As a child growing up in Kansas and then Colorado, Elle Potter was inspired by lands far far away. No, not in fairytales, in the encyclopedia.
“I was really obsessed with India when I was young. I used to do presentations on India to my class based on what I learned from World Book Encyclopedias, not because it was an assignment, but because I just wanted to share everything I learned. I’m not sure when I was first introduced to yoga, but knowing myself, someone probably mentioned it was a thing from India and I probably immediately pretended like I knew all about it,” she says. “I first started practicing yoga in high school with Rodney Yee VHS tapes and on PBS with Wai Lana. I didn’t take my first actual yoga class until I graduated college, and when I took my first vinyasa flow class, I immediately knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher. Within a week, I had signed up for the yoga teacher training at that studio.”
That said, Elle’s journey through practicing to teaching yoga didn’t lead to zen-like calm. After her previously untreated anxiety disorder sidelined her in 2014, Elle realized that she needed to do something for herself. She took a break from teaching yoga, brainstormed, and decided to take her desire to inspire away from the studio.
“My husband worked at a brewery, and we worked together to put on a yoga and beer tasting event as a part of St. Louis Craft Beer Week in July of 2014,” Elle explains. “I thought maybe a few of my friends would come, maybe twenty people tops… but we sold out the event at 100 people, I was on two local news channels and St. Louis Public Radio! I started getting emails from folks asking when we were going to do another one.”
Not long after, Elle was hosting an event at the Ferguson Brewing Company in Ferguson, Missouri. It was one month after Michael Brown had been killed, and Elle was teaching yoga to a community that was still wounded from racism, segregation, and civil unrest.
“We choose to donate a portion of ticket sales to the Ferguson Youth Initiative, an incredible organization that offers after-school activities for local students. We had a great event with a sold-out crowd, but as I looked around the room, I was surprised to realize that even though we were kind of making yoga more accessible by taking it out of the studio setting, we were still reaching the same demographic that was already showing up to yoga; able-bodied white women who could afford a $20 yoga class,” Elle recalls.
“It was a defining moment for Yoga Buzz; I started asking more questions about all the barriers that make yoga in-accessible, and I realized if I wanted to do work to make the practice available to more folks, I was going to have to do a lot more than yoga at breweries. Since then, we’ve hosted 300 pop-up events all over St. Louis, and trained a diverse community of 73 new yoga teachers to take the practices of yoga to a variety of populations who might not otherwise have access.”
Yoga Buzz’s instructors have gone on to teach yoga to senior citizens in assisted living facilities, children who are part of foster care/adoptive services, veterans at the VA, and prenatal yoga for low-income families.
“I’m eager to do more work to elevate the voices of yoga teachers and students in my community who are breaking the stereotypes of what a yogi looks like,” Elle adds.
Making yoga more diverse and all-inclusive has been the foundation of her foundation, and while it is an effort of many, Elle’s spirit is what sparked it all. By taking her diverse yoga circus on the road and inspiring communities with Yoga Buzz’s message of accessibility, unity, and inclusion, we think that Elle Potter is a very Cool Girl!