By Kim J. Gifford
Photography courtesy of Mighty Yoga
Today, yoga is widely acknowledged as a popular form of exercise, meditation and relaxation. It is not surprising to hear that someone’s mother, husband or child has taken classes — sometimes the whole family together, but Heather Healey, owner of Mighty Yoga with locations at 10 Allen Street in Hanover, N.H., and 103 Hanover Street in Lebanon, N.H., says that when she first opened her studios here in the Upper Valley in 2013 and 2015 respectively, it was not uncommon to market classes at freshmen reception and hear Dartmouth College students say they had never taken a class. “Now, that has all changed,” Healey says.
Yoga has become so popular today that Healey’s studios are able to offer 45 classes between them with more than 20 yoga instructors and seven barre leaders. A new form of yoga popular in cities, barre is a total body, low-impact workout that uses a barre as one would find in a dance class. Mighty Yoga has 355 people take classes at the studio each week.
“In a world that feels more disconnected, Mighty Yoga empowers people to reconnect with themselves physically, mentally and spiritually, through the practice of yoga,” says Healey. “When we are truly connected with our self and have the support of our tribe, we are empowered, and we are unstoppable. From this place, we can create positive change in our community and in the world.”
Mighty Yoga’s classes teach a form of vinyasa yoga that relies on connection and flow between a series of postures known as asanas. Mighty Yoga offers something for everyone, but the studio has beginning and restorative classes as well as power yoga classes conducted in heated classrooms set at 80 to 85 degrees, “like a warm, summer’s day,” says Healey.
Healey knows the power of yoga first hand, having been drawn to it as a form of workout after retiring as a competitive rower. She also relied on the practice to see her through grad school while living in Pittsburgh, Penn. “It helped with my crazy schedule,” she says.
Following grad school, Healey moved to Ithaca, N.Y., where she opened a yoga studio in 2009. In 2012, she relocated to the Upper Valley. “We have so many people — high school students, older students, 16 to 65,” says Healey. “Yoga, in general, attracts mostly women, but we have a fair amount of men.”
Rest if You Need to
One of Mighty Yoga’s attractions lies in the effort Healey places in making the studio approachable for everyone. “We really encourage people to make it their own,” she says. “There are many things that you can go into that are athletic, where you don’t have to do everything someone tells you. Here, you can rest if you need to, do what you need to.”
Ashley Wood of Enfield, N.H., a new mother, who has participated in Mighty Yoga’s prenatal/postnatal yoga classes, says, “Heather offered modifications throughout the class depending on your needs whether pregnant, postpartum or simply experiencing discomfort. The babies in the room were chatty, crying, nursing, playing with toys, sleeping, everything…and Heather always encouraged us to do what we needed to do except to leave the room. I think that most moms feel discomfort when their babies cry in public spaces and Heather always reminded us that crying is how babies communicate.”
The prenatal and postnatal classes are only one of the ways Mighty Yoga tries to accommodate parents and families. Wood emphasizes that “the people, atmosphere and lessons (both yoga and life lessons)” experienced at Mighty Yoga were “invaluable,” and she attributes them to playing a huge role in improving her pregnancy.
“I relied heavily on my breath and mindfulness during childbirth, including a visualization that Heather introduced in class one day where we pictured a calming setting and attached a word to it that we could recall at tough moments in the future,” Wood says. “Going to yoga until close to my due date was an empowering experience.”
Personally, Healey feels yoga has kept her grounded through the ups and downs of parenting her three children: ages 2, 4 and 6. “There are days when they won’t listen to me, when I breathe through it and find new patience,” she says.
Mighty Yoga has offered classes for families and parents in the past and plans to do more in the future. Mighty Yoga holds Family Flow classes at the Lebanon studio. The classes are geared toward families with kids ages 4 to 10, “but older and younger kiddos are welcome as well,” says Healey. “It’s a fun class where families can connect with their body, breath and each other.”
Beth Phillips-Whitehair of Norwich, Vt., took classes at Mighty Yoga with her teen daughter. “We did it for a few months. Her friends also came to classes for a bit. It was nice to see young energy there as well,” she says. “I think it would do the world well if more young folks were introduced to the compassion and grounding yoga can help cultivate.”
Might Yoga’s classes certainly have done that for Phillips-Whitehair who says, “I love the location, love many of the teachers, and love that it is heated, but not crazily so. I feel like I sweat out all the toxins of life when I go. I love the combination of movement, music and quiet. Sounds like a contradiction, but it is all mixed in there.”
To give people an opportunity to find a class that works for them, Mighty Yoga offers a 30 Days of Unlimited Yoga pass for only $30, allowing participants to try a month of unlimited classes and get acquainted with the different teachers and various styles.
“Children are under pressure earlier and earlier, and we are all connected with our phones and computers instead of each other. We need a chance to check in with our bodies and ourselves, to focus on our breath, the power of it, and find a supportive place to connect with other people,” says Healey.