Amorette Farella's yoga practice has literally changed her life. The yoga instructor and new business owner left her behind her previous career to open Hapi Yogi, located above Victoria's Secret on East Broad Street, in early January.
A teacher pursuing her doctorate, Farella said she knew this was something she had to do after she realized how much more balanced she felt as a result of the ancient practice.
"It's a huge departure, though I did teach at the college level so the teaching was something that I was comfortable with already, but movement or physical performance was not my background," she said.
While she has always tried to stay fit, Farella said, she previously never stuck to one thing.
"With yoga, it wasn't something that I had to think about having to do; it was something that I wanted to do. I felt if I couldn't do it, I was disappointed," she said. "If you don't go to the gym, you feel guilty. With yoga, you need to go. It's a different motivation for me."
She said the physical aspect has only been one part of what brought her to her new career.
"Your outlook is more positive even if you're not that spiritual," she said. "You're focusing on yourself. You leave a class more aware and more clear-headed and grounded and ready to accept whatever is happening. It has a lot to do with cognitive clarity. It's all things you want to be. You tend to be more accepting of yourself and others because you're in this mindset."
The yogi said she thoroughly enjoyed the 300-hour instructor certification process.
"If I could do that all the time—kind of live that yoga life—it would just be great because I'm more balanced now," she said.
When conceptualizing the studio, the Westfield resident and mother of a five-year old daughter said she thought of herself as her "ideal client."
The two-room space is perfect for offering simultaneous yet separate parent and child classes, something Farella felt was lacking within the community.
"My daughter's done yoga at preschool and at home, of course, but I had never dropped her off at a class," said Farella. "This way parents and children can enjoy a class together but separately."
Children ages four and older can learn age-appropriate poses, relaxation techniques and even enjoy some games, while their parents take a class right next door.
The second room also lends itself to private sessions for those who are interested. Farella said she intends to use the area for Thai Yoga Massage or yoga-related specialized classes in the future.
"It's just a nice extra space," she said.
Though Hapi Yogi has only been open for six weeks, Farella has already made changes to the schedule and has ideas for new offerings going forward. In March, she plans to introduce a meditation class.
"We're toying with the idea of how to offer that—maybe as a workshop or a regular class. Also for March we're working on collaborating with a musician yoga instructor to offer, again, a special class, like an event. We just want to keep things fresh and fun," she said.
Currently, the studio offers 13 classes per week, which Farella noted are appropriate for all levels of practice. Almost all are 60-minutes in length.
"I think most people think in one-hour blocks," Farella said. "It's easier to calculate. Sometimes if a class is longer, you have to leave early. It makes it easier to plan."
The studio has six female instructors, including Farella who noted that she likes to keep class descriptions very simple.
"I try to not be too technical in the descriptions. Even though most of it is Vinyasa-influenced, there isn't really a distinct style," she said. "Right now I want it to be more teachers' influences and their personality shining through in their expression of what yoga really is. We incorporate everything, the breathing, the relaxation, the asanas, which are the postures."
Farella said she has launched a low-key grassroots marketing effort, going door to door to introduce herself to her neighbors. As she has been getting to know other business owners, she said she has been impressed by the sense of support she's seen between local merchants such as Alan's Orchard and CoolVines, who catered the studio's opening at a discount.
Farella said she is glad to have opened her business in her hometown.
"I feel more connected to my own town because I'm now part of the town business community," she said. "So that's another positive aspect to staying local."
In an effort to give back, Hapi Yogi will hold a community class once a month. Donation-based, the class benefits a foundation or a local charity. The next class will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and benefits Liam's Room.
Of the studio's many offerings, Farella's favorite is the sunrise class.
"There's a blue glow that comes up when you're in the studio, especially on a sunny day; it's just vibrant. That class excites me," she said. "It's a great way to start the day.
Farella also said she is receptive to feedback from her students regarding changes days and times of classes.
"I'm very open to what people say they want, " she said. "I try to be different with the classes I offer—really approachable, really anyone can come to any of these classes. Even if you're advanced you can come and enjoy savasana, the relaxation at the end. It forces you to be good to yourself."