The mantra of Nicole Anne Fonovich’s mobile yoga business is “We bring the Zen to you.”
Then came the arrival of COVID-19 and the era of self-quarantining and social distancing. She noticed the impact in early March, when venues that had been hosting her classes started closing their doors.
“Yoga studios were shutting down, gyms were closing, and (COVID-19) cases were on the rise. We were getting calls from private clients. Everything really came to a halt,” Fonovich said.
This made it difficult for Fonovich to uphold what had been the core of her business model for three years.
It was difficult but, with technology and creativity, not impossible. Fonovich transformed the living room of her Chandler home into a full-time yoga and meditation studio.
It accommodates 15 different modalities, from yoga practices like Hatha, Vinyasa and restorative to holistic offerings such as sound healing, Reiki energy healing and nutrition coaching.
Because of platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime and Skype, she’s brought the “Om” into her home, for others.
“I do love the way the Internet has given us the ability to connect with our community. There’s a lot of reward that comes out of it,” she said.
Fonovich purchased her south Chandler house in 2013. The spacious 4,000-square-foot, two-story home has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a backyard made for entertaining and recreational fun with a pool and misters.
The 35-foot-by-15-foot living room is outfitted with all of the bells and whistles needed to transport practitioners to their ideal state of mind and body. It features mats, bolsters, straps, blocks and plushy pillows of every shape, firmness and array of colors and embellishments.
It has designated corners for specific classes, like meditation and healing therapies, that use sound. A collection of instruments — including four gongs and a sound wing — are used for this purpose, along with quartz crystal sound healing bowls and chimes.
She’s done free classes and virtual sessions with private clients in this space in the past. But it’s now an official permanent active studio where tools remain ready to be put to use.
It’s taken some tweaking to get it right. Certain platforms work best with specific modalities that use instrument sounds, for example. Both instructor and client have had to become cinematographers, too.
“Sometimes we ask them to move their camera angle so we can provide recommendations so they don’t get hurt when they’re moving,” Fonovich said.
Fonovich shares her home with her son, 10, and two other instructors, who also conduct sessions from the living room-turned-studio.
They lead a total of 12 classes a week among private clients, studio-paid courses and general public classes.
The format has taken some getting used to and the need to implement new procedures.
A master calendar of everyone’s schedules is posted in the kitchen. Whenever a class is in session, all phones are muted and a “Class in Session” sign is posted on the front door, a message to visitors not to ring the bell. Fonovich’s son’s daily piano practices are also factored into the schedule. Double bookings are avoided as much as possible. If it happens, one class is done in a bedroom.
“We do this so the house knows how to function,” Fonovich said.
When clients started reaching out to Fonovich in early April seeking support and classes, she was reminded of the value the practices have in daily life. Personal experience has taught her this all too well.
Fonovich was born with degenerative disc disease that by now should have left her bed-ridden or reliant on a wheelchair or prescription pain medicine just to get through each day.
Yoga saved her from that fate, she said. It’s what sparked her current career as a certified yoga instructor and founding the yoga company that bears her name, Nicole Anne Yoga.
“I got on the mat as a way to rehab myself. It’s the only reason I’m as agile as I am,” said Fonovich, 44.
An autoimmune disease diagnosis inspired her to begin a journey of holistic nutrition. This inspired her to earn her holistic practitioner degree, another facet under the umbrella of modalities she and her fellow instructors offer.
People have reached out to Fonovich through her website, nicoleanneyoga.com. Often, they think they need yoga, but after speaking with Fonovich, they realize they may need another practice like mediation or nutrition before jumping into yoga, especially if they are recovering from injury or illness.
Her at-home studio looks to be in full use even as public facilities open. Many clients have told her they are not comfortable heading back to studios and gyms and asked Fonovich to maintain this format.
Through the pandemic, she is offering free public classes for health-care providers and first responders. As always, classes are free for veterans. Her specialty is using her craft to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fonovich said her company has done more business so far this year than it did in all of 2019. Her services are clearly in demand, especially during the pandemic when people are spending nearly all of their time at home, and uncertainty and anxiety have become frequent companions.
“It’s wonderful that we can be that helping hand. That’s what we were trained for. All of our training, learning … was in preparation for this,” Fonovich said.
“It’s beautiful that I get the beautiful opportunity to inject self care throughout the day and I don’t have to leave my house in order to do it.”
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