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Love Invoke
Love Invoke

Heart to the Queen

Not I, nor any one else can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself. - Whitman

Blog by Olivia Grace Wolfe [Dancer, Do-er, Traveler, Memphian]

Olivia Grace Wolfe

"Push your pennies." "Heart to the queen." "Headlights facing front." "Elbow fairies." "Don't hit the gnome."

For nine straight years, somewhere between 10 and 28 hours of my week was spent hearing (almost) nonsensical phrases such as those. My ballet teacher, Katie Smythe, CEO and Artistic Director of New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, Tennessee, was a mastermind at thinking up creative metaphors to help us connect our minds to our bodies and place our bodies in the perfect positions. An outsider would probably think that we were money-obsessed fantasy characters driving cars, instead of dancers perfecting our ballet technique. But those metaphors became an invaluable teaching tool when I became a Pilates Mat and Bar Effect™ instructor. Nothing gets to students, old or new, like great visuals. My ballet teacher also used to come around, physically moving our bodies into the right positions. Sometimes she would joke about her old teacher who had these horribly long fingernails and used to come around pinching her students glutes to make them squeeze harder. I use this touching technique (not the long fingernail technique haha) when my students become comfortable with my teaching style, and I call it the “Midas Touch” - the results are gold when the student finally accesses the right muscles in the right way! When I stopped dancing full-time and became a full-time undergrad, I decided to get Pilates certified through Invoke Studio’s Peak Pilates certification. It was a perfect fit! Funny thing - I am now even more toned, physically fit, and knowledgeable about my body than I was as a dancer. Oh, and I love my body WAY more. Now, when I take ballet classes back in Memphis, Ms. Katie always comments on my physique and my endurance, noting that I look like I never quit dancing full-time. While I now prefer Pilates and Bar Effect™ to ballet and dance classes, I would not be as strong of a student or a teacher without this background. With my understanding of proper ballet technique and alignment, as well as a large inventory of exercise options, I feel confident leading my class safely through a fun, but challenging class. This past February, I presented a conference session at Mid West Fit Fest, entitled “Pilates Barre Fusion: What is Safe and What is Harmful?” I used my knowledge of ballet technique and alignment to show other instructors how the best barre classes are taught, and how teachers should cue correctly to ensure safe alignment and the proper engagement of specific muscles. I had wonderful feedback from this session, and I love knowing that my ballet past has given me the tools to successfully and safely teach in my present and in my future. I love that Bar Effect™ gets into muscles I never even knew I had, and I love that the format allows you to hit every single part of the body so that you’re balanced. I love taking Bar Effect ™ classes just as much as I love teaching them. Most importantly, I love putting in all the determination to hold a position longer or lengthen a little further. I feel both physically and mentally stronger after class. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s why people love it. It’s a challenge and it moves you forward in life, just as ballet has moved me forward to where I am now.

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What's all this yoga jazz?

What if I fall? Oh my darling, what if you fly? - Unknown

Blog by Stevie [yogi, 4th grade teacher, downtowner, wife, yorkie lover]

“Free Yoga Class every Wednesday” was the sign on the door in the muscle making machine of a large gym corporation I frequented. I grabbed a mat and decided, what the heck. Could Madonna’s arms truly get that sculpted by just yoga? Totally worth a shot. There were floor length mirrors surrounding me, that reflecting back on my inability to make it into any pose, I couldn’t reach further than my knees in forward fold, I couldn’t quite get the difference between my right and left, I would laugh when the teacher would say something about my knee touching my nose, and my wrists hurt something awful. However, there was something about this whole yoga gig, and I found myself continuing to go back to these classes for an entire year.

With a friendly invite, I found my mat in the center of one of Invoke’s classes. What was yoga going to be like in a studio? The beats weren’t some meditation music. They were down right body moving jams. The teacher's words were soothing, the poses just flowed, and I found myself in shavasana with tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I felt relief. I was able to get out of my head for 75 minutes. I knew my moves weren’t perfect, and looking back now, I knew my alignment was something atrocious, but….I found a part of myself there.

Yoga turned into something as natural as breathing to me. I started getting cranky when I skipped a week, my muscles begged to feel THE stretch, and the tension from my workdays crept its way into my shoulders if I didn’t show up to my mat. I hung up my gym membership tag for my mat and it couldn’t have been a better choice for my personal journey.

After around 5 years of classes, I finally got to a place in my own personal practice where I felt that I needed to answer the question again of what yoga was. My physical practice had grown into something beautiful and I could find myself into the most challenging of poses, but I craved the mental part. The Invoke Teacher Training had an inviting sign on the wall.

Did I have the time? Was I ready? Could I even give yoga teacher training justice? I felt like much wiser people than I should be a yoga teacher - I wasn’t unattached from watching bad TV, vegan eating, non-label wearing, all knowing soul that I thought a yoga teacher should be. So after I talked myself totally out of the training, I put a deposit down and started the training a few weeks later.

Self trickery at it’s best.

6 months later, 200 hours wiser, I felt like I had more questions about what yoga still was. How could there still be so much more that I needed to know after 200 hours?! Perhaps I would read more books, Pin some more, take more classes….I still felt like I didn’t have all the answers I thought I needed. Until I taught my first class. 

I played the music loud, the heat was cranked, I changed my sequence to go with the beat of the music instead of what I wrote down, and I finally could tell my rights from lefts. I finished the shoulder presses and started to walk towards the front of the room, I took my seat, and looked up at the class that I had just slipped into meditation. I teared up during shavasana. I think this was God’s way of saying to me that I finally understood what yoga is.

Yoga is what you make of it.

Some people get on their mat to work out or to be fit. For some, it’s a meditation throughout the entire practice. Some want to get the poses just right, while others want to just flow. Some love the sweat pouring down them, while others like to practice in a cooler setting.

For me, it was the ability to shut my mind off for a small amount of time. Seeing every person beat to their own drum has been the most rewarding experiencing from taking the seat of teacher. One thing is for sure though - everyone looks much, much happier after shavasana. So to answer the question of "what is yoga?"...there is no right answer.

Yoga is everything, as along as you link the breathe and movement…it’s just perfect.


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