Cool Girls with Tag: yoga

Elle Potter

Name:  Elle Potter
Age: 33
Location:  St. Louis
Occupation: Founder of Yoga Buzz

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!

Check them out at Yoga Buzz, FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Snapchat.

Gail Grossman

Name: Gail Grossman
Age: 48
Location: Port Washington, NY
Occupation: Yoga Teacher, Yoga Studio Owner, Author

A thriving business owner and a zen-like yoga practitioner are two spheres that are hard to imagine converging, but studio maven, author, mom, and yogini are all different facets to the same shining diamond that makes up Gail Grossman of Long Island, New York! This bendy and butt-kicking business maven just recently wrote a book, Restorative Yoga for Life, that’s blazing trails for blissing out, and she shares her joy of the practice with her students every day. “I love the practice, and that’s why I wanted to share with others, I truly get “high” from their energy!” she says.

And a “high” is right, as Gail has a self-admitted yoga addiction! “I was practicing Pilates. My trainer thought I would like yoga and took me to a class,” she explains, reminiscing about her first foray. “I was hooked from the first time I came to my mat.”

At Gail’s studio, Om Sweet Om, she teaches five classes per week, in addition to a bunch of private sessions for students, some in their homes. While she loves all styles of yoga, it’s the restorative practice and its ability to ground both body and mind that she’s most known for touting. And learning to back off of a vigorous, athletic practice is what helped her to discover new dimensions of her practice, both as a student and as a teacher. It all began with an injury…

gailardha“I was doing something in a way I shouldn’t have. I was compensating and moved my body in a way that wasn’t very conscious. I pulled my hamstring right at the sitting bones and it took a very long time to heal, so I had to back off from my practice. Ultimately this was a gift! I had a better understanding of the injuries that my students dealt with, and it made me a better teacher,” she explains.

Other than a daily practice, “even just fifteen minutes,” Gail manages a busy schedule of family, yoga, and managing her studio.

“I try to take Mondays off; I’ll take a class and deal with my errands. The rest of the week I work. I have a combination of working from home, answering e-mails, and writing. I handle all of the studio management stuff from home, because I get more done! I try to spend time at the studio just hanging out with students and teachers whenever I’m available,” she says. “Some of the ups and downs I’m learning to get a handle on, and minimize, since I have no control over them!” she smiles. Spoken like a true guru!
In December, Gail’s first book, Restorative Yoga for Life, was published, and since then she’s penned articles for Yoga Journal, and will even speak at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York this coming April. She also leads teacher trainings at the studio and heads international trainings for adults to teach yoga to children through YogaKids.

“I still feel like I have so much more to do, though,” Gail says. “I’m really open to whatever comes my way. I love what I do. I never get bored with yoga, there’s always something to discover. The body is a complicated vehicle for our personal growth; we’re always changing and so are our bodies. That excites me! Constantly discovering new things keeps it fresh.”

For bending but never breaking, we think that Gail Grossman is one Cool Girl!

To learn more about Gail’s work, you can check out her website, and if you’re in the New York area, drop by Om Sweet Om to take a class!

Mary Joyce

Name: Mary Joyce
Age: 32
Location: Long Island, New York
Occupation: Special Education Teacher

Mary Joyce is at the head of the class, not just as a special education teacher, but also as a yoga instructor in her home of Long Island, New York. Growing up, Mary surmounted injuries as well as stereotypes, practicing karate when she was 16, and hitting her yoga mat even after shoulder injuries,. She also refuse to quit on her snowboard even when her tailbone and her pride told her to stay away from the slopes and stay in the chalet.

She credits the endless love and support of her mom and dad for keeping her going, even when the stress of work, graduate school, and a grueling roster of physical activities, threatens to exhaust her. She also is quick to point out that her students are – and have always been – incredibly influential and inspiring.

“All the children I work with, and that I’ve worked with in the past, have each been more of a teacher to me than I could ever explain,” she says.

All the children I work with, and that I’ve worked with in the past, have each been more of a teacher to me than I could ever explain.

Between the deadlines and workload of school, both being at the chalkboard and buried in books as a student herself, Mary has to find a way to blow off some steam. While yoga is great for mellowing her mood, she cites snowboarding with being the biggest stress-reliever. Her arctic air affair began four years ago, when her friends managed to get her on a mountain. Unfortunately, she didn’t start carving turns with grace and ease. “My first experience wasn’t a positive one,” she says. “By the the second time I went I managed to break my tailbone which put me out for the season. I felt very discouraged because I didn’t pick up the sport as easily as others. For years after that my close friend harassed me on a weekly basis, but my fear and aggravation of learning something new and difficult held me back.”

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