Life gets edgy for everyone at one time or another. Learning how to brave these edgy moments can make or break us. Denise Alick is a firm believer in the power of overcoming these moments with taking a deep breath and settling in.
We are so honored to share Denise’s story for We Are Kathy. She is empowering women, inspiring them, and reminding us that even though we are flawed we are okay. We are here for a reason. She is the owner of Samadhi Yoga in Flint, Michigan and teaching how to overcome the rough moments in life is one of her fortes.
“We're a lot more fragile than I think we let on.”
I met Denise in my early twenties. I had heard about yoga and I was so excited to give it a try. I found her studio and signed up for a few sessions. My first class was a slow flow. My arms and legs were not ready for the workout the was about to happen. I kept looking around during that first class and saw that other people were trembling while trying to take in deep breaths. We were all dripping in sweat and avoiding making our mats slip and slides. However, I also saw people who were settled in, relaxed, and in their own world on their mat.
Denise played an amazing playlist of music and walked around the room. She wandered in and out of the yoga mats adjusting and encouraging each person. At some point in the flow she worked in an inspirational story. It is a story that I have never forgotten.
At one point when I felt I couldn’t take the poses any longer I heard her say,
“This is where it starts to get edgy. Sink into the pose, take a deep breath, we are going to be here for a while.”
At the end of the flow she said the most desired word, “savasana.” I laid on my back and tears rolled down my face in the dark. For an hour I had worked hard, pushed my mind and body to overcome those edgy moments. I knew when I left that room, I could take a deep breath and overcome the edgy moments in the outside world. Denise had given me something I had never experienced before in my life, the chance to find my breath in the dark.
Denise has been teaching yoga for 18 years and has created a space for many men and women to experience these kinds of moments. Her journey started at a small retreat in the woods. She recalls knowing right away yoga was something important to her. “I went on this retreat, over in Waterfleet 100 miles outside of Chicago. In the morning we had to go in this building, called ‘Grace in the Woods’ and we practiced yoga. I don't remember reading about it or hearing people talk about yoga before then. I knew the very first time I did it, that when I got home, I am going to find me a place to practice. That’s what started it.”
After returning home Denise quickly found a studio in Grand Blanc to start practicing her new found passion. The owner held a workshop and brought in Kathy McNames and Jonny Kest as instructors. After meeting Jonny, Denise started attending his classes at his studio ‘Center for Yoga' in Birmingham.
“I have been practicing down there with for 21 years, every bit of it has been absolutely worth it.”
Denise’s personal classes will push you and empower you. If not, they will at least get you dancing on your yoga mat. I am a firm believer that in another life Denise was a DJ. “I love all kinds of music. I like it to be chill. I like rap. I like it loud. And then I want to chill and zone out again. I just absolutely love it.” Denise admits to having about 141 Spotify playlists filled with a variety of music from T-Pain to the best cover of “Landslide” you have ever heard.
There's a lot of suffering. I really think that people connect more because of our hurt and our suffering. I don't think we were ever created to be solitary people.
At the end of the day, it’s not just the music, her books of different flows, or the poses that gets Denise in the studio. Denise is there for people. She is there for the connection and the healing yoga provides. “Really, I love connecting with people and I love hearing their testimony and how it [yoga] has helped them, whether it's a physical ailment, whether it's just the season in their life… Whether they're going through addiction or divorce or they've lost their job. There's a lot of suffering. I really think that people connect more because of our hurt and our suffering. I don't think we were ever created to be solitary people.”
Denise has endured her own suffering, and understands the power of connecting and showing up. Her daughter Nicole’s support kept Denise going and teaching even after Nicole passed away. When it would have been easy and even understandable to quit, Denise knew Nicole would have never wanted her to give up. Nicole, Denise’s husband, and her other children see the importance and necessity of Denise’s work. Her business and her yoga journey have not always been an easy one. Summertime is hard, class numbers drop because of vacations, schedule changes, etc, but she still teaches the same, whether there are 10 or 40 people in a class. Denise pours herself into her flows and classes. Her family has stood by her side, believed in her, and have given her the breath of fresh air she has needed time and time again.
“Life is edgy. Yeah. Life is edgy all the time. And every single day that we go out there, we have to make a choice. And you gotta take a breath before you make that choice, before you react to something.”
Denise has taught hundreds of students, undergoes constant training, and ultimately has impacted the lives of people for a lifetime. She has reminded me time and time again that I can make it through the day. I have used her breathing techniques as a nurse during some of the most traumatic situations with patients. I have heard her stories in my head when I thought I couldn’t bear another moment.
Through some of the ugliest times and the most difficult times in my life I have made time for her classes because I knew they would empower me in a way like nothing else could. During her interview, I asked her to share my favorite story she sometimes tells during classes. The first time I heard it, I just wept. I felt a part of that story in every way possible, and I still do.
Denise smiled at me during our interview, sat back, and her calm and soothing voice began telling the narrative of the Old Chinese Woman and Her Two Pots.
“Once there was a Chinese lady who had two pots. One pot was perfectly made and the other pot had a crack in it. Each one of the pots hung on the end of a pole that she carried on her back every day down to the river, so that she could fill them up with water. She would carry these pots of water back to her house. She did this for two years. The pot that was perfectly made always bragged about its perfections and that it could always deliver a full pot of water. The pot that had a crack in it was ashamed of itself because it couldn't deliver what it was made to do. And so one day the pot that had a crack in it told the lady at the river that it felt ashamed that she, the pot, couldn't give the old woman what it was made to do. The woman said, ‘But did you ever notice that on the side of the road where the perfect pot hangs, there are no flowers, but on your side it is blooming with flowers because I knew of your flaw. You watered the seeds that I planted and now the flowers that grow I get to pick and their beauty graces my table. So, really, who are we in the story? We all have a flaw. All of us are flawed, but yet we're all perfect. Like we're perfect in God's eyes.”
Who are you in her story? Where are you in your journey?
Year after year, I keep coming back to Denise’s yoga classes. I could go to yoga anywhere, but it’s not about the poses or the music. It is about the way Denise has impacted my life personally year after year. She chooses to do something profound in the lives she comes in touch with. Denise’s story is the story of a woman who has started a small business and shared her passion with the world around her. It is a story of a woman who has dealt with the loss of a daughter. It is the story of a woman who chooses to make tiny changes to the world around her.
Her impact is one of a lifetime, what will your impact be?
Written By: Jenifer Veloso