Meet Sophia: Hot Fusion enthusiast, former DJ, and mom to a 130-pound Great Dane named Aspen! A Bloomington native, Sophia recently graduated with an Executive Masters in Science and Technology Leadership from Brown University. While she teaches across all of Vibe’s class formats, Sophia specializes in Prenatal Yoga.
When did you begin practicing yoga, and why did you continue?
The first time I did yoga was in college. We had free yoga once a week, and I would go sometimes. I liked it because I hate sweating and sports. I found that yoga made me feel strong and like I’d worked out without the things I didn’t like. I started coming to Vibe in 2011. I was really stressed out at work and my boss at the time told me I needed to try yoga. I was like “well I’ve tried yoga,” and she was like “yeah, but you need to actually go do it.” I came to Vibe and fell in love with Hot Fusion.
What makes Hot Fusion a preferred class format for you?
I did just Fusion for a good year or two. I got really deep into the sequence. I could really turn my brain off and flow through it. And I love the long holds. My students in Fusion will tell you that I hold things way longer than most of the other teachers, for good or for bad. To me, the holding is really where you have to tap into your deeper self.
What made you want to teach yoga?
I decided to sign up for Hot Fusion Teacher Training, which is 40 hours, and it was really fun to come learn things. It just made me feel re-invigorated. At the time, I was going through a pretty messy breakup, so yoga was really a great escape. It was a way to escape from my living situation and have something that was mine, where there were people that I knew that my ex didn’t know. It just gave me a lot of self-identity. Then I took the 200-hour training a couple years later because a friend was taking it and encouraged me to as well. Again, it was great to come to training, learn about myself, about other people, and about this thing called yoga. At that point, I had gotten into leadership at work, and I noticed that I could apply a lot of what we were learning at teacher training to my leadership role at work, so when people would come to me upset, I had a new vocabulary on how to talk to them and how to remain calm and coach them through their emotions without telling my own stories. That was something I think yoga teacher training taught me. Then I graduated and almost immediately signed up for the Prenatal Teacher Training.
What attracted you to the Prenatal training?
I was terrified of getting pregnant, just utterly terrified of every part of it. I convinced myself that if I were just around pregnant people all of the time, I would be less intimidated by it.
And are you?
Yeah, it worked! I’ve been teaching prenatal for two years now. I’ve had some friends come through the class as they get pregnant. It’s really great because I feel like I get to support them in a way that most of their friends don’t. Yeah, I’m less afraid now.
How does your yoga practice connect with your daily life?
I think that yoga has made me more centered and able to focus on what’s important. Whatever the problem is—whether there’s a challenge at work, an argument with my husband, or heavy traffic—I’m able to be less reactive. It is just so much more than the physical.
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about trying yoga but might be scared?
My boss recently started asking me about yoga. He’s been doing some at-home yoga in the mornings with a video. He started asking me about poses, but then to explain the fundamentals of those poses, I have to teach him a little bit about other parts of yoga. It’s interesting. He’d never been coached on the breathing because the videos usually don’t do that. One thing I always tell students starting out is that everybody wants to start at home because they’re nervous. I mean, you think that you have to be this beautiful swan to do yoga. But I will never in my life do a headstand or handstand. If I ever do, it’s going to be because I worked years at it. I’m not super flexible, and I’m not very strong. That’s not my yoga practice. I can’t do a push up. Doesn’t matter. You can still show up and do something that makes you feel great. I always tell new students to come to the studio first and take a couple classes because the teacher will teach you how to do it for your body. Then you can go do the videos, and you’ll know how to modify to stay safe.
What are your sources of inspiration as a practitioner and/or teacher?
Music is big. I’ll be listening to Spotify Discover Weekly and think “Oh, that’d be such a great song for this part of the Fusion sequence!” In Prenatal, the message in the song is really important. The messages have to be positive, and I prefer women’s voices. At the end of every Prenatal, we usually do about three or four minutes of a visualization. Sometimes I pull from more traditional yoga practices, like a three-part breath or a pratyahara practice. Other times, we’ll do a visualization because in pregnancy, if you can learn how to visualize what delivery is going to be like, it’ll help you prepare for it so that you’re not as nervous. It makes it less scary when it seems less unknown because you’ve been there before by thinking through it. These visualizations I just totally make up. Usually I’m inspired by the weather, so if it’s one of those days in Fall where the leaves have just started to turn, I’ll have you visualize that you’re walking through a forest, and then you see a great patch of leaves, and then you decide to lie down in the leaves. You’re looking up at the canopy of trees, noticing all the colors of the leaves and feeling the breeze. Then some leaves fall off the tree, and maybe a leaf lands on your stomach. It’s always something to get them thinking outside of their current life. Then when they sink into the last five minutes of savasana, it’s really deep and calm. People fall asleep all the time.
What’s a particularly rewarding experience you’ve had as a yoga teacher?
Now I don’t know if I can take credit for this really. About two months ago, a friend of mine was panicked because her baby was breeched, and she was at 36 weeks. It was getting to the point where if the baby didn’t flip soon, it was unlikely to flip. So I designed an entire Prenatal class just to flip her baby. We focused on opening up the hips because the baby flips when there’s space in your pelvis. During pregnancy there’s all these hormones that let your bones stretch more than they normally would, and you have to get your muscles to help open those bones early. Malasana, deep single leg lunges, and bridge are good. So, when she went to the doctor two days later, it had flipped. I don’t know if that class was the only reason because she was a very good student. I think she gets most of the credit, but it was cool to get that text from her saying that the baby flipped. She was so relieved.
Do you have a mantra or focus that you return to often or that you’re working with?
I have a felt letter board in my office with a quote that I change once every month or two. Right now, it says, “It is not our abilities that show who we truly are, it is our choices.”