An Upside Down Perspective: Andrea's Yoga Story

An Upside Down Perspective: Andrea's Yoga Story

I’ve put off writing this story for a long time. When Nikki asked me way back when the studio opened, I thought, no way- I don’t want anyone to know this side of me- it feels dark (it’s really not that bad), but I’m not this person anymore. Through, practice, patience, and the support of a strong community at Yoga Squared, I feel like I am in a place where I can share a little piece of me with people I truly call family.

If you’ve seen me around the studio, teaching or taking class, I’m probably smiling (or upside down). I haven’t always been so happy, though. Growing up I had a great, privileged life (thanks mom & dad!), but I looking back I can’t really say I was always a nice person. I dealt with a lot of anger problems over the years, and not knowing how to deal with overactive and angry emotions. I would flip from being normal to raging in seconds. It was always just me immediately reacting to anything and everything in an almost hostile way. Basically, I had no chill.

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I tried to use working out as a means to let off some of that energy but it only resulted in hyping me up to new levels of crazy. One day my fitness instructor started adding yoga stretches into our workout, and right then and there, a teeny little shift started.

Now, I had tried yoga all of one time in college, and immediately dismissed it as boring (can someone direct me to the spin class, please?).  A few years later, when I was about 26 or 27, I stepped into my first Hot Power class and my whole life changed (forever grateful to Lisa E). I found something that satisfied my desire to feel strong, but there was this subtle shift going on under the surface that I wasn’t even aware of until a couple years later.

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I started diving in to yoga, or, at the time, what I thought was yoga, online. I started an instagram and found some really inspiring people doing cool yoga poses, and I knew I wanted to learn them all. I was pretty good at doing these poses, and started stringing them together in different flows and sharing my struggles, that I guess some people liked to see. I thought I was doing yoga. For years, this was all I knew. I had a strong community of men and women who were all supporting each other out there, and we were all just “throwin shapes,” on the internet, and slapping #yoga all over it. Little did I know how much more to yoga there was…

 

After two years, and a ton of encouragement, I decided to become a certified teacher and go through my YTT. Somewhere along the way, I was starting to finally think like a real yogi. I met some of the most amazing people in my class (including our very own Nikki Woodford-Shell & Serenity Messner), who to this day inspire me to be better, whether they realize it or not. I came to the realization that yoga is not about twisting and bending and making pretty shapes or cool flows for the world to see, but that it actually made me feel like a human being. I’m not one to share a lot feelings, but I promise, I do feel them at times (like right now as I’m tearing up writing this and truly realizing what this practice has done for me).

 

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As someone who has always been a little odd, and never been a true empath, feeling like I understand people on a real level has been life changing for me. I feel like I can actually connect with people, instead of just try to make them laugh and use sarcasm as a way to dosge feelings (though, I still try to do that, too). I’ve always been an optimist, but optimism can be difficult when you feel like you operate on a completely different level than everyone else around you. I think this is what stemmed a lot of my anger - being so satisfied with everything that I just couldn’t see why anyone could be unhappy about anything, ever. Why were people choosing to live such miserable lives when they could just BE HAPPY?! Ah, I had so much to learn. I’m still learning.

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This journey I started led me through some difficult times, including a very recent divorce. It can be really challenging to realize you’re on a path that you never intended to be on, and you know the only way to redirect is to make some very tough decisions. I distinctly remember one night in Kate’s power class - I felt like her message was directed right at me. It hit me like an oncoming train. It was the first -and only- time I cried in a yoga class.

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Yoga has made me feel like I’m truly connected to the people around me. Meditation brings me clarity. The community gives me support and friendship. The dedication to the practice continues to help me believe in myself enough to make decisions that allow me to live my best and most authentic life (even if it’s not always pretty!). I am forever grateful for yoga, and especially, Yoga Squared. <3

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” -Albus Dumbledore (you know I couldn’t leave you without at least one Harry Potter reference :) )

Girl Almighty

Girl Almighty

hello yogis! it’s ya girl Cass.

you would probably most accurately recognize me from behind a large pile of towels or laughing + goofing around from behind the YS desk. it has been the pleasure of my life to be one of the yoga squared interns, + i’m so excited i was chosen to be the yogi transformer this month!

okay let’s go.

I ran cross country + track in high school. 11 months a year. 6 days a week.

[funny side story! coach shell, Nicole’s dad, was my coach all throughout high school + that’s where I originally met Nikki! She would come to practice + meets to take stats for us. I remember calling her coach Nikki :’) little did I know I would end up working for her 5 years later + her studio would change my life.]

running was the only thing that could ease my loud mind. I have struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember + running was my safe haven. I was in love with the feeling of my feet hitting the earth. I loved the intensity. the feeling of not being able to catch your breath after a long run put me in an indescribable state of peace. I am still a runner at heart, + will always have so much love for my stvm xc babies.

 

 Cassidy with her STVM Cross Country teammates!

Cassidy with her STVM Cross Country teammates!

a friend posted a picture from a local yoga studio in Akron + I was looking for a new way to cross train so I thought ‘hey this can’t be too hard!’ lol. another girl from my team and I attended a hot power class. we came from a long run expecting this to be our recovery. I remember laying in savasana with tears rolling down my face. the class COMPLETELY silenced my mind. i was hooked.

the more I practiced yoga the more in tune I felt with my inner most self. I remember feeling like I never really knew myself until I practiced yoga. it gave me the tools to explore the places in my head I was usually too afraid to explore alone.

when I ran, similar to my yoga practice, I would set an intention. the words would vary from inner-peace, fast, quiet, explore, almighty, truth, strong, bad ass… the list goes on and on. I was in child’s pose in one of my all-time favorite teacher’s classes, Maria Varonis, + she said, “as humans we area almighty. we are completely in control of our own fate. we have the power to choose how this life unfolds.” that was it. girl almighty was born. I don’t think she knows she had a part in the inspiration behind my tattoo, so Maria, THANKS BOO!

to me, girl almighty is for us all. it’s for my mother, my baby sisters, nana, cousins, old teammates, my best friends, the child brides, the women who grew up less than 5 minutes from me who were not as fortunate as I was, the doctors, trans women, lawyers, sex workers, single mothers, entrepreneurs, women who don’t have the right to have a voice as loud as mine. may we all always feel almighty.

 Becoming Girl Almighty

Becoming Girl Almighty

I got this tattoo when I was 18. I was so excited. I remember showing a friend + asked her honest opinion. she said it was beautiful but I cannot claim it until I live it. that hit me hard. how can I have these words tattooed on my body when I don’t live it? I allowed the actions of others dictate how I lived. a born people pleaser I wanted everyone to like me even if that meant them not respecting me as a human.

I spent many days and nights my first year of college very alone. I self-medicated as, unfortunately, many young adults// college aged kids do and I felt the side effects. hard. I was underweight and sick constantly. one Sunday morning at work a regular pulled me aside + asked if everything was okay. she said she noticed how much weight I had lost + how the color had left my face. I cried in the bathroom for about 4 minutes + decided it was time to change. this is where to yoga comes in.  I broke up with my long-time boyfriend + shed the weight of some very toxic friendships. it always baffled me that no one warns you about how much mourning + loss there is in growth. I call 2017 my year of loss. at the time I did not realize it but I gained so much more. it was then I decided to dive head first in self exploration. I became fascinated with being a forever student. I started reading, studying, listening to those around me I looked up to. I wanted to change so I did but the path was not linear.

in December I saw an ad on facebook for a free week of yoga in highland square. I picked up a friend and we went to class. I remember stepping into the studio and taking a sigh of relief. I knew I was at home. I fell in love with Yoga Squared + haven’t practiced anywhere else since. my year at YS has been nothing short of magical. I am truly living my truth [s/o to my girl tip] working here. each + every teacher + student I have met during my time at YS has impacted me more than they will ever realize. thank you for your soft smiles on cold winter mornings when you walk into the studio. you have no idea how much I needed that.

 

 Never stop practicing

Never stop practicing

being able to work for humans like Katelyn + Nicole changed the way I view work. they have loved, encouraged, trusted, + cheered for me so much throughout this year + I will never be able to say thank you enough. I am always in you guys’ corner!

I have felt my practice shift from a physical practice to something so much more. I can feel it from my head to my toes when I need yoga. it has become a part of my daily life, from focusing on my breath in moments of difficulty to getting on my mat when my body just needs to move. my yoga practice has become so vital to my life + I have YS to thank.

 life definitely looks different from the way it did a year ago. I learned how to love myself. completely. I found my soul sister friends. I adopted two kittens. I fell in love again. life is different but it’s good. most days I still struggle and want to pull the covers over my face + just succumb to my dark thoughts. but my practice, my tribe, + my family shows me otherwise. I am so grateful for the life that yoga has given me.

thank you for listening.

cheering you on always.

xoxo Girl Almighty.

 OG intern

OG intern

Live Your Truth

Live Your Truth

live your truth. words i’ve been saying, thinking, and manifesting every single day for nine months. and only recently have i truly realized the power they carry behind them.

honestly, it started off as a joke. i was living my truth by consuming too many vegan zucchini muffins at a time and staying out too late exploring the stars with friends. at some point along this impulsive journey, i began to comprehend what i was saying. live your truth. live your truth. and then i started panicking, because i was fiercely unsure of what my truth actually was, and i had been for a while.

for about two years i struggled with a lot of inconsistency, uncertainty, and self doubt. i was so genuinely confused about so many things in my life, and that led me to a mindset i don’t really want to go back to. i spent my energy comparing every part of my existence to others, which was incredibly draining. in high school i was a national merit commended scholar, but i vividly remember crying after getting my results from that qualifying test back because i didn’t think i did well enough compared to some of my friends.

from an age so young i can’t even remember, i thought i wanted to be a doctor. i was definitely influenced by my family growing up because my dad is in the medical field and his life seemed incredibly exciting, even until i was around 17. my entire life, i’ve also been passionate about photography and videography. one of my earliest memories is asking my dad over and over again to hold the family video camera so i could see through the lens. making short films became a more serious passion as I grew older and had more chances to explore the creative depths of the artistic side of my brain.

this is when everything changed. i went to costa rica for two weeks and my eyes were opened to the magnitude of the earth, our society, and our possibilities as humans. I realized that i didn’t want to (and don’t have to) live my life as a checklist. we are infinite and capable of things we can’t even comprehend. life isn’t a linear path with a single end goal and i learned that I am able to cultivate what makes me happy and in turn, that can become success. I wasn’t happy with where i was, what i was doing, or the people who surrounded me. i thought that by deviating from the safe plan i’d had my whole life, i was being dropped into the middle of a vast ocean and somehow would have to figure out a way to get back to shore. even with this fear, i did it. it wasn’t easy or immediate, but baby steps paved the way. i changed my major (too many times). and eventually things kind of started to fall into place.

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one of the things was yoga.

i attended my first yoga class on dec 28th, 2016 and my soul was heavy. thanks to a beautiful and motivating friend, i brushed the winter off my shoulders and welcomed a warm hug from the yoga studio. afterwards, i was glowing. i specifically remember the teacher saying “you are exactly where you are supposed to be,” which truly resonated with me because i had been struggling with that for what seemed like an eternity. those few words gave me peace to accept where i was and the knowledge that i had the power to change it if i wanted to. i felt stronger.

since that first practice, i haven’t gone more than a week without a physical yoga practice. I became obsessed and amazed at how yoga made my body feel and the surprising amount of things i was capable of doing. i stuck with it and found a studio where i go to school - here i found my love for inversions and arm balances. even though i was initially attracted to yoga simply because of how it made me feel, it was amazing to see that with commitment and dedication i saw my practice grow and develop, igniting a fire in my whole life. i remember the first time i finally held running man and my legs no longer felt like they were attached to the ground. it was exhilarating and i became extremely committed to my practice. because I was so lost, yoga gave me guidance. i looked forward to going to class every day i could and practiced in my room when i couldn’t make it to the studio. yoga gave me something to smile about. my practice became a safe, non-judgemental, encouraging place where i could escape insecurity and doubt. i was more motivated and happy than i had been in a long time.

I was in my teacher training when i discovered yoga squared. i immediately loved the space, the location, and the people from the minute i stepped through the doors. I got to know Nikki and Kate better through a videography project with a local publication creating a  story, and the rest is history. I kept coming back, taking photos, and filming videos for the studio. After spending more time at YS, i became closer with several of the teachers who gave me so much advice for my own teacher training. the people in this community are absolutely incredible and i’m forever grateful to them for their friendship. all the beautiful humans there have been so supportive and have truly changed my life. there’s no chance i would be where i am now if i hadn’t set foot in yoga squared & welcomed the love that radiates from that space.

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i’m a completely different person now than i was two or three years ago. i’ve let go of a lot of the negativity in my life and i’ve found a lot more love for myself (and others). i have a greater understanding of the universe and i’m excited to continue learning. i’m not saying every day is perfect - there are some days where i doubt everything i’m doing and fall back on comparison, but those days are few and far between. everything is still a journey. i’m still figuring out exactly who i am and what cultivates the most happiness. my yoga practice and the people i’ve met because of it have given me so much guidance and have invited so much love into my life.

 

live your truth, LOVE your truth, & the rest will come.

 

xx

tip

Right On Time: Lisa's Path to Presence

Right On Time: Lisa's Path to Presence

Hola everyone! If you haven’t met me, my name is Lisa Nicol and I am so honored to be the Yogi Transformer for the month of April! Nikki and Kate couldn’t have asked me at a more perfect time. April 2018 marks one year since I began my practice at Yoga Squared. I had done some yoga before; I had taken a yoga course in college as one of my physical education credits and attended a few classes here and there around town. However, it was not until I found Yoga Squared that I became consistent with my practice. I always loved yoga and knew it needed a place in my life, but it wasn’t until Yoga Squared that I felt fully connected to my mat. I took Nikki’s beginning yoga series in March 2017.

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I was at work with a former colleague of mine and she asked if I wanted to take a beginning yoga course at a new local studio – Yoga Squared. It was a four-week course to “learn beginning skills and broaden your horizons!” Of course, I said YES!! I had seen advertisements for Yoga Squared on Facebook and was really interested in checking out the studio, but I just hadn’t had the push I needed until then. I took Nikki’s course with two of my other colleagues and immediately fell in love with the practice of yoga once again, as well as with the studio. I hadn’t even come to a regular class yet, but I felt a special bond as soon as I walked into the studio. I placed my new mat on the ground and took a deep breath.

At this time, I was dating a man that lived in Guatemala. Sounds crazy? It was! Guatemala is so far away, but it worked for us at the time. We met when I was in Guatemala during the summer of 2016 doing mission work. I am a Spanish teacher and I love everything about the Spanish language and the different Hispanic cultures. I thought that when I met this man he was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’ve dreamed of marrying someone from another culture and raising my kids to be bilingual and have multicultural viewpoints (Wanderlust should be my middle name because I love nothing more than traveling and exploring new places). He fit the bill and I thought that I was so happy. I traveled to Guatemala April 2017 for my Spring break to visit, and let’s just say it did not go as planned. I ended up coming home two days early. I was unable to deal with the wave of emotions that I was unexpectedly faced with. I had been in a relationship with a man previously (apparently, we had different ideas on what our relationship actually meant and the path it was going to take – it didn’t end well). Needless to say, these suppressed emotions were brought to the forefront during my trip to Guatemala. When I was down there I was unable to eat, my anxiety was through the roof (something I’ve always struggled with), I was constantly panicking, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I finally made the decision that I needed to come home. This really hurt my boyfriend and I felt so bad because he had actually done nothing wrong.

When I finally made it back to the States, my friends and family were clearly concerned about me. Melissa - whom I had taken Nikki’s beginning yoga series with- texted me and said I think that we should go to yoga the day after I came home. I thought that sounded perfect, so I signed up! Melissa and I went to the noon class that Kate was teaching. I really can’t state this enough – that class changed my life. Everything that Kate said and did spoke to me. It was like she could see into my soul, and knew exactly what I needed.  At the end of class I told her how amazing it felt and she hugged me. I was so overwhelmed at that point in my life that tears just fell. Kate didn’t ask any questions, she just held me and that is exactly what I needed. Ever since then I have felt a deep connection with her and I will be forever thankful.

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Fast forward a little… I broke up with my boyfriend, started going to therapy, and coming to Yoga Squared on a regular basis. In May 2017 I took Cortney Martinelli’s 4-week reiki course and that enhanced my life further. Cortney has become my Reiki Master, my mentor, my work partner, yoga buddy, but most of all my friend. I ended up taking Reiki 1 & 2 with her, and I will be completing my Reiki Master Course with her at the end of this month. She has given me so much and I am so grateful to her.

 Lisa donating NINE bags of clothes to Yoga Squared's Closet Detox for a Cause!

Lisa donating NINE bags of clothes to Yoga Squared's Closet Detox for a Cause!

Practicing yoga has given me my life back. Yoga has opened up my eyes to so many possibilities and pathways. I have become very interested in Holistic Health – something that I had always been intrigued by but was unsure about how to fit it into my life. Yoga Squared has offered so many workshops that have allowed me to pursue and expand this passion. I now use essential oils for everything, I sell doTERRA Essential Oils, I am on my way to becoming a Reiki Master, I am studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach, I work with Cortney at SHINE, and I will be completing my Yoga Teacher Training starting in October at the only place I could imagine – Yoga Squared. Everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction that I have always wanted to go and I am SO EXCITED!!

Practicing at Yoga Squared truly changed who I am as a person and it has been the most amazing change of my life. I get to go to the studio and practice with my best friends Alex and Elena, whom I got to start coming to yoga, receive the best classes from the best teachers, and the studio is in best location of Akron, in my personal opinion! ☺ I just bought a condo nearby because I love living in the West Akron/Highland Square area so much! According to my friend Aubrey, it’s going to be dubbed ‘The Palace of Zen’!

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Thank you to Yoga Squared, all of the instructors, and wonderful individuals whom I have met there that have helped me on my journey. Thank you to my friends and family who have supported me through everything. I am truly so grateful.

 

Namaste.

Back to Breath

Back to Breath

Hi fellow YS fam! You may have seen me around the studio, and when you do I'm probably indirectly avoiding eye contact and heading to my mat to plant down in child's pose (my favorite) before class begins. My name is Kait, and I'm here to open up about my struggles with anxiety and panic disorder, and how Yoga has helped me cope and learn to heal myself. Anxiety is such a common struggle, one that often is not visible from the outside, and I hope that this ensures anyone in the same internal battle that they are not fighting alone.

For as long as I can remember, I've been an over-thinker. I too often get stuck in my head and buried in negative thoughts. My anxiety is constant. I assume the worst possible scenario, fear the unknown, and worry about the past and future so much that I am always fighting to "be here now". Remaining present is something I have to work to achieve on a daily basis. When I am on my mat, I am closest to free of those drowning thoughts as it gets. The cues to breathe, the insightful messages the teachers deliver, the constant and rhythmic movement - it all adds up to the best therapy my soul has found yet.

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Breathing is something that occurs so naturally for all walks of life, something we usually fail to even notice is happening, but it can often feel constricted when dealing with constant anxiety. There have been several times that I have ended up in the ER from a panic or anxiety attack because I have felt like I lost all control over my breath. My heart thumping out of chest, body shaking and sweating, and my throat feeling as if it's doing anything but allowing breath to flow easy. It is a terrifying experience to say the least. Yoga has given me the tools to help alleviate these side effects and come back to my breath when I stray too far. Not always do they work, but it is the closest thing to the strength of medicine for me. As soon as I feel the overwhelming rush of emotions approaching, I drop down to my knees and focus on achieving that yogic breath like we all do in a class. Being there on the ground and breathing deep and intentionally take me back to a feeling of safety. I remind myself over and over that if I have my breath, I'm living and thriving well. I tell myself that everything is going to be fine and that the slew of doubts and fears are all false. I remember the control and empowerment I feel when I'm dripping sweat in a Hot Power class but am able to use that same breath to push through to that blissful svasana.

When I first started practicing Yoga, it was through YouTube videos. I committed myself to a 30 Day Challenge with Yoga by Adrienne. At first, I was a little distracted and antsy through the videos, but as I became used to her voice and quirkiness, I started to find that place. You know what place I'm talking about, Yogis. I loved the feeling my mind and body achieved. I was gaining muscle, feeling confident, and my thoughts were transforming day by day. About a year later I started seeing ads on Instagram for Yoga Squared and was immediately interested! I planned on attending the first day of opening, but anxiety struck and I didn't make it. I was super bummed about it, so I called my bff (Katelyn!) who then was in teacher training, and asked her to join me the next day for a class for some extra motivation to actually make it there. We went in on the second day of YS's opening and I have been in love with the studio and people that fill it ever since. I remember my first class pretty vividly. I was nervous as hell, but soon all of those jittery feelings subsided and I was lost in the movement. We started off just focusing on breathing. The music was loud and my thoughts were quiet. My body was challenged through every pose. I cried through svasana (as I do every class now lol). I walked out dripping in sweat and already sore. I felt alive and present. I wanted more of it every day. It was a whole different world of feelings from what the YouTube videos were providing.

After that first day I went to every class I could make it to. Each teacher at YS offers a totally different experience and I enjoy them all. I am so thankful for all of the beautiful words and classes that are pieced together by each of them. So much love and encouragement is delivered in that room, and it's truly incomparable. If I'm having a bad day, I know where to go. If I need an extra reminder of my strength and control, I know my mats got my back. I love having a sacred space to release and heal & I love that I can show up and leave exactly as I am. Kate & Nikki work so hard to make sure Yoga Squared is a loving and comforting space for everyone that walks through that door. They're two extremely special people serving our community with only the best of vibes. I now could never imagine my life without Yoga, and I am so happy to have found YS when I did.

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My advice to those struggling to breathe and stay present, is to use Yoga off the mat. Find that place - where even when you don't think you can't balance for one second longer, that breath and focus proves you wrong. Remind yourself of your strength and beauty the way a soulful flow does. You can always drop down to your knees and take that child's pose, and you should never feel hesitant to do so... we've all earned that moment to breathe. We all have the power to make it through our internal challenges. Keep pushing, keep believing, keep breathing. We've got this.

peace, love, & light to all of you!

Kaitlyn <3

No Mud, No Lotus

No Mud, No Lotus

Heyyyy lovely humans, soulful people, stretchy, loving 5:00 attending Monday/Wednesday kids. Here’s my story and how I got here, cliff note version. Well, kind of.

First off, of all the times I’ve shared my story, I’ve never done it for a yoga studio.  Let alone the badass one that is Yoga Squared. So buckle up, buttercup. It’s about to get real.

Through junior high and high school I started to notice my negative mindset, habits, diet, and life. I wanted to play softball less and get high and sit on my couch more. I was deep in addictive behaviors, on all kinds of medication, struggling with self-harm, the need for acceptance, and the urge to be in a drugged out state every day. I failed out my senior year, lost my license, car, sense of self, friends, and the ability to look in the mirror or even the ability to FEEL. I was a mess. For the sake of you and the possibility that you’re reading this while eating breakfast, I won’t share an old photo of me. Ask me sometime and I’ll be glad to laugh at one with you.

In the deep of winter 2009 I woke up. I realized I wanted change but I didn’t know what that meant. I was 19, lost, and spiritually bankrupt (I always joke around now like why didn’t my mom just throw me some lavender oil when I was in high school? Anyway. Hakuna matata). Maybe you don’t know what rock bottom feels like. Maybe it wasn’t as dark as mine, but know that we all have a story and some parts of our story hang in the depths of the ocean until we get saved by a hot lifeguard that eventually brings us to the surface.

I mean, it wasn’t a hot lifeguard. But it was close to that feeling.

I started getting my high school diploma, hanging out in the basements of therapy buildings, stopping hard drugs, and eventually started doing yoga on YouTube. I mean there’s no wrong way to find your body and breath- except maybe not to at all, right?

On the third floor of a not so great building, in which I lived at the time, I’d do small stretches and be like “this feels good, I could get into this”.

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It wasn’t until I got completely clean, jumped into recovery and gained more weight (you know how we do) that I went to my first studio in 2011-2012. I googled a studio near me and couldn’t believe there were some in Akron. Why didn’t anyone tell me these sweet places existed? That’s how I feel now. It was hot, it felt long, but it felt like I finally took a breath. I remember that first class like it was yesterday. It’s funny, some people will tell you “they won’t remember what you say but they will remember how you made them feel” and that’s what I got out of that. I felt a small reconnection with my body.

Since that first moment on the mat in a community class, I started going more regularly. I took a break for a little and attended small classes at my university, and checked out some other studios In the meantime. I barely remember first having the vision of possibly teaching yoga someday. I mean, I stumble on my words, speak too fast, have a lisp, all of that. But guess what? I didn’t crawl out of rock bottom to chill on my ass. I wanted to soar.

So… I enrolled in yoga training 200 hour level in 2014, and loved every second of it.  I jumped around from job to job, found one at an in inpatient drug treatment, continued school for my bachelors in social work, moved around, went through a break up, reevaluated my life, traveled, traveled again, went to another workshop for self-love-and-radiance-through-your-freakin-heart-chakra-goddess-self-awareness-whatever, went to another, wash-rinse-repeat… until 2017.

Last year, after reading about it for months, I finally jumped to Indiana to attend the Yoga through the 12 steps workshop (Y12SR).  I obtained my certificate here to be more professional in the area of teaching yoga to recovering addicts. DAMN!  Talk about my life dream, eh? I went to the codependency breaking barriers training after that in Virginia. I can’t get enough teaching, learning, reevaluating. I love it.

I want to tell you that life got 100% better when I got clean, started doing yoga, and that I float on through life with no problems eating vegan cookies and enjoying every moment of every single day.  But, that’s not the truth. I still struggle with things. I still get in my head with negative thinking, that I may not be good enough, smart enough, etc. That I am not good enough to do anything extraordinary.  I learn over and over again that isn’t true. That’s not my truth. How dare I sit on my butt and not learn more, when I can help save more lives, help ENRICH lives? If I received so much help from the support that saved my life, how dare I hold on to the gifts and not share it with others? Keep moving, growing, helping, laughing, joking, pushing forward. Yoga helps with that. You deal with yourself on the mat in the poses and breathing and being, and then you do it out in the world. We all have crap. How are you going to deal with it? I like the messy parts of life too, because if they challenged and changed you, it will help someone else. Always.

All of this inspiring-crap-that-sounds-lame-if-you-havent-changed-a-whole-lot-and-continue-to-do-so is probably the fire that has brought me to today. That helps me teach my 5:00 Monday/Wednesday spiritual badass all level flow. That pushes me to teach the girls in rehab about life. That pushes me to go to advanced yoga training to attain my 500 level.

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I love what I do, love sharing it with students, and I love helping young girls that seem lost, like I was. I enjoy making people laugh, taking way too many photos of the people I love, rollerblading, volleyball, writing, goofing off, eating good food, singing over vegan chocolate chip cookies, traveling, blaring girly indie music, challenging people to look within, and chasing my freakin dreams. Shout out to Nikki and Kate, for being there always, and giving this girl a chance and a space to do cool stuff.

Overall, I knew recovery for me (and we are all recovering from something) had to do more than just my mental and emotional space between my ears and the 12 inches from my heart to my head. I knew my body needed to move. My suggestion for new students is find something you love doing that is good for you and jump in with both feet. Learn about yourself. Do something and regret it instead of saying shoulda woulda coulda. Don’t should on yourself. Do it. Be patient with yourself, quit looking at the person next to you on their mat, and enjoy the prana life force that springs from the bottoms of your hippy feet to the top of your beautiful head. You’re human. You’re spirit. You have so much to share and grow from and learn and love. And if I can transform, so can you.

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From a Window Seat in the Sky: A Journey Onward and Inward

From a Window Seat in the Sky: A Journey Onward and Inward

Fate is a funny thing. It seems to conjure opportunities when you least expect them, and bring experiences to you that you never knew you always needed. A lot of people talk about their path finding them. I never knew what that meant until I found yoga, and more specifically Yoga Squared.

 Olivia Squared!!!!!

Olivia Squared!!!!!

Many of you have been kind enough to get to know me and my story, but for those who haven't seen my space buns in the studio--I'd like to share how I found myself writing to all of you from a window seat in the sky. One connection away from a beautiful destination to share yoga and myself with the world.

Just three years ago I was leading a completely different life. Caught up in the turbulence of days filled with unhappiness, anxiety, and depression. I believe that it was the perfect combination of bad luck and manifested feelings that led to my sickness. I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2015. After twelve sessions of chemotherapy, and 21 rounds of radiation, I found myself in remission. Of course I was thrilled to be alive--but it was in that moment that I briefly panicked in the realization that I hadn't really ever figured out what my true purpose was to keep fighting. I promised myself that if I made it out alive I would start my journey to figuring it all out-a journey onward, and more importantly inward.

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The stars aligned, and the first week I moved to Akron Yoga Squared opened its doors. Through this place of refuge, a place filled with light and love, I was able to begin the painful and beautiful journey of taking time to take care of my health and my heart. I've made friendships that have helped me become a more grateful, thoughtful, and passionate human being. This last year of my life in Yoga Squared allowed me to leave all of my remaining pain on my mat and start anew.

Starting anew can mean different things to different souls, but for me, reinventing myself has always come from seeing new places, learning new things, and meeting new people. I have been able to achieve all of that and so much more through my love of travel. From Africa to Europe, Central America, and soon South America in the Spring, I find comfort in the uncomfortable moments of being out of my element amongst the beauty of different cultures. This trip is unlike many of the others I have taken before. It has a return ticket like all the rest, but instead of it being a few days or weeks from now, it has given me the opportunity to stay for 6 months. All of that has definitely come with sacrifices, but all ones the universe was calling me to make. I quit my government job, gave up my apartment, and spent every extra penny over the last year minimizing my material possessions and paying off my debts. This has left me, for the first time, feeling free to take the time I have always needed to be who I always wanted to be. I worked tirelessly to get the this point, both financially and emotionally, but the truth is I really just feel so grateful to finally get a chance to find out what is worth fighting for in this life.

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I want to thank each and every one of you for helping me to find the light in the dark, and leading me on a just beginning path of self-discovery and self-love. I will miss you all, and will carry a piece of Yoga Squared with me to the beaches of Costa Rica.

Namaste

Olivia

Nicole's Journey to Yoga Squared

Nicole's Journey to Yoga Squared

 Morning coffee at one of our favorite neighbors, Angel Falls!

Morning coffee at one of our favorite neighbors, Angel Falls!

I started practicing yoga in 2014 while training for the Cleveland Marathon. I was 27 years old and frustrated in many ways with where I was in life. Not that I wasn’t doing well—I had been a nurse for 5 years, I lived with my sister in an apartment I loved in Highland Square, and I was physically in better shape than I had been since high school. However, on the inside, I was unsure of where I was going. I had just gone through a difficult breakup, I felt stagnant in my career, and the weight of my negative outlook seemed to be taking over. Shortly after my breakup, I remember thinking—and even saying out loud to my mom—that I felt like a door to my heart was closing and that it might never completely reopen.

 Post-marathon, 2014

Post-marathon, 2014

                It’s an understatement to say that I needed a shift. I decided to run a marathon—it seemed like the perfect way to make something happen. I started to read training books that motivated me. My job changed at work, and I went from a nurse on the same busy floor to an RN-coordinator in the hospital-wide Palliative Care consult service. I remember reading a quote that played over and over in my mind during this time “I had to decide who I really was and who I really wasn’t; I was so sick of who I was becoming.”

                One day, a girl who attended my Crossfit gym—who was also a yoga teacher and a member of a running club I joined a few times—invited me to a Yoga for Runners workshop she was teaching at Release Yoga in Green. The workshop was $5 and it seemed like a no-brainer to attend—after all, I’d owned an unused yoga mat for the past seven or so years. I remember wearing socks into the class and realizing with embarrassment that I was the only one wearing them. I wasn’t expecting to like the class, but I knew my hamstrings needed help so I stuck with it. Surprisingly, when I left I felt really, really good. A small seed had been planted.

                At this time, I was running long training runs on the weekends and attending Crossfit and Pure Barre classes during the week. Slowly, I started to choose yoga classes over my other activities. I noticed that when I ran, it was easier to breathe. I felt less stressed when I got fatigued. The first time I cried in class, I was stunned. The instructor told us at the end of class to give ourselves a huge hug—“Because you deserve it, because you love yourself.” I felt overcome with emotion. This continued to happen—unexpected tears after my first twenty-mile run, tears on my mat, tears when I thought about how positive and accepting my yoga teachers were. I felt that door over my heart start to open.

                Because this is a blog, and not a novel, I’ll skip ahead a bit! About two weeks after completing my first (and as of now, only!) full marathon, my sister and I were in a car accident while driving home from California and I broke my hand. This put my yoga practice on hold for awhile but for the first time ever, I found that I couldn’t wait to get back to it. As soon as my cast came off, I looked for ways to resume my practice—folding up a towel under my left hand or modifying the classes. Yoga was now a part of my life that I didn’t want to let go.

                Two years after first stepping on my mat, I decided to apply for Release’s teacher training program. This was scary, but it also felt like such a natural step. I loved teacher training and the connections I made with my classmates (many of whom are now teachers at Yoga Squared!). Teaching was so intimidating, but it felt good. Working with patients in my capacity as a palliative care nurse changed my outlook completely, and I started to really realize how short life can be, and how important it is to strive for happiness and fulfillment even when change had always pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

 Teacher Training grad party, 2016

Teacher Training grad party, 2016

                So much had changed in those two years since I’d found yoga. I was in a relationship again, I was training to be a yoga teacher, had become certified in Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing. My life had evolved, but something told me that I had another shift coming. I remember my boyfriend at the time asking me what I planned to do with my teacher training once it was complete. My response was, well, teach yoga! But the more we talked, the more I realized that it might be possible to turn yoga into a career. I’d felt such a dramatic change in myself as a direct result of the practice, and the thought of helping to guide others in a more real way to see the possibilities in life made me feel at peace.

                I was afraid to tell anyone that I was thinking of opening a yoga studio. I had no experience in business and in so many ways it was a spur of the moment decision. I feared negative feedback, of being told I was crazy for even thinking that owning a studio was something I could do so early in my career as a yoga teacher. However, I quickly realized that there was far, far more positive energy out there than I thought.

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                The first place I looked at was 764 W. Market Street, Suite B…that’s right, the current location of Yoga Squared. When I saw the location, I knew it was perfect…on the outside. When my sister and I walked inside, we were a little nervous. The space was divided awkwardly into cubicles and was painted an ugly shade of light green (my family might have thought I was crazy for choosing mint as a major YS color!) and there were numerous other issues. However, the realtor I met with, Susan, told me right away that she could see my vision and that she thought it was possible. The building manager, Naeno, is a local DJ who has collaborated with YS on multiple events—he could see it too.

                Of course, the process wasn’t THAT easy, but almost! There were some stressful moments as I attempted to negotiate a lease agreement (which I ended up signing and over-nighting from Los Angeles while on a “last-hurrah” vacation with my best friends!), changed from full to part time at work for the first time in almost 8 years, and started to reach out to teachers. You might not think this about me, but I’ve always considered myself an introvert who needs a lot of alone time. I suddenly found myself working seven days a week, cold-calling and emailing teachers and other professionals, and learning about insurance, business plans, loans…it was overwhelming at times.

 

 Redwoods, 2014

Redwoods, 2014

                However, things lined up in ways that I never could have expected. I’d heard about synchronicity, being supported by the universe…but I’d never experienced this phenomenon first hand until I started the real work of opening the studio. I saw the schedule materialize with amazing teachers—some friends, and some soon-to-be friends. My parents helped me in ways that I can’t put into words. One of my favorite yoga teachers, Sarah Clark, designed the YS logo and website and helped me clarify my vision of what the studio should look like in order to feel the way I wanted it to feel. My best friend Allison Kirby helped me build shelving, design the bathroom, and her dad put up the woodgrain wallpaper behind the desk (which he had laying around his house, just waiting for an occasion to use it!) and painted the lobby wall the perfect mint green—as a housewarming gift to me and the studio. And my electrician uncle worked with me on heating and lighting—not once, but twice!

It seemed like every time I needed help, it was there. I met Kelly, a business mentor I was connected with through the Women’s Network, an area agency dedicated to supporting women in business. Kelly and I clicked right away, and she was a neutral person for me to speak to about my anxieties and fears. Over time, Kelly and I became close friends, and now she’s a member at Yoga Squared! Even the lawyer I met with to reassure me about my lease agreement has been to multiple workshops at the studio. Recently, I had to reach out to my insurance agent to renew my policy, which brought me back to my communications with him as I was planning to open—he was incredibly supportive and made things so easy for me, and even stopped by the studio after it opened just to give his well wishes. It sounds crazy, but every time I had to tackle a difficult task, I met someone who somehow made it easy. After years of perceiving life to be difficult, unfair, not seeing the meaning or reason…I was surrounded by people who every single day reaffirmed the idea that we are all connected by universal support.

 Neighborhood shapes

Neighborhood shapes

And then, the day came. Monday, December 5th, 2016. I’d worked a 16-hour shift at the hospital the day before, and had to be up bright and early to teach my first class at the studio at 5:30am. I remember arriving at the studio that morning. I was terrified. I had been told not to worry if no one showed up to classes in the beginning, and I prepared myself for the worst. But then, a few friendly faces arrived. My mom and my siblings. The sisters of my best friend who lives in Pennsylvania. I started to relax.

After that, we were off! I attended my first class at Yoga Squared at 9am that day, taught by Kevin James Karas. My parents were there, and he introduced them to the room in such a warm way. The class was packed, and after my practice I felt so calm and reassured. Yes, it was a stressful first week. A few long-time area teachers I really respected and admired showed up to take my classes during those first few days of business. As touched as I was that they were supporting me, there was a part of me that didn’t feel I deserved it. Which brings me to my biggest challenge, and my real yogi transformation… learning to not only believe in the others around me, in their help, in their support, in their belief in me. Learning to believe in, support, and love myself.

So much has changed in the year since that first day in the studio. Some of the changes haven’t been easy, but they’ve always felt exactly right (i.e., tearing down a major wall three months after the studio opened!). As I gained confidence in myself as a yoga teacher, a business owner, and even as a yoga student, I started to pay more attention to what I felt and what I wanted in my life. Most of you know that Katelyn and I met only recently—on December 6th, 2016, to be exact. Over the next few months, we became friends. The incompatible relationship I was in had been drifting apart and ultimately ended, which was another lesson in overcoming fear. Katelyn and I started dating soon after.

 Kate knocking down the wall, March 2017

Kate knocking down the wall, March 2017

So, when I say that a lot changed in this past year, a LOT changed. Some of the changes I expected—longer hours, less “free” time, but an overall more fulfilling life. Others took me completely by surprise. My relationship with Katelyn is the most obvious, and has been impactful to my life—and my transformation as a yogi—on every level. She started out as a student of mine, signing up for my Beginners’ Series in January. If you were in the workshop—or you know Kate—you know that she jumped in right away and helped me plan unique things for us to discuss. She was currently in teacher training, and we talked a lot about our respective yoga journeys. She was one of the first yogi transformers. We got certified in Reiki 1. She graduated from her TT program and started teaching at the studio in February. She helped tear down the wall in March, which at that time felt symbolic to a lot of things that were going on in both of our personal lives.

 Partnership + Love

Partnership + Love

It’s definitely the transformation this year—and in my life—that brings me the most happiness. Not that it’s easy to work day in, day out alongside your partner. Our relationship was pretty new when we started to work together, and there were—and are—ups and downs. There are those days when we can’t get away from our phones or out from under the weight of our daily tasks. When most “days off” are punctuated by trips to the studio…or shopping for the studio…or fielding texts and phone calls about the studio.

But despite the difficulties, we have the most fun life ever! She teaches me yoga, I teach her yoga. I “borrow” her songs, she tells me which one of mine she’s tired of hearing. The fact that she’s my student and my teacher holds me accountable in my own practice in a way that I didn’t expect.

Months have passed, and every day I feel more thankful for the gift of transformation. What I’ve noticed above all else is that most of these changes can’t be seen from the outside. When I first started practicing yoga, I was physically in the best shape of my life. Mentally, not so much. It’s taken years of both dedication and failure to arrive in the space I’m in now, and the absolute best thing is, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in SO many ways and I know I still have an infinite amount of lessons to learn! When I look to 2018—and Year 2 of Yoga Squared—I can say a few things that give me immense confidence and happiness. I’m in a happy, stable relationship with someone I can spend 24 hours a day with—someone who has brought YS into the light as far as marketing, creativity, and true partnership is concerned. My mom and my sister have both completed yoga teacher training and now teach at the studio. I respect and admire every teacher at YS from the bottom of my heart. And the students at YS have opened my eyes in a real, real way.

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My dream when I first thought of opening a yoga studio in Highland Square was to bring a diverse group of students and teachers together and create an inclusive space where all feel welcome. Sometimes I look around and realize with amazement that my dream came true. I also hoped to see people walking around the Square with yoga mats—I’ll never forget the first time my best friend texted me to say “OMG I JUST SAW SOMEONE WALKING DOWN MARKET STREET WITH A YOGA MAT! Your dream is coming true!” This was probably the first week that the studio opened. That text brought me to tears.

 Family @ Mustard Seed after Vinyl + Vinyasa: Pink Floyd

Family @ Mustard Seed after Vinyl + Vinyasa: Pink Floyd

I’ve had so many of those moments since last December 5th. Unforgettable moments in time in which I truly felt every minute of my life come together for exactly my purpose on earth. When I think about how lucky I am I forget about all the 4:30am wakeup calls (hundreds of them 😉) and anxieties over The Wall, myself as a yoga teacher, and my personal life. I get to say that I teach alongside my mom, my sister, my girlfriend, and some of the people I respect and love most in the world. I get to teach my whole immediate family the practice of yoga. I am greeted every day by students who have become close friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to read my story, and to all of you for being vital people in my life.

Namaste!

Nicole

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