11 minutes | May 14th 2020

Heather Smelser with Mi Vida Yoga

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TranscriptKevin M.: Mixing It Up With The Fitness Community is a podcast created by Fit Mix that introduces you to local health and fitness individuals along with their stories.Kevin M.: Episode seven. Heather Smelser with Mi Vida Yoga. Heather talks about what got her to leave accounting for the Yoga world, her work with trauma victims, and more.Sara Y.: Hi, Heather! Nice to meet you. Thanks for joining us on our podcast today. How are you doing?Heather S.: I'm doing good. How are you? Thank you guys so much for having me.Sara Y.: We're doing well. We're hanging in there. How are you and your yoga studio kind of handling everything that's going on right now?Heather S.: Well, this has been the wildest roller coaster ride, and I'm sure everybody is on it. We were told that shut down on March 17th. I've been scrambling to find a new business model and we are transferring all of our classes live broadcast from zoom.Sara Y.: And how are those going?Heather S.: This morning we had twenty-five people in the nine am class. It was beautiful. it was such a great way for the community to reconnect.Sara Y.: That is awesome. Are they kind of liking this new format? In a way. I mean, they don't have to dress up. They can do it in their PJs. What's the feedback you're getting from it?Heather S.: So I just got an e-mail this morning from one of our clients and he said, 'I absolutely love this virtual format. Are you going to keep this moving forward?' I said, 'yes!' This has been the push that I've needed to get out of my comfort zone and do this. I am not someone who is comfortable being in front of the camera or kind of in the public spotlight. I like to kind of lay low in the back. And so this is push me out of my comfort zone. But it's a nice way to grow and learn new things and again, get out of our comfort zone.Sara Y.: Definitely. That's simply what this experience is teaching all of us. Talk to us about your yoga studio. Tell us about it. Your different classes, everything like that.Heather S.: Absolutely. So we opened up about six and a half years ago, back in 2014. And this is not my first profession or career. I'm actually an accountant by trade. I went through a kind of a traumatic experience in my life and found yoga through that. And it made such a profound influence on my life that I decided to actually change career paths. And so I decided to open up the studio back in 2014 and jumped in with both feet. I actually left the accounting world and did it full time. We try and bring trauma sensitive yoga to the Albuquerque area. We work with groups with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and we work with breast cancer survivors as well as the general public in our general classes.Sara Y.: Wow, that's amazing. Do you work with non-profits as well, or any local organizations here to offer that kind of yoga for them.Heather S.: We actually work with a lot of different organizations. One of our popular classes is community class on Sunday before physical shut down. But we're looking at continuing that. And we've had lots of organizations bring people that are reintegrating back into regular society and really using that community class as groups with women coming back and rehabilitating from incarceration and also youth in youth detention centers. And so we offer that just to the general public but I've connected with a couple of organizations to help with that.Sara Y.: Do you do any kind of work with first responders as well?Heather S.: I have personally. That's what I'm kind of looking into right now, is offering a little bit more and looking into grants. Just right before the physical closure was mandated, we were getting ready to start a trauma sensitive yoga class, which would be a 10 week course. We would have a certain number maxed out people that could come in. And it's a little bit of a vetting process where we want to make sure that they have support outside of the yoga class and that trauma sensitive class so that they have that full support outside as well.Sara Y.: That's great. What do you think it is about yoga that helps people through tough times, or like you said, transitioning into like another phase of their life?Heather S.: What I have found in my own life is that yoga helps to calm the nervous system, help reset the nervous system. And I think any of us, whether we have experienced major traumas or on just the day to day little traumas, that we need to be reset from. The actual breath work and exercises, help to move some of that energy through some of that anxious through and actually physically calm the nervous system. It's kind of my passion what brought me into yoga, and it helps me to lead a relatively normal life.Sara Y.: Does it feel good or rewarding to know that you kind of went through a traumatic time and now, you know, what helped you get out of that is now helping others in the community?Heather S.: Absolutely. I think the only thing I ever really wanted to do with the studio was pass on some of that comfort that I found in the practice. And so the fact that anyone can find some comfort in their lives with this simple practice. Absolutely. I love, love, love that. That's the whole reason I like to do this.Sara Y.: That is awesome. What are some of the classes that you offered? Do you offer different kinds of yoga or what can someone expect if they come to your studio.Heather S.: Yeah. So we actually started out as primarily a hot yoga studio. That was what my training was in. And as my experience and knowledge and schooling expanded, we started adding other classes. Warm and gentles. We just recently expanded in August to double our studio size and brought in room temp. And so a lot of Yin, a lot of restorative room temp stuff. And then one of my favorite classes that I love that we have at the studio is Chair Yoga.Sara Y.: Oh, what is that? I mean, obviously a chair. But what is that like?Heather S.: I think people underestimate chair yoga quite a bit. It's one of my favorite things. The reason we started doing chair yoga at the studio was my mom had severe back issues and had major back surgery about, oh, 12 years ago. And so for her to come along this yoga journey with my sister and I and all of our yogis at the studio, we adapted yoga. And I didn't do this. I just continued kind of my own style of chair yoga. And we're doing yoga poses with the aid of a chair, either sitting, standing and using the chair. And it just allows people who may be new to yoga, a little intimidated, or recovering from an injury, just kind of help to enter the yoga practice.Sara Y.: That's pretty amazing. I've never heard that before. That's so smart. I never even thought about that.Heather S.: Yeah, and we use it  to actually make connections in the corporate world as well. And chair yoga is stuff to do at your desk. And this last week, with all the craziness, accountants, friends and people I work with at ARA here in town had me come in and do a distress at your desk workshop. So I work with here in town. Nusenda, Be Well New Mexico. I've worked with in the past. Private practices and a couple of other places and bringing that into their corporate setting as well.Sara Y.: Yeah, that is definitely so important with so many jobs being sedentary. My job included, I've recently switched over from being a TV reporter, which I was like very active running around all day to now a desk job. I just find myself hunching or just like getting tight is from sitting all day. So that's great for anyone in that kind of field to really take on.Heather S.: Absolutely. It's a really cool, flexible practice to bring in so many different applications. I really love it.Sara Y.: So what does the future hold for your studio? Do you see yourself adding any more classes or expanding anymore?Heather S.: Well, I think given the current situation where, you know, just kind of treading water as a small business. I know all my other fellow small studio owners and small gym owners are doing the same thing right now. But I really anticipate us coming back once we're able to come back in person. We have such a strong community to continue forward. Not only with me in-studio classes, but trauma-sensitive support classes, but also now adding on virtual yoga. And it was so nice this last week. We had people coming into our live streaming classes from around the world. Some past students who had moved away, that were heartbroken about not being able to come back to the studio and now they're able to come back virtually. So a super exciting this week.Sara Y.: That's great. Final question, what is your favorite yoga position or maybe your favorite kind of yoga?Heather S.: Oh, my goodness. It has changed over the years. Yeah, hot yoga junky. But I have to say my favorite practice right now is Yin. And just because of the calming of a nervous system with everything that's going on around us now, I find that it's a really great balance to my hectic, fast-paced life.Sara Y.: All right. Well, thank you so much. Do you have anything else to add?Heather S.: Oh, my goodness. Did not do this without the support of my amazing instructors and community. I just have to say a shout out to everybody that really helps to put Mi Vida together. It's a community effort.Sara Y.: Well, thank you again. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to join us on our podcast.Heather S.: Thank you so much for having me. It was wonderful talking with you guys today.Kevin M.: Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the Mixing It Up With the Fitness Community podcast, we'd love for you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review.Kevin M.: Next week, Sara talks with the president and CEO of the New Mexico Runners on the Andres Trujillo. The New Mexico runners are the local professional arena soccer league team based out of Rio Rancho. Tune in to learn about this exciting, high scoring sport. 
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