Jameela Belyeu is the new owner of Firefly Yoga Center. We realize that she came on board right before the studio had to temporarily close due to COVID-19, and many of you haven't gotten a chance to meet her. (We think she's amazing and you're going to love her!) We've asked her all about her yoga practice and some of her favorite things. Keep reading to learn more about this luminary!
How did you get into yoga?
I started practicing yoga while I was attending Auburn University (GO TIGERS!) and I signed up for a class at our student recreation center. After graduation, I practiced every now and again at my local YMCA, but it wasn’t until some ten years later when I was going through some pretty traumatic life experiences that I fully committed myself to becoming the best student I could be. During that time, I read a couple of articles on the healing properties of yoga, so I started attending classes at a local gym here in Atlanta. I remember the intense feeling of peace and calm that gradually began to wash over me -- so I kept going back. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Do you remember your first yoga class?
Oh my goodness, yes -- it was so boring!
I took my first yoga class in college, at a time when I was more concerned with passing finals and SEC football! To be honest, the only thing I even remember about that class was staying down on the mat the entire time and doing gentle stretches. I’m pretty sure it was a restorative class, but it certainly wasn't attention-grabbing enough for my bustling college mind.
Thank goodness though that I've never been one to quit something! It might've taken me some years, but once I found the right class, instructor, and style that resonated with me, I was hooked.
In only three words, describe how you feel after a yoga class. (GO!)
Energized. Peaceful. Strong. (Yes, I know those first two are oxymorons, but if you've ever experienced yoga, you know the deal!)
What do you think that yoga does to a person's life?
Have you read my first blog post: “10 Ways Yoga Can Save Us All?” If you haven't (first of all shame on you) it’s a great research-backed summary of how yoga can positively impact someone’s life. The short and sweet of it however is that: yoga can provide profound peace, clarity, physical and mental strength, empowerment, acceptance, balance, and healing.
Do you think that yoga exists outside of the mat?
Of course, it does! Most people only associate yoga with the physical postures or the Asanas, but that’s only one of the eight branches of yoga.
Now, I won’t go through all eight branches here (that my friends, we'll save for a future blog post) but the two that are most prevalent off the mat are the Yamas and Niyamas.
The Yamas are ethical tenets that outline a code of conduct that should be observed when interacting with the world around us. Essentially, it's a full-service guide on how we should be acting towards others, such as practicing non-violence, truthfulness, and honor, just to name a few.
You also have the Niyamas, which are more internally focused on how we can improve oneself. A prime example of this is Santosa or demonstrating contentment with what you have. We can practice this off the mat by expressing gratitude and feeling better about the good things we have in our lives.
What is your favorite kind of yoga?
Do I have to pick just one?! Okay fine — I'd definitely have to say a heated Power Vinyasa. The energy and fire that students create in a Power class literally fuels me like no other! The heat that rises during the Sun Salutations is energizing, and being able to harness that same fire to power through the strength and balancing portion feels so empowering! Add in some deep work and a little upbeat music? I honestly leave every class feeling like Wonder Woman in the flesh!
Was it your dream to own a yoga studio? Tell us more about that.
I wouldn't say it was my dream to own a yoga studio, but I definitely always had aspirations of becoming a small business owning entrepreneur.
The idea of potentially owning a studio became ever-present as I continued to evolve in my teaching over the last few years. I found out a lot about myself, mainly that I was truly energized and inspired by not only my own growth but the transformation of my students as they developed in their yoga practice. I also felt there was a legitimate need for a truly inclusive studio, where people of all shapes, colors & backgrounds could come together and learn the science. Many studios claim to be inclusive, but it’s very rare to find one that truly lives up to it. I always felt that the path to a perfect yoga body comprised of the following:
So my dream is to build upon the Firefly brand to further create that super-inclusive space, no matter who you are or what you look like.
What is your favorite yoga asana?
Okay, this is going to sound really cliche, but it’s actually Tittibhasana or Firefly. No, I'm being so serious right now! It was the third arm balance I was able to achieve a few years ago and its been one of my favorites ever since -- mainly because it helped me battle against the fears I was carrying in my body and mind. It’s also a pose that really challenges growth and patience as it benefits my brain’s ability to release stress, decrease anxiety, and increase self-awareness.
What is your least favorite yoga asana?
Is this a trick question? I'm love them all! (Joke.)
As much as I wish this were the case, I would definitely have to say that my least favorite is the one I need to practice more often — camel or Ustrasana. I always feel so vulnerable in this heart opener, which is a telltale sign I should develop it more and tap into those emotions.
Where did you do your YTT? Tell us about that experience.
I completed my 200 and 300 YTT training at Red Hot in Buckhead with Bethany Vaughn of Bethany Vaughn Yoga & Meditation. I know there are a lot of people across the globe that can say this: but Bethany has literally changed my life! When I was looking for a studio to undertake my 200 hr, her name and program consistently came up as two of my all-time favorite yoga instructors in the North Metro Atlanta area were both her pupils. That was enough to make me sign up for her training without doing too much research anywhere else, and I’m forever grateful that I did. Bethany's experience and depth of yogic knowledge are profound, and through her guidance and instruction, she helped mentor me through the process of tapping into my truest self - the person I always was but suppressed or hid from the world because of the fears and anxieties I'd faced in life.
What do you think you bring to Firefly Yoga?
I’m here because I one-thousand percent believe in the powers of yoga and the profound impact it can have on students' lives. Along with my unbridled passion, I also bring a business background as I worked in product development and strategy, for five years, in the ever-challenging world of corporate America.
Outside of that, I have a mountain high bucket of positive energy and relentless pursuit that will surely take us a long way!
Where are you from?
Well, once upon a time, in a kingdom, far far away there lived a...okay maybe that intro was a little too Disney, but I do think my story requires some detail to tell properly.
My family has deep roots in Alabama and Louisiana, but in the late 1970s, my parents moved to live as expatriates in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia (which is a kingdom -- see I wasn't lying) where they worked in the oil industry. It was there that I was born and raised, and thus I became a "Third Culture Kid" which is the term used for children who are raised in a culture other than their parents for a significant part of their lives.
But please make no mistake about it, I'm a country girl through and through! Despite the fact that we were living in the middle of the desert on the other side of the world, my New Orleans mother and Alabama father raised me in a very Southern household.
We eventually migrated back to the US, where I finished high school and college in Alabama before living in Denver for a short period, and then eventually finding my way back south to Atlanta.
What’s your favorite movie?
Steel Magnolias. I did mention I’m a Southern girl, right?
What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited?
Aspen, Colorado hands down.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My babies! I have two young girls that are my pride and joy. They certainly keep me on my toes and I can honestly say I learn something new from them every day.