As the owner of Little Rock, Arkansas-based yoga studio Barefoot Studio for the past nine years and a dedicated yogi for nineteen years, Breezy Osborne-Wingfield is familiar with the teachings and practice of yoga.
But have just a brief conversation with Breezy and you’ll quickly realize that she still very much views herself as the student. A student of yoga even after all these years practicing and studying, and a student of life.
Breezy is passionate about teaching others about yoga, which has helped her gain more acceptance, patience and honesty with herself since beginning her practice in 1999. And she believes it’s important for every person to know that yoga is possible and available to every body, size, age, sex and even those recovering from injury.
Read on for our inspiring interview with Breezy…
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PRACTICING YOGA, AND HOW DID IT COME INTO YOUR LIFE?
I took my first yoga class in 1999 when I was looking for something to add to my exercise routine. But I quickly understood how yoga is much more than just physical. Yoga became one of the tools that helps me deal with my emotional and mental health more than anything — anxiety, PTSD, depression and eating disorders. Before I “met” yoga, I’m not sure I ever once paid attention to my breath or honored my body’s capabilities without pushing it beyond that safe limit.
HOW HAS YOGA MOST BENEFITED YOU IN YOUR OWN LIFE AND ON YOUR OWN HEALING JOURNEY?
At first I used to say that had I found yoga earlier in life, I wouldn’t have done XYZ in my past. But as time went on, it was yoga teaching me that some of the choices I’ve made in life were just a part of the practice, a part of the process. Most of the time we hear about love, light and bliss, and I keep it real with my students, family and friends by being honest and vulnerable with my own journey. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, just like being off the mat. My meditation practice coupled with therapy sessions over the years has opened up my eyes to the importance of breaking the stigma of mental health. I live with anxiety, PTSD and eating disorders. With yoga at my side, I’ve realized how not to be ashamed or embarrassed, but instead to be a real, raw and authentic example. I’m always open to chatting about my experiences with all of the above.
HOW DID YOU TRANSITION FROM BEING A TEACHER OF YOGA TO OWNING YOUR OWN STUDIO, BAREFOOT STUDIO?
Barefoot Studio opened in 1995, and I’m the third owner of the studio, which I’ve owned since 2009. Transitioning from teacher to owner and teacher was one of the best life lessons for me and definitely a transition experience for the students at the time. Nine years later there are about a dozen students who have stayed, weathering the ups and downs since I took over ownership, and they’ve been some of my greatest teachers. This transition taught me to value feedback and criticism as a way to grow and evolve, when in the past it often took my breath away in a negative way. My college degree is in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, so I have had to learn a bit differently when it comes to the business side of owning a small business. The last couple of years has finally felt like I might be getting the hang of it, and I continue to focus on keeping an open mind to change.
YOGA IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN MOVING IN POSTURES ON THE MAT. WHEN PEOPLE BEGIN TO PRACTICE YOGA WITH YOU, WHAT DO YOU FIND IS THE MOST PROMINENT LESSON OR THEME THAT PEOPLE TEND TO CARRY OFF THE MAT AND APPLY INTO THEIR LIVES?
I take it to heart that what I say or how I say things in class can make an impact on someone, so when I receive feedback of “I truly believe what you are saying…”, I know that that person is starting to dive a bit deeper than just where their foot is placed on the mat. I’m an alignment lover, but when someone starts to sense that alignment with a purpose that goes beyond the mat…that’s what is so precious. It doesn’t always mean that alignment is even happening, but it means the awareness of it even existing is happening. That is one of the coolest things to hear from others!
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HOLDS SO MANY PEOPLE BACK FROM GETTING STARTED, IF THEY’VE NEVER DONE YOGA BEFORE?
I truly feel that the misunderstanding of yoga poses is a part of what holds many people back from stepping onto the mat. I get quite a bit of feedback from people who say they aren’t flexible, in shape enough or even adequate to start a practice. It brings tears to my eyes each time I hear this as I sense their fear and hesitancy. In my classes, I strive to bring accessibility to each person and offer realistic variations as every single body is different. But most importantly every single person IS adequate and enough, and that’s what I want people to know. Where you are and who you are is enough. Come as you are.
IF A PERSON IS NEW TO YOGA AND THEY ARE INTIMIDATED BECAUSE THEY FEEL LIKE THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO OR THAT THEY’LL “STICK OUT” IN A CLASS, WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THEM?
Trust that you are where you’re supposed to be; place trust in the process. The first thing I always share with anyone who has this hesitation is that we are all beginners and we have to start where we are. My daughter was overly nervous last year that she didn’t know how to read. So, we explained to her that she isn’t supposed to know how to read at this time. When we’re babies, it takes us a year or longer to even learn how to stand on two feet and walk. When taking a first yoga class, I would highly recommend chatting with the teacher before class, or even calling the studio to have the conversation about this hesitation before arrival so that the student-teacher communication is starting to build. That student-teacher connection and trust is crucial. Yoga is possible and available for everyone, and with each body being unique, there are thousands of options and variations for both movement and stillness in classes.
YOUR OWN JOURNEY WITH YOGA HAS CONTINUED TO EVOLVE AND NOW YOU’RE TEACHING YOGA TEACHERS TO TEACH. HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED YOUR LIFE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE ONLY TEACHING STUDENTS?
Creating and completing a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program is one of the best teaching lessons for me as a yoga teacher, as a student and as a mentor. It’s been a very humbling and incredible experience. I often compare being a yoga teacher to being a beginner yoga student, and now I add to this example teaching a teacher training program. Everyone has to start where they are and everyone is in a totally different emotional and physical place, yet we are going through it together with each other. The lessons that the first graduating class of Rise Yoga Academy at Barefoot Studio taught me will carry with me forever. They were teaching me all along.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE BAREFOOT STUDIO COMMUNITY, AND THE PEOPLE WHO GATHER THERE TO PRACTICE YOGA?
There is so much that I love about Barefoot Studio, yet the number one comment I hear the most is how it is often people’s second home. We are a mom and pop shop, as I call it. It’s a place where you walk in the door and the teachers know your name and welcome you with open arms. We understand the courage and effort that it takes to walk into that door, as we all come from different chaos and happenings in our lives. So, to have a place that you can truly be yourself without any explanation is important to me because that’s something I struggled with throughout all my school years. I honestly believe that’s part of why I fell in love with yoga and the possibility of owning a studio, knowing that there’s a place where everyone can freely be.
AS THE MOM OF A BEAUTIFUL AND VERY FUN-LOVING LITTLE GIRL, HOW ARE YOU USING WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR OWN YOGA PRACTICE TO HELP GUIDE HER IN HER LIFE, WHILE STILL LETTING HER MAKE THE MISTAKES AND HAVE THE FAILURES THAT WE ALL NEED TO HAVE TO BECOME OUR HIGHEST SELVES?
I would have to admit that becoming a parent has been side by side to my yoga practice when it comes to utilizing what I’ve learned and sharing it with her. I’m starting to see my own five year old self in her, and I feel that with the professional emotional and mental support that I’ve received over the years, it’s assisting me in guiding her with her own emotions and feelings. The more self-aware, self-accepting and self-understanding work I do on myself, the more I’m able to recognize that she is actually communicating so well, and that we’re helping each other. Kids are brutally honest without any assumptions or attachments to it, and as an adult we easily overthink things as we know there are all kinds of repercussions. For instance, my daughter knows I go to therapy to talk to someone about how I feel and that it’s a good thing to speak it aloud. What she doesn’t know (at this time) is that her being in my life has helped me not speak negatively to myself as I would never want her to hear me say those things aloud. Years before she was born I started to work on that as I began to understand my eating disorder, yet it took having the understanding that growing ears are listening for me to give myself permission to speak kindly to myself even when she isn’t around. I strive to be a real example and she sees me fall out of poses, stub my toe, spill food on my clothes etc, so she knows that no one is perfect and that just doesn’t exist. Yet we all have to make these mistakes to learn from them.