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#WhyIYoga: This soulful yogi explains how yoga can build emotional strength


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Whether you’re a just-hooked newbie or seasoned yogi, your reasons for turning to yoga are personal. Physical strength? Balance in your day-to-day? Serious vibes? There’s no wrong answer—and CorePower Yoga gets that. On the eve of the national mega-brand’s arrival in New York City (look out for its Upper West Side debut in late spring!), we’re teaming up to highlight the inspiring stories behind its star instructors. Because every #WhyIYoga moment = goals.

When you’ve practiced yoga for 18 years like Melissa Hernandez, you know it has life-changing powers. But you really understand it when you meet the CorePower Yoga New York City area leader—even if you haven’t been a yogi that long (or started yet).

The Midwest native—who still teaches classes, BTW—truly connected with the practice as a fresh college grad in Denver. “I started out doing yoga because it was a very physical desire—I saw all of these people doing yoga and how physically fit they looked, lean but strong,” she remembers. “But I’ll never forget that I cried when I did camel pose, which is a very intense kneeling backward bend. And I didn’t know why I cried.”

That was the turning point that transformed yoga from a fun college elective into a life purpose for the seasoned vet: “I realized it was beyond the physical. There’s something very energetic and internal about this practice.”

“I realized it was beyond the physical. There’s something very energetic and internal about this practice.”

The connection crystalized when Hernandez started as a CorePower Yoga instructor in 2003. One day, Hernandez missed her usual yoga class at a local spot, and a friend recommended she check out CorePower. “I walked in, and I fell in love,” she says. “I took a class and it just felt like home.” She immediately started training to be a teacher, which took her to San Diego as the yoga powerhouse expanded (there are now more than 165 studios across the country).

“Being at CorePower, it isn’t like, check in, here’s your class,” she explains. “That’s one of the biggest things about CorePower: a sense of family. You can walk into a CorePower anywhere in the country, and I swear you’ll feel like you’re back in San Diego, or New York City, or wherever it is you come from. It’s this crazy, amazing national family.”

Read on to learn more about how yoga can build your mental and emotional strength—plus Hernandez’s must-haves to build a more mindful life.

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Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good
Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

Her yoga journey

Before heading to San Diego to delve into yoga full-time, Hernandez spent a year working in fashion in NYC. “When I left New York City, I was going through a lot personally. I was kind of searching for something,” she says. “When I found yoga, it gave me permission—not only personally, but socially, because socially it can be hard to let go of other habits with friends who are used to you being a certain way, to become the better person that I wanted to be.”

And once she gave herself that permission, it steamrolled. “I was always like, ‘I want to eat better, I want to sleep better, I want to be off caffeine,'” she remembers. “When I started doing yoga, all of these things started happening. It took time but I noticed this slow trickle effect and this progression of it leading me toward a healthier lifestyle.”

Today, the yogi credits her daily practice (yep, she really does it every day) with strengthening her emotional and mental resolve. “I wasn’t so reactive. I overall had more of a sense of calm,” she notes. “Don’t get me wrong—I’m human. But overall it’s grounded me.”

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Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good
Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

Her favorite pose

Hernandez can seriously pull off a yoga pose—but balancing half moon (ardha chandrasana) is a personal best. “Physically and energetically speaking, it’s strength and concentration and balance,” she says. The position creates dharana, or focus to hone in on your breath. “It helps to think of that sense of using your breath as a tool for inner peace in a stressful situation.”

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Collage: Jenna Cantagallo
Collage: Jenna Cantagallo

1. Timka Jewelry Golden Sliver Necklace, $108; 2. DoTerra Essential Oils, prices vary; 3. Palo Santo, $9; 4. Juice Press Ginger Fireball, $8; 5. Manduka Prolite Yoga Mat, $80; 6. Crystals; 7. Rad Rounds foam roller, $16

How does Hernandez continue her mindful lifestyle outside of the studio? A heady mix of crystals strewn about her home (rose quartz, amethyst, and agate are faves), an aromatherapy boost from palo santo sticks, and a grounding essential oil, like rose. (Total nesting goals.)

To keep her bod in peak performance, she employs roller balls for muscle recovery (“beautifully painful!”) and a steady stream of massages at the closest Korean day spa. An immunity-boosting juice (she prefers a “gnarly” kick of anti-inflammatory ginger) and daily meditation do the rest. Just consider her must-haves—and her yoga advice—as inspiration fuel.

Stay tuned for CorePower Yoga’s first NYC studio in late spring. To learn more, go to corepoweryoga.com 

Top photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

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