Nancy Nicholson loved yoga from the moment she took her first class 25 years ago.
"I felt so much better, not just physically, but mentally," Nicholson said. "I was centered and focused."
When she moved to Charlotte in 1986, she made yoga part of her daily routine and took up Kripalu yoga, which combines meditation with the yoga movements and has a spiritual component. She particularly appreciated Kripalu's emphasis on good posture and breath work.
Fifteen years ago, Nicholson transitioned from student to teacher. She completed training at the Kripalu Yoga Center and pursued her teaching certification.
As a licensed social worker, Nicholson thought teaching yoga was a good fit with her other professional goals and skills and would benefit her clients, allowing her to offer a way to unite their minds, bodies and spirits.
Many yoga devotees become teachers, but what distinguishes Nicholson's yoga instruction is where she conducts her classes and who takes them.
A Dilworth resident, Nicholson teaches many classes in churches and community centers in Dilworth and Myers Park.
She has also taught classes in workplaces, offering them to employees either before work or during their lunch break.
Some classes are paid for by the participant, but others are sponsored by the employer.
"Research confirms that yoga increases productivity," Nicholson said, noting that it is a smiles-all-around proposition for the employer and the employees.
Nicholson also teaches chair yoga classes in retirement centers and at CMC's Department of Neurology. She specializes in working with people who have limited mobility because of surgery or chronic illness.
"I can be as gentle as they need me to be," Nicholson said, "but it's not a wimpy class. We work hard."
Her clients are mainly women older than 50, and her oldest student is 96.
Laurie Guy, who joined one of Nicholson's Dilworth classes while recovering from a frozen shoulder, continues to pursue yoga because she appreciates Nicholson's approach of "weaving wellness tips and thoughtful meditations into our yoga practice." Guy also notes that stress management is a big issue for her, and that she's learned "a variety of tools to alleviate the effects of stress."
Nicholson relishes the opportunity to "help people be as well as they can be." She notes that our lives are busy and stressful, and helping people "stretch their bodies and minds and sleep better" is gratifying.
Her favorite compliment is one she has heard often, and that is having a student say, at the conclusion of a class, "I'm a better person after I do yoga."
To continue to integrate her professional and personal interests, Nicholson just completed Duke University's Integrative Medicine Program to become a health coach.
She helps people set individual health goals and then helps them be accountable to those goals. Because many of her clients suffer from chronic illnesses, Nicholson makes sure her clients set goals that make sense for them.
Her tag line, which she emphasizes as a social worker, health coach and yoga instructor, is that she is intent on "helping you be as healthy and fulfilled as you can with the body and life you have."