INDIANAPOLIS — Yoga studios are meant to be calming, welcoming spaces where people can step in to relax and unwind from daily stress. In the greater Indianapolis area though, two separate police agencies are now seeking more information about the identity of two women who posed as new students at multiple yoga studios, then stole credit cards, wallets, and other items.
On Aug. 5, police released an image of one of the thieves without her mask on. In it, you can see the woman's full face. Police are hoping the image will bring new leads in the thefts.
As police seek more information, leaders with six yoga studios across the greater Indianapolis area tell 13News they feel violated after the women, who police now believe to be the same suspects, targeted their studios over the weekend.
Authorities believe the burglaries started the morning of Saturday, July 30, in Indianapolis. Three studios - The Hot Room, Baptiste Power Yoga and Invoke - were all targeted that same day.
Ashish Kalgaonkar, CFO at The Hot Room, said two women wearing similar black hats and masks came into the studio’s downtown location around 7:30 a.m. saying they wanted to try a class.
“One of them stayed up front, while the other ones shared that she needed to use the restroom,” Kalgaonkar said.
It’s at that point he suspects the woman who went to the bathroom swiped a personal item from one of the students. Both women left before the yoga class started, telling staff they did not feel well.
It wouldn’t be until after class ended that Hot Room workers were alerted certain personal items had been taken from students.
“By this time, it was too late - the damage was done,” Kalgaonkar said.
The Hot Room sent security footage, showing the suspects from surveillance video masked up at the front desk, to IMPD shortly after the incident.
Cindi Odle, who owns Baptiste Power Yoga in Carmel, said they faced a similar situation at her studio just hours after the incident at The Hot Room.
Two women posed as interested new yoga students when they first walked into the studio on Saturday morning, before the studio’s 10:30 a.m. class.
RELATED: Men with masks and gun cause scare at Terre Haute Walmart; Prosecutor said no crime committed
They wore masks, baseball caps and appeared interested in taking an upcoming class.
“She had a whole story about how she was a traveling nurse - she's from Denver. One of our other teachers was a nurse who also used to live in Denver, and was asking her questions. And she said the woman kind of hesitated. But at the time, it wasn't enough to be, like, 'Oh, she's gonna steal something,'” Odle said.
The women soon left the class, saying they had an emergency. After an hour though, two yogis came out of the class to find things missing from their cubbies.
“That was a whole hour of time that went by, that these people were able to take and try to use their credit cards to some success around town locally,” Odle said.
The Carmel Police Department just released photos of the two suspects walking out of a Target and Walmart in Westfield, using the cards stolen from multiple victims.
Odle texted her network of teachers in the local yoga community. At that point, she realized her studio was not the only one that had been targeted.
“People reached out realizing that they weren't alone, that some of the other studios who maybe thought that it was just like a one off for them, were also targeted,” Odle said.
But while awareness about the thefts were starting to trickle out into the local yoga community, police and studio owners believe the thieves were just getting started.
They targeted at least four more studios the next day, on Sunday, July 31. This time, though, they hit studios in multiple areas - The Yoga Studio in Broad Ripple, The Hot Room's Fishers location, Honor Yoga in Fishers, and Yoga Six in Indianapolis.
That Sunday around 6:45 p.m., an employee working the front desk at The Yoga Studio in Broad Ripple noticed how kind two masked women were being to other yogis before class started, and appeared very interested in taking it, before eventually dipping out of that one as well. They left the class through a front door leading onto College Avenue.
After the hour-long class was over, multiple items belonging to students and one teacher had been stolen from the studio's cubbies.
Tiffany Dinwiddie is the Community Outreach Coordinator at The Yoga Studio, and said one of the women went so far as to create online profiles that would allow them to take the class, filled out waivers, and put their own belongings into a cubby.
"Knowing they were maybe watching the studio, or researching how they were going to do it, it stings a little bit. We feel really just sad about it, but we're really grateful no one was hurt," Dinwiddie said.
IMPD did not specify whether the two women suspected of burglarizing The Yoga Studio's Broad Ripple location were the same people suspected of burglarizing the YogaSix, Hot Room Yoga, and Invoke Yoga Studio locations near downtown Indianapolis.
Additionally, Carmel police did not say whether they believed the people suspected of burglarizing the Indianapolis locations were the same people who also burglarized Baptiste Power Yoga.
Overall, the yoga owners and managers who spoke to 13News said they feel the burglaries come at a time when many studios are still working to open their doors to the community after pandemic shutdowns.
"We aim to make our spaces very open, very inviting. It creates yet another sort of barrier for us to get people back in. But we're just trying to make sure everybody's aware that, you know, their possessions need to be in their control from now on," Kalgaonkar said. "It's just disheartening."
If you have information on these individuals, please contact the Carmel Police Department at 317-571-2500 or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477 (TIPS).