My Mat Is…

When I read my friend Laura’s candid post about her yoga mat, it moved me. I asked her if I could share her story, and she said, “yes”. Gratitude for #Manduka and our mats, a valued tool of the trade!

Laura Hitchman practicing self-care on her Manduka mat.

#mymatis my home. I feel safe, secure, and able to be myself when I’m on my mat. It’s not the integral yet supportive nature of the quarter-inch rubber mandukayoga under my body, but rather what it has come to represent over the past eight years. A gift from an ex, I could’ve allowed my mat to represent that relationship. I chose to let go instead. While I rid my life of a lot of physical things that reminded me of that time, I knew in my heart that my mat wasn’t one of those things I needed to purge to cleanse. I’ve taken time to build a strong practice, and my mat has seen a lot of sweat. I’d venture to say pounds upon pounds of toxins have been absorbed into that rubber along with many tears and lots of laughter. It’s been through endless hours of training. It’s traveled with me. It’s provided me with a place to take a nap. It’s witnessed countless yoga injuries because if you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying. It’s gone camping (never again). It’s seen the likes of lovemaking (maybe more than once and yes, you should give it a try; I know you’re thinking about it now). I’ve shared it with friends. It now holds their sweat. Maybe some of their tears, and I know it holds their love. It’s provided me with a safe space to feel love, to allow my heart to be open. I’ve danced on it. Farted on it. Taken my time to heal on it from chronic illness and heartache. It even melted once in my trunk, into a shoebox. Somehow it got its shape back. No harm, no foul. It’s hosted the likes of small children doing Down Dog. It’s held up to my drool. It’s carried me through to the present moment. It’s been to the beach. I’ve squatted on it with friends to watch the full moon and listen to drums beat in my chest. I’ve eaten on it (bad yogi, I know, pizza and subway (Ewww). I’ve shared wine on it with friends. It’s witnessed so much of who I am. I’ve gotten funky on it, created flow upon flow on it. Gotten naked by myself on it. Flowed in that way on it. A judgment-free zone, a cathartic warm hug from my main squeeze. So there you have it, #mymatis home!

If you would like to share your personal story about your mat on Laura’s Insta page, go to: https://www.instagram.com/ovpoweryoga/ 

Instructions for posting under her #mymatis Insta story:
1. Post a photo of yourself in your natural habitat! Something that depicts who you are!
2. Share what your mat means to you.
3. Use the hashtag #mymatis with your post.
4. Tag and mention the studio @ovpoweryoga in your post. (they can’t track it if you don’t do it)
5. Tag a friend or 2 to play along. *Post deadline is November 30. They will select a post to win an unlimited annual membership; all are eligible!

You may recognize Laura from my Yogi Insight section. She is the owner of OVPY in Wheeling, WV. I encourage you to get your flow on there if you are in the area!

A Sure Sign: Creative Branding

at GALOTGO

hashtag GALOTGO

Four and a half years ago, I was brainstorming creative ways to market my Gal on the Go brand when I had an actual aha moment. It was right in front of my face!!!! I thought, why not take my personalized license plate, GALOTGO, and place a hashtag in front of it?! A unique way of marketing to a captive audience of fellow drivers. During my initial search for the symbol, I couldn’t find a hashtag sticker anywhere, so I bought four number 1 stickers from a Home Depot store and made a hashtag. About a year later, I sold my Prius and had to remove my homemade hashtag. I researched the symbol again online, and this time found a 4″ vinyl version on Amazon. Score! The reaction to the sticker has been a lot of fun over the years… people tell me frequently how creative it is, they take photos of the back of my car, and ask me if I mind if they copy my idea. If you follow my blog, you know that I recently did an overhaul on the look of my brand, which got me thinking… how can I update the use of my hashtag? I know, replace the # with an @ sign!!!! All of my marketing materials — business cards, flyers, etc. use @gal0tgo and @rocknflowyoga, so it made sense. I’m happy to share that the at sign has received a lot of positive feedback. If you see my car on the road, give me a honk or a shout!

Gal on the Go Gets a Makeover

Gal on the Go

I launched my Gal on the Go blog 14 years ago as part of a grad school project. I cannot believe how fast time has passed!!!! My writer’s voice has evolved and it was time for my look to progress too with some fresh branding. I hope that you enjoy the blog and continue to follow along. Like a fine wine, my goal is for it to keep getting better.

This year I created a sub brand of Gal on the Go called Rock N Flow Yoga, combining my past experience as a DJ with my passion for yoga, by offering private yoga instruction to musicians and bands and leading fun power flows at public festivals and events.

It takes a village of amazing friends and strangers with heart to help make your dreams a reality. You can try to do it alone, but it is much more achievable (especially on rough days) when you have people who are behind you rooting for you!

That said, I would like to give a shout-out to the following people for their unwavering support with this venture…

  • Angela Tarantula, my friend who is a talented graphics designer created the new Gal on the Go logo down to the detail of the arrows giving a sense of action and looking like a pair of legs running. (She also created my Rock N Flow Yoga logo.) Insta: @angtarantula
  • Lauren, my friend who is a skilled photographer and owner of Elle Three Photography took the photo used as the base of the new Gal on the Go logo.
  • Danielle Daily, my friend, and business mentor who is a TED Talk savvy businesswoman and host of the Suddenly Single Show podcast who came up with the concept of rebranding Gal on the Go.
  • Yorke B., a new friend and my Custom Ink rep who has been beyond helpful with all my merch needs for Rock N Flow Yoga.
  • Christina, my friend who placed the first order for some Rock N Flow Yoga merch and gifted it to me as a gesture of her belief in me and my dream.
  • Amanda, my original omie who attended my first studio yoga class ever and every one of my public yoga events.
  • YOU (my blog readers) and the people who grant me interviews — all of whom are a constant inspiration.

Sit back and enjoy this wild ride as we keep it moving onward and upward together!!!!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 14 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 14 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 OV Power Yoga when my boyfriend mentioned that he saw a sign for the studio during a visit to see his family in Wheeling, WV. I was in town for a few days and needed re-grounding, so I borrowed his bike and peddled off to a 60-minute power flow class led by Lauren Newton. I instantly felt a connection to the OVPY community and a sense of peace in the space. So strongly, that I returned every day for two more days during my stay.

While I was there I had an opportunity to meet Laura Hitchman, the owner. I found her lively personality invigorating as you will learn from her interview below. She has a playful attitude, but make no mistake, she respects the practice of yoga. Her power flows are on-point and challenging, and her business plans are ambitious.

Laura and I vibed so well, that she extended an invitation for me to return as a guest instructor whenever I’m in town and teach sculpt! I cannot wait to reunite with the OVPY community in July (dates TBD)!

Yogi: Laura Hitchman, founder and teacher
Studio: OV Power Yoga (OVPY)

Laura Hitchman

Q: Who or what influenced you to start practicing yoga?
A: Actually, it was my Dad — he doesn’t even do yoga! In 2011, (time in my life when I was very unhealthy and living the party girl life), he offered to hire a personal trainer to help me lose weight and create wellness goals. I didn’t take it lightly. I got mad at him. It wasn’t exactly the type of thing you want to hear from your father, but part of it rang true and deep down I knew there was a need for change.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I attended my first yoga class in 2007 at WVU. I took a class for a semester but didn’t practice regularly until 2012. That’s when yoga started to make an impact on me. It’s been seven years. I practice roughly three to five times per week. I’d love to tell you that I practice every day, but it just isn’t true. Sometimes I want to go for a walk or watch Netflix for six hours instead. 😉

Q: What do you like the most about practicing yoga?
A: There are so many things I love about it, but if I had to pick one I’d say laughter. Yoga, especially teaching yoga taught me to laugh at myself, to be myself regardless of the opinions of others. I crack jokes in class; some of them are a hit and the rest well… Yoga is continually teaching me to grow through the uncomfortable times, you know, that awkward silence when no one “gets” your joke? I’ve learned to love that awkward time; I no longer want to hide when I find my edge. I say, “OK, Laura here is an area where you can do a little work and grow; not get better, but grow and develop.”

One Saturday evening at the end of a very long day during my yoga teacher training, my friend, yoga teacher and life coach stopped me in my tracks and made me tell a joke. I got so nervous and embarrassed that I froze. All of a sudden these friends of mine became (in my mind) a sea of judgmental people. But, that wasn’t the case at all! I don’t quit easily, so I stood there shaking, beat red and I told a joke. Everyone laughed, and I returned to my mat. Life went on. I’m likely the only person that remembers that experience out of the 17 people in my YTT class. I work hard to teach people to show up as they are and to not worry that others are paying much attention to them — they’re busy thinking about their own lives.

Q: What is your favorite pose and why?
A: It changes all the time… it used to be half moon, then garudasana (Eagle), wheel. Right now it’s plank. You know this if you attend my class. I love plank because for years I would opt out of doing it because my internal dialogue was you’re not strong enough, you’re too tall to do a pushup, etc. so I would never try. Then, one day I decided to do all the planks offered in the sequence of a 60-minute class. I built the strength (mostly mentally) to plank and now I want to do them all of the time!

Q: Who or what influenced you to open up a hot yoga studio? Is there any significance of why you chose that location?
A: I moved back home to Wheeling, WV, after living in Charleston, SC, for 10 years. I wanted to be closer to my family, get a handle on my health (I have autoimmune diseases.) and casually teach yoga a few times a week. I didn’t have a lot of time to teach yoga in South Carolina due to illness and working a full-time job. Also, I didn’t have the energy to teach night classes like the rest of my friends.

Much to my surprise, upon moving home, I found a budding yoga community in Wheeling that was craving the practice as much as me! Not to mention it’s a town that’s currently ripe for new business and fun, healthy things to do. I worked hard in 2018 to bring the community together even more — hosting local events and supporting other businesses. I was inspired by the people who live in the Valley and their desire/dedication to shift the perspective for the whole, to bring healthy options to our town and support one another. I’ve worked in business and hospitality my entire career. The combination of majoring in those fields in college, my YTT 200, Life Coach certification and community support, made starting a business in Wheeling make sense. It finally felt like all of my skills, passions and education were pulling me in the same direction and I could no longer ignore it. I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years — yoga teachers, coaches, business owners who have influenced me, but also crappy jobs, relationships that didn’t end well and chronic illness all that have shaped me. I grew into who I am today from walking my ass through the fire and choosing to shift my perspective and change accordingly.

Q: Your talented sister, Hannah Wagner, painted the chakras mural on the wall, how did that come about?
A: How much time to do you have? Just kidding. We sat down and talked through the concepts behind the chakras, the elements that each encompasses and how we could interpret the chakras through art. It’s personal. We worked to portray the meanings through the imagery of relatively ethereal concepts. It was challenging and got us thinking about how art is left to interpretation and so is yoga; they flowed together!

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning/running a yoga studio?
A: There are so many, but I love hearing stories from my clients when they start a practice, develop a passion for it and return to tell me how yoga is starting to impact all the areas of their lives in ways that feel light and lifted. One client recently told me that her co-workers mentioned to her that she spends a fair amount of time at work these days taking deep breaths and letting the air out through her mouth. We teach breathing techniques at OV Power Yoga because they’re a tool you can use everywhere you go at any time.

Q: What is your mission as a yoga owner?
A: To get more people on mats!!! At home, in nature or in the studio. It doesn’t matter where you start; just start. The rest will unfold the way it’s meant to be. Yoga makes us friendlier, happier and more accepting of ourselves. It’s an introspective practice at best and through breath, movement and sweat we release endorphins and build serotonin and calm our nervous system. For me, it’s about COMMUNITY. We need it for our health; it’s a major part of sustaining us well into our 90s. My mission for the Valley is to bring The Blue Zone Project to town. Check it out! (Blogger’s Note: I looked into The Blue Zone Project, and it’s intriguing!)

Q: What is the biggest challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Patience. As I said earlier, I don’t quit easily. I’m learning that it takes time for people to realize you even exist as a business. It’s slow, but picking up every day. I’m very pleased with our success so far. On average we have nine people per class and 14 classes per week. To me, that’s impressive for only having been open for five months so far.

Q: What is your short- and long-term plan for your studio?
A: We will be doing it ALL! My vision for the studio is grand! YTT is coming this year. I’m getting ready to submit materials to the Yoga Alliance for curriculum approval. We will host an assistant training (my first love), and next winter we will go on our first retreat. It’s all in the works! I spend a lot of time developing the business when I’m not at the studio. In June we will hold a co-lead workshop with myself and Jim Weekly called My Husband Does Down Dog. It’s designed to get more men on the mat with their wives to enjoy the practice together. We will also be around town doing events at places like Nikki’s Garden Center (Yoga in the Hot House) and Generations Pub (Hot Yoga on the Deck). Keep checking the OVPY website and our Instagram (@ovpoweryoga) account for updates.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Actively, for three years. I say yes before I say no. Humans tend to back out of things that they overthink. I’m no different, so I say yes and there is less anxiety. I find a new edge!

Q: What do you like most about teaching yoga?
A: That light-bulb moment in class when I notice the look of excitement on a student’s face when the person lands a pose for the first time. It’s not about doing the pose flawlessly, but rather falling so many times that when you finally achieve what you have been working on, it feels good.

Q: How do you come up with your sequences?
A: I wing it. I don’t plan; I don’t write them out. That gives me anxiety. I prefer to look at the bodies in the room and to teach to who is there. I’ve found that if I write out my sequences, I back myself into a corner and get attached to what I planned and then I’m not as present to the needs of the people in the room. I’ve taught my instructors to do the same. We know what we need to do; we have the knowledge, we need to have faith in ourselves. If we screw up, well, the next time will be different. It’s forgiveness, courage, trust and a smile.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Put your notes away, trust yourself and say YES before you can say no. Also, if something feels off, talk with your studio owner — voice how you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. Value yourself and everyone else will.

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.

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.

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!

YOGI योगी INSIGHT (part 10 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 10 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 Daniel a few years ago when one of his businesses, Jammin’ Java, hosted Jammin’ Yoga — a music-infused pop-up yoga series with proceeds to benefit Music Makes Life Better. I admire how Daniel pays it forward through his community organization, encouraging people to “serve their neighbors in need.” His pursuits align with all of my life passions — music, community, and yoga, so I was stoked when he carved out time to sit down with me and share his yoga path!

Daniel Brindley

Yogi: Daniel Brindley
Studio: Down Dog Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Nine years. I started at a local gym setting, and then I went to Bikram Yoga in Tysons Corner and Reston for a while. After about year or so of that people kept saying you should try Down Dog, it’s hot yoga, but different from Bikram. I started coming to Down Dog about eight years ago.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: You know what, I was probably latching on to the trend. In around 2009/2010 I was on a personal journey to get healthy and looking for things to get myself healthy in every way. Yoga just really resonated with me. It kept working for me.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: It’s different from when I started. Now it’s very much body maintenance, staying healthy. With the busyness of life, especially with hot yoga, it’s very much a rinse. From looking at screens all day, email, phone, business, kids, and running around it’s a good way to show up, take a pause and get it all out. Rinse out and reset! That’s the way I think about it now. When I started, I was on a mission five days a week. It was very much a path to transforming my life and then becoming a teacher.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: The yoga that we do at Down Dog is called Baptiste Yoga™, power yoga. It’s hot yoga. It resonates with me — the sweat and heat. They are critical for me — I love it! It feels like more of a workout. There’s a vigorous side to it that I appreciate. Other yoga styles I have tried are fine, in my view, they are softer, calmer, slower, but I don’t get much of a workout. I don’t do it often, but I like Bikram yoga, it’s pretty special. The heat is amazing — it’s a very good counterbalance to Baptiste.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: I know what poses I don’t like, balance poses. Those poses can be tricky for me. I have a bad left ankle. In general, I find balancing poses challenging. I don’t know if I have a favorite — the way that the sequence is set up in Baptise, Wheel Pose is very much an apex/peak pose. Thinking back to my full history of yoga, I remember in my early days when they would call Wheel it was very challenging and very exhilarating every time. It was like whoa! I don’t have a favorite, but Wheel is definitely something that resonates with me.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Roughly four years, but I took a break. I taught a lot at the top and then I kind of burned out, took a break and then returned.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a yoga teacher?
A: It felt inevitable to me. As I said, when I started yoga I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t me really; I was a different person. It changed my whole outlook on everything. I got into immersions, training weekends away — it started feeding on itself. I did a teacher training with Baron Baptiste who started Baptiste Yoga™. I also trained with Patty Ivey, owner of Down Dog. I’ve always been that guy — a teacher, good communicator — I like sharing and being in front of people. I’ve always found it exhilarating. Then falling in love with yoga and seeing how transformational it is, it became a thing that was obviously going to happen. I remember questioning if I should go to trainings and spend the money, but I kept doing it and was inspired to teach. As soon as I finished the second training I was teaching a couple of weeks later. 

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I have never been into the fancy poses and dissecting them. It’s never been what I have been drawn to. It may be a guy thing; I’m not sure. For whatever reason, I’ve always just been more drawn to the simple straight ahead Baptiste style if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I make subtle changes/tweaks to the sequence in my classes. Within that for me, what I’m most drawn to is the inspirational, transformational lesson — that’s what I mean by the non-pose part of yoga. That’s what keeps me going — sharing things I’ve learned with others. Also, I have a keen sense I realized. With yoga, if you give yourself to it — it can be a powerful transformational experience. I reference Christian faith in it in terms of being born-again. I feel like yoga, granted not a religion, I do see different people in the room having been saved or not saved by yoga. There’s something to that, again, not in a religious sense, but personal growth and transformational human story.  When I walk into my class, frankly I’m not focused on the seasoned people in the room. I’m not that guy who’s going to take them into crazy poses. When I see brand new people who don’t even know how to touch their toes — literally, there’s no reaction or response.  I notice that they’re a beginner and think, wow, I have the opportunity to show them how freakin’ amazing power yoga is and how their life can be impacted positively by the whole experience.   

Q: Do you feel your teaching style is different than others? Especially as a male instructor?
A: I do air on the preachy side, but I’m conscious of it. I’m very excitable. I like to go off and share. I can only teach once a week. I kind of wish I had the time to teach more because I want to share all this stuff. That’s my sort of style. I also think I’m good at getting people motivated. The momentum in my class is this train is moving, and there’s no lagging. It’s powerful and challenging. That’s what I want to do because that’s what I reacted to with yoga. It’s designed to be a highly physical practice. It’s supposed to be hot. It’s supposed to be vigorous. There’s a speed to the flow. I think I’m good at keeping people moving, sweating and being challenged.

Q: Do you feel the student’s perception of you is different as a male instructor? Your class is always jam-packed.
A: I think my class resonates with people. They’re getting the poses they need. I don’t complicate it. I think I have the wisdom to share that people are seeking. It’s the same thing that makes them buy self-help books, go to religious services, counselors, it’s all the same stuff — people are looking for guidance and growth. It’s a physical practice first definitely, and it’s a spiritual experience. Before I started yoga, it would go to the gym and workout and go to wherever else for spiritual stuff. It was all segmented, but in yoga, it’s all integrated. I think people keep coming back to my class because I’m very tuned into all of that. I’m not just mechanical pose-to-pose. I also bring in the spiritual elements. I think it’s kind of a holy sh** moment for some people. Wait, I thought I was just coming to workout. I think there’s something to that.

Q: Do you think your role as a father, businessman, etc. influence you as a teacher?
A: It’s the other way around. Doing yoga and teaching help me in different areas of my life. There’s an interplay, but yoga has definitely transformed how I look at problems, business, people, etc.
SIDE NOTE: Before the interview, I took Daniel’s class, and he talked about staying in the flow of life and the perception of letdowns and setbacks. There was a time in his life when he would have felt “the sky is falling” if crappy stuff happened, or things didn’t go as expected. But he has a different outlook now. He shifted from seeing those things as dead ends or problems to each one of the seaming roadblocks as the opposite — a sign of possibility. For instance, he said he went to go swimming for some self-care time and forgot his goggles. At first, he felt frustrated that he didn’t have them and could have said forget it and went home. Instead, he changed his mindset, grabbed a kickboard and did a different workout than he originally planned. Swimming laps with the kickboard and running in the water turned out to be equally if not more fun for him once he adapted to the situation.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: There’s not a lot of money to be made in teaching yoga, at least at the local level. It’s very common for new teachers to burn out. They’re very excited and keep saying yes to teaching lots of classes, but they still have to work a full-time job. You can easily burn out and lose the excitement because of all the busyness. Also, you don’t think of this, but people who teach a lot have that much less time to spend in the studio and practice. There’s a sacrifice. You should be strategic with setting up your initial schedule to make sure it’s sustainable because burn out is real.

Q: What advice would you give to other males?
A: There is a perception out there that yoga is a woman’s thing, but it’s kind of funny because a lot of luminaries of yoga were male. Find a role model you can relate to. For instance, Baron Baptiste is a role model to me. I don’t know him, I’ve talked to him, but I don’t know him. I read his books, took his training and other things. I encourage other guys to practice yoga and consider teaching. If you’re a type A male, you probably think that you should be in the weight room and do CrossFit, but you really should be doing the opposite. You’re probably good at all that stuff, but the counterbalance to it is where you should be spending your time and energy. Yoga is where you’ll get the balance — the counterbalance to what you can naturally do.