Tag Archives: cycling

Let it Flow

January 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Omaha has amazing yoga leaders who’ve been here for decades, but I wanted to bring something a little more contemporary to the table, in line with what I’d practiced on the coasts. (Lotus) is really a big family and a women-run company; all the people on our leadership team and in administration are women.”

-Mary Clare Sweet

The writing is on the wall at Lotus House of Yoga.

Colorful chalk scribblings dance across interior walls at the new Aksarben location, transmitting empowering messages like “Trust your gut,” “The revolution starts with one hungry heart,” “What you can dream, you can achieve,” and “You are getting stronger right now.”

Lotus offers yoga, barre, and cycling classes that will get your body in shape, but even more impressive are the positive effects on mind and spirit. This isn’t merely physical exercise, it’s an exercise in love, strength, and fulfillment. 

houseofyoga1“My ultimate goal is to share love through yoga,” says Lotus founder Mary Clare Sweet. “You leave feeling better because you’re developing an authentic relationship with yourself. When you’re connected to that authenticity—with nature and with your own true nature—you can go out into the world and make great changes.”

Her nickname is “M.C.”—short for Mary Clare and also quite fitting as she’s master of ceremonies for the alternately peaceful, playful party that is Lotus. With an extensive background in dance and a lifelong love of yoga handed down from her mother and business partner, Lotus CEO Anne Sweet, Lincoln native Mary Clare moved to Omaha via NYC to lay the foundation for her Midwestern yoga empire.

“Omaha has amazing yoga leaders who’ve been here for decades, but I wanted to bring something a little more contemporary to the table, in line with what I’d practiced on the coasts,” says Mary Clare.

In 2010, Mary Clare partnered with her uncle, Joseph Duryea, to launch Lotus at 144th Street and Eagle Run Drive—where she taught a demanding 19 classes per week, “just purely driven by my heart and the love,” she says. In 2012, she bought Duryea out and Anne came on as partner/CEO, bringing business experience that Mary Clare says helped take Lotus to the next level with solid strategy and brand communication. That winter, Lotus opened at One Pacific Place and Midtown Crossing. Two Lincoln locations followed in 2013 and 2014, with the downtown studio adding a neighboring Lotus-powered High Vibe Cafe, a fresh juice bar also selling healthy snacks and açai bowls, in 2015. 

houseofyoga2In 2016, Lotus closed its Midtown Crossing studio and opened in Aksarben. With vibrant natural light, a welcoming lobby where UNO students and others happily hang out, studios for barre, yoga, and cycling, and an in-house High Vibe Cafe, the latest location is a proud progression for the Lotus crew. 

“You can see the manifestation of our vision written on the walls here,” says Mary Clare. “It’s exactly how we want it, we wouldn’t change a thing. It’s absolutely filled with love, and we’re so happy to be here.”

While Lotus sees plenty of male clients and has some male teachers, it is largely a female-driven endeavor. 

“[Lotus] is really a big family and a women-run company; all the people on our leadership team and in administration are women,” she says.

In addition to the strong, lady-powered energy and community spirit forged by these humble warriors, clients can also depend on classes filled with sweet beats, rad refrains, and soothing sonic journeys, as carefully crafted playlists strategically correspond songs to chakras. From The Beatles to Beyoncé, tracks span genres including folk, pop, hip-hop, soul, and rock.    

“Music has always been the cornerstone of Lotus. Our mission is to raise the vibration, and music is vibration; so that’s a huge part of it,” says Mary Clare. “We aim to marry the ancient and modern together to create an experience that feels like home, that feels like love, that’s accessible and available to everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

Visit lotushouseofyoga.com for more information.


Free Ride

April 21, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Charles Mitchell has never driven a car.  He doesn’t even have a license.

Why not slow life down a bit and experience the outdoors instead?

So he bikes.


It’s a challenge and there is no temptation to take it easy.  Plus, it is cheaper and healthier.

Even on the coldest days, Mitchell will put on ski goggles, throw on double layers of everything, and decide which one of his nine bicycles he feels like taking for a ride. “Every time I get on a bike, I get excited,” Mitchell says. Mitchell pedals at least 10 hours a week, sometimes making multiple trips to the grocery store.  His longest distance was 170 miles during an endurance challenge, and he used to commute on bike from Lincoln to Omaha for work.

Mitchell shares his love of all things bicycles with Omaha children at the Community Bike Project at 535 N. 33rd St., something he has been doing the past year and a half.

The Community Bike Project was started when a Creighton nursing student, Emerick Huber, saw people on broken bicycles in the Gifford Park area. The neighborhood was working to overcome a reputation of being the source of too many police reports, and Huber saw the capacity to turn a negative into a positive. The landlords gave Huber’s organization the building space for $1 a year and the bike-op was born.

The light blue door, filled with hastily scrawled signatures, is open on a sunny wintery afternoon. To the left—in bright green, orange, and pink—are seven rules including “Be respectful,” “Put things away,” and “Have fun.” Rule No. 5 is interesting: “You must be sober.”

“One of the strengths of this place is the diversity,” Mitchell says. “We teach and learn from each other, how to positively deal with everyone who comes in through the shop.”


There are youngsters of all ages smiling with bikes in photographs along another wall. They earned their BMX or 10-speed through the Earn-A-Bike program. Rows upon rows of bicycles are just waiting for someone to own in the basement, donated by people who no longer needed one or have just outgrown their bike. Then anyone, adults included, can fix one up and take it home after completing six sessions and a safety class.

“The really amazing fact is that all kids that are here want to be here,” Mitchell adds.

Chance Williams, 12, built a BMX but has stayed for the past two years as a volunteer.

“It just gets me out of the house and it is fun to help out in the community,” Chance says.

He recently took part in an obstacle course contest. Chance tied for first place so has earned his right to new pedals or grips. He really wants gloves, though, since they are difficult to get. He is hoping Mitchell may be able to work something out.

“I want to be like the one that goes around doing tricks like X Games tricks on BMX’s,” Chance says.

Mitchell has already taught him bunny hops and wheelies, always reminding Chance to put on elbow and knee pads. Mitchell was patient during training, but Chance boasts it was pretty easy to learn.

“Kids look up to him (Mitchell),” volunteer Bob Greene says. “He dedicated his time to working here and helping kids get off the streets.”

Chance is also taking part in the youth study hall at the Yates Community Center for homework help. This was started by former volunteers who are now in high school who wanted more decision-making in how the shop functioned and looked. “It’s an amazing thing that you wouldn’t think kids would want to instigate themselves,” Mitchell says.

Mitchell, who has a master’s degree in fine arts, believes “academia is a cloistered environment.” Students who get suspended or just don’t do well in school can excel in the open shop environment working with their hands.

Mitchell pauses to help a group of girls with a coral-colored bicycle, instructing one of them to clean a greasy looking part. “I’d ride this bike,” Mitchell comments while the girls laugh.

If someone doesn’t have time to commit to a program, there are inexpensive bikes on sale anywhere from $30 to $300. Or people can come in for help to fix a tire, pedal, or chain during open shop days. Donations are always welcome, but not expected.

“My passion for this place is based on the idea that every single bike ride can be a lot of fun,” Mitchell says.



February 17, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Helmets fastened, Leslie Wells and Chase King climb on their bikes and take off for a brisk ride through downtown Omaha on a crisp afternoon. For these avid cyclists though, today’s ride isn’t about recreation. It’s about recycling.

Earlier in the day, the two men collected hundreds of glass and plastic bottles, cups, containers, cardboard, cans, and other items from an Old Market coffee shop and a downtown restaurant. They loaded and secured each trash bag, box, and bin stuffed with recyclables onto a pull-behind bicycle trailer hitched to a Surly Pugsley bike with big, fat tires.

On today’s route, King rides the bike pulling the trailer, while Wells follows on his own bicycle. After pedaling their way to a recycling dumpster in a parking lot near Heartland of America Park, they unload the nearly 300-pound haul. Everything but the glass, which is biked to a collection site at 26th and Douglas streets, gets tossed into the giant bin.

Two days later, they’ll be it again—putting the cycle in recycle. Their efforts are part of COMMONgood Recycling, one of several programs operated by local nonprofit group inCOMMON Community Development.

Wells, program director at inCOMMON and a longtime cycling enthusiast, created and coordinates the pedal-powered service, which is offered Monday and Saturday to business owners in the downtown and midtown areas. Its primary goals are to assist small businesses, employ residents seeking entry-level work, and help protect the environment.

The idea came about after Wells noticed two of his friends, who own Omaha Bicycle Co. in Benson, using their bikes to recycle. It inspired him to take a similar approach to recycling at Aromas Coffeehouse in the Old Market, where he worked at the time.

At first, he used a handmade wooden cart attached to his bike to haul recyclables from Aromas but later switched to a solid aluminum trailer because it was stronger and could handle heavier loads. Over time, Wells thought other downtown businesses might be interested in his method of recycling. And if he could get enough customers to sign up and pay a small fee for the service, it could create job opportunities for low-income residents served by inCOMMON, where Wells volunteered.

His plan got a boost in May when inCOMMON was awarded a $25,000 grant from State Farm to help develop the program. Wells joined inCOMMON’s staff full time to expand and oversee the effort.

What started with one client has now grown to more than a dozen participating businesses, including Flatiron Cafe, Block 16, Aromas Coffeehouse, Kaneko, Table Grace Cafe, Elevate, Greengo Coffee & Deli, Bench, Davis Companies, CO2 Apartments, and others. Businesses sign up and pay a monthly fee of $40 for weekly pickup. Other pricing options, including one-time service, are also available.

Previously, many of those businesses were simply discarding recyclable materials in the trash. “A service like this is important because it allows small businesses to start doing the right thing by recycling and still afford to hit their bottom line by reducing their waste fee,” Wells says.

For riders, who are either unemployed or underemployed, COMMONgood Recycling allows them to make money, Wells says, and it gives those who want to transition back into the workforce an opportunity to acquire job experience, training, and multiple skills to include on their résumés.

Christian Gray, executive director of inCOMMON Community Development, says the recycling project fits in nicely with the organization’s overall mission to strengthen struggling neighborhoods and alleviate poverty at its root.

The nonprofit group, which in October celebrated the grand opening of its Park Ave Commons community center at 1340 Park Ave., provides a variety of services for neighborhood residents, including GED instruction, preventative and emergency services, community building, English language lessons, job readiness, and other resources.

King is among the riders employed by COMMONgood Recycling as an independent contractor.

Since June, he’s helped collect, sort, and haul recyclables to drop-off sites around town. He sees the service as a way to help promote a greener community and reduce the amount of trash that goes into landfills.

“Landfills are full enough already,” King says.

In the coming year, Wells hopes to add more riders, bikes, and customers, while continuing to raise recycling awareness. He also wants to expand the service to include other areas of the city, including Benson.