Woman of Her Word

Kat Radley Head Shot

What do you call a woman who keeps her word? A stand-up gal. (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

I am fortunate to have met many people from all walks of life over the years. I like to interview them and share their stories with you in hopes that you will be inspired and entertained by their distinct journeys. If you haven’t heard of her, take note, Kat Radley is a smart, sassy comedian and staff writer for The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

I met Kat for the first time when she was in town with fellow comics David Angelo, Matt Koff and Joseph Opio for The Daily Show Writers Stand-Up Tour, sharing their behind-the-jokes of the late-night program. I went with a group of friends and we had a blast! Kat is the only female stand-up comic in the group of four, and she crushed it. I talked with her after the show, shared my admiration for her as a comedian, and asked if she would grant me an interview for my blog. She agreed!

Kat has been busy on a whirlwind tour, picking up an NAACP writing award along the way, and I am very grateful that she carved out some time for a candid interview with me…

Q: At what point in your life did you have the defining moment that comedy was your passion?
A: It was in college. I found a really strong group of girlfriends in college and finally felt comfortable being myself, unlike high school which was a self-conscious, popularity-contest nightmare. I had always been funny, but now other people recognized it — a lot of my friends would often comment on how funny I was, and I realized how much I loved making people laugh. A few friends even asked me if I considered going into comedy, and once that seed was planted as a possibility, I couldn’t shake it.

Q: Who was your biggest comedic influence growing up?
A: I always loved Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live. I found that comedy is very accessible and fun, and I looked forward to watching every weekend. I always waited for the Spartan Cheerleader sketches and quickly fell in love with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. I also watched a lot of I Love Lucy growing up, and I think that sunk into my subconscious without me even realizing it.

Q: Who or what made you take the brave plunge from teacher to a writer for The Daily Show?
A: I quit teaching full time three years before I even got The Daily Show. My boyfriend (and now fiancé) encouraged me to take the leap to quit teaching so I could devote more time to comedy. I, of course, had to keep paying my bills, so I tutored, substitute taught, drove Lyft and Uber, and did various odd jobs to make ends meet until I finally got the writing gig.

Q: What has been the best moment for you so far as part of The Daily Show?
A: The best was hearing a joke I wrote told on television for the first time. I just happened to get three jokes on the show my very first day. I watched the live taping from the studio, and hearing Trevor tell the jokes, and then the audience actually laughing at them was a dream come true.

Q: Do you feel like you have had to work harder to earn your place in a field that is still male dominated?
A: Yes, I do. I started out, and still do stand up. I think it is definitely harder for a woman doing stand up to earn the respect of an audience, especially when I started back in 2008. Our society automatically accepts a male comic could be funny when he gets on the stage, but when a woman gets on the stage, the automatic response is, “Let’s see IF she’ll be funny.” Whether people are aware of it or not, we’ve all been programmed to associate being funny as a male trait rather than a female trait, but I think that is finally changing. There have been countless stand-up shows where I’ve been the only woman on a lineup of six to 10 comics, so just fitting in and getting along with other comics can be a challenge. They are more likely to accept you if you are funny… which I am.

Q: What do you do to keep your comedic writing skills sharp?
A: Write every day! It can be hard to make time, but you have to.

Q: What is your ultimate career goal?
A: To be able to keep making a living off of writing jokes forever and ever is all I can ask for.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a young girl aspiring to get in the comedy field and/or become a writer for a show?
A: I would say to keep going. The majority of people who don’t make it in comedy don’t make it… because they stop trying! I have friends, men and women, who quit for various reasons, and I wonder where they’d be now if they had stuck it out. I was told during my first year of comedy that it takes an average of 10 years to “make it.” I got my writing job nine years in. I’m not sure if that is “making it,” but it sure feels better than taking naps in my car in between tutoring kids and doing open mics.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 13 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 13 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I first learned about Homegrown Power Yoga when I was visiting a mom-and-pop coffee shop next door and noticed the studio. Curious, I checked out Homegrown’s website and classes online and about a week later wondered in with my friend Christina to try a class. It was an amazing hot yoga flow led by Alison, the owner. The experience made such a positive impact on me, that I became a member.

Alison has a unique way of leading a challenging sequence with true deep mindful reflection throughout the class. She is authentic to her belief that “yoga is for every single body. Whatever apprehension you may have, show up — show up and do what you can, and let the rest be gone.”

Yogi: Alison Adams, founder and teacher
Studio: Homegrown Power Yoga

Alison Adams

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: It’s very seldom that I count the years. On and off since my early 20s and then more continuously in the last 15 years as a regular practice.

Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Initially I had a dance teacher that incorporated yoga as part of our warm up, and I didn’t even know we were practicing yoga. I thought it was really cool — that’s why when I started I was in my 20s and didn’t know it was yoga. Later, when I went to a yoga class, I was like I’ve done this before!!!! I recognize all of these movements! I was doing yoga and didn’t know it! That was the start; it wasn’t super direct. I bounced around in different yoga classes, going wherever I could find a class because it wasn’t popular back then. It became a daily practice when I lived in Rochester, and I started practicing at Breathe Yoga with Cyndi Weis, an owner of the studio. That’s where I did my first 40 days and got involved with the Baptiste practice and started a daily practice. That was probably the biggest influence on me making it a constant practice.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: The practice has radically transformed who I am — it’s really hard for me to see the practice as something other than a lifestyle. For me, it’s not I do these things, and this is why I practice. It’s a way of being. It has become a system for my life to operate. It has given me the ability and ease to be in my life 100% — the ability for me to self-reflect, self-aware, take accountability and responsibility for how I show up in the world.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: I have taught Baptiste yoga for the past 10 years. Baron and the Baptiste yoga practice have clearly had a huge influence on who I am, and will always be my practice.

Q: Why did you open a yoga studio?
A: I genuinely love teaching. There was a natural progression for me to want to cultivate and build an environment that was closer to a community that was relatable to the experiences that I wanted to put in. The studio is named Homegrown because I wanted to teach in the place where I live, the community where I am — the influence of yoga impacting every part of my life. I have people like my neighbors, people from the ballet studio where my kids go, people from the grocery store I shop at — it’s a hub and that impacts and spreads out to the community. It’s a lot of the reason why I opened up the studio here. When I was teaching I was doing it in DC and Bethesda — more outside of my community which was fine, but I wanted to be more localized and have a more saturated impact.

Q: What excites you the most about owning the studio?
A: It’s interesting and surprising — some things have caught me from left field where people are bringing people in, practicing regularly and then emerging as teachers. And I’m like whoa, that happened, I didn’t foresee it coming! Andy just came back from Level 1 training. He had been practicing with me for a year. He was like, “I’m going to do it! I’m going to Level 1. I’m going to be a teacher!” I was like what!?! That’s the stuff that you have no idea when you start teaching a class to one person who walks in the door how the seeds are going to land. What is going to grow from the seeds — that’s the piece that I wake up every morning and feel the work I do really matters, and it makes me show up and contribute in that way.

Q: What has been a challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Maintaining the integrity of the practice of yoga and the integrity of the practice of business and merging the two so that they can co-exist. They are two very exclusive worlds unless you bring them both mindfully and consciously into the world of the teachers. It’s not a hardship, but marrying the two with intent to be the integrity of both of the worlds.

Q: Some studios use music in class and some do not. You do you not. Why?
A: I don’t want to make a comparison; I can only speak to how I created this space at Homegrown. It’s very intentional so that when you’re in your practice space, the only thing you are actually in fact sharing is your own experience. It gives you the opportunity to be 100% in your body, in your mind, without the pull of external information. We live in a world that bombards us with information, and we’re at a time of crisis where we need to learn to pull ourselves out, we need to know how to unplug, turn things off — this becomes sacred.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Be respectful to where your teachings are from. Stay close to the source, and present your teachings with a clear understanding and intention. Basically, don’t go making stuff up, focus and get really good!

Don’t Stop Believing: The Debut of rockNflow Yoga

rockNflow logo

rockNflow yoga design by: Angela Tarantula

I heard the song Don’t Stop Believing by Journey at an impressionable age. Jonathan Cain’s first stroke of the piano key immediately hooked me and then the distinct vocals of Steve Perry. The lyrics of that song have resonated with me in different ways over the years in my love life and personal life, but the one constant takeaway has always been not giving up on a dream.

Parallel to that time, I watched a lot of PBS programming, drawn to a yoga show called Lilias, Yoga and You. I didn’t understand the depth of yoga back then; I just knew that I enjoyed watching Lilias Folan and mimicking what she did.

Yoga faded out of my life for a while, but music from all genres remained an integral aspect — entertaining me and teaching me life lessons through the lyrics. In college, my music spark thrived as I worked as a DJ at an alt-rock radio station.

Over 10 years ago, I started a blog called Gal on the Go and regularly hear from readers and followers how my actions have positively influenced them to get healthier, change their eating habits, and be more adventurous. I always wanted to start a business that was an offshoot of Gal on the Go, but I was unclear about my destiny and what direction to go. One day, I had an aha moment leading to a surge of business ideas for the merging of my passions of music and yoga organically to form Rock N Flow Yoga (Insta: rocknflowyoga)!

Through rockNflow I offer private yoga sessions to bands, artists, and their crews on tour. I also teach at outdoor festivals and lead workshops on protein nutrition and positive mindfulness in your life. Stay tuned because I have some exciting projects in the works that I cannot wait to share with you in the next month or so!!!! Also, I will be opening up a merch shop soon via Threadless.

The reactions from my friends have been overwhelming, rallying in support of me and my new venture. They have lent their unique skills to see my business succeed, which fills me with gratitude. I hope I can help their pursuits thrive along the way as we uplift each other. My creative friend Angela designed the custom font and logo for rockNflow (credit: Insta @angtarantula), my talented friend Lauren took photos of me (credit: Elle Three Photography), my omie Amanda has shown up to every one of my events, and others have generously given me their feedback and shared wisdom.

My soul is filled with optimism with the launch of Rock N Flow Yoga, a business that is truly authentic to me. I hope to use this new platform to bring mindful and physical health into people’s lives in a fun way one musician and festival attendee at a time!!!!

To book a session, DM me through Instagram @rocknflowyoga or email me at rocknflowyoga@gmail.com.

Nailed it!

A healthy mind is equally as important as a healthy body, so when my friend Christine shared this story and it made me smile, I wanted to pass it along to you. I hope it provides you with a happy boost!

Christine has been preparing diligently for months for her upcoming wedding this May. She is super excited and has a Pinterest board filled with her fav wedding things. One of the items is a box made of wood for display at a wedding where people can insert their money cards. Christine is very crafty and wanted to make the box instead of buying one. She went to her parent’s home one weekend and teamed up with her dad who does a lot of woodworking. Together, they built the cardholder out of scrap wood. He used nails he had in a jar and revealed to Christine that the nails were from her grandparent’s home in Northern Pennsylvania. After both her grandparents passed away, her dad was at the house prepping it for sale and doing some minor upgrade work when he took the nails out of wood paneling from 1971 and placed them in a jar. He thought the card box for Christine’s wedding was a perfect project to reuse the nails.

It sounds simplistic, but there is a lot of cool symbolism to this humble story. A nail is defined as a small metal spike driven into wood to join things together. That in itself is cool if you think of marriage and how it’s a union. An additional fun symbolic element is that the nails are now uniquely linking a part of her family’s past with the future. A great example of how something small in life can have significant meaning.

Wishing Christine and Tyler all the best on their upcoming nuptials!

NOTE: Photos by Christine’s mom.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 12 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 12 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I met Dan through an Intro to Arm Balance Workshop he taught at Fierce Om, where I work. During the workshop, he shared great breathing and warm-up exercises along with tips for breaking down the arm balance poses. He kindly agreed to stay after the event for an interview.

Dan Castan

Dan likes to live life on the edge! 😉

Yogi: Dan Castan
Studio: Dan Castan Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Since freshmen year of college. I thought I was going to an easy stretching class to supplement my long-distance running, but it was more than I expected and I developed a love for yoga. I took four years of Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga, then decided to pursue my 200-hour teacher training in Virginia Beach where I was going to college.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I like being able to physically and mentally challenge myself. Finding the edge where I am at on a given day and then pushing myself physically and mentally. It feels empowering to me!

Q: Which is your favorite yoga style to practice?
A: The first yoga style I practiced was Hatha, but more of an athletic Hatah style because of my instructor’s background at the time. From there, I went on to take Vinyasa classes, which I liked a lot, especially as a long-distance runner, the stretching and strengthening aspects were great. Then I took Ashtanga, which helped me get into a meditative state. It (Ashtanga) is now my favorite style.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: Bakasana (crane pose) because it was my intro pose to arm balances. Being able to fly, balance on my hands in Bakasana was special to me because I felt empowered the first time I achieved it. I thought this is awesome!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: I have been teaching yoga for 10 years. I started in a studio setting teaching group classes. Now, I do private sessions and semi-private sessions with 3-4 people and lead workshops. I help people improve their form by teaching them things like how to shift their weight and gracefully get into/achieve poses.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love seeing my students progress, seeing the aha moments on their face when they get postures and reach milestones. I love seeing them grow as students.

Q: As a male instructor, do you feel your teaching style is different?
A: Yes, but only because of my athletic background in running and cross-training. I think my style of teaching incorporates more upper body poses. I focus on those because I have found that the upper body postures are beneficial with the progression of inversions and arm balances.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Keep it simple. When I first started teaching, I tried to give every single alignment for a posture, and that’s the quickest way you can mentally burn out a student.

Q: What are the different kinds of workshops you teach?
A: Arm balances rate number one for me because, through my personal practice, arm balances opened up a whole different aspect. They help to improve your inversions and transitions — instead of jumping back I started to flow back. The arm balances workshop is my favorite to teach because of that. Second would be the transitions workshop — jump backs, jump throughs. My practice became more playful when I started working hard on the transitions. I may offer a workshop down the road in 2020 on inversions like shoulderstands, headstands. I’m currently working on improving mine.

As I have taught and gotten deeper into the practice of yoga, the biggest thing I have learned is how to slow down and pay attention. Also, I have gained more self-confidence in my body’s ability to do things physically, which in turn has helped mentally.

#yearofyou

#yearofyou

Before the official start of 2019, I created the hashtag yearofyou and challenged you to invest in yourself this year through healthy activities and events. Trying to lead by example, I’ll share my life experience and the progress on my goals along the way.

Life Experience Share: A friend recently asked me, how do you stay committed to exercise and motivated? My response, set time aside for yourself every day whether it’s 5 minutes, 60 minutes, or whatever and schedule it on your calendar like an appointment. You are more likely to commit to a workout if you treat it like an appointment that you cannot cancel without penalty. If you have a doctor appointment, you take it seriously and don’t skip it. Same goes for self-care time. If you need a mental health recharge, take some quiet time and meditate or listen to music that fills your soul. If you need a physical release, take a yoga class, go for a run, whatever activity challenges you while you are doing it, but then afterward makes you feel fulfilled. My friend shared that she does well for a few days or weeks, goes out and eats/drinks too much, and then feels like all her efforts were for nothing, so she throws in the towel altogether. My advice to her, DON’T GIVE UP! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! This is one of the most common reactions people have when they go off track. If this happens, you need to switch your mindset from self-sabotage that all your workouts were for nothing to it’s alright, I had some indulgences that everyone is entitled to, and I will get back on track! If you do or think in extremes you set yourself up for failure. Nothing is unrecoverable. Will you have to work backward a little to return to the point you were? Yes, BUT your efforts are never a total loss.  

A relevant quote I posted on Facebook that a friend told me … Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if something doesn’t turn out, take another shot (try again)!


I strive to present everything I do in life in a meaningful and inspiring way. The yellow color of the hashtag is on purpose. I selected it to empower the words yearofyou because yellow is the color of the Solar Plexus Chakra, the Third Chakra of the body known as the Manipura. It is the center point in which all energy from the power of life and vitality flow throughout your entire body. It governs self-esteem, warrior energy/anger, and transformation and it controls digestion and metabolism.

Mental Core Exercise: Get some fresh air and meditate outside on a sunny day focusing on your breathing.

Physical Core Exercises: Anything that works your core or involves twisting — crunches, plank, twisted lunges, Boat Pose or Child’s Pose.

2019: Year of Transformation

Every December I set core fitness goals for the upcoming year to give me something to focus on and to plan my training. I also try to calculate expected financial costs because as fellow racers know, a year’s worth of race expenses adds up quickly. In addition to my main goals, I sprinkle in smaller events throughout the year as people tell me about them.

This year there’s an additional component to my plans. Yoga. In 2018, I completed a year of dedicated training to become a certified yoga teacher in both sculpt and power styles, and in December I proudly started teaching sculpt and flow at a yoga studio called Fierce Om. Jenny, the owner/manager, has been amazingly supportive as I strive to build up my client base and become the best teacher I can be.

Bev, my life coach, told me that she foresaw 2019 as being a transitive year for me. Typically, change makes me uneasy, but for some reason, I am very excited by this prospect of life transformation, and I’m going to carry it with me and trust in the journey ahead! 

The reason why I started Gal on the Go was to inspire girls and other women through my life examples, to take reasonable risks trying things outside of their comfort zones that would help them to lead healthy lives and discover what they are capable of in areas they never imagined!

Since 2014, when I entered my first race, the Virginia Spartan Super, I have learned a lot through trial and error and advice given to me by other racers. One thing you should never underestimate is the power of your mindset. Sure, physical training is essential, but your mindset can have a significant influence on your outcomes in life situations. Keeping your mindset in check when moments of uncertainty start to creep in is crucial. IF you find your head leading you down a path of doubt or negativity, I offer you these two things to help you push through …

  • A mantra … Mirror, mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall. And whether I run, walk, or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all!
  • A song (music is a great mind booster) … download and crank up DREAMER by Black Violin.

I promise that you can truly achieve anything you set your mind to combined with honest prep work. Every time during a race, defeating thoughts enter my mind at a grueling point and I have to focus hard to push them aside. I refuse to let those negative thoughts get the best of me. During those moments I tell myself STOP WITH THE SELF-SABOTAGE! I CANNOT FAIL, I WILL NOT FAIL! I may not finish exactly how I hope, BUT make no mistake, I will finish. I am naming 2019 the #yearofyou; get out there and do things that fulfill both your mind and your body!

So what’s coming up in 2019? Some cool stuff!!! Here’s a sneak peek.

YOGA EVENTS I’M LEADING

(NOTE: If you are seeking an enthusiastic yoga instructor for your event, email me at galotgo@gmail.com.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
January 27 (Sun.)

 

 

Doggy Noses + Puppy Poses: Yoga Flow Class @10:30 a.m.
NOTE: Tickets SOLD OUT in two days!!! Thank you!
Mustang Sally Brewery, Chantilly, VA

 

February 9 (Sat.)

 

 

Athleta In-Store Sculpt Class @9:00 a.m.
Free and open to the public.
*bring your own weights
ATHLETA, Reston, VA

 

 

February 17 (Sun.)

 

New Year Transformative OmWorkshop: Nutrition + Restorative Yoga; Time: TBD Fierce Om, Chantilly, VA

 

??? ??? ???

RACES I’M PARTICIPATING IN

(NOTE: If you there is a race you think I should do or you are looking for a team member email me at galotgo@gmail.com with the details.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May 5 TD Five Boro Bike Tour (40 miles) NYC
August 17 SeaWheeze Half Marathon + Yoga Festival Vancouver, BC
??? ??? ???

I don’t have any financial sponsors yet for 2019, but I hope to have some soon. I was fortunate last year to have the support of Westfields Dental, Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, Essence of Om, and Downs and Associates Insurance. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Gal on the Go, please email me at galotgo@gmail.com.

“Here’s to the dreamers! Yes, I’m a dreamer!”

– black violin

Limitless Possibilities

The Suddenly Single Show With The Danielle Daily

My talented friend Danielle, creator and dynamic host of the new podcast The Suddenly Single Show, is an expert at formulating ideas, tackling her dreams, and networking. She was recently looking for sponsors for her new show so I took a leap of faith and signed on. I believe that there are no limits to what we can achieve when we support each other’s endeavors!

[The Suddenly Single Show is THE inspirational podcast for people who find themselves, “Suddenly Single.” Divorce, death, separation, or good old-fashioned gettin’ dumped. Like it or not, sometimes you find yourself Suddenly Single.]

Be sure to check out Danielle’s podcast through her website, iTunes, Spotify, and more! The episodes are loaded with great insight from people of many walks of life.

Thanks for the Memories 2018

2018 was another wild ride! I logged a total of 45.7 race miles, not as many miles as I hoped due to a year packed with four yoga teacher training sessions, limited funds, and an unexpected foot injury, BUT I am still very proud of what I did accomplish! I have lots of gratitude for the unwavering support from you my loyal followers, friends, community members, and my sponsors Westfields Dental, Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, Essence of Om, and Downs and Associates Insurance!

Highlights of the year included achieving two personal milestones. I participated in my first Ragnar Relay, running the furthest I ever had so far. The day before I flew out for the race in Mt. Zion, Utah, I was in the emergency room until after midnight for minor internal bleeding that I first discovered during the Race for Hope. The ER doctor and nurses respectfully thought I was crazy for going through with my Ragnar plans, but gave me their blessing after I explained my passion for persistence and that it would be my first time as a team leader, and I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I went on to complete the relay faster then I expected!

My second milestone of 2018 was competing in my first half marathon, Seawheeze in Vancouver, BC. Overall, this trip was one of the best experiences of my life, which is why I am doing it again in 2019 (spoiler alert 😉). My Airbnb host was terrific, having two daughters of his own who are marathon racers, he made sure that I had all of the necessities I needed pre and post race. It rained relentlessly the whole time I was in Vancouver, so I joined a local yoga studio called YYOGA to keep up my fitness schedule. I ended up befriending a wonderful local woman named Patricia in one of the classes. She and I instantly hit it off as if we had been friends for years. I had a stellar training schedule to follow, thanks to the valuable booklet Lululemon sent all the racers, but I did not prepare as I should have due to being immersed in yoga teacher training. My body wasn’t accustomed to the impact of street running, and as a result, I ended the half marathon with a stress fracture in my left foot. I am proud of my race completion time despite the circumstances. Lesson learned, NEVER blow off your training schedule that prepares your body for a race or fitness challenge of any kind!

A trusted wise friend told me that she foresaw 2019 as being a transitive year for me. I am intrigued by what lies ahead. I learned some valuable lessons in 2018, but I am ready to move on. I hope that you continue to find inspiration in my life journey, and forge a fearless path of your own in healthy ways that fulfill your spirit and soul!

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May Wonder Woman Run Fairfax, VA
May Race for Hope Washington, DC
May Ragnar Trail Relay Zion, UT
June DC Pride Run Washington, DC
July Ragnar Chase the Moon Fairfax, VA
September SeaWheeze Half Marathon + Yoga Festival Vancouver, BC

Yogi योगी Insight (part 11 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 11 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

[I posted this latest edition of Yogi योगी Insight today, the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year at 11:00 a.m. because it’s considered the most powerful day in a century and I hope to spread enlightenment through this series! Each yogi has something of value to offer. The #Sanskirt word associated with today is Shambhala, meaning a space of peace, tranquility, and happiness. It’s seen as a time for bringing a wind of fresh change into your life and putting bad and tired feelings in the past.]

I first met Alyson, co-founder of WheelHouse Yoga, at a yoga festival when my omie Beverly and I were walking around and stopped at their booth. She introduced me to Alyson Pollard and Kelly Layfield. I instantly felt uplifted by their positive energy! Alyson part of the WheelHouse dynamic duo ownership juggles many roles and is hard to catch. I am thankful that she made time to sit down with me for a candid interview.

Alyson Pollard

Yogi: Alyson Pollard
Studio: WheelHouse Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Knowingly and consistently for about 10 years.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: A knee injury. An overuse injury from running. I knew I needed to stretch more. I started my practice at Lifetime Fitness, and it was helpful. I was also going through some challenging life stuff at the time — a death, divorce. I thought, wait, yoga is more beneficial than just helping my knee!

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: It depends on the day, but mindful meditation is hands-on my favorite! It’s something that even if I skip a day of Asana work (the physical practice of yoga), which is frequent as a studio owner, I don’t ever miss a day of meditation!

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: Vinyasa. A challenging Vinyasa class because that’s when I’m able to be the most present — when I’m physically challenged.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: Wheel pose for sure! When Kelly and I opened the studio that’s one of the reasons why we called it WheelHouse, both of us are drawn to that posture. Starting a business wasn’t something we really planned to do, it just sort of kept evolving and happened. The word wheelhouse came up a lot. We were like what are we going to offer? What do we really want to do? We kept saying it’s in the wheelhouse of fitness, the wheelhouse of mindfulness. Then we thought why don’t we call it WheelHouse Mind Body Studio?! (That was the original name of the studio, now it’s WheelHouse Yoga.) We looked up the definition of the word wheelhouse — a yoga pose, your core, being in the sphere, which for us is being in the industry of fitness and mindfulness; and in baseball, it’s part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run. There are so many meanings! We thought, this just works!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: About four and a half years.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a yoga teacher?
A: My personal yoga practice influenced me to become a yoga teacher. It helped me physically and emotionally with balance in my life. It motivated me to want to offer yoga to others because I found it to be such a great tool.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: 100% helping others! It’s cool to get someone into an arm balance that they’ve wanted to do, BUT way far beyond that, the stories of how people’s lives off the mat have been profoundly affected is what I like the most. Integrating into the mindfulness, the thoughts of benefiting others outside of ourselves. When you invite people to attend a class dedicated to someone else, it tends to be a very energetic class because you’re all working for the sake of another. I think that is my favorite shift to see within students.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to teach and why?
A: A powerful Vinyasa class! I always allow at least 20 minutes for floor work and Savasana at the end. It’s good when you leave a class and feel like you’ve had a solid workout. Some people leave on that high, but if you can really take it down and contemplate at the end all of the insight you reflected on whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally — that’s important.

Q: Why did you open a yoga studio?
A: Before opening the studio I was a special education teacher. I thought I was going to be able to balance both because I was an assistant teacher. I thought I can do this, then OK, I can’t do this. I quit my job in August with school starting only a month later. I had to do something with purpose! Before opening the studio, Kelly and I had taught a few classes together, I was already teaching private sessions and had personal training clients. She was doing the same with pilates. We always came together on yoga. We had been friends for about 10 years before opening the studio. We were planning one of our classes one day, and she said you know, there’s a place in Clifton that is available. I said, oh yeah? I kind of thought it may be fun, and I said YES! Kelly was like oh sh**, she said yes! Then I kind of pushed her down the hill — yep, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this!

But that doesn’t tackle the why we opened the studio because I don’t think that part was as clear back then as it is now. In the beginning, it was more of there’s an opportunity let’s seize it. Despite all that was going on in my life at the time, I thought I could make this work. I had teacher training and retreats in mind from the start, but didn’t know it would all be what it is now. I was career driven in the beginning, but then quickly shifted to what a humbling opportunity it is to provide a place where people’s lives are so affected. That started happening pretty fast, which was incredible. It was all worth it! My gut told me you’re gonna be fine. It was one of those moments that I’m thankful for my family because in the beginning if I had gone to the bank to ask for the loan for the money I needed they would have said you’re funny, no, good luck! Fortunately, I was able to go to my parents for a loan. It was the same situation as a bank; I had to pay them back interest and all of that. My dad was like I believe you. It’s going to work, but you have to report the numbers to me every single month. I did that for the first 10 months, and he said OK, I see the trend, you’re fine. It was one of those things in life where I was like I believe this is going to work! It has to work! It was a feeling that I trusted.

Q: What are you most excited about as a studio owner and what are some challenges?
A: One thing that excites me is creativity. I don’t like to be complacent, but rather always evolving. I’ve had some other opportunities in the past where I was my own boss, got away from that and thought OK, I don’t really want to work for anybody else the rest of my life. Being an owner comes with its own set of challenges. You have to be accountable for yourself. Coming from a place of wanting to benefit the students in the most accessible way, that is what keeps me motivated more so than personal accountability. For example, I told students I would do this or I know this will benefit them, and this is what I’m going to do to make it happen. That is very important. Another challenge is financial. It’s always scary, but I must keep the strong faith that I had in the beginning — this is going to work and be OK. My only other challenge is because I have three kids and I’m a single mom, I have to juggle a lot. I would love to teach at the studio several times a week because I like the nighttime crowd, but that balance can be hard. Also, with nine instructors if they have a problem, that means I have a problem because as an owner I have to be the one who picks up the slack.

Q: Your studio offers a range of classes. How did you determine the types of classes you would have?
A: It was a challenge at the beginning for sure. When we first opened, we offered yoga, barre, pilates, HITT classes, everything, which is what we had to do to figure out what was going to stick. The Vinyasa yoga has definitely stuck. But I would say our most faithful crowd, besides the Saturday morning crowd, is Gentle Yoga. It’s so interesting because it’s not what I expected. The only day of the week we didn’t offer Gentle Yoga was on Thursday, but as of November 1st, it’s now offered every day of the week. It’s well attended because for instance — right now I’m personally nursing a hamstring injury and that class is really challenging. I think a lot of people come to it even if they are an advanced practitioner. Sometimes they’ll stay and take it as a second class to cool down, sometimes they’ll take it before another class, and it becomes their warm up to whatever class is next. I think we’ve definitely settled in now to what classes people like and what works for our community.

Q: What services do you offer beyond yoga classes?
A: Teacher training and retreats. The teacher training is when the teaching becomes exponential because you are producing other people that can go on and continue to share what beautiful shifts people can have in their bodies, minds, and hearts. That is an important part of why I got into yoga.

The retreats have been nothing short of magical — each one we have done. We go into them with the mindset of hey, we’re going to hit some bumps along the way, but we’ll figure things out. And we have every time! Many more retreats are on the horizon, which is something that I didn’t think would be such a big part of my yoga journey. I traveled and did the spring break thing in college. Now I travel healthy and balanced with a purpose! It’s been beautiful to see ho many people want to travel in that way — not just with their families, but with complete strangers. It’s a really neat experience! The first retreat I held for WheelHouse was local at the summer camp I went to growing up. It was very sentimental to me. Then Kelly and I did one about a month and a half after that in Mexico during Halloween time. That retreat was amazing, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Teacher training and retreats are 100% at the top for me. Even if I never taught another yoga class, I would absolutely still continue to do both of those things!

Q: Do you have a yoga mentor?
A: Yes, the people who I went through teacher training with at Stil Studio pretty much instantly became mentors. Our studio was open for some time before Kelly and I went through teacher training. I am forever grateful to Kelly. I was supposed to take a teacher training the month that we opened, but I pulled out. I was like I’m drowning, there’s no way! She told me that Stil Studio was coming to the Fairfax area from Boston to hold Fluid Yoga School. She said I really think you’re going to love these people! I probably said no to her 15 times. Then, about two days before the teacher training started I told Kelly, fine, I’ll go. It transformed my life in more ways than I ever expected! That’s when I found my meditation practice and everything changed. Stil Studio now comes here to conduct teacher training for WheelHouse and Kevan Gale leads it. They have been open for 10 years and have a lot more experience under their belt. They’ll tell us oh, we did that and it didn’t work, don’t do that. It’s been very helpful. I learned the compassion piece of teaching in this business through their training. That for me became the huge difference — seeing teachings delivered in a way that focused on building up the students instead of the teachers.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: If you deliver teachings, touch with compassion, and connect with your students, it’s going to be OK even if they don’t love your flow or your music.

We get nervous about teaching. Are students going to like my class? Are they going to hate it? Well, the answer is both. Half of them will love your class and the other half may think that it sucks. You just have to know that you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK!