Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
While Boston has an abundance of yoga studios, none of them command such a familial feeling as Health Yoga Life, which is probably because it is in fact owned by four sisters. The Bielkus girls—Aida, Siga, Vyda, and Zara—have built a popular Beacon Hill destination for not only the practice of yoga, but also life coaching, teacher training, and wellness programs. We spoke with the group about everything from their mother's sacred meditation time to their favorite yoga pants and mats.
What piece of advice would you give a nervous first time student?
VB: Everyone has their first day! And just realize you probably will not know what you are doing. I still remember my first class, I didn't have a clue. But I kept going back.
AB: The only part of the body I ask you to keep flexible is your mind. First time students will experience pronounced highs and lows as they practice something new! Have fun. Beginners mind is a precious thing, long time practitioners wish they could get it back!
SB: The first day is the best day! The yogis say it's your actual birthday!
ZB: Don't judge. It is so easy to have internal comments rage through the brain about yourself or other students; focus instead on quieting the mind, we rarely have time to do that these days.
Biggest challenge in working with family? Biggest reward?
VB: Honestly we don't find it that challenging working with each other. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses and luckily we complement each other's. We started this business because we wanted to be able to live a little more freely than working for someone else allows. The biggest reward is that we get to watch our collective hard work pay off and celebrate that growth together!
AB: I love working with my family particularly at this business which helps our clients find balance in their lives. We work hard and play hard together, we always have. When you work with your family we have had to learn how to stop talking work when we are just hanging out together, taking a break from talking shop.
SB: You can be totally honest with your coworker so things aren't lost in translation. You can actually accomplish a lot in family run business because we co-jointly make decisions and can cut through the red tape.
ZB: The biggest challenge is that you can never "hide" or pull a sick day. We sisters are so connected to each other so even on the days that you don't feel like pulling your weight you had better have a darn good excuse because the sisters will all eventually find out what you were up to anyway. The best thing is you actually can talk back to your boss, because hey, we're family. We will always kiss and make up!
Were there any mantras or influences in your house growing up that encouraged entrepreneurship and wellness?
VB: Our mom was a huge influence. She was an entrepreneur so when other girls in the neighborhood were playing with dolls, we were playing pretend "office." She also learned meditation when we were young. As children we noticed what a change meditation had on her, and we really respected her meditation time. Even if our friends were over we'd be like "Shhhhh, Mama's meditating."
AB: Let's just say that our Monopoly money got put to good use in all sorts of imaginative games. Also we were definitely the first kids on the block to be eating sprouts, carrot juice, and carob. We grew up with the idea that self-care is important. Our mother naturally modeled self-care.
SB: It all stemmed from a family of entrepreneurs that owned their own businesses. It is funny, you are working all the time but you still have more time than the average person. The biggest incentive for me is working hard to have free time.
ZB: Due to two of us being diabetic, we were not given an option to opt out of sports at school. Every season, it encouraged a commitment to activity—something we each still commit to today. This body has to last a lifetime, so looking after it from a young age, and having gratitude for all it can do, encouraged us to look into different wellness modalities as we matured.
Favorite whiteboard question you've asked clients?
VB: We have this great community white board where we write fun questions and statements for our community to share their thoughts with us. My favorite was "Erase Your Fears" and people could write up any fears they had and we erased them at the end of the week. It definitely reminded that me that we all carry the same fears around!
AB: What is your favorite yoga pose? It's always fun to see that everyone has a different opinion about the poses. Someone's favorite is someone else's least liked pose.
SB: What are you taking off your mat today into your world? Practicing yoga doesn't just remain on your mat. When I roll up my mat and put it away I find that so many elements of my practice are with me throughout the day.
ZB: What are you ready to lose? This one helps us see all that we are attached to.
What part of "total wellness" is the easiest to overlook and how can it be addressed?
VB: I think one of the easiest things to overlook is the need for stillness. Finding a way to create space to be totally still in this world is difficult but transformative. It's through stillness that the present moment can be found. It's a breakthrough moment when you realize you are not your rush of thoughts.
AB: Health Yoga Life's Four Quadrants of Health are: Activity, Rest, Nourishment and Cleansing. All four of these quadrants rely on each other and need to be in balance. Rest is the one that gets most often ignored and overlooked.
SB: You become very honest in your yoga practice. You can observe your critiques, judgments and the laundry list of must dos. Taking time for yourself is the most important element so that you can be there for others.
ZB: The easiest part of total wellness to overlook is emotional toxicity that comes from ourselves or even those around us. The critical voice that casts doubt on our actions is totally sabotaging to our overall well-being and can be very subtle but intrinsically damaging.
Favorite yoga pants? Best sports bra? Towel and mat recommendations?
SB: I love Onzie yoga pants with their wild prints. Spiritual Gangster is also a huge hit with their direct and to the point phrases, like "Karma Made Me Do It." I also recommend the Prana Eco Mat. It has just the right amount of cushion but still offers good grip.
VB: I love Athleta. I have found their tops and yoga pants to fit and wash well. They also have a great return policy and they give a discount to yoga teachers. My favorite mat is so old school it's not even a branded mat! It's a sticky thin mat. Our rentals are this mat. Best towel an old washed out towel from your house. May not be glam but the rough fibers provide more traction when you sweat!
ZB: Via Prive are my go-to for pants, flattering and fun while still leaving me with enough budget to purchase my fifteen year loyalty to Nike for sports bras.
AB: I have been wearing Prana pants and tops and really enjoying them lately, both comfortable and beautiful. And for a towel for the mat I recommend the staple Yogi Toes. We sell them at the studio and they will get you through the sweatiest classes.
· Health Yoga Life [Official Site]