Yoga Squared Guides Akron Community to Healing Through Breath, Movement and Connection


Image via Elizabeth Tipton

Kate Woodford-Shell providing extra assistance and healing to a student at a community yoga class.

By Sarah Minear

Community (n). a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. (Oxford English Dictionary) 

In the heart of Highland Square lies a community, an oasis, an escape for those to be greeted with open arms and accepted for who they are, as they are. 

“When people step in the doors of Yoga Squared for the first time, we hope that they immediately feel welcome,” said founder and owner Nicole Woodford-Shell. “We want people to feel like they are seen and heard, and that they are able to show up fully as themselves.” 

Yoga Squared, founded in 2016 by Nicole Woodford-Shell and co-owned with her wife, Kate Woodford-Shell, has become a bright spot for many lives in the Akron community over the past five years. 

Julia Thomas, a student at Yoga Squared, was looking for a healthy outlet that could also serve as a safe space. 

“Yoga Squared, to me, is one of the best communities I’ve ever been lucky enough to be part of,” Thomas said. “No matter who you are, you have a place there, and that just doesn’t happen everywhere.” 

Offering 50 classes weekly, Yoga Squared’s mission is to make yoga accessible and affordable to all, and to increase the health and well-being of the Akron community. 

They are ready to welcome the community and guide them on their journey towards healing and strength, both mentally and physically. 

“It’s really a space to feel and express everything while also letting it roll right off when it’s necessary,” Thomas said. 

People turn to yoga for a multitude of reasons. Whether it is anxiety, depression, feeling lost, needing an outlet, or longing for a sense of community, one’s yoga mat can become their safe space. 

Owners of Yoga Squared, Nicole Woodford-Shell (left) and Kate Woodford Shell (right), lead a free community yoga class to kickoff Highland Square’s
annual Porchrokr Music x Arts Festival. (Image via Elizabeth Tipton)

For some, there is a common misconception that yoga is just stretching or being able to do fun tricks, but there is an internal shift that happens when one begins to understand the importance of their own breath. 

Starting his practice only a few years ago, current employee at the studio, Connor Handley, found yoga to be the breath of fresh air that he had been longing for. 

“I never realized I was holding my breath out of fear until I started my first yoga class, and in general it brought upon physical changes but even more importantly, mental changes,” Handley said. “It was the mental shift of realizing how important the breath is; how it can allow us to sit in silence or talk through difficult conversations. Yoga did more than ‘transform’ my life, it saved it.” 

Within their first two years of business, there were ideas of what Kate and Nicole hoped they would be able to introduce to the studio and how the space would continue to grow. These ideas, however, soon became a reality. 

“We realized quickly that through these visions, steady intentions, consistency, and hard work day in and day out we could make anything happen,” said co-owner Kate Woodford-Shell. 

Since its opening in 2016, Yoga Squared has doubled their space, holds Yoga Alliance-approved teacher training programs, launched an international retreat program, and provides healing services, which include massage and reiki appointments, as well as an infrared sauna. 

They have also opened Zen Space in Highland Square, which serves as a smaller studio for gentle flow classes, meditation classes and private sessions. 

“It has been sacrifice after sacrifice but it is beyond worth it to see so many people establishing yoga practices, studying formally, traveling the world, and making new connections in a city they’ve lived in all their lives,” Kate said. 

Yoga Squared is community-driven. Throughout the year, the studio collaborates with local restaurants and businesses, such as Akronym Brewing, El Patrón Tequilería & Cuisine, Akron Art Museum, and so many more, to showcase and highlight local businesses in the Akron community. 

The Woodford-Shell’s know firsthand the power of healing in a community and how important it is to feel a part of one. This power is brought to life in their students, employees, and teachers. 

When different people interact, it is a beautiful thing to witness the blossoming of new relationships, creating a deeper understanding and appreciation for the people who live right in your backyard. 

“Over time, we hope that Yoga Squared becomes a second home, where people can show up authentically and be supported through any phase of life,” Nicole said. 

Dec. 5, 2021 will mark Yoga Squared’s 5th anniversary. When looking back, Kate and Nicole have been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time thanks to their support system. 

For them, it still feels like they are just getting started. 

“As we reflect on the past 5 years, it’s amazing to see how far we have come but it’s also refreshing to think about how much really hasn’t changed,” Nicole said. “We still feel the same sense of wonder and awe, and we have a deep desire to keep working hard to optimize our offerings for our community that we love so much!” 

To celebrate their upcoming anniversary, the studio is hosting a Holiday Market on Dec. 3 at R. Shea Brewery, located in Downtown Akron. According to their website, it will be an evening of community and collaboration that will highlight Northeast Ohio’s best makers, who are driven by wellness and/or love for local business. 

For more event details, visit their website at 

“I feel very honored that people choose to spend their time and other resources at Yoga Squared. I will never take it for granted,” Nicole said. 

Everyone needs a bright spot in their day, month, year, or whatever it may be and suite A + B in the heart of Highland Square will always be there to catch you if you fall, be a shoulder to cry on, and will always be your biggest cheerleader. 

To learn more about Yoga Squared and to book a class, visit