When Nicole Ferguson attended her first yoga class, she didn't really love it or understand it. It was a "girls' night out" and, frankly, she was bored by the practice.
Still, she knew there was something beneficial there.
"So then I joined this YMCA class and it was funny because I always had to pass Zingerman's on my way home," she said, "and what I found was every week all I was doing was looking forward to getting a latte and a croissant on my way home.
"So I gained five pounds going to this yoga class, and this great appreciation for croissants at Zingerman's Deli."
She would eventually fall in love with yoga. It happened when she was taking a Pilates class in a woman's basement. Her teacher suggested they take a "field trip" to Jonny Kest's studio in Birmingham.
"Instantly, a couple minutes in, I just knew that this was my home — this was my calling," she said. "It was hard — that's what I loved, the intensity. There was a spiritual message. I cried. It moved me in a way I've never been moved.
"It was probably the worst thing our Pilates instructor could have done, because we all cancelled our Pilates memberships and joined Center for Yoga immediately!"
From Practice to Business
Nicole continued taking classes, eventually landing at a teacher training with Kelli Harrington.
Both were placed at the Center for Yoga in Ann Arbor. When that studio moved, Nicole and Kelli — at the time merely acquaintances — were urged to start their own studio.
They went ahead with that plan and, ultimately, became friends as well as business partners.
"We're really tight and close," said Nicole. "That was — and still is — the main component. We each see that we need each other to have this really successful business."
Ultimately, the business she and Kelli have built is something Nicole calls, "one of the greatest gifts" she's ever received.
"If anything, I wish I would have done it 10 years ago," she said.
The Yoga Journey
Yoga has been more than exercise for Nicole. In fact, exercise is the toughest part of the practice for her. Compassion, tolerance, and mindfulness all come naturally to her — it's the physical journey that has been the biggest hill to climb.
"I know it's a necessary quality and that's what I always have to work on for my classes," she said.
Away from the mat, yoga has both helped her cope with life transitions and helped her help others. It is the ability to change another person's life that drives her as a teacher.
"Yoga changed who I was," she said. "It made me a better person, it made me a better mom, made me more present. I got over addictions and obstacles that I don't think I would have without yoga.
"On a daily basis, when people come up and share their journeys and say how much this has changed their lives — that's why I continue to do it."
Continuing Down the Path
Two years into their business, Nicole and Kelli aren't slowing down. They have built a community of students they make a point to get to know from the first day they walk through the studio door.
"The relationships with students is what keeps us going," said Nicole. "I'd say that that is the paycheck. I think both Kelli and I, that's what we have that maybe some other teachers don't: it's always been relational.
"If it wasn't for the relationships I had with the students I wouldn't want to do this every day."
Not only does she want to continue doing this every day, she sees endless possibilities.
"I see us expanding and growing, not just in Ann Arbor but here in Michigan," she said. "I think Red could go as far as Red wants to go."
Want to take a class with Nicole? Check out the Red Yoga schedule and sign up today.
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