Jackie Walsh of Hope Yoga Studio
Jackie Walsh is no stranger to grief, she’s experienced more than her fair share, but she’s never let it stop her (for too long). A trip to “just get out of Cleveland,” with her sisters lead to two months of yoga training in Bali. Jackie never intended to teach with her certification, she just found it gave her the space to find peace. She soon began to realize that she wanted to offer her all-inclusive yoga style to her hometown of Fairview Park. Jackie’s mission is to be a friendly place for people to feel welcome, not only in the space, but also in their own bodies. Whether you’ve practiced yoga for years, or have never stepped foot on a mat, you’ll feel at hOMe at Hope Yoga Studio. Read on to learn more about Jackie and Hope Yoga Studio.
Haley Mills: What were you doing before starting Hope Yoga Studio?
Jackie Walsh: I’ve kind of pretty much done every type of job you can think of. I’m a jack of all trades at this point. After college, I was doing an internship in Orlando for a nonprofit called, Give Kids the World, but my dad was complaining about having back problems while I was gone. When I came home, he had told me that he had gotten four different nerve blocks. Instead of them figuring out why they weren’t working they just kept giving him another one. One day he just randomly lost control of his bladder and we had to take him to the ER, and we found out that he actually no longer had a tailbone. The nerve block they’d used was recalled because it caused cancer. Cancer cells ate away his entire tailbone so he was just walking around with nothing there. He was working everyday, he owned his own construction company. When you're saying you’re in pain, I don’t know how someone can walk around without having a tailbone, period. The doctors kind of scared him into doing radiation, but he had had another type of cancer in the past, where he did a holistic route. My oldest brother also had cancer, and he did the holistic route where they have to eat all organic, no sugars, and just really focus on what you are putting in and on your body. He was doing that for a while, and was doing okay, but things just got progressively worse. We found that out in October of 2012, and then in March of 2013, he passed away. During that time I was working a full-time job with Hermes Sports & Events and I also was bartending at my cousin’s bar. I went into work maybe two weeks after he passed away and I just immediately gave my two weeks notice. I just felt like, “I don’t give a shit about anything I’m doing right now.” I had probably 300 emails that I had to go through and I was like no, I can’t do this. My boss was really trying to get me to stay and offered to just have me come in once or twice a week. I was like, I just can’t do this. So I quit that.
After quitting I randomly went to Bali with my sisters, just to get out of Cleveland. I was there for two weeks, and then I met a woman there named Alicia Cheung and a man named Oliver Rensch and I ended up signing up for their yoga teacher training that following October. October of 2013 I did my yoga teacher training in Bali. I wasn’t planning on actually teaching, I just did it as an experience to try and get out of Cleveland. My family is really really large and everyone means well but at the time it felt like they all wanted to tell me what to do. I lost my mom when I was in third grade, she had breast cancer, and then brain cancer. As much as everyone wanted to be helpful, going through this experience twice, once as a child and once as an adult, I just needed space and wanted to get out of town to really process what just happened. So going there was really great. There were 24 people from all across the world that did the training. As soon as I did that, I ended up signing up for their Yin Yoga training as well. I was there for two and a half months and I came home, was still bartending but I immediately just started teaching as well. So I’ve been teaching and then kind of had some other odd jobs, I was still bartending and then I started working at Stella and Shay. One of my friends, Becca, who owns it, just asked if I wanted to do reception kind of randomly. So, I did that for a while, and that kind of lead to being there more full time; eventually I became a manager of the second location in Westlake while still teaching on the side.
HM: How did you get to opening the studio?
JW: I knew I wanted to open a space in Fairview specifically because I grew up here, and because there are no studios in Fairview. There isn't really yoga in Fairview unless you go to the Fairview Park Recreation center. There’s also nothing in North Olmsted or Westpark so, I knew it was going to be a good place to be. I also wanted to bring yoga into the community where I grew up in because I loved growing up here and the community is so great.
In the process of opening the Westlake location of Stella and Shay I started getting the wheels in motion, like ‘okay maybe I should just do this.’ Then I started looking at locations and found this one, luckily. I had seen quite a few locations but none of them were what I was looking for. My cousin actually drove past this building while going to Giant Eagle and saw a for rent sign in the window. I remember this building being a salon when I was growing up, but it had been vacant for a number of years. I went and saw it and was like ‘I think this would be great.’ It was a completely blank canvas with no walls, floor or ceiling so there was going to be a ton of work to do but I could really make it my own. My landlords Mesha & Milanka are amazing and I really loved them off the bat. It all just kind of happened. I mean I did some planning but at the same time it just was like, ‘oh I found the space so let's just do it.’ The location could not be more perfect, right in the heart of Fairview Park with ample parking in the plaza. I love that we are a freestanding building because we don’t have to worry about noise surrounding us from neighboring businesses. The space itself is so inviting and I loved creating it even though there were a ton of ups and downs.
I’m still working at Stella and Shay, and I have this studio but I’m trying to eventually just be here. In the next few months I’ll be weaning my schedule out at Stella and Shay, but right now I am still working as a manager for them in the Westlake location. It's really crazy opening up a studio and managing another business at the same time, but I’ve loved being a part of the Stella and Shay Team. It’s been eye opening helping another business open and then opening mine, being on the management side has also been a good learning experience for me as I now have eleven employees of my own. It’s also been amazing to be a part of a business from the beginning stages and see it prosper and flourish, I am very proud of all that Becca & the team has accomplished at Stella and Shay. I can’t wait to see my own business prosper, and create a better sense of community in Fairview Park.
HM: How did you come up with the name for the studio?
JW: When my mom told my siblings and I that she was sick again - there are six of us, I’m the youngest - she brought home a newfoundland puppy and named it Hope. She didn’t even tell my dad that she was bringing home a dog either, he had no idea. So that was kind of her way of telling us that everything was going to be okay.
The studio is really in memory of the two of them. Obviously, Hope is much more meaningful then just being a dogs name, I think the name itself helps signify what yoga means to me. I was in a really rough place when I truly started practicing, taking care of my dying dad, working a full time job and bartending at night. Stepping on my mat gave me that feeling of hope because it allowed me to step away from all the stresses of my everyday life and just focus on my breath. I want people to see the name and feel hopeful themselves that yoga can make a difference in their own lives and that it doesn’t have to be so intimidating to try.
HM: Why yoga?
JW: I started practicing when my dad was sick, I was one of his main caretakers so I think seeing how transformative it has been for myself. With not even just grief but other obstacles I’ve faced throughout my life it’s been really great and I just wanted to share that practice with other people as well. Besides offering regular classes, I’ve also offered grief workshops, which is something we are going to continue to do here. We usually do them around the holidays and Mother’s Day and Father's Day. So we’ll do more of those. For the studio in general, I want it to be more so about the average person walking in, whether they’ve taken a thousand classes or they’ve never been on a yoga mat before. A lot of the studios in the area are power studios, or heated studios. There is nothing wrong with that, I think that that serves a purpose as well but I think that there's a very untapped market of actually focusing on people that can’t do power yoga classes, because a lot of people have limitations and restrictions that prevent them from practicing power yoga.
HM: I think they find them intimidating a bit, too?
JW: Yeah, I do.
HM: I definitely did, until my boyfriend convinced me to go. I felt like yoga wasn’t for me, or I didn’t understand it.
JW: I think too with social media and the general image of yoga it's not really true to what it actually is. You see a lot of people, women specifically, that look very similar in Lululemon (or any other brands), doing handstands or headstands and all this crazy stuff. Yeah, that is part of yoga but there's so many other aspects of it. You know, even just sitting and taking a couple of deep breaths, that’s yoga. Being true to who you are and more of a true version of yourself and being kind to other people - that’s yoga. There are so many other aspects to it that aren’t really focused on. We want to be a really welcoming space. We have a phrase called, ‘Welcome hOMe.’ Being a friendly place for people to feel welcome not only in the space but also in their own bodies. We do offer private individual and group classes for those who maybe still don't feel comfortable going to a public group setting, or they have limitations that they just can't come to a regular class. That's something that I really like that we are able to offer.
HM: What are some of the other classes you offer?
JW: We have the Yin classes that are all seated or lying down. It’s more restorative. We have a lot of all levels classes; we have beginners classes. Slow flow which is just like a slower paced all levels class. We are going to be offering some chair classes in the future. Also, some prenatal classes. We also offer a family yoga class on Sundays at 12:00 PM . It’s for a pair, so any parent or adult with a child ages five and up. Its $20.00 for the pair (if an additional adult or child wants to come it’s $10.00 per person). It’s a way for families to bond a little bit more and also Erin, who teaches it, kind of weaves it into a story. Last week she used Frozen as part of her theme. She uses songs and stories weaved into it and they’ll do yoga poses, breath work, and some partner stuff together as well. It’s kind of a special offering that allows families to bond and connect with other families. They might meet a new kid or parent that they haven’t before. We want to continue to offer a lot besides just our regular weekly classes. We have a lot of workshops and events coming up, too. When the weather is warmer we’re going to do some stuff at the parks locally as well as pair up with some local small businesses. I definitely want it to be more of a community feel. We want to start to know everyone’s name and have people stay after class and chat, and truly get to know one another.
HM: How did you come up with the logo?
JW: I hired one of my friends, Camille, her company is called Impress. She does branding and events. I always knew I wanted to do a dragonfly. When I was in Bali, I was being followed by dragonflies all of the time and I noticed probably the first few years after my dad passed away I kept getting dragonflies following me and my brother has said the same thing along with some of my other siblings. I was kind of looking more into the meaning of dragonflies and you can go really into detail with stuff, some people might not be into it. The info I’ve read said if a dragonfly is following you, it is actually the spirit of whoever has passed that’s kind of showing you that they are there. I guess I’ve kind of taken it as a spirit insect. I was also looking more into dragonflies in general and they are all about adapting to your environment, adapting to things that have happened in your life that may have been difficult or may have been easy and finding some sort of transformation. So coming from a place where maybe it wasn't so great, and then finding meaning and being able to transform it into something. Which I felt fit perfectly for what I was creating because you know obviously the space is in memory of both of my parents and I think when you go through such a big amount of loss it's easy to kind of get swallowed in that and feel like you can’t do anything. That ‘oh, feel sorry for yourself, everything sucks, blah blah blah’ - which definitely happened to me at first, but finding peace and just being able to find meaning for what happened and being able to turn it into something that is even more meaningful and being able to impact other people's lives that have probably gone through similar experiences. There’s no reason to go through so much pain & loss if you can’t turn it around and try to help others with it. I also really like that Camille put so many details in the wings. At first glance it's just a dragonfly but up close there's so many different designs and it just reminds you that there is a story behind everything.
HM: If you had one last meal in Cleveland what would it be?
JW: Ohhh! Well, one of them is definitely - I used to bartend at Plank Road Tavern - that’s where actually I met my boyfriend, too. So, I would probably choose Plank because it has a lot more meaning than just being a bar. Their chicken ceasar wraps and their fries are amazing. Add mushrooms to your chicken caesar wrap and make sure Surell is cooking because he is the bomb! Also, can’t go wrong with eating ice cream at Malley’s or Mitchell’s. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup at Mitchell’s, Puppy Love Sundae at Malley’s or their buckeye ice cream.
HM: Where is your favorite place to be in Cleveland?
JW: Definitely the Metroparks. We love taking our dog Penny down there, especially when it's a little bit warmer. It’s nice to turn off your phone and go for a walk down there. Penny is a Newfoundland just like Hope was and she has the greatest personality. She loves swimming, too, so we let her go in the river and in Lake Erie. It's just a peaceful place to be outside and walk around and I love it down there.
HM: Where is your favorite place to take visitors to Cleveland?
JW: I really like to go to Taco Tonto's in Lakewood. Their food is just so good so I think it’s a fun place to bring people and it's a little bit different than your average Mexican restaurant. The Tarrymore Inn in Lakewood has also been a recent favorite, it’s one of the diviest bars I’ve ever been to but it’s super cheap and a good time.