Verge were lucky enough to chat with the wonderful Christy and Ashley, founders of revolutionary yoga movement Grip The Mat. Together, they form the first of the Verge Influencers.
Christy and Ashley met during yoga teacher training. Coincidentally, they were both from Florida and both former dancers. They were struggling to find a satisfying balance between demanding jobs while nurturing their passions for health and wellness. They decided to quit the nine-to-five and follow their love for yoga by sharing the practice with their community.
Christy shares her personal mission statement – to inspire others creatively and to care about the world around them – by offering a method that is based in community building and movement awareness. Christy moved to Washington, DC to pursue an education in international affairs and dance. In DC, group yoga became even more integral in her life as she advanced in her studies and realized her need for a strong community and a healthy lifestyle. Now, Christy’s practice blends challenging vinyassa to build energy and healing breath work to nourish the mind and body. In her classes, Christy encourages each individual student to further their personal practice. Her intelligent sequences encourage balance and engage proper alignment, focus on the Self through breath, and cultivate a sense of playfulness.
Ashley found yoga in 2009 as a former dancer. She enjoyed the physical practice similar to dance, but discovered a deeper satisfaction physically and emotionally. Transitioning to Washington, DC in 2013, Ashley fell in love with her practice and knew she wanted to share it with as many people as possible. Ashley completed the Yoga Alliance 200-hour teacher certification at The Studio DC. To Ashley, yoga is a source of joy that spreads throughout all aspects of her life.
Grip the Mat promises feel-good yoga and authentic social experiences in kick-ass venues. The classes encourage a balanced lifestyle by creating a space for open-minded individuals to connect, while empowering them to live more actively engaged and vibrant lives.
Can you tell us a little about Grip the Mat? How did you get started?
Grip The Mat started as a way to help others integrate yoga into their social life. We met in yoga teacher training and found such happiness in sharing our practice with each other that we had to share it with our community. We know from experience it is difficult to find a balance in the midst of a busy work life. We wanted to create a space where people could work out, feel good and meet new people.
Yoga has become extremely popular recently! What makes Grip the Mat different to other yoga classes?
Grip The Mat offers “feel-good” yoga that is accessible to all levels and emphasizes having fun by meeting new people. By bringing the practice outside of a studio, our yogis become more open to stepping out of their comfort zones. We always co-teach the class because we value togetherness and friendship. After the one hour mixed-level vinyasa class, we bring the party to our guests and provide a fun social activity like a wine tasting, champagne brunch, and healthy cocktails!
Could you tell us a little about the different styles of yoga?
People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years, so it’s no wonder that the practice has spread and changed so much. Hatha yoga focuses on connecting the mind with the body. From Hatha, there are many different popular schools like Ashtanga, Iyangar, Bikram, and Jivamukta. From Ashtanga comes Vinaysa, the style that we teach in. Vinyasa focuses on matching breath with movement. Constantly flowing through different asanas or postures, each class can be different and offers a wide range of movement options.
Why do you think yoga is important?
Yoga is important because not only are we moving our bodies and getting exercise, but we’re giving our minds some time to quiet down too. Living in a busy city, it is easy to get wrapped up and distracted by the many moving parts around you. From the moment we unroll our mats and make our way in to down dog, nothing else matters but what we have right in front of us, which is ourselves and our breath. Some days are easy, some days are tough, but we believe it’s important to address every given moment with as much clarity and level-headedness as possible and practicing yoga helps us cultivate that.
What are the benefits of yoga? What makes it different to other forms of exercise?
Yoga is special because the benefits are continuous. Not only does it help you tone up and feel good in the moment, but it offers a gradual, longterm health benefit that other high impact exercises may not.
What are your favourite yoga poses/sequences?
We both come from a dance background, so we love fluid sequences that move from one posture to another. Some days we feel tired and need a boost of energy, so we choose back bends and heart openers! On strong days, we love flipping upside down and practicing our handstands to get the juices flowing.
Could you give some advice for beginners who want to start practicing yoga ?
Set a goal or intention for each practice. Maybe it’s a physical goal you wish to reach, or maybe it’s an emotional goal you wish to focus on. As with everything, each day brings new successes and challenges so keep it simple and try not to overcomplicate things. Focus on what feels good to you and what brings you closer to the goal you set. Remember, yoga is about having fun. As long as you have a positive mindset, you will enjoy your first few practices.
What have Grip the Mat got planned for 2015?
This year Grip The Mat is going to be bigger and better than ever before. So far in 2015, we’ve already introduced our new blacklight yoga event series Soul & Spirits, were featured in Food Network magazine, and partnered with one of DC’s top Chefs, Spike Mendelsohn, for our signature event, Bendy Brunch. We’ve got so much more up our sleeves. Stay tuned for updates on new event spaces and event series at www.gripthemat.com