HeartBEATS was a natural evolution of 405 Yoga’s Vinyasa and Power Flow styles, complemented by a bit of wit from its creator, Annie Shiel.
“The name HeartBEATS came out of my love for flowing to breath and music in an intentional, compassionate way that honors each student’s unique body and state of mind — and of course, my love for puns,” said Shiel. “Thus, HeartBEATS brings both the heart and the beats by focusing on intuitive movement and self love, all woven together and choreographed to breath and music to create a cohesive journey on the mat.”
Merideth VanSant, the studio manager of 405 Yoga, explained the class builds upon itself. A base flow will be given and added onto; then students will be allotted three to four minutes to flow on their own with the music cranked. They can either stick to the flow presented, or diverge and create something entirely their own. “It’s a really beautiful way to offer individuality within one practice,” said VanSant.
The idea is to create a safe space for students where they feel able to empower themselves. VanSant shared that about one in 10 students can potentially have experienced trauma in their life, and Shiel’s background as a trauma-informed yoga teacher led her to creating a class where students can be free and safe.
Shiel said by building a base flow, students know where they are going. She makes sure to let them know anything goes in her class and that they need to do what their bodies are asking of them. That could mean adding on, taking away or doing exactly as instructed, because while some love the liberating aspect, others fear it.
“Make sure you hold space for students who are less comfortable with that, both by providing options for more structured movement and by letting them know that it’s normal to feel awkward at first,” said Shiel. “If you want students to learn to trust their bodies and move on their own, you can’t just throw them into it; use the first half of your practice to really get them moving in an intuitive, rhythmic way, using one slow breath per movement flows to help them find their own rhythm and really trust that their bodies know where they’re going.”
Letting students do what they want doesn’t mean sacrificing good alignment. Shiel said the teacher must stay vigilant, but in the end it’s not about getting the pose right necessarily — it’s about cultivating intuition and compassion in the body.
When first launching HeartBEATS, it took overriding skepticisms. But, VanSant said with education on what HeartBEATS was, it’s become a class with a retention rate of 68 percent. Listening to what members wanted helped the studio find ways to offer it more and more. “We’re never scared to try something,” said VanSant. “It’s been a phenomenal success ever since.”