By Jeff Martin

“Yoga is seeing life the way it is,” is a quote, or Sutra, commonly referenced by those who practice what is generally described as an alternative form of exercise.

And life for Laura Solly is pretty darn good at the moment.

Solly, who co-owns and manages Daff Dry Goods in Ellicottville, is a 36-year-old Colden native who has her feet firmly placed on both the floor of business and the roof of the physical aesthetic. She is both practical and dreamy, which is a balancing act in this fast-paced world.

On the practical side, Solly works her talent at Daff, a clothing store that specializes in men’s and women’s clothing and shoes. There’s a western influence in the apparel, an earthy grounding that compliments her other endeavor: that of yoga instructor.

Yet the definition of instructor may be a bit misleading, especially when it comes to yoga, which in spite of the dozens of definitions seeking to clarify it remains elusive.

“I’m still learning this ancient practice,” Solly said. “You never really learn it all.”

She was first exposed to yoga as a child. Her father practiced it, and as she got older she became more and more interested. Studying English at the University of Montana and the University of New Mexico, she moved back to the area and practiced regularly, eventually enrolling in a teacher/ training course in East Aurora. She became involved in the family business and, soon after, started offering classes in the back room.

It took off.

Now, she offers four classes a week — two in the evenings, two in the mornings. She averages anywhere from six to seven students per session. People know of her mainly by word of mouth and social media, specifically Facebook. Classes range in difficulty, from beginner to intermediate.

Still, after centuries of practice, yoga remains elusive to most. Many people have preconceived notions of what it is. Many believe it’s just stretching, Solly said, and because of that they believe it has no physical or mental benefits.

“It’s wonderful to see how people come in with an idea of what it is and leave with a different idea,” she said.

In an effort to define yoga, a quick search shows how there are many compound words containing “yog.” The word yoga can assume a variety of meanings, including “connection,” “contact,” “application,” “addition” and “performance.” It’s commonly described as a “joining” — that is, a joining of mind and body, which is critical for overall health.

Many people engage in the practice without knowing it, Solly said. Stretching in the morning, cracking ones back in an office chair — these are forms of yoga. But to learn the correct and often intensive methods, one needs formal instruction and a place in which to learn it.

By engaging in regular practice, Solly has seen people lower stress, minimize health problems and, in a sense, “ground” themselves in a constantly shifting world.

Offering yoga in such a village as Ellicottville, where much of its population is seasonal, is a challenge, she said.

“I get a lot of different students, and it is a challenge to attract people,” she said.

She’s content with how things are going, which may be a mindset directly influenced by the regular practice of yoga. Good or bad? It’s difficult to tell, but life is difficult to translate with any firm certainty.

And that’s where yoga becomes so valuable, Solly agrees.

For more information about the store or her yoga sessions at Core Performance & Fitness at 33 Bristol Lane, call (716) 699-2293.