A REBELLION OF KINDNESS
If you’ve strolled down Main Street in downtown Littleton lately, you’ve likely noticed the eye-catching Outlaw Yoga sign on Main and Curtice and wondered what it’s all about. “It’s a technically simple, physically challenging, contemporary yoga community, whose first priorities are connection and service,” says Outlaw Yoga Creator and Co-Founder Justin Kaliszewski. “We’re rebelling by being more kind to people.”
A former champion cage fighter, Mr. Colorado Basketball and world traveler, Kaliszewski had returned from his travels in Nepal and East Timor several years ago where he was running a small non-profit. He’d become somewhat of a special confidante to Nobel Peace Prize Winner and then-Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta. “The day I left the country, Jose, a man I affectionately called Tio, was shot in the back three times in his home. Tio recovered, but the person I was then did not. The incident affected me deeply and challenged me to take a look at my own family and my own country in a way that I never had.
“If you don’t like the way the narrative is going, you do something about it. You write an article, run for office or set up a shop on the corner with a yoga studio.”
Kaliszewski, called Jud by his friends, founded Outlaw Yoga in 2012 to focus on community, connection and service. “Community is what the whole world needs,” says Kaliszewski, who began the Outlaw Yoga movement as a donation-only model leading community classes around the state and the world, a model he and his team are still actively engaged in today. Ninety-three percent of the proceeds of donation-based classes benefit the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which brings yoga to under-served segments of the community including cancer survivors, veterans, prisoners and people with eating disorders.
Since 2012, the popularity of Outlaw Yoga and its strong ties to the local music community have spread quickly through word-of-mouth and an active online community. With unique offerings like free yoga training on YouTube (YouTube.com/User/OutlawYoga/Videos) and live-music studio classes every Wednesday and Friday led by top local musicians (who just happen to be teachers themselves), the studio is also attracting passersby in downtown Littleton. “They say you have to see something seven times before you get brand recognition, and that’s happening,” says Kaliszewski, who co-owns the Littleton operation with Meryl Meranski and Carly Sawyer.
So who comes in the front door? “The industry standard for female-to-male yoga students is about 80/20. We see closer to 50/50 here. We have a commitment to accessibility.” Some of that accessibility comes in the form of a free week of yoga for new students and community-friendly pricing for classes and membership. “What we’re trying to do is cast the net a little wider, reach folks who aren’t already part of the community; otherwise we’re just preaching to the choir.” Namaste, Jud.