From ‘crazy, hard life’ to yoga master

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — These are brutal times, folks. So much stress, snarling and insanity in the world, yes? So much sitting around, frozen, forlorn, fat, frittering away our days deep in doldrums and Doritos?Melanie St. Georges feels your pain.

But what she’d like you to feel is your bliss.

How she found hers reminds us that sometimes the universe can take us on a wild ride but gets us to the place we belong in due time.

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For St. Georges, 54, that ride took her from being an avowed addict and a bar owner to becoming an asana master and the owner of what has become the most popular yoga studio in town.

“I trusted fully in the universe,” she likes to say. “And it’s worked out.”

Yoga was not a thing for St. Georges back in the day. Spiritual enlightenment was not a goal.

“I spent 30 years in the bar business – that’s what I knew,” said St. Georges, a woman whose voice is still redolent of nicotine and grit. “I waitressed, bartended. I owned a bar. It was a crazy, hard life, surrounded by people and their addictions while I battled my own huge addictions.”

Most of the yoga classes taught at Blissful Spirits are hot, meaning temperatures in the studios are kept between 95 and 105 degrees. "Warm and gentle" classes register at 85 to 90 degrees. Melanie St. Georges, center, says heat makes muscles more flexible and allows the toxins to sweat out of the body more readily. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Most of the yoga classes taught at Blissful Spirits are hot, meaning temperatures in the studios are kept between 95 and 105 degrees. “Warm and gentle” classes register at 85 to 90 degrees. Melanie St. Georges, center, says heat makes muscles more flexible and allows the toxins to sweat out of the body more readily. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

She thought of herself then as a functioning addict, snorting lines of cocaine to keep going, smoking pot to stop going, smoking meth to smoke meth. She owned the old Penn Station, a smoky mainstay for those who liked to pound down their liquor while most people were just waking up.

She raised her two kids, now ages 19 and 14, alone.

She dealt with chronic pain from a fall down a mountain by partaking of narcotics and anything else that eased the aches.

“I was just beat down,” she said. “But at the time, I had no idea what else I could do.”

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A persistent friend kept inviting her to a hot yoga class at a Downtown studio, one of only two in Albuquerque. For two years, St. Georges refused.

Finally, in 2008, she gave in. But she didn’t fit in initially – or so she thought.

“I was terrified,” she said. “I was so freaked out, and here’s the yoga instructor saying, ‘It’s only yoga,’ and I say, ‘I know! That’s why I’m freaked out.’ ”

She survived that first class. Then a second. Then a third. And then she knew. This is what else she could do.

She sold the bar, serving the last round in July 2008. In July 2009, Blissful Spirits was born in an unlikely spot, an industrial area off Paseo del Norte and I-25.

Everybody thought she was crazy.

“I knew it was a good idea, but everybody wanted to talk me out of it,” she said. “The economy had just tanked, the location some thought was weird, nobody thought I should go from owning a bar to this. But I wouldn’t let anybody talk me out of it. I had total trust. I didn’t even know whether I had passed my trainer’s class, but here I was.”

Word of mouth about the spacious new studios – which feature temperatures from 85 to 105 degrees (heat makes your muscles more pliant, I’m told), high ceilings, showers, and black lights for the popular “Luminous” classes – and ample advertising through Living Social and Groupon brought in clients.

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But it was the variety of classes, including hot Pilates, and laid-back nature of St. Georges and her staff that kept them coming.

“The yoga studio I first practiced in was very regimented, and that was good for me for a year,” she said. “But I knew I never wanted my place to be that way. We want everybody to feel comfortable. We like to say we are real people who teach yoga.”

Blissful Spirits, which added a second location in Rio Rancho in 2013, is a three-time winner of the Albuquerque Journal Readers’ Choice award and has been named best yoga studio five times in a row by Albuquerque the Magazine.

The business of bliss has been good.

“I never expected how big this has gotten,” she said. “I just wanted to change lives.”

That she has, not only through the more than 100 classes taught at the two studios per week but in the fundraisers the studios hold for different charities. Giving back, she said, is part of karma.

“We don’t preach. We don’t tell people how to live,” she said. “They get that all on their own. It’s funny how life takes you on turns, but if you have total trust it can be a pretty good place.”

In a year that has kicked a lot of our butts, it’s nice to find a place like that.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

[“source-ndtv”]

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