INTERVIEW: THE POWER YOGA COMPANY FOUNDERS
BATD ON Mar 17, 2015 AT 2:21 pm
by Annie Vischer
Annie Vischer talks to The Power Yoga Company founders Amelie and Marie-Laure about bringing London its first power yoga studio, and the health benefits of the practice as a whole.
Before you even thought about The Power Yoga Company, how did you actually end up getting into yoga? I feel like everyone has a different story.
Amelie: Okay well, I started in Miami – because I was living there, I came across a free first class. I just started, I was quite young. I was 25 or so and I was fit because I was swimming and cycling in Miami. Power yoga shocked me because it made me realise I maybe wasn’t as fully fit as I thought I was.
Marie-Laure: Through Amelie. From Miami, I moved to London and I was living here with friends from France. Emily introduced me to yoga and from there the obsession grew very quickly.
So what was it about yoga that made you want to make it apart of your life? To make a business out of it? That’s a massive step.
Marie-Laure: I think it was more the fact that we started to do yoga together and we began looking for a studio in London to practice the power yoga that I had been practicing in the states. We both had full time jobs, and would run in the evenings or meet for a yoga session. We gradually started to focus on yoga and we wanted to find a proper studio. At that time, around nine years ago or more, there was nothing here. One day Mary’s husband said ‘Why don’t you guys just open your own studio?’ . Then that new year, the 1st or the 2nd of January we just called each other and said, ‘Let’s do it!’.
We were both on planes travelling back to London from different places and the decision was made. We left two weeks later for Miami to train.
Because America was of streets ahead with the yoga facilities they were offering?
Amelie: Well they were offering power yoga, which hadn’t made it to Europe yet, and that’s what we wanted to specialise in.
If you had to describe the difference between basic yoga and the yoga practiced in The Power Yoga Co., what would that be?
Marie-Laure: That you move with your breath. It’s very dynamic because with each breath there is a movement. With power yoga in the US they took very dynamic sequences and made them much more accessible. We wanted to take that look to adapt the sequences and positions even more, depending on who’s in the class, depending on the time of day, depending on the atmosphere in the room. That was what we thought was the beauty of power yoga – you can adapt it and tailor it. And with most other forms of yoga, you can’t at all. You go anywhere in the world, and you might still find the exact same class. With power yoga, anywhere you go each class will be different.
What does yoga bring to the body and well-being of someone who might already consider themselves very fit? The gym bunnies out there, the runners.
Marie-Laure: Balance. Balance and an all around form of exercise. It’s very complete. when you do power yoga, you don’t need to do anything else. But you can’t really just do running – you need something low impact and lengthening as well. And power yoga is complete; it has the dynamic exercise aspect which often also becomes a cardio workout. The meditative aspect, focus and concentration involved is very balancing and therapeutic.
Amelie: Yeah, it’s all a balance between the physical aspect and the mental aspect. It strengthens the body and calms the mind, your muscles are strong and flexible – its not one way, its all balanced. Everything it brings, it brings balance and calm with it.
How would you describe its long term benefits?
Marie-Laure: With power yoga you will probably add quite a few years to your life. You will grow older being less sick. When you do yoga regularly, you’re rarely ill. And you’ll have a much better quality of life in your later years. When you see elderly people that have practiced yoga, they’re just different. They’re more able-bodied.
For the people who would say ‘Oh, I don’t need it!’ or the people who think they need to be out of breath when they exercise and sit on the cross-trainer forever to get it over with. What would you say to them?
Marie-Laure: Just try one class, not even two. And in that one class, you will think, wow you thought you were fit, but there’s the potential for your body to do a lot more. Power yoga will give them so much more.
You can run on the treadmill for as long as you like but your hamstrings are going to be short, and that will cause strain on other areas of the body. What yoga does is it brings the balance and opens the energy path in the body further. Energy flow is blood flow and it allows the blood to circulate freely and evenly in your body going through those places that are in knots.
What is it in everyday life, particularly in the city that we are lacking or getting too much of? And that power yoga can help with?
Marie-Laure: In power yoga, there’s lots of balancing poses that help strengthen the soles of your feet and it keeps the arch strong and that keeps your skeleton strong. When the arches start to collapse, your skeleton collapses – your spine collapses. The arch of your feet are fully connected to your spine and then everything from there starts to collapse.
We’ve got our leather shoes, and our feet are a bit forgotten. But they are our base, they are our connection to the earth, they are supporting us. That’s why you do yoga barefoot – the fact that in the beginning of class you bring your big toes together is kind of an awareness of your feet.
Has your involvement with yoga made you very aware of the way other people’s bodies work? Can you look at somebody in the street and know things about them?
Amelie: I think we’re trained to scan people’s bodies. As a teacher, your eyes serve as an x-ray scanner. You don’t look at just people, you look at the way they stand, the way their bones are, the way their muscles are, you look for avoiding injuries.
To see real impact on your body, what’s number of power yoga classes would you prescribe?
Marie-Laure: At least two to three times a week on average would be great, less will still be fantastic. So if its once a week or nothing, of course once a week would be better but two to three times a week will help you feel a difference really quickly.
In your own everyday lives, when do you practice yoga?
Marie-Laure: In the morning, if I don’t do it in the morning I don’t do it. But we’re different – (looking at Amelie) you’re able to do it in the evening right? But for me, if its not in the morning its nothing at all.
What’s your routine in the morning?
Amelie: Drink a cup of tea, take a shower, do my yoga – sit on my mat for as long as I can, then I get ready and I go.
Marie-Laure: That’s why we really wanted to start a studio with a lot of classes because we both have children, we both work full time and you realize that with yoga, when you want to do it regularly and you want to take two or three classes, whenever there is an opportunity you get on your mat. So that may be in the morning, the evening, some people work from home so the middle of the day. That was the idea behind having so many classes at The Power Yoga Company because you can fit it around your schedule; there is always a class.
Amelie: Living in London, you realize whether its 6:30 in the morning or 8:30 at night, a lot of people want to practice later and a lot of people do. Its amazing how everything starts so early and finishes so late.
Would you say the culture, in terms of yoga in America is still very different to the UK?
Marie-Laure: Yes. If you think yoga is not competitive, then try it in the US. They love doing things to as high a standard as possible and they are very competitive with themselves. People there see it as a much more physical thing, and they always want to do the most advanced positions.
If you go into a class in the US, in a studio, you’ll probably have a quarter of the class going into a headstand. Here it’s much more a form of exercise combined with relaxation. I don’t feel like people put that same amount of pressure on themselves to perform. In the US there’s more competitiveness. People practice yoga lot in the US, the last time I went – I went to the capital of yoga in Boulder, Colorado and there’s literally a studio on every corner, like coffee shops in England.
Is yoga constantly developing? Are there things that you think will come over here that perhaps aren’t here just yet?
Marie-Laure: Until now, that’s what has happened. But now I’m not sure. I find that England or London has its own way of developing, so I’m not sure if what’s happening in the US now would come over here the way it did ten years ago. It’s on its own path now, now that studios have opened here and people have discovered it, its evolving naturally and not because there’s a new trend arriving from the US.
What’s your view on hot yoga and people pushing themselves to sweat more through yoga?
Marie-Laure: It gets people on the mats; it gets people that would be scared of yoga to do yoga. The heat, especially living in a country like England, the heat is really appealing and sweating is quite a powerful thing.
Is it a detoxification process?
Amelie: Of course when you sweat you detoxify somewhere, you clean out the pores of your skin – people love it. But we see a lot of people coming to us that are injured, because it’s so hot that your body melts. The secret of yoga and power yoga is to warm it up to a certain extent. You warming up your body allows for transformation and that circulation of blood and energy flow. Now, if it’s imposed on you by a very high temperature, its great, some bodies enjoy it some bodies that are more fragile or are not ready are going to get injured – but they don’t feel it because they are so hot.
Do you see a lot of transformation with people who have just started yoga and then do it regularly?
Amelie: We think its just sort of addictive, there’s a visible difference in life before and life after. It’s amazing. The way you walk and the way you see the world – it gives you more confidence. Without doing so much yoga, we wouldn’t have opened this yoga studio. Suddenly things look more possible, more real, more accessible, and you’re happy with whatever happens.
You start to realize that everything happens for a reason. If things don’t go your way, sometimes you can be frustrated. With yoga, you think about it a bit but you know that one year later, you’ll look back and see why it didn’t happen. With the mindset you get from practicing a little yoga morning and night you don’t get so stuck on things that didn’t happen. You go through your day with less frustration and being more open to what life can bring you.
Find The Power Yoga Company at The Glass House, 11-12 Lettice Street, London, SW6 4EH, Tel: 0207 736 4429.