Corepower Yoga’s studio on Colorado Boulevard is dimly lit, smells like it’s just stopped raining and has Enya-esque music playing. Designed to relax and empower, the studio relieves the stress of driving over I-25 on Colorado during 9:00AM rush hour traffic; the constant brake-go-brake-go-brake-again-go was an exercise in itself. Padding over on bare feet while tying up a long, sweaty, blond ponytail, Michelle Savage, a Corepower Yoga instructor just finished teaching a Hot Power Fusion Yoga class.
Savage is 21 years old and has completed her Masters in Professional Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. She trained to become a yoga teacher at 19, following her freshman year as a Longhorn. A gifted student, Savage was the valedictorian of her high school class but does not attribute her stressful subject of study or the academic powerhouse, with one of the top business schools in the country, that she attended, to inspiring her to practice yoga. “My practice gives me the time to separate myself from the world, in order to get a clearer view on what really matters and what my purpose is,” says Savage, who was inspired by her mom and her first yoga teacher.
With over 140 locations worldwide, Corepower Yoga is considered the “Starbucks of yoga” by Inc.5000, and requires a more stringent teacher training program than typical studios. In addition to the required 200-hour training program all instructors must complete, Corepower Yoga requires their aspiring instructors to complement this training with an Extensions Program, taking about five weeks to complete. The program amplifies the yogic philosophy, postures, assists, adjusts and yogic history learned in the typical training program. After this, Corepower holds instructor auditions, ensuring that their newly trained teachers are ready to take on more than just the physical requirements for teaching yoga.
Savage and Corepower’s values swear upon the importance of maintaining a desire to learn in teachers. Savage says that an imperative quality for yoga instructors is “to always be willing to be a student. There is endless knowledge out there and without willingness to be a student, knowledge is lost.” She insists that the capacity to impact students in the ways she’s been impacted hinges on her desire to learn, spice up her lessons and learn more about the practice and lifestyle of yoga. Having taught at Corepower Yoga in Austin and now in Denver, Savage aspires to embody Corepower’s promise to become the strongest and most true version of oneself after teaching at the studio.
Savage’s studio pays instructors approximately $20 per hour, despite the national average yoga instructor pay of $24.96 per hour. Corepower, however, is a yoga empire, converting students to yogis city-by-city while defying PayScale’s assertion that most yoga studios are just barely getting by financially. Savage does not care about the money, bred by doctors, mother, a gynecologist, father, an anesthesiologist, looking simply for spiritual balance.
Abandoning her Catholic roots upon becoming a yoga instructor, Savage hasn’t been to Mass since completing her certification. Ensuring that she’s understood, Savage relays how she finds that all religions adhere to a cohesive message to love oneself and others and that she “can live that message and ideal the most when [she is] practicing and teaching yoga.”
Unlike other exercise-oriented professions, being a yoga instructor does not require higher education of kinesiology, anatomy, medicine or physical health, instead focusing on mental and spiritual balance, only able to be tapped into by a personal connection to the yogic lifestyle. Savage was mesmerized by her first Vinyasa Yoga class, remembering being “blown away” by the confidence, grace and clarity with which her teacher’s body moved.
Savage tallies her success on her students’ satisfaction. Telling of a former student that was so inspired by her classes that she pursued Corepower’s teacher training as well, Savage relates this to the inspiration she got from her first yoga instructor. Insistent upon giving almost anyone she interacts with on a personal level a savasana massage, the young instructor attributes her view on bodies as transcendent in comparison to her previously, self-described, shallow assessment of body shape. She says of her mental transformation, “I truly believe that becoming a teacher facilitated my maturing from a self-conscious, perfection-driven girl, into a more loving, accepting, humble young woman.” In agreement, the crowd of men and women in Corepower’s lobby, preparing for CoreCardio Training attributed their self-love to yoga, saying they would be different people without having dove headfirst into yogic philosophy.
Yoga as a practice is dominated by women, mostly women with children, and was seen as an activity for stay-at-home moms for many years. Even Savage, who has since changed her perspective, thought yoga was lame because her mom practiced the lifestyle. Since then she has been inspired and never looked back. Intrigued by a never-enough-knowledge mentality surrounding the limits of the human body and the way posture and body position can provoke a range of emotions, Savage feels a connection with other Corepower Yoga teachers through this fascination. Such a compulsion for the knowledge of bodily interactions with the mind and spirit inspired Savage and, upon ending the conversation, she smiled and said, “Well, what would you have done if you went to try a new workout class and found your passion?”