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Women In Wellness: Selby Hill Of Yonder Yoga On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and when you think it’s big stuff, trust that one day it will be small stuff, so don’t let it take away your joy.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Selby Hill.

Selby Hill is a University of Georgia 2014 graduate and since then, Hill has launched a yoga empire in Atlanta known as Yonder Yoga. As the founder and managing partner, Hill has taken her deep knowledge in fitness and teaching and has blended the two to make Yonder Yoga highly successful in the Atlanta market. As an Atlanta native, Hill is deeply ingrained in the community around her and has a keen eye to which Atlanta neighborhoods need what Yonder Yoga offers, which has resulted in three studios and two coming later in 2022. Yonder Yoga offers structured, movement-inspired classes, sequenced to empowering and energetic music inspired by vinyasa-style yoga. The studio rooms are heated between 90 and 93 degrees with added humidity, allowing students to sweat, tone, and stretch, leaving both inspired and rejuvenated. The Yonder Yoga brand is inspired by the definition of yonder, meaning “a place you can see but have not yet reached.” Founded in 2019, Yonder Yoga has been voted Atlanta’s Best Yoga studio in both 2020 and 2021. Outside of building the Yonder Yoga fleet, Hill spends her time giving back to local animal rescues and resides with her husband, Alex who is also a University of Georgia alum.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I believe that yoga has a way of finding people when they need it most, and that was exactly the case for me six years ago. Just a few months out of college, I was facing the harsh reality that college was over and the idea of living on my own and working a “real job” wasn’t all I’d dreamed it would be. I found myself working behind a desk, doing a job that didn’t challenge me or incite any kind of passion. After three months that felt like three years, I started toying with the idea of going back to graduate school, changing careers, and becoming a high school English teacher. While many important people in my life supported this idea, many doubted, questioned, and even criticized my thought process. Not so coincidentally at the time, I was required to attend a promotional yoga class in a hotel courtyard for a client I was representing at my current job. I didn’t know it at the time, but that class changed my life.

Being a college athlete, I always loved the reward of physical exercise done in the community of a group, but I struggled to find group fitness classes that didn’t leave me feeling totally depleted. Remembering my one yoga class in the hotel courtyard, I decided to sign up for a class at a local yoga studio. For the first 30 minutes of class, I seriously considered walking out. I had no idea it was hot yoga, and I thought anyone was crazy to pay for this; however, once we got to the restorative part of class, I felt a release like I’d never experienced before. To conclude class, the teacher left us with a message to “trust our instincts,” and I knew at that moment that yoga was exactly what I needed in life.

I then took the leap, left my job, went back to school, and became a high school English teacher for 7 years. Through that transitional time, I became a yoga addict almost immediately and practiced for two years and before completing my teacher training. After teaching in Atlanta for almost two years, I found that I wanted more, and in September of 2017, the idea for Yonder was born. My partners and I saw a gap in the yoga market: we wanted a brand that was built and run like a business but had the community-feel of your local yoga studio. Fast-forward seven years: we’ve grown from one location to five, 15 employees to 78, and we have cultivated a community that is invaluable.

It sounds like a cliché, but what keeps me coming back to yoga is the practice. There is never a day that I walk out of the studio and feel that I have mastered yoga. Sure, my handstands get stronger, my patience has improved (mostly), and I’ve learned more than I ever imagined about myself through sharing yoga with others, but what I love about yoga is that I know that there is still so much more left to uncover.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Back in 2019 before we had opened our first location, we were presented with an opportunity that was too good to pass up, and we signed a lease on a second space before even proving our concept with the first location. In hindsight, it was insane, and probably not advisable in business. However, starting with two locations so quickly really gave us the momentum we needed to propel ourselves into the industry. In our 200-hour teacher training programs, we tell our students to “start before you’re ready” because the reality is, we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for, and so you have to take the leap. Although people thought we were crazy, I’m grateful we had the courage to take that leap — it made all the difference.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is the importance of choosing the right people. A great mentor of mine gave me the advice early on to always “hire the who and then teach them the what” vs. the other way around. We have a lot of talent in the yoga world, but I’ve learned that hiring the good and right people brings us the most success and joy. Anyone can learn the skill, but it takes good, genuine people to be the best at it.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I believe we’ve been able to give the world what yoga has given to all of us. As teachers, we teach because we love it, but even more so, because we believe in it. I will joke sometimes that yoga fixes any problem. Stressed and overwhelmed with life? Yoga. Are you tight, injured, or looking to get stronger? Yoga. Do you have trouble sleeping? Yoga. Want to just feel better about yourself? Yoga. There is something for everyone in every yoga class. Sometimes you show up for the sweat but you leave renewed with inspiration. This practice never stops giving, and we love being able to share that with the community.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Make exercise a routine — you can always come up with a million excuses not to show up for class, or not to go on that run, but when you schedule it into your day, you schedule it into your life. Once you have exercise as a part of your routine, it’s a part of your life, and that’s what the goal is.
  2. Balance in everything — this is sounding more like a yoga pun, but life is all about balance. Extreme diets, extreme workouts, extreme work schedules — they all breed chaos and eventually unhappiness. Show up for the yoga class on Wednesday morning and be ok with eating tacos on Thursday night. We know that too much of anything isn’t healthy, so trust your instincts, find balance, and do the things that bring you joy.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people — negativity is toxic and contagious. We’ve all had that one friend that always seems to complain about everything, but did you ever notice that when you’re around them, you start to fall into that spiral too? Surround yourself with people who radiate positivity — it doesn’t mean they’re a robot who’s happy all the time — just that they have an outlook on life that’s uplifting and inspiring. Those are the people you want to be around.
  4. Nothing is permanent — we all have bad days, but we get through them because we know there’s another one after it. On the flipside, when you have the good days, be grateful for them and acknowledge them, so that you can remember them when you need them most. At the end of the day, be present because none of it lasts forever.
  5. Breathe. It wasn’t until I started my yoga practice 8 years ago that I realized I wasn’t ever really and truly breathing. I remember when the teacher first cued breath, and I thought to myself, “how are people still inhaling — I ran out of space 5 seconds ago.” Since then, my lung capacity has improved drastically, and so has my capacity to manage stress.

The movement of yoga is super powerful, but it’s the breath component that works the real magic — its physical and mental benefits are endless. If everyone carved out 5 minutes of each day to just breathe — really breathe — I think we would live much happier and more fruitful lives.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Find something that makes you happy, and then carve out the time to do more of it. Obviously, I personally think yoga is the best — it’s both healing and inspiring physically, mentally, and emotionally — but I also get that it’s not for everyone. Nothing is. We all have things we love and things we don’t, but if you can find something you do love that inspires you, keeps you active, and brings you joy, do it. Make the time for it. When you do things you love, you feed your soul and refresh your spirit, and that’s the greatest wellness of all.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and when you think it’s big stuff, trust that one day it will be small stuff, so don’t let it take away your joy.
  2. Hire the ‘who’ and then teach them the ‘what’ — not the other way around. The right ‘who’ will always be the right person in the end.
  3. You can do so much more than you think you can. Imposter syndrome is real in the business ownership and leadership world, and I would shy away from a lot of roles that “I didn’t know how to do”, but once you are in it long enough, you realize that no one really knows how to do anything until they just do it. So try; surprise yourself with what you didn’t know you were capable of.
  4. You will eventually strike the right balance, so be patient with yourself. I think especially as a business owner, there’s a lot of pressure to find the right work/life balance and not let it consume you, but the reality is, every day, month, season will be different, and as with everything in life, it only gets better with time. Give yourself grace and work for the balance; trust that it will come.
  5. Keep a journal, take photos, and remember the small moments. It’s easy to look back at the timeline and see the big highlights — studios opening and the team growing — but it’s the little moments of joy and gratitude threaded together that make this path so rewarding. Everything from client compliments, friends you meet for the first time, or that super fun class you taught one rainy Monday are the true magic of business ownership. The day-to-day is what creates the bigger picture, so record those little moments and details that make you smile so that you can look back on them and remember how great it all really is.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health, 100%. In terms of yoga, this is where I see its greatest impact on our community. Sure, we have clients who love that they’ve lost weight or gained more flexibility, but it’s the testimonies of how yoga empowered them to get through a tough time or overcome a hurdle that are truly inspiring. Meditation, breathwork, and movement are healing mentally and emotionally, and I love witnessing the breakthroughs in students who look to yoga to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Instagram @yonderyoga and @selbymhill, www.yonderyoga.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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