UO Summer School: Yoga Workshop with Soulga

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Warm days are here and UO Summer School is in session. From tech how-tos to apartment DIYs to recipes and wellness, we’ll show you how to do it all. Don’t forget to do your reading, we’ll see you in class. 

Get your namaste with a dance party on the side: New York’s Soulga brings together yoga and DJ-led tunes, and we’re excited to team up with them here at Space Ninety 8 for a series of yoga classes. Get to know more in our conversation with founder Ashley Mihelich.

What is your path to becoming a yogi? How did you get to where you are today? 
I'm from Southern Colorado and made my way to NYC after college to work in fashion. I immediately fell in love with the industry and the energy of the city. Like anyone in this city, I was eager to work and spent a lot of my time juggling crazy hours and an insane social life. I really got sucked into what I thought it meant to be a part of the "fashion scene" and industry. 

Around 2013, burnt out and recently laid off, I went on a last minute yoga retreat to Costa Rica. The retreat was only one week, but I ended up living there for about two months. I wasn't too bummed about turning in my daily subway commute for waking up to monkeys in my jungle casita. This was really a huge tipping point for me. I realized that I was responsible for my own happiness and health, and everyone has a choice of what they want their life to look like. And yoga was this amazing tool right in front of me to help make that happen. I wanted to share this tool, this new realization with as many people as I could. 

I went back to the states, got my certification, and with the encouragement of a few friends, started Soulga. We've been going strong in NYC for two years this summer, and last fall we opened our first studio in Colorado. 

Music, movement, and art have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up a competition dancer and a musician, linking movement to rhythm and breath has been second nature to me. I remember my first yoga home in Soho how the teacher would put on 2 Pac, throwback 80s jams, and even metal in class. And this was before anyone was really doing this. There was something so exciting about the melding of these two worlds, and how much fun it was. Soulga really was built out of this concept: How not only music but also environment can enhance the experience and even connect it to more of an emotional part of the practice. Also to just sometimes lighten it up and have a little fun as well. 

What sets Soulga apart from other yoga classes?
It's a little cliche to say, but I think it's the soul. It's the people behind it that show up and are a part of it. From teachers to DJs to students, they all make Soulga what it is. You can find a lot of options to practice yoga alongside music these days, but we take pride in having a much more curated experience. We really want you to not only get your workout on but also encourage getting to know your fellow yogis after class and build a community...or even just chat with some rad people for the night.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to develop a yoga practice but they are unsure/intimated of where to start?
1. To just start. A lot of people say "I'm not flexible enough, or I can't do those crazy poses" and I want to shake them and say: everyone starts out that way. If my 68-year-old dad can do it, you can do it. You have to start somewhere, right? I encourage people to just try showing up. Start there. 

2. Have fun. A big part of Soulga is that because we do have a little more fun with music, it can help to take the pressure off of doing poses "perfectly." Soulga is a more relaxed environment that is open and exciting to everyone, not just the yoga elite. It's pretty tough to take yourself too seriously when you're twerking in down dog to Beyonce. 

Music plays such a core part in your business, what songs are you currently loving?
Lately, I've been really obsessed with finding these hidden gem covers in unexpected ways. I can't stop playing Lotte Kestner - "Halo, Paradisia" - "Dancing in the Dark," or Robyn's cover of "Dancing on my Own" by Jake McMullen. I've been listening to Blackbear's new album Digital Druglord and am loving the vibe. There's something so cool about the evolution of hip hop these days and how broad the genre has become.

What songs are always on a Soulga playlist?
Well, we can't seem to stay away from Lady Gaga these days. The Cure is just too perfect not to slip into a class. It's always pretty inspirational, and we have a lot of girl power vibes. Besides the obvious heavy hitters like Beyonce, Drake, Bieber (you know you love him too), and we always have some influence or throwback to 90s RnB or hip hop. We'll even throw in some Hall n Oates or 10cc if we are feelin' it for that class. You just never know until you're in it. 

What is next for you?
Good question. I always think I know, but if I've learned anything since starting Soulga is no matter how much you think you have a plan, life is going to say "that's cute" and turn everything upside down. But just like yoga, sometimes when you flip your perspective you'll see something in a whole new and unexpected way. 

Photos by Anna Ottum

Experience Soulga at Space Ninety 8 at our Mind, Body + Beats Vinyasa Flow class on Tuesday, May 16 — more about the event here