Stretch It Out with Bliss Yoga

by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace Daffron

In a world as fast-paced as ours, it can be hard to find time to relax. And when you finally get around to carving out time for yourself, it can be harder still to shut your brain off. “I’m too busy,” or “I can’t sit there and do nothing for that long,” are all too familiar excuses, but these are the people who need it the most.

At each year’s beginning, we all set new goals for ourselves. It’s a ritualistic thing: evaluating accomplishments, setting new goals. But within a few months, maybe even weeks, those resolutions and goals can seem just a little too far from reach. It can easily become discouraging. That’s why, this year, we encourage our readers to practice wellness. Health reaches into more aspects than just physicality, and it’s important to recognize that. With this fresh start, consider focusing on yourself, what makes you feel better. It may be floating in a salt tank, or practicing yoga.

In 2010, Bliss Yoga opened in downtown Columbus, Mississippi. It traded owners’ hands a few times, until it fell into the lap of Lindsey Nicholson in January of 2017. A Mississippi native and Pilates lover, Nicholson never dreamed of owning a yoga studio. At the time, she was a stay-at-home mother, and taught fitness classes on the side. When she looked into the studio, everything fell into place.

“It happened very organically,” she said. “All the pieces came together.”

Because of her love for Pilates, Nicholson knew she wanted her business to branch out. Since taking over, Bliss Yoga now has nine instructors, each certified to teach different classes.  In addition to traditional yoga classes, the studio branches out and offers other things like Barre, Pilates and Qigong, too. But Bliss will always be rooted in yoga.

“At our core, we’re always going to be a yoga studio, so that’s my main focus,” Nicholson said.

While Bliss offers a Barre class focusing on ballet movements, they use movable, freestanding Barres instead of permanent wall attachments, so the studio is easily transformable for differently classes. The same applies to Pilates: While the studio has a reformer, a machine specifically crafted for practicing Pilates, Nicholson says one is enough for personal sessions.

Yoga & Mississippi

“A lot of people think yoga is a religion,” Lindsey Nicholson said. “I think that’s a huge misconception.”

For Nicholson and her instructors, yoga is a way to reconnect with and care for one’s body, and simply refocus the mind.

“It’s just a time to bring your focus inward, focus on your breath,” she said.

At Bliss, the instructors teach because they have a passion for yoga and Mississippi. 

“We’re about a better, healthier community,” Nicholson said.

Bliss regularly partners with other businesses and organization to bring yoga to their community. Its instructors will host classes on Columbus Air Force Base, and Barefoot on the Bridge with the Mississippi University for Women. Through teaching and reaching out to new people, they are able to connect with their clients on a personal level.

“People spend their time and energy coming here to be with us, and I don’t take that for granted and nobody else does either,” Nicholson says.

Because people invest themselves into the studio, Nicholson and the instructors built a welcoming environment. She said it is never a competition; instead, it is a place to focus on oneself.

“No one next to you is looking at you or looking to see if you’re doing it correctly, everybody is in their own space and worried about their movement and their bodies. It’s a community class, we all love each other, but once it’s time to start class,” she says, “it’s not competitive.”

For Everybody and Every Body 

While it is noncompetitive, the instructors said it can sometimes be hard for people to switch their mentality to a yoga mindset. With fitness gyms focused on high intensity interval training  (HITT) popping up left and right, Nicholson said there’s a new gym mentality forming.

“People think, ‘Oh, if I’m not killing myself, if I’m not drenched in sweat, if I don’t feel terrible when I leave, then I didn’t work out, I didn’t benefit from what I just did,’” Nicholson said. “That is the biggest misconception, and I hate that people feel that way.”

At Bliss, there is a focus on breathing and the body, while also being active. The instructors said the amount of times they have heard, ‘I need to get in better shape and be more flexible before I start yoga classes,’ is enough to make their heads spin. Because of this, they each take care that every class is suitable to everyone, no matter their fitness level. Each instructor does this by offering different levels and advancements for each movement and pose throughout the course.

Nicholson said with yoga, immediate results are not the goal: a lifestyle change focused on wellness is the goal. People can practice yoga even as they age, and Nicholson said it’s because it helps with mobility and properly caring for the body.

“When you leave here, you feel longer, leaner, lighter. You can’t be doing CrossFit and lifting kettlebells (at 90), you’re going to throw your back out,” Nicholson said laughing while she mimicked hoisting a kettlebell. “This is a long-term lifestyle. I just feel like people get led astray or they want a quick fix.”

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