Friends remember Talaya Thomas as ‘bright light’ who made Steamboat a better place to live
As her friends in Steamboat Springs struggle with the news of Talaya Thomas’ death, they are fondly remembering the woman who inspired them and positively impacted the community with her strong, authentic and magnetic spirit.
“It’s just so hard to put into words or summarize the impacts that she made,” said Holly Dickhausen, friend and owner of Rakta Hot Yoga. “I would definitely just want to focus on what a devoted and amazing mother she was and just her authenticity and her way of seeing people as they are.”
Thomas, 44, died June 28 of complications from an asthma attack in Costa Rica, where she had been living since December.
Thomas leaves behind a 21-year-old daughter, Maya Elle, who graduated from Steamboat Mountain School in 2018 and is attending McGill University School of Continuing Studies College in Montreal and a 10-year-old son, Enzo.
The news of Thomas’ sudden passing quickly swept across Steamboat Springs and the fitness community. Teachers and studios have organized a series of donation-based classes this week to raise money for Maya and Enzo, and one of her friends has set up a GoFundMe page.
“What I’m going to miss about her is that gift she had of seeing people,” friend Cristen Malia said. “She really did just offer so much presence and lightness when she was engaging with people. I felt it, and every one I saw her encounter felt it — it was nice to even witness that. I will miss her supportive way of being a friend — listening and consciously communicating.”
Thomas arrived in Steamboat Springs 20 years ago and found a place teaching pilates, spin classes and leading kids core classes at Steamboat Pilates, shortly after co-owner Wendy Puckett and Kristin Stevenson opened the gym in 2001. Thomas worked off and on at the downtown fitness studio for 13 years.
“She was woven into the fabric of the Steamboat community and our studio for many years,” Puckett said. “My favorite thing about Talaya is that she knew how to light up a class or whatever arena she was in. When she lit that fire, she really was magnetic, charismatic, and her excitement was contagious. She lived with vision and passion and went after what she wanted in life.”
Dickhausen and many of Thomas’ other friends said she was a constant source of inspiration.
“She truly was interested in me and in every person that she met, and she just went above and beyond, not just the superficial small talk, and really tried to get to know people,” Dickhausen said.
Thomas’ friends described her as strong and fearless, but Alicia Josfan said she had another side as well.
“We became friends immediately and stayed friends through those 20 years. I watched her kids grow up and was able to be there for her, and she was there for me, and I was constantly inspired by her gifts,” Josfan said. “When you see a woman so strong and such a physical force of nature, and then to also see her be vulnerable, it’s inspiring.”
Josfan said her friend set an example that it was OK to let others know that she, too, faced challenges, and she told one of her friends that the breakthrough often follows the breakdown.
In Steamboat’s movement community, it’s easy to see Thomas’ influence.
In 2015, she joined forces with Kristen Rockford to co-found the Steamboat Movement Fest, a four-day event focused on consciously connecting through movement, music and the great outdoors. In 2021, the event changed its name to The Moovment and went virtual because of COVID-19. The creators rebranded and amplified their mission to showcase more culturally diverse yogis and wellness experts, and the plans moving forward are to be live for the next event.
“Talaya was the artistic and creative force behind every single one of the events that we put on,” Rockford said. “She would create the schedule of events, she would curate the classes, she would reach out to all the teachers and the presenters and invite them to participate in the event. It was typically a whole weekend full of classes and panel discussions and movement activities.”
During the 2019 Movement Fest, Thomas came up with the idea of offering community dinners at the Depot Art Center and called them “Breaking Bread.”
“We hosted these community dinners where she had speakers talk about social injustice and how to bring us all together and understand each other as humans,” Rockford said. “It was just a really profound and lovely experience, and everyone just gained so much from that.”
In December 2020, Thomas decided to leave Steamboat and move to Cahuita, Costa Rica.
“She has spent a lot of time there in her life,” Malia said. “She went down there in her late teens and was part of an outdoor type of organization. She fell in love with Costa Rica and kept going back.”
Her friends describe Thomas as a “free spirit” who enjoyed traveling abroad, and none of them were surprised when she left for Costa Rica or that she was embraced by those who lived in Cahuita.
“Everybody knows her, and when we walked through town, it felt like she was the mayor or the queen,” Malia said.
Thomas dreamed of hosting yoga retreats there, and Malia said she was working with Thomas on one planned for this November. She also partnered with Souljour, a holistic lifestyle brand built on the roots of yoga, which was founded by Ashley Melin.
“We did not know each other in the grand scheme for that long, but the time we had was really potent and really deep,” Melin said. “She really was one of a kind in how she uplifted everybody, and there’s very few people like her.”
The two realized they worked well together after Thomas helped with Melin’s idea of hosting a global meditation that included 11 countries. The two put the idea together in 10 days and, in the process, became good friends.
Josfan said Thomas will be remembered for the way she connected people.
“We’re all interconnected through her,” Josfan said. “We are stringing a mala of memories, so that we always have it and so she can always live through that and through us with her, connecting us like a thread through the beads.”
8:45 a.m.: Yoga with Jess Ryan
Noon: Reformer with Morgan Cox
4:30 p.m.: HIIT with Reall Regan
Noon: Gentle Hatha with Kaitlyn Kreitzman
12:15 p.m.: Body Pump with Reall Regan
4:30 p.m.: Flow Jams (hot yoga) with Kelsey Ryan
8 a.m.: Pilates with Becca Gray
9 a.m.: Yoga Sculpt with Holly Dickhausen
9:15 a.m.: Pilates with Becca Gray
7 a.m.: Fire Flow with Sandy Evans Hall
9 a.m.:: Zumba
9:30 a.m.: Gentle Sunday Yoga with Cheryl Anders
4 p.m.: Total Recovery and Meditation with Linda Curzon
4 p.m:. Flow with Mary Bailes
Those interested should contact the studios to reserve a spot.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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