Yoga Enterprise

Working in Clark County: Melonie Nielson, Vancouver Yoga Center owner, instructor

The 45-year-old Vancouver Yoga Center owner Melonie Nielson remembers the first time she tried yoga. It was a long time before the United States saw an onslaught of yoga studios recently, and with it tricky trends like yoga with cats, goats, or even beer.

“I wonder, ‘Are you going to have a beer afterwards? ‘Maybe to build a community – I could see that. But if they literally take the beer on the mats … I don’t know how that supports wellbeing in any way, ”said Nielson.

According to a November 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.5 percent of adults in the United States were practicing yoga in 2012. By 2017 the number had risen to 14.3 percent or 35.2 million people.

In the 1980s it was a different picture.

When he was 17, the Portland native lived with his family in Nebraska to “explore the Midwestern lifestyle.”

“I think there were maybe two (yoga) teachers in the state at the time,” said Nielson, sitting cross-legged in a chair at the end of an empty hallway outside the studio, which is on the second floor of the Broadway business center.

Vancouver Yoga Center

Location: 1101 Broadway, Suite 216, Vancouver.


Income: Not disclosed.

Number of employees: Four part-time employees, excluding the owner, Melonie Nielson.

Outlook for the Office of the Bureau of Labor Statistics: The employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to increase by 10 percent through 2026 or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors, “reports the BLS. The median annual wage for the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metropolitan area for this job is $ 21.20 per hour, or $ 44,100 per year.

“They were more like just community centers. They didn’t have props, they didn’t have yoga mats and all that, ”Nielson said of the country’s early yoga scene.

She had rotoscoliosis at the time, she said, causing her back pain. Scoliosis occurs when the spine is curved. In rotoscoliosis, it is not only curved but also twisted and causes pain.

A friend gave Nielson a gift certificate to try yoga. Maybe, she thought, it could be “a physical thing” that she really enjoyed since she doesn’t like going to the gym or exercising. It worked: she said the back pain never returned.

Fast forward almost 30 years. Sitting outside a room, Nielson leads a group of just over a dozen in a meditative practice before indulging in poses. After all, much of the appeal of yoga is the philosophical and meditative piece combined with fitness. According to national survey data from the National Center for Complementary and Inclusive Health – a branch of the federal government dedicated to researching alternative medical practices – 86 percent of people said they practice yoga to reduce stress. 67 percent said it helped them feel better emotionally.

“Ommmmmmm”, the group said in unison in their 1 1/2 hour Yoga Refinements class on a weekday.

“How do we react if we stop at this end point? Does our personality want to push through the edges or do we shy away from the edges? Or can we lean on them and keep a gentle flow? “She asked the class about the first pose. Then the students sank on all fours and slowly moved their backs and stomachs in circles. “There is no right or wrong, just exploration.”

Nielson secured the space in downtown Vancouver six years ago after spending six to seven years in another location that had become too expensive to operate.

She previously ran her studio in a now-defunct Hazel Dell store called The Herb Trader, which she frequented because of her interest in herbal medicine. A particularly persistent employee there urged her to teach a class. She initially had no interest in yoga and just wanted to become a massage therapist.

“The nudging and pushing,” she said. “I would never have done it alone.”

She still runs a part-time massage practice and works approximately 50 hours a week between doing yoga and performing the massage practice.

“I wanted to offer something to people who came in and said, ‘I can’t do this pose, it hurts that part of my body or that part of my body,’ and I had something to say other than, ‘just don’t do the pose. ‘That’s just not an acceptable answer. How about looking at her and seeing what her body is doing? “Said Nielson.

“When I was 20 years old, I said, ‘Give me another challenging pose. I just do the next pose after the next pose and it was all about poses and mastering a pose, ”said Nielson. “Then life happens and you get injuries – sometimes in yoga class and sometimes in life.”

Nielson’s classes are mostly made up of students in their forties and fifties.

“I see them when they come in later (in life) they want something different or more out of their yoga practice,” said Nielson, adding that those in their 20s and 30s are more likely to look to yoga for exercise.

Vancouver-based Dene Grigar, director of the creative media and digital culture program at Washington State University Vancouver, has attended Nielson’s classes since 2006.

“The first thing Melonie said is, ‘You don’t have a lot of flexibility in your shoulder. ‘Yoga has made really big strides in the way people use it. It’s no longer just about breathing and walking through a series of poses, ”said 64-year-old Grigar. “Melonie’s exercises are about alignment and how the different muscles work with the bone. It is about both the body and the mind. “

The Vancouver Yoga Center offers a number of courses, not all of which are taught by Nielson. She recently started developing videos for people to participate in at home or for yoga teacher trainees to have online access to her teachings. And for better or worse, you definitely won’t find any beer or goats at the Vancouver Yoga Center.

“We’re not jumping on the next yoga trend or teaching gimmicky yoga, we’ve been teaching directional yoga for the last 20 years,” said Nielson.

However, she supports another yoga trend: getting kids into the mix.

“I would like to see more of these trends. Make them young and teach them concentration and self-regulatory skills. Help them understand their emotions better and how they can deal with them in their bodies as well. These are all skills we need as adults, and if we learn them all when we are younger how wonderful would that be? “Said Nielson.

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