Welcome to the Omega Sports Women’s Only Podcast, hosted by Cleo Faucette.

In this episode, we will be talking to Stephany, founder and owner of Rise & Flow Yoga, about how her business has pivoted during COVID-19 and the importance of Black health.



Cleo: Hi, I’m Cleo. And this is the Omega Sports Women’s Only Podcast. The purpose of this podcast is to address common questions, concerns, and topics that help women stay active, healthy, and thrive. We’re going to spend time with experts, brands and community leaders that are helping women live their best lives.

We’re going to talk about everything from sports, fitness, health and fashion, to inspirational and empowering stories from our neighbors. But in this episode, we will be talking to Stephany. Stephany is the owner of “Rise and Flow Yoga”, and she’s going to talk to us about yoga and the part of plays in creating unity, equality and empathy.

Stephany say, hi.

Stephany: Hi!

Stephany, founder and owner of Rise & Flow Yoga

Cleo: You are just so relaxed. It makes me feel like I’m in the midst of a yoga class whenever I talk to you. Cause it’s just so welcoming and open. I love it. Well, yeah, no worries. I’m glad you could join us today.

Stephany: thank you, Cleo!

Cleo: You’re welcome! Stephany is a community activator, service leader and wellness guide, committed to making the many benefits of yoga, mindfulness, and health information accessible to a wider community. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Stephany for about three years. Her energy is infectious. And I just, I can’t say enough about Stephany; when you meet her, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. So, Stephany, why did you start attending yoga classes?

Stephany: Yes. So it’s quite an interesting story actually. I suffered a severe concussion if you’re familiar with the different levels of concussions. I suffered one in 2011 and through my recovery journey, my neurologist actually encouraged meditation.
And so actually my first window into yoga was through meditation. Meditation is just breath work and being mindful and aware. And after that, I fell in love with the practice and decided to start taking some yoga classes and really just fell in love with it.

Cleo: That’s amazing. It’s amazing how your journey and your recovery led you to something that you’ve become so passionate about.

Stephany: Yes. And honestly, now that I’ve really gotten deeper into holistic awareness and holistic health, I’m so grateful for my neurologist providing me with the recovery method that wasn’t just medicine. Right. And so I’m just so, so grateful for him and his knowledge of the brain and encouraging me to find alternative ways to recover.

Cleo: Yes that is a big plus for your neurologist, who gave you other ways to recover from your injury. What led you to want to teach others? The art of yoga?

Stephany: My background is in nonprofit. And so while I was working my first job out of college, I decided to get certified in teaching yoga. I had no intention of owning a studio or teaching yoga to others, I really just wanted it for my own self-benefit. And I sat in my group with my teacher, my yoga teacher group and realized that I was the only person of color in the group. And I was just so amazed by all of the traditions and all of the benefits of yoga. And I was like, why don’t we have more people like this in Greensboro? Why don’t we have a space where I can go and not feel out of place?

One day, I just decided like, we need this here locally. We need a space where people who may not look like me or who may like may look like me, can practice yoga and actually understand why it’s such a beneficial practice. So that really gave me the drive and will to get Rise & Flow going.

Cleo: That’s amazing. It’s so true. When you say you want to go into an environment with people that look like you because you just feel a better sense of inclusion. How long have you been teaching yoga?

Stephany: Believe it or not, I’ve only been teaching yoga for three years.

Cleo: Wow! Really?

Stephany: Yes. I get this question a lot because, I guess, the passion that I exude for yoga. All of the benefits of it are just so tremendous that people think maybe I’ve been on this platform for a very long time, but really just three years.

Cleo: That’s amazing. I would have thought you’ve been doing this since you’ve come out of college or even during your years in college. You’re still very, very passionate about the benefits of yoga. I never would have guessed three years. Do you have a favorite yoga pose and why is it your favorite?

Stephany: You know, every pose can be modified with a variation that can fit your body’s needs. But one of my go-to postures is Hero Pose or Virasana if you’re using Sanskrit. It really is a visibly simple pose, but once you’re in it, it is physically challenging at times. You’re sitting with your feet beneath you and your rear end is sitting on the heels of your feet. Your tail bone is kind of hovering between your two feet and you can either remain sitting straight up or you can allow your back to recline down as far as you’re able to go, and it’s a beautiful posture.

It’s visibly simple, but once you’re in it, it can be physically challenging. And so I love postures that encourage people to explore their limits and explore their body and hero pose is that for me.

Cleo: I’m so glad you described the pose because I had to think about it now, which poses that once you started to describe it, I could visualize it, but this will allow our listeners to really relate to the pose that you’re referring to.

And I do know that pose well. My favorite pose is Downward Dog. I like it because I’m a runner and it allows me to stretch my calves, stretch my hamstrings, strengthen my arm. I feel like it opens up. I feel my power. I feel so much more relaxed and empowered in that pose.

So that’s by far, my favorite pose.

Stephany: I love that. Downward Dog is such an amazing posture. When you look at the anatomy of the body and how it is being stretched and challenged in Downward Dog, it’s an all body posture. Every part in your body is actively engaged in Downward Dog. That is very cool to hear.

Rise & Flow Yoga

Cleo: See, now the things that you’re saying is making me love it even more. You’ve mentioned things I didn’t know.

You started Rising Flow in 2018. Why did you decide to start your own studio?

Stephany: I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I’ve always been encouraged to be my best self and whatever that is. Finding something that I’m passionate about and doing it. As long as I’m being positive in service to others and to myself. It was heavy on my heart to create a space for people of all backgrounds and people from all experiences to practice with me. And so I kind of look at Rise & Flow as this community playground, where people from all over come together to enjoy the same thing.

When I created Rise and Flow, that’s what I wanted. I just wanted it to be a very simple and welcoming space for people to see themselves. After maybe two weeks, I thinking about it, and it kept popping in my head. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was up early. That’s when you know it’s something big. And I was like, okay, all right, I’m listening.

Cleo: It’s so heavy on your heart and in your spirit that it’s almost like, not to get too spiritual on you all. It’s like God is telling you, ‘look, this is what I need for you to do’ because you can’t get it out of your mind and your spirit.

Stephany: For some reason, I’m supposed to do this and I may not know what that reason is right now, but every day, someone’s touched by Rise & Flow. That gives me a reason to keep doing it.

Cleo: How has this journey been for you since 2018 and starting your studio?

Stephany: One word to describe it would be intentional. Every single thing that we do has a subtle intention behind it. I would say that Rise & Flow has grown at a slow rate because of the sole purpose of being intentional with all that we do.For that first year, it was just me teaching classes seven days a week.

I was like, oh, I can’t do this by myself. And I know that there’s something special about having a team. And so I was like, okay, I can add maybe a couple of yoga instructors. I was very intentional about who. I wanted it to relate to our mission at Rise & Flow and ended up with one additional yoga instructor. Fast forward to 2020 and the pandemic shifting from physical yoga classes to virtual yoga classes. We now have a total, including me, five yoga instructors providing classes daily, except for on our rest day, which is Friday. We’re providing virtual classes to people not only locally in Greensboro but to people in New York and Maryland and California and wherever else people find us.

Cleo: With COVID, was there anything you may have done differently to make this a better opportunity?

Stephany: No, I honestly don’t have any regrets. I love taking each opportunity, whether it’s a wonderful opportunity or if it’s a challenging opportunity.

I love taking all of that and just putting it into perspective to make sure that – one (1) Does it align with Rise & Flow, and two (2) It’s okay to say no. That was my thought process as we went through COVID-19. Adjusting and shifting with all of our services was okay. You can’t say yes to everything.

I know that at some points where, you know, feeling challenged because everything is now online and do people like getting up yoga online and making sure that we’re still aligning with our mission. And so, no, I don’t really have anything that I would change. I love where we are at right now.

I always encourage the Rise & Flow yoga instructors, our team. Whenever we get on our monthly calls or when we have our one-on-one meetings I get a burst of light and energy because I am so grateful that they have been placed with Rise & Flow. I’m so grateful that they are a part of our family now. And while this time has been so challenging for our students, we’re so lucky that people are still leaning on us for yoga and meditation.

Cleo: That is so refreshing to hear during these times, where a lot of people, businesses, especially, are having to either close, reduce their hours or reduce their manpower. You’re actually shifting in the other direction where you’ve added people, added opportunities and added online. Kudos.

Aside from going virtual, are there any other things that you’ve done to grow?

Stephany: Yes. During this time we’ve seen an increase in people wanting to know more about yoga, because if you remember at the beginning of the pandemic, people were like, meditate, yoga.

Cleo: I do remember that.

Stephany: And we’re like, okay, that’s great, but let’s do it right. So we’ve seen such an increase in groups, whether it’s just girlfriends getting together or organizations and companies wanting to learn. Like someone told me to practice yoga, but I don’t really know what that means. So we’re providing educational classes and yoga sessions with different groups to ensure that they have a good foundation so that they can find a practice that works for them and a teacher that works for them. That has been really fun for us to do.

We also have with our online classes. People can replay classes, so if they don’t have the time to catch a class during a specific time, they can go on our platform at any time and practice a yoga class.

Cleo: You’re blowing my mind with some of the options that you’ve been offering and the passion that you put behind it. So fantastic. I’m just so proud of you. Have you found that being that a lot of the educators, from elementary schools through to the college years, have you found that they need to use your resources as well for mental health and fitness? Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Stephany: Yes. We, we definitely have seen an increase in need in that age group, but across the board, we’ve seen an increased benefit for all ages really. And so, because of that, we really encourage people to set aside time to practice together. If you have a household and you have children and adults within that household, it’s great to set aside time for yourself to do it, but it’s also great to model positive behavior for your children, so if they see you practicing yoga. Maybe you invite them to join for class. The beautiful thing about this is all of our yoga instructors are so qualified. They are just, I may be kind of biased, but they really are the best of the best.

Cleo: Well, you should be a little biased. They meet the criteria. So that’s awesome.

Stephany: Absolutely. Because of that, we see moms with their kids practicing with our normal scheduled classes. All of our yoga instructors are so skilled in providing variations that fit people from various body types to age ranges. It’s really cool to see people setting up their cameras and you see the kids flip. Sometimes they’ll sit down and they’ll do a pose. And then times they’re looking at the screen, like, what is my mom doing? It’s so, so cool. We know that yoga is not a perfect practice, but it’s a fun practice.

Cleo: Even when you’re doing it incorrectly. It’s still fun and you still get the benefit from it. And as you do it more often, I feel like you learn the mechanics and you learn how to do the poses properly.

Stephany: Right. That is a huge, huge part for us. So we definitely encourage alignment and safety in the body when practicing yoga, because yes, when doing it incorrectly, you can get injured with yoga, believe it or not. But we hope that we’re providing the necessary instructions for people to practice by themselves in a safe way.

Activism – Black Health Matters

Cleo: I know that you’re involved in some of the activism in our community. And we all know that February is Black History Month. This is the time when our nation focuses on the history and contributions of Black Americans. Of course, we don’t think a month is where it should stop; Black history is our nation’s history and it should be taught every day. You believe that yoga creates unity and is a big part of social justice, equality, and empathy. Tell us more about how you came to feel that way and how you spread that belief.

Stephany: I’ll start by saying yoga when an individual is practicing yoga, they must have empathy towards the practice, because there are so many traditions and physiology rooted in the culture. And there’s so much history behind yoga. So in my opinion, when a person is able to practice yoga and is excited to learn about the many facets of yoga, I translate that to cultures and diversity and race and equality amongst genders. You have to have empathy because that history is so rooted within, the practice.

And it’s so rooted in a form of “exercise” that people enjoy. So we encourage all bodies, all backgrounds and all experiences. And those are the words in our mission statement because we don’t want to just say like, minorities or people of color, because there are so many variations of people of color, of Brown, indigenous people, black indigenous people, you know?

And so there are so many variations of culture. And one thing that we know creates unity is within food and music and dance. And I’d love to just go ahead and throw in yoga in that category as well. When you think about activism in our community, I include yoga because mental health and activism go hand in hand. When there are social injustices, when there is the rise of inequality, mental health is at risk now. Yoga has been proven to show that it can combat and help with mental health.

Whenever there are things going on in the community, I love to remind people to breathe. Number one, to always find a place where they can find solace because, oftentimes, things that we’re hearing on the news or within our community can really affect us internally, and yoga teaches us how to discipline our needs and explore what our body and our mind needs at that very moment. So that’s my take on it. And I encourage people who really enjoy the history and traditions and physiology of yoga to really explore. Why? Like, why do I love this? Is it because it’s, it’s a pretty yoga pose? Or is it because it’s teaching me to find empathy, understanding and grace within my daily life?

Cleo: That is an amazing way to look at yoga. And because it does allow you to tap into a different part of yourself that you just wouldn’t have done had you not learned about yoga and yoga and meditation and centering yourself, so all of that is such an important part of how this can bring people together. I’m so glad you said those things, you have me thinking like, my mind has gone like a mile a minute right now. I’m like re-centering myself.

Stephany: I was just going to say when I was talking with one of our Rise & Flow family members, she was telling me that within our yoga classes, we always encourage grace. Grace in your practice, grace for yourself, grace in your work life, you know, grace being a mom or a dad. All of the teachings and the ethics of yoga can really be translated into your daily life. If you allow it to. So, even though we encourage grace on the yoga mat, we’re also preaching grace off the mat too. If you woke up late this morning, give yourself a little grace, maybe your body needed a little bit more sleep.

Cleo: That happened to me this morning! Sometimes I wake up and I hop right off the bed, but I’m learning to stay in place. And like, I’ll say a quick prayer to myself, or just take a few deep breaths before I jump into action. It’s like, okay, let me slow myself down. This is hard to do for a Gemini because we’re like a roller deck that just keeps spinning. All of that and adding yoga into it, it is really hitting me in a different place. And I’m so glad we’re having this conversation today in this particular time. It’s so important too, for people to know that yoga can do so many things for you. And then the part of it bringing people together is just the icing on the cake.

Stephany: Absolutely.

Cleo: When you think about it, is there anyone in history that you look to when you need some inspiration?

Stephany: Oh, gosh, there’s so many people

Cleo: We want to know; what gets Stephany inspired?

Stephany: My personal favorite quote is actually from Maya Angelou. She, and I always get it a little off when the quote is actually hanging up in the Rise & Flow yoga studio here in Greensboro, and I always share it with everyone because it explains who I am as a person. And so the quote goes people will… Oh, goodness. Now it has completely left me.

Well, people always hear what you have to say. People will always listen to you, but most of the time they will remember you because of how you have made them feel. And I’m pretty sure I will remember the quote after we get off of this.

Cleo: Well, let me take one second — I know the quote and it goes: “people will forget what you said, people forget what you think, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You kind of summed it up. So you made it really easy.

Stephany: Yes! I mean, think about it like. Yes. My mom told me to go clean my room, but I forgot, but I remember how, what she said made me feel, you know what I mean? And so I always take that with me. Like, yes, I have bad
days, you know, even though I’m a yoga instructor, I get upset too. And I have bad days too. And I also have very, very good days. And, no matter what, I don’t know what your story is, and I don’t know what his story is, but I really want to treat them how I would like to be treated. That’s just kind of my personal mantra, if you will, to always treat people so that whenever they leave me, they feel just a little bit better than when they first met me.

Cleo: It’s easy for you to do that because you can’t help but love you. You’re so infectious with everything, you know, you got a great smile, your person and your energy. It’s just insane. So that’s easy. I also have a favorite Maya Angelou quote, that’s hanging in my office at home and I try to share this with a lot of people, because I think it’s just such a combative world that we live in so much competition.

My favorite one is: “you alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone.” So many people are out here, trying to prove, and prove and prove, but if you have your own goals for yourself and you’re reaching those goals and you’re a productive member of our society, you have nothing to prove. You’re proving it to yourself. That is your only competition is the way I look at it.

Stephany: Absolutely. I love that. She’s so remarkable because I love how candid she is, but I also love how real and eloquent and kind she is.

Cleo: She was so intelligent and just was in tune with what people needed to hear and what our society needed to address. She addressed them in her own way. I just think that’s amazing. You know, she was a big advocate for black health. So it’s so important and I’m so glad that we can segue into this because that kind of helps me switch into this question I have for you. As far as that movement of black health matters. You being who you are, Stephany is the awesome yoga instructor, just spiritual. How do you plan on carrying forward that message about the importance of black health matters?

Stephany: That’s a great question, and I’m sure it will look different every single day, but the one thing that will definitely be a constant, consistent part of elevating black health and mental health and exercises is really just being the example. That’s something that I encourage, not only for myself but for all of the yoga instructors with Rise & Flow. Be the example for all of our Rise & Flow family, exemplify all of the characteristics of what health means to you and just exude that. And that is the best gift you can give someone because, when you are consistent in your truth, people will automatically understand who you are and what it is that you do.

Aside from that, within Rise &Flow, we have created a “give what you can” payment option for all of our classes and memberships. Yoga has definitely been in Westernized and it’s certainly a privilege. If you look at where yoga studios are located within different communities, you’ll see a clear economic disparity. We want to make yoga accessible and affordable to everyone, so if you can give what you can, we hope that you will take a step in the positive direction to join our family. And with that being said, we have options to pay less. We have scholarship opportunities and we also have options to pay more so that maybe you can support another student and yourself.

We are hoping to combat mental health by providing accessibility, and when you look at the stats, the percentage of five POCs or minorities that are facing a mental health issue is high, but the percentage of people that are actually getting help for that is pretty low. And so if we can be a resource for that, that’s what we hope to do.

Lastly, as a team is we are getting a mental health certification, first aid certification to supplement our teaching so that when people come to Rise & Flow, we can be certified with mental health first aid and making sure that they are getting the help that they need and pointing them in the right direction.

Cleo: Wow. Stephany like you know how you can talk to people and you can hear them adjusting certain things and stay in that they’re going to do X, Y, and Z. I love your entire presentation because not only are you passionate about yoga and passionate about bringing it to people, but you also want to educate and you want to be able to help.

The more you talk, the more you just realize it, like: “love her”. So it is just so wonderful to hear someone so very, very, very passionate about this. And, you know, we are so glad that we’re able to partner with you in so many other things.
And in any way that we can support you. This is just amazing.

Stephany: Thank you. And you know, the partnership we have with y’all is phenomenal. And we’re so grateful for that. And it’s so wonderful to be passionate about something. And it’s also so eye-opening because it is very, very real. And gosh, there are days where I’m like this is so wonderful, the work that we do is so meaningful and so purposeful. And then there are days where I’m like, gosh, I wish I could do more. And as we continue to grow, and as we continue to find loopholes and the needs within our community, we will be a resource for people. And so I think it’s important to be transparent with the community. It is such an eye-opening need because of the increase in mental health, especially during this pandemic. So I appreciate that Cleo, thank you.

The Future of Rise & Flow Yoga

Cleo: Absolutely. Do you have any plans in the future to reopen your physical space?

Stephany: That’s a wonderful question. At this point, going back to yoga, being a privilege, I also want to take care of my people and I say, my people, you know, I’m a black female. And so I want to take care of my people too, and I never want to be putting our people in a position where they may or may not be in harm’s way. So at this point with COVID-19 still being within our community, we don’t see us opening anytime soon. We’ll continue virtually and people are very, very happy with that. But as we continue to transition and understand where Rise and Flow needs to be right now, we do have some exciting news, and I haven’t disclosed them yet, but we do have some exciting opportunities for 2022. We’re always looking to grow. We’re always looking to provide the best of the best to our community.

Cleo: That is such a wonderful way to kind of sum up everything that we discussed right now. Now we’ll be looking forward to it too as we continue through this year and go into 2022. What is Stephany and Rise and Flow up to next? Stephany, I know you have probably a jam-packed day and I want to thank you so much for coming on here and talking to me about Rise &Flow and black health, black health matters and all the wonderful things you’re doing in the community. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to do this again and get you on here.

Stephany: Thank you, Cleo. You are just so golden and I’m so happy to be here and just so grateful for this opportunity. So, thank you.

Cleo: You are so sweet. Thank you. Thank you.

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Thanks again, everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time.