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Welcome to Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.
Taylor and her husband, Philippe; Courtesy of Prana
Taylor Wells is a woman who attracts others to her life philosophies, using not only the laws of attraction but also by exuding an overwhelming optimism that her students can't ignore. To some it may seem superfluous, while others quickly subscribe to her belief in abundance, balance, and mind power.
Her family of Prana Power Yoga studios has expanded from Newton to locations in Cambridge and Winchester, as well as two New York City spots, with a growing curriculum of heated hatha, prenatal yoga, children's classes, AcroYoga and more. And the bullet points of her resume don't stop there—she's a self-published author, created a teacher training program, and encourages a community of "supermoms." How does she do it?
How did you initially get into yoga?
Honestly the first time I practiced that was the moment. I knew this was my dharma. It's a fun story and the media loves it but sometimes it throws people off because they didn't have an a-ha moment their first time. A good friend of mine who is also a supermom and has been an athlete her whole life admitted to me, which was awesome, that she was trying Prana again and was feeling nervous because she hasn't had her a-ha moment and she wants to be good at it. First of all, there is no "good at it." You just show up and do your best with breath and that's it.
When I walked into the heated studio a million years ago I didn't even know what hot yoga was. I read in a gossip magazine that Madonna was doing yoga while she was pregnant and I had one child at the time and wanted to get pregnant again. There was no Google then, so I was on the phone calling 411 asking if there were yoga studios. I was so hot in there, and people glared at me. It was not a warm, fuzzy, accepting studio at all. That didn't stop me. I just followed my heart from that moment on. It was ironic that I thought I'd get pregnant again with my now ex-husband. Nine weeks later I went on a yoga retreat and came home and left my ex-husband. Yoga is all about truth and being happy in this moment, not running from fear.
I was a graduate student at the time and a doctoral student in psychology and I didn't have any time to add to my schedule, so I decided to choose between yoga and cardio. I consistently chose yoga and didn't do cardio for probably a decade, practicing even the day I delivered my twins. It's not like that moment I decided to open a studio, but everything just fell into place.
What were the early days of Prana like?
We were a first mover. There was one other studio in town, and our energy was very different from that studio, neither was better nor worse. People would drive from Providence and Worcester. We taught all our classes for a year, just Philippe and me. It was so successful that we culled people from class with the right energy to train as instructors for free. Now we train a hundred people a year. About a year in, a couple was practicing with us and decided to open their own studio (which is awesome, rock on), but went to our staff asking them to teach for them, saying they wanted to put us out of business. Of course our teachers said no thank you and told us.
This is not a business to us, this is what we do. It's our life. The punchline to that story is that later on, the same couple asked if we wanted to buy their business. In the moment, did it sting? Yeah. I don't worry anymore ever about that, because now I understand that karma takes care of it and I believe in abundance. I don't believe in competition. I believe there is more than enough for everyone. People who are attracted to me, my energy, and my message will come to Prana. There is so much abundance. It shows the potential of this universe.
And it seems you've built your children and children in general into your studio, meshing your work and your family.
Here's another funny thing, I don't even use that four-letter word ever. For over fifteen years I have not used that word because there is no distinction between work and play for me.
Boston is a super fit city, with people playing competitive sports and more traditional types of workouts, which can be in contrast to the principles of yoga. How do you accommodate people who are more accustomed to that environment?
It's the easiest, most boring answer ever, but it's the truth: Practice. You just have to keep showing up. Like anything else. I was a competitive figure skater, training for the Olympics, and my dreams were dashed. It was very traumatic for me. My family was a tennis family so I started to play. When I was twelve I lived with my tennis coach to go pro. So no one has been trained more to be competitive. Me thriving and winning was even more than that. Bottom line is, yoga changed me on a level that I can't describe in words because it's a spiritual thing. If I can do it, anyone can. It was just practice and discipline. You relearn everything. If you want your ass kicked, it will be. When you walk in to Prana you just feel welcome, whether you're a professional athlete or one hundred pounds overweight, and you do learn from each other.
Yoga can be an expensive form of fitness, which can present an obstacle for some interested people…
Well, not at my studio! People can practice at my studio for free; I don't turn anyone down ever. I have an extensive volunteer community who do anything from filing waivers to marketing to cleaning the studio and signing people in. If someone comes to me and wants to do any kind of trade I say yes. People are ready when they're ready. What I've learned over many years is that you can't proselytize people. You want people to be attracted to your yoga, not pull them into it.
Tell us a little bit about your partnership with Nourish Your Soul.
So we were raw vegan for seven years. That was a whole separate journey we took upon ourselves. I'm so happy I did it; I'm so happy I'm not doing it anymore. Basically, we stopped because our children weren't thriving on the raw. The second I noticed it I said to Philippe "We're not longer raw vegan." But I really believe in juice cleansing and I created the Prana Cleanse, juice fasting myself for thirteen days to create it. I taught Susan Cabana, the founder of Nourish Your Soul, and she did consulting with me. When she opened it, I wanted to support her.
And how does cleansing fit into your own yoga practice?
I don't juice fast myself anymore at all. I have come full circle from where I loved it and being raw vegan but stopped because of my children. It was then the biggest gift because for my own life I try not to talk about food anymore. It's so explosive for people on so many levels, so personal. What I found was that a little cyanide is good. You never want to get too clean and I got way too clean. Am I saying juice is bad? No, it's awesome. It's a great addition to a yoga practice but I don't believe in dogmatism.
So even if you believed in it, it wasn't working for you and you let it go.
Exactly. Like my other philosophies, I'm all about acceptability. In retrospect, the raw vegan was not in line with my personality. Eat whatever you want.
To read more about Taylor's thoughts on abundance, the law of attraction, and intention-setting, check out Create the Best Life Ever.
· Prana Power Yoga [Official Site]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked Boston]