We had the good fortune of connecting with Janelle Holter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janelle, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
2021: The year of “Life // Work” Balance.
At the top of 2020 I was fully submerged in the “glorification of busy”. In January, I bounced between Denver, DC, San Francisco, and LA – never really landing on a solid sleeping schedule and eating out more than I would like to admit. Each month was a game of Tetris for my boss and I – figuring out how only two people could provide “in-person” support to nearly 200+ yoga studios and assist with the opening of news ones in the pipeline. It wasn’t out of the question to catch me at Denver International Airport before the sun would rise Monday morning and catch me coming home, well after dark, later in the week. Looking back, balance to me was getting a daily workout in. It was that simple. Some days it was a B-I-G ask. I was tired. I was jet lagged. I had a pile of emails from the day that I didn’t tend to because I was being present with our studio teams. I was hungry. You name it, I probably thought it. Now, everything is different. The “New Normal”, or so it’s been called, flipped the switch on what workflow looks like. My adopted phrase has shifted to “Life // Work Balance”, because in my mind — that’s the order it should be. I believe in catching early morning sunrises, walking my dog, and drinking my coffee before I even look at emails. Writing out daily and weekly “to-do” lists and giving each item a designated amount of time that is proportionate to its impact on the business. A big game changer has been setting a timer on my phone for each task. When the time is up, I asses if it needs more attention or not. Stepping away from work, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes, can reinvigorate my creative flow or allow the space necessary to shift perspective on a response or product idea. My biggest non-negotiable is STILL a daily workout – a hike, run, yoga, weight-lifting, whatever. You can catch me running a couple miles after a 14 -hour day or hitting the gym at 10:30pm at night. I sleep better, I feel better, and I wake up brighter without the morning “fog”. Balance has become finding the equilibrium between life and work throughout the day. Versus rewarding a little “life” after a long day of “work”.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I remember feeling really dissatisfied in 2016. Particularly, I remember one-night walking out to my car after wrapping up the facilitation of another successful yoga teacher training program – frustrated. My dilemma was: Not everyone had the time or money to invest in a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification and it was leading to injuries. At the time, I was managing a yoga studio in Boulder and seeing some world class athletes come through the doors daily. The funny thing was — yoga is a different kind of “hard” and requires a healthy ratio of mental to physical awareness (especially heated yoga – you should really only be going to your 80% max because the heat can be deceiving about your threshold). Rooms were packed full of 50-70 sweaty yogis during “prime time classes” and I was limited in my ability to assist each person with their alignment. What I saw was after about 30 days, we would receive a notice to “pause or cancel membership due to injury”. When I followed up, injuries consistently landed on: wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, or low back. In that moment, time stood still – a lightbulb moment. It’s like when you hyper focus and everything else around you gets a little blurry. You can almost feel your heartbeat slow and hear the “thud-thud” beat in your inner ear. I thought, “how can I be part of the solution?” In that moment, the idea of “The Align[MAT]” was a flickering flame. Moving forward, I wrote down my non-negotiables as a teacher: 1. Adequate thickness to provide cushion for knees 2. Sizing that supported laying on your back during core exercises 3. Laser engraved lines that wouldn’t peel or wear away with daily use 4. A design that had a function to build proper / symmetrical muscle memory for lunges to protect knee / ankle joints and hands placement for repeated chaturangas / plank variations / push-ups 5. Additionally, some angled lines to help navigate the more difficult postures like warrior 1, pyramid, separate leg standing forehead to knee pose (a roadmap for when you can’t see yourself in the mirror). When students would come out of class, I would ask them about their own yoga mat – what did they like or didn’t like about it? Some people complained they needed to use a towel, or their mat required a “break-in period” and was “slippery”. This started the hunt for the right material – it needed to absorb (no need for a towel), grip to you (avoid dumping weight in wrists / shoulders / neck due to tension holding postures) and be “ready to go” from the very first downward facing dog (no slipping and sliding = less chance for further injuries). I remember going to the Boulder Chamber with the Align[MAT] idea; bouncing around the use of different materials used in boat manufacturing, car floor mats, camping sleeping pads, shoe sole materials and the list goes on…. I was in my late 20s at the time, but I had a scientific brain and strategic thought process. I knew what I was looking for and I definitely knew what I didn’t want. Which was just as important. There were multiple factory samples, countless product account managers telling me “get it to 80% of what you want, take it to market, and then make adjustments later”. I couldn’t “half-ass” this and attach my name to it. Looking back, when I started yoga, I was in college. I was b-r-o-k-e. More appropriately with a capital “B”. Buying my first yoga mat was a cheap-o, I think I spent $20 or less on it. It fell apart after about a month of heated yoga and I remember being embarrassed every time I rolled it up because there were shredded “bits” left behind from where I would flip my feet after each chaturanga. As much as that cheap-o mat was part of my yoga journey… I refused to create anything like it. It was EXACTLY what I didn’t want. It took a little over 1.5 years to get The Align[MAT] material dialed in; but when it finally arrived and I rolled it out for the first time – I could’ve cried (Actually, I might have cried). It checked every box I listed as a non-negotiable. It changed my personal practice, for the better, forcing me to notice that my right and left sides were not balanced (8 years of teaching fitness and demonstrating postures on one side, but not the other… shows and I didn’t need a mirror to see or feel it). However, the real test was putting it in the hands of some of my favorite master teachers and saying, “be honest.” Bracing myself, like I’m sure every contestant on “SHARK TANK” does before they receive feedback…. it started to trickle in. Positive reviews from beginners to advanced practitioners. Our first 500 yoga mats sold, and we didn’t have a single return. That’s when I realized, TVLA YOGA + Align[MAT], this was a “thing”.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve been living in Colorado since 2006 and I still haven’t been able to do EVERYTHING I want (even with living in Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver)… I’ll keep the list to my “Top 5 Colorado Activities”. Okay here we go: 1. Red Rocks: I can’t think of a more iconic venue. Red Rocks has hosted some of the world’s best musicians, performances, movies, and some of my personal favorite “Yoga on the Rocks” moments. 2. Vail, CO: The back bowls of Vail Resort possess some of my favorite fresh powder tree runs and I’ve been known to make a “day trip” on I-70 just to sneak a couple hours of solitude here and snag some pizza at Local Joe’s. #likenoplaceonearth 3. Dunton Hot Springs: I’ll be honest, this spot is on my Colorado bucket list and I’m trying to explore more of the Southern part of this beautiful state. Plus, hot springs paired with outdoor adventures are kind of my jam. 4. Any Colorado 14er: There are so many reasons to tackle a 14er, but for me the feeling of accomplishment at the top is priceless and Colorado has so many options. 5. Avalanche Hockey Game: You can put your finger on the pulse at these games it’s so rowdy. Whether you are next to the glass or cheering from the rafters, I promise — you won’t have a bad time.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
They say hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back, I understand how crucial every decision, human connection, job transition, and even occasional “no” is to finding your true north. I am grateful for my parents supporting my decision to decline admissions into Veterinary school in order to pursue a career within yoga (talk about a career pivot). My Worthington Animal Clinic family for being flexible with my non-traditional work schedule and allowing me to maintain my medical field skills. I couldn’t be more thankful for the multiple humans within the Boulder Colorado yoga community who taught me how to run a yoga studio like it was my own, attended my incredibly sweaty classes, invested time to learn from me along their own yoga journey, and even took part in the product development of TVLA. The Sackett family for their generous and unconditional support through the process of starting a business from the ground up. Anthem Branding for rising up to the challenge of helping me create the TVLA YOGA product line and meet my very detailed and meticulous standards. Shopify & Amazon for providing a platform that allows our small business to get our products noticed in a world of “Big Name Brands”. Last, but certainly not least – my dear friends that I have called upon late night to bounce ideas, messaged in the early morning needing help, and solicited honest feedback from on product pitches + samples. I wouldn’t be chasing this entrepreneurial dream without you (especially during a pandemic). You all have created such a valuable foundation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. For real – you are real the ones.
Janelle Holter // Mob John