By Luke Witt
You can find her sharing her love for yoga on the rooftop at the Hofheimer Building, partnering with King of Pops for free yoga on the lawn at The Carillon, hosting classes inside the brewery at The Veil, and practicing yoga with cats at Zoomies Cat Lounge. And that’s just the beginning. Michelle Lee Landon is everywhere in RVA. Luke Witt managed to catch up with Michelle for the next installment of the #HERStory series featuring inspiring female leaders in RVA.
Michelle holds a Bachelors of Arts in Fashion Merchandising form Virginia Commonwealth University and has completed the Career Switchers program through EducateVA to become a high school teacher. She is the owner of One Drop Yoga, organizer of RVA Outdoor Yoga on Meetup.com, and a proud Ambassador for Project Yoga Richmond.
Luke: What got you into yoga and who were your influences?
Michelle: I first practiced yoga while living in New York City 11 years ago. It was something I had heard would be a good compliment to my workouts at the gym, and might help with my posture. The classes I took were a restorative style, so they were very slow paced and required a lot of holding of postures. I hated every minute of it. It wasn’t until two or three years later when I returned to the DC/NOVA area that I found myself in a heated, power vinyasa class that I really started to enjoy yoga. It was purely physical at first. I liked sweating, and working hard so I started attending more and more classes, and began to work on the breath practice too. I knew there was a lot more to yoga outside of the physical, so I began exploring different studios and teachers to learn more. It wasn’t until I landed in a teacher named Allison Adam’s class that I felt like I had my “ah-ha” moment with yoga. Her classes were like a therapy session on my mat, and I had started to really learn how to incorporate my breath with the physical part of the practice. I began noticing changes in myself off the mat too; I was using my breath practice in stressful situations, I felt stronger and more self-aware, and I was making healthier lifestyle choices to name a few. It truly rocked my world. Years later my practice has evolved where I still enjoy a good sweaty class, but I find even more power in finding stillness with just my breath flowing.
Luke: What inspired you to teach? And how have your teachings affected the way you lead your life?
Michelle: When I started my teacher training I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to teach. It was first a way to deepen my own practice and if I could share that knowledge with other people in my life and contribute in some way to them starting their own practice or enjoying their life more, I would have been happy. Once I started training, I realized that I actually did want to teach and share the practice on a bigger scale. The physical practice of yoga is literally just 1/8 of what yoga is. It’s also about how you care for yourself and the world around you, self-reflection, breathing, meditation, concentration and connecting with your higher power—whatever that may be. Yoga has shed light on areas of my life that were holding me back from being my best self. It is not about transforming into a new person; it’s about connecting with your highest self—your true nature. It has helped me deal with anxiety and depression, and given me a healthy way to manage life’s stresses. Yoga has helped me find my power, and strength and to love myself just as I am in every moment. It has also given me a sense of community and belonging, which I had been searching for my entire life. I believe sharing this transformative practice is what I am supposed to be doing in this life.
Luke: What other passions do you have?
Michelle: I am passionate about working with kids, particularly teenagers. My roughest times in life were high school and late teens, and I wish I knew what I know now to make better choices and manage emotions, especially those as a result of trauma. Last year I went back to school as a Career Switcher to become a high school teacher. I have endorsements in Family and Consumer Sciences, Marketing Education, and Business Education. I’m going through the interview process now to begin full time in Fall 2017. In my previous life I worked in the fashion industry in NYC and DC, and also spent some time at my father’s mortgage company. With all of that, combined with my yoga and mindfulness trainings, I have a lot of life skills and business experience to bring to the table.
I am a volunteer and ambassador for Project Yoga Richmond, a local non-profit and pay-what-you-can studio with outreach programs around town. Our mission is make yoga affordable and accessible, and to provide yoga to underserved populations. We have classes at a juvenile detention center, a school for autism, local schools, domestic abuse shelters and crisis units, to name a few. Also, I recently become involved with Zoomies Cat Lounge where you can practice yoga with the cats in the lounge, and then get some play time after with the cats. Proceeds go to support their work with Richardson’s Rescue. I love animals, especially cats, and I love what these two organizations are doing. My cat Alaska even has her own Instagram page!
I also love hanging by the river, riding my bike, lounging in my hammock and reggae music.
Luke: How do you feel yoga, and your teaching, have led to the growth of RVA as a whole?
Michelle: I have been back in RVA for five years now. I was here from 1998-2003 for college. The yoga community has exploded here in this city during the past five years. It’s awesome to see, and I am truly honored to be a small part of that. My intention with my outdoor/rooftop/pop-up class portion of my One Drop Yoga business is to reach people in the community who may be intimidated to come to a yoga studio to try yoga and to present the practice in an accessible manner for all, as well as those with an established practice who want to take their practice outdoors or somewhere new. I love seeing the diverse community that shows up. With my classes in the parks especially, people bring their kids, and even their dogs. You will see different ages, backgrounds, and experience levels. It’s a beautiful thing. My intention is to plant yoga seeds in people that will inspire them to continue practicing on their own, on and off their mat with me or one of the many inspiring teachers in town. I have the honor of partnering with some other amazing local businesses and organizations too (The Hofheimer Building, King of Pops RVA, The Veil Brewing Co, Zoomies Cat Lounge, Sneed’s Nursery, VCU) and it has been a beautiful thing for all of us.
Luke: What do you foresee RVA being like in 5 years?
Michelle: It will continue being awesomely creative, foodie, and diverse. The possibilities are endless. I have bounced around a lot in my adult life and I’m proud to say that RVA is my home and where I am settling in and laying down my roots.