with an anxiety disorder has caused Finfinger to embrace the positive mental health benefits from vinyasa yoga even more. Her anxiety used to be crippling, and Finfinger says that in her darker days, she spent most of twenties feeling suicidal. However, a combination of psychiatric medication and mood-enhancing yoga practices enables her to not only conquer her own anxiety, but also to give others the tools necessary to conquer their own emotional fears and uncertainties.
As such, Finfinger has successfully taught yoga classes at the Wanderlust Festival, the Andy Warhol Museum, and numerous other large scale events. Her husband, though an official RYT himself, prefers to operate behind the scenes by handling social media and all other things pertaining to his wife’s online presence.
Finfinger recommends that whoever attends her class should wear whatever is most comfortable. Upon arrival, new students are required to sign a legal waiver absolving Finfinger of any responsibility for personal injury, and then are welcome to begin at their own pace. Under her expert tutelage, Finfinger hopes Baltimore residents can begin to experience the benefits of yoga for years to come.