By BECCA GIBSON | Derby City Weekend
Cat Crawford doesn’t want to imagine her life without yoga. That’s why she co-founded 502 Power Yoga in the Highlands in 2014. Since then, she’s opened two additional locations with her sights set on more.
The thing that sets 502 Power Yoga apart from other local yoga studios is the teaching methodology — Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. It’s a type of yoga developed by Baron Baptiste that’s focused on asana (the physical poses), meditation and self-inquiry. It’s taught in a room heated to 90 degrees.
Crawford first discovered Power Yoga when living in California. A co-worker invited her to try a class at a donation-based studio called Santa Monica Power Yoga.
“It was really sweaty and hard,” Crawford remembered. “It was 90 minutes, and as soon as I did my first class, I thought, ‘What was that? That was amazing. I have to do that like every week.’ I couldn’t do it every day, but every week.”
She said she committed to a weekly practice and began to see the benefits.
“I loved it,” Crawford said. “It wrung me out in a way that I had never experienced. I had been a runner beforehand.”
The physical changes started with her arms.
“I was checking my triceps out in the mirror like, ‘What is happening?'” she said. Her doctor observed an impact on her blood pressure and resting heart rate.
There were mental and emotional benefits, too.
“(I was) a little calmer when something challenging was happening,” she said. “Or being less reactive and just having the ability to pause and take something in.”
In 2010, Crawford moved back to her hometown of Louisville.
“One of the first things I did was Google ‘Power Yoga Louisville,'” she said. “And I found nothing.”
Crawford practiced at other local studios and became a certified yoga teacher, but still couldn’t shake the magic of Power Yoga.
Crawford began searching out Power Yoga podcasts (she recommends Kinndli McCollum). She would take what she heard on the podcasts and incorporate it into her yoga classes. The podcasts are how she discovered Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. Then came a life-changing realization.
“At some point, I was standing behind the desk at a studio I was teaching at and I was like ‘I could do this. I could open a studio that was dedicated to Power Yoga and this city would probably go nuts for it,'” she recalled.
At the time, Crawford’s then-husband was in graduate school and she became pregnant with her daughter. She had developed a business plan and used her skills as an art major and graphic designer to create the 502 Power Yoga logo. But there was a piece of the puzzle missing — Sarah Smith. She’s a Baptiste teacher who moved to Louisville from Indianapolis. Crawford connected with her on Facebook, and they decided to meet up and chat. Smith brought her 3-month-old. Crawford was eight months pregnant.
“During that meeting, she said, ‘I want to open Louisville’s first Power Yoga studio,'” Crawford recalled. “And I’m like, ‘s***, so do I. And for a minute, I was kind of like, ‘Oh, man. I guess I missed my opportunity there.’ Then later on I got really bold and brave and reached out to this person I didn’t know at all and I was like, ‘How about we partner?'”
Crawford said she took the business plan and the logo and approached Smith about co-ownership. That’s how the Highlands studio was born.
Smith has since moved out of town, but Crawford continues to own and operate the thriving business. She opened a location in Jeffersonville in May 2017 and opened the third location of 502 Power Yoga in East Louisville in October 2019.
Crawford is already thinking about expanding further, so she can spread the benefits of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga to other parts of the community.
“So that’s where I’m kind of ‘Let’s open studios everywhere! Let’s just have Baptiste Yoga in every nook and cranny of the city,'” she said. “But I know that there’s a lot of logistical challenges to it and I’m being careful.”
Crawford said she has her sights set on South Louisville next, but needs to do more research about a specific location.
For now, she’s focused on growing the close-knit community she’s built through 502 Power Yoga, one she’s designed to be welcoming and accepting of all people. Teachers are trained to be authentic, vulnerable, realistic and raw.
“What that creates for students in the space is permission for them to also feel that way,” Crawford said. “They can let their hair down a bit, have unshaven armpits if that’s their jam. They can just be themselves and know they are going to be accepted like that because the teacher is modeling what it looks like to be authentic and real.”
She tries to create a studio where everyone feels as though they belong. Crawford jokingly calls the 502 Power Yoga community the Misfits, like the Island of Misfit Toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“In other studios sometimes, you see a little bit of cliquishness or a little bit of snobbery around, ‘Oh that’s a new student (or) Oh, they’re not wearing the best yoga clothes,'” Crawford acknowledged. “I try so hard; I work with my teachers on a regular basis to make sure that we’re creating an environment that is very accepting and welcoming and inclusive no matter what.”
What can a new student expect during their first class?
“A hot mess,” Crawford joked.
She said the challenge of the physical practice often takes new students by surprise.
“A lot of people think of yoga as just sitting and stretching and meditating,” Crawford said. “But this specific style of yoga is very physical. Often times guys who have been doing CrossFit three years will step into the yoga studio and it’ll completely blow their minds, the intensity of it.”
She said the key to growing your practice is to keep showing up on your mat. Have the expectation that it’s going to be hard. Students begin to get into the rhythm of the practice after four or five visits. After that, students start to really experience the benefits of the practice.
For Crawford, those benefits have been profound. It’s why she continues to grow 502 Power Yoga.
“The things that happened in my life when I found this practice and the inquiry work and self-development work that come with teacher training, it literally caused this watershed in my life where I realized I was unhappy in my marriage and I went through the process of divorce,” she said. “There are a lot of things, a lot of risks that I took that I don’t think I would have had the courage to do if it hadn’t been for the methodology and the confidence that it gave me. So I want to be able to provide that to as many people as possible.”
502 Power Yoga Locations
+ Highlands: 2210 Dundee Rd #203
+ Jeffersonville: Water Tower Square (200 Missouri Ave)
+ East End: Brownsboro Center (Rudy Lane & Brownsboro Road)
They offer a new student special of $40 for 40 days of unlimited yoga.