This was, without a doubt, the sweatiest interview I’ve ever done.
“There’s always space for growth in the practice, which is something I really like about it,” says Laura about hot vinyasa flow.
First I spent an hour challenging my body in a 95-degree yoga class, trying to keep streams of sweat from sliding down my face and into my contacts in downward dog. (Seriously, that stings.) Then I sat down with Laura Yell.
Laura owns, runs and teaches at Milwaukee Power Yoga, Milwaukee’s center for hot vinyasa flow yoga. Basically, this practice connects breath to continuous motion from pose to pose. Under Laura’s guidance, I felt serene yet exhilarated and empowered by my body. This is the experience she has devoted her life to creating.
“It was really important to me that the space be right; that was what took up the first two years,” says Laura. “I love the location.” Milwaukee Power Yoga is on Milwaukee’s East Side.
Laura took her background and education in dance and created a successful yoga studio that celebrated its first birthday last month. I’m so happy to be her student and even more excited to share her story below.
People With Panache: How did yoga come into your life?
Laura Yell: My first “real” yoga experience was at Corepower in Boulder in 2005, when I was there for a summer in college. I was pretty much in love with it right away.
As a dancer it was really similar to what I did, but there were so many new ideas, too. The breath was new to me, and I really enjoyed how it tied to the motions. I loved the heat, too.
Pretty much by the end of the first month, I knew what it was I wanted to do. I started teaching my senior year in college. We had to do a community service project in the area, and I ended up teaching yoga instead of dance.
Laura teaches 6 days a week.
PWP: What was the transition like from dance to yoga?
LY: Before I found yoga, as a dancer, I struggled with body image issues. And yoga really helped a lot—being non-competitive, it’s about listening to your body and listening to what’s right for it at that moment. And that can be different every day. That was a whole new concept to me, and that was something I really wanted to share.
PWP: How did the idea of starting your own studio come up?
LY: I think that idea came to me around the end of college really. It was in the works for about five years. I just loved the practice so much, and there wasn’t something like it in Milwaukee. I thought there was really a need for it here, and I really wanted to share my passion for yoga with other people.
I taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for six years, and during that time I was nannying and bartending. That’s how I saved money and finally made it to this day.
It took a really, really long time! It was a dream for about five years, but I started really putting a lot of time and effort into it about two full years before I opened.
“Right away I knew it was something I would do for the rest of my life…I finally found my thing.”
PWP: And what makes you happiest at work?
Milwaukee Power Yoga opened in January 2012. “When you’re running a business, a big part of it is getting to teach yoga but there are so many things to learn,” Laura says, “Like building my website … taxes, accounting … how to use a power drill! That was new.”
LY: I love when my students show that same feeling that I remember having when I started yoga—that excitement about finding it. Right away I knew it was something I would do for the rest of my life, like I finally found my thing. I love when other people share that with me, that they just love it. I love watching everybody’s practice grow and change over time.
PWP: When did you know it was time to take the plunge?
LY: I just sort of felt like it was now or never.
This is scary; this is a big step. Opening a business is a risk, it’s a leap of faith, but I felt like it’s now or never, just try it!
Laura effortlessly demonstrates front crane—a pose I’m really working on but can’t quite get (yet!).
“This is what I want, but can I really do this?”
PWP: And that’s actually what we want to support, women with ambitions, passions and that attitude—you can just feel how much you love this!
LY: I feel like, hey, I did it! It feels really good because I had a lot of doubt along the way; “This is what I want, but can I really do this?” It’s exciting to be really doing it. It was a lot of hard work, but you get through it all, and it’s definitely worth it 100 times over. And so is wearing yoga pants to work every day.
[Photos by Alysse.]
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