On a Mission …
Kelly O’Brien and Alex DuBois are a great team. As certified yoga instructors and owners of Mission Yoga, the pair offers what every yoga studio needs – balance. O’Brien brings a methodical, Type-A approach to the studio, while DuBois brings a free spirited outlook to life in the studio. As they rang in 2013, they celebrated the studio’s first anniversary in downtown Scranton and their recent honor of being named Best Yoga Studio in Electric City’s Readers’ Poll. We recently caught up with them to talk about the many benefits of yoga, how it changed their lives and how it can change ours, too. Meet Kelly O’Brien and Alex DuBois…
There are many different kinds of yoga out there. What kind of classes do you offer?
Alex: We deal with the full spectrum of the body, so rather than just working on flexibility, we work on strength as well. Our specialty comes from an Ashtanga background, which essentially is the grandfather of all modern forms of yoga. We like to keep things fun and light. We do have a spiritual background to things but at the same time, we play funky music and we like to get up on our hands (as you can see from the picture) and what we really pride ourselves in is a lot of hands-on adjustments and clear verbal cues.
There are so many ways we can exercise. How did you find yoga, and what did you like about it that you’ve stayed with it?
Alex: I used to be a smoker and when I quit smoking I wanted to do something that I felt acknowledged the entire body, not just one element. I wanted something that acknowledged the fact that I was larger than my physical body. And as a result, yoga allowed me to relax. It improved my posture and it allowed me to change my breathing. It was just a natural fit.
Kelly: I was going through a time in my life when I needed something else; something that would change my outlook on things. I was searching for something. So my friend brought me to a yoga class, and after it I just immediately felt better. Everything seemed a little bit clearer. I was more relaxed than I’ve ever been and I looked forward to the next time I could go to yoga. The more I went, the more things started to change. And I really wanted to get certified and give back what was given to me.
To say that yoga changed your life is a very powerful statement.
Kelly: It’s true for me. It’s completely changed me.
Talk about some of the benefits of yoga.
Alex: The body detoxifies itself through twists and compressions, and the movements you do essentially massage internal organs and reduce the risk of disease. In the past four years that I’ve been practicing, I’ve been sick three times. It’s not to say I don’t get the sniffles or a little sore throat, but that’s a lot different than getting the flu two or three times a year. Each posture has health benefits whether it’s preventing disease or toning the body. Each posture has a specific purpose.
Kelly: I think for people who already come from a physical background it’s great for preventing injuries. They come to yoga and gain flexibility and have more mobility so whatever it is that they primarily do, there’s less risk of them becoming injured. We both believe in cross training, too. We started taking Cross Fit and it’s helped our yoga practice and in turn, people are coming here from Cross Fit and it’s helping them.
What if you have an injury, or arthritis — can anyone do yoga?
Kelly: There are always ways to modify postures for people who do have injuries or issues. We’re both trained to do that so a lot of our hands-on adjustments are ways to move people so the posture is a little bit safer for them. It is for everyone. Anybody can do it.
What misconceptions do people have about yoga?
Kelly: I think the biggest one I hear is, “Well, I’m, not flexible, so I can’t do yoga.” But, if you want to get flexible, yoga is how you do it.
Alex: Exactly … sometimes we’re trained (as children) to do things that we’re good at and ignore things that we’re not good at. And yoga gives us the opportunity to do things that we’re not good at. Before I started doing this, I wasn’t able to keep a still mind. It’s not something that just happens – how do you stop thinking? But this actually kind of manually gets in there and allows you to be flexible, to become stronger. This enables you to take that mindset out into the world so that maybe you can start doing things you aren’t good at. I’m doing tons of things that I’m not good at and I love it.
Alex: I do Cross Fit now, bike riding, Jiu jitsu, dance lessons. It completely opened the door to all of this. You can do it, and you can get good at it.
Kelly: This opened the door for me to do all kinds of things I used to be scared of. Going to Cross Fit? (Years ago) I would have never gone. I started going and I love it. I started doing pole fitness, too. This has taken the fear away of trying new things. We see so many students who have totally changed because of this and it’s really an awesome thing to see. It works.
Alex: So many things require you to believe in them before they proves themselves to you and yoga is the kind of thing that proves itself to you. The miracle will happen and once it does, you can have the conviction and believe.
Opening your own studio is a big step. How did you know the time was right?
Kelly: We thought it would be great to open a space downtown that was affordable to people because the biggest thing I heard when I started teaching was that people couldn’t afford yoga classes. So we tossed around the idea of opening a studio and we said if everything falls into place, we’ll do it. In a matter of a month, this space opened up, and we knew it was meant to happen.
Alex: It was here or nowhere. This was the building we wanted to be in and the block we wanted to be on. Scranton is a great place to do this.
— julie imel
Mission Yoga is located at 544 Spruce St., in downtown Scranton. A variety of classes are availale, from All Level Flow yoga to Basic/Slow Flow yoga, as well as workshops, a beginner’s series, and training sessions. Classes are $6 for students and $8 for non-students. For more information, visit www.mission-yoga.com.