One year ago, Tamika Caston-Miller was on a trip to the Andes, when she started seriously reevaluating her life in Houston.

Why do people need to get away? Why do people travel? she wondered.

For Caston-Miller, it was all about finding an escape into nature. She asked herself: Is this something I could create in Houston?

She also thought about the lifestyle of the city, the hustle and bustle and how so many Houstonians are separated from nature, often without community or even knowing their neighbors.

Were not meant to be alone, she said.

Then, Caston-Miller began imagining a solution. She dreamed of a garden space, where adults could dig into the dirt and watch plants grow; where school children could go on field trips and learn about nature firsthand.

As founder of Houstons Ash Yoga, Caston-Miller also imagined restorative yoga near the garden. Since her wife Lenie Caston-Miller is a sculptor, there would also be a place for art.

It would be a whole space for a healthy community, Caston-Miller said.

She and Lenie were still in Peru when they began hunting for a property where this vision could take root.

At the time, they lived a couple miles north of downtown. Lets put our house on the market and see whats out there, Caston-Miller thought. We need a place where we can live and create this space.

The couple mapped it out and decided they needed at least 2 acres.

If we find a property that matches what were looking for, then well take it as a sign that we should move forward, thought Caston-Miller, who has worked as a school teacher and a yoga instructor for about a decade. She started her own yoga practice a year ago.

Even though she felt a pull to do more in her yoga business, leaving the security of a day job behind was daunting. But, after the trip to the Andes, Caston-Miller took a leap of faith.

When the school year ended, her new life as a solopreneur began.

First, Caston-Miller had to find the space inside the Beltway. After a few failed attempts, she discovered an ideal location, just south of Sunnyside, 10 minutes from the University of Houston.

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It was exactly what we were looking for, and I was so surprised, she said. I didnt think there was something like this in the city.

Caston-Miller closed on the property last January - and named it The Ranch Houston.

Its old ranch land, she explained. Everyone has horses. There was livestock on the property. At its core, it looked like a ranch.

The couple planned to renovate the home into a livable space and urban homestead, but then COVID-19 hit two weeks after they began remodeling.

We shifted from what we couldnt do to what is possible right now, Caston-Miller said. And what was possible was seeding the garden, tilling the land.

Another possibility was teaching yoga outside. So she began extending invitations for private lessons. By June, she started offering yoga classes. First, the sessions were on the front lawn. Then, she built a 1,000-square-foot covered pavilion.

Caston-Miller found that students were grateful to have this option. For some people, returning to a yoga studio wasnt appealing.But what was comfortable was practicing outdoors, socially distanced, Caston-Miller said.

Since The Ranch Houston was built during the coronavirus, putting safety protocols in place was part of the blueprint.

Because of COVID-19, we had to slow down and think everything through, Caston-Miller said. We had to consider all the risks. Everything had to be intentionally done.

She believes that attention to detail will pave the way to success in the long-run. This isnt the only time that disease is going to happen; we can build safety into our design, she said.

The pandemic also reinforced what Caston-Miller realized in the Andes - the need for health and wellness, the importance of de-stressing and being outdoors.

I want people to see this as a home not just for yoga but for complete wellness, Caston-Miller said.

Clients can wander through the garden, watch a plant they started as a seed grow, before settling into a yoga class on the lawn.

Caston-Miller said being close to nature is therapeutic especially in the midst of an uncertain time and increased anxiety.

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No matter how difficult life is, growth is still happening, she said. Life is still happening. We just lean in and shift with life.

Caston-Millers yoga community was made-up of Heights and Uptown residents before COVID-19. Now, they trek a little further south to The Ranch.

Its right inside the Beltway, but when you get there its like, am I in Houston? Its acres of land, said Heights resident Crystal Sellers, who was one of the first to visit the property. Its been really great to have this experience.

Sellers has been practicing yoga with Caston-Miller for years and was drawn to the instructor for her approach, which was more focused on the philosophy of the practice.

When Caston-Miller moved online during the lockdown, Sellers enrolled. Still, she missed being in community. So when Caston-Miller mentioned The Ranch, Sellers jumped at the option.

It literally provided me with a moment of escape, Sellers said. You drive 20 minutes, and it feels like youre in a different world. Its amazing.

She remembers, on that first trip, kicking off her shoes and running into the grass. It was so grounding, she said. The Ranch just offers this comfortable repose.

Caston-Miller has also been a source of solace, Sellers added.

Its a combination of who she is, how welcoming and caring she is, being able to connect with her, be outside and continue this practice, Sellers said. The icing on the whole experience is Tamika and her wife, how theyve chosen to show up for everyone who shows up here.

As the weather gets cooler, she plans to continue classes outside, only with heaters. She continues to offer courses online, too. Eventually, Caston-Miller plans to host retreats at The Ranch, as well as events, like yoga and arts festivals, workshops and teacher training.

Already, she has offered virtual field trips for children and hopes that after the pandemic, students can come in person to learn about sustainability, gardening and nutrition.

Looking back at the past year Caston-Miller reflects on her original vision, the strides she has made and how now she is offering an oasis in the midst of the pandemic.

I think I did a pretty good job, she said with a laugh. You dont need to catch a flight to get away from it all. Just come on over.

Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance writer.

Read more from the original source:
Lean in and shift with life.How an urban ranch combines yoga and plant cultivation to heal Houstonians - Houston Chronicle

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