Faces of Nashville: Mary Helen Yarbrough

Mary Helen 3Mary Helen Yarbrough, by all accounts, has changed hundreds of people’s lives by getting them to kick up their heels and Jazzercise. One of Mary Helen’s good friends called us to say, “This woman is amazing; please let your readers know about her!” She was right because Mary Helen Yarbrough is the epitome of healthy living in all aspects of her life. As a lifelong Nashvillian, Mary Helen has devoted her days to improving her students’ health by keeping them fit and active. With scores of women who work out with her regularly, Mary Helen is their cheerleader and health coach. It is with great pleasure we introduce you to Mary Helen Yarbrough, the Queen of Jazzercise.

Where were you born?

Nashville, Tennessee.

What are your earliest memories of growing up in Nashville?

I remember growing up at my parents’ flower shop in Melrose. At Christmas we always went to the Parthenon to see the nativity scene. Other fun things were going to Fair Park and going downtown to Harvey’s.

You have been a Jazzercise teacher in Nashville for over 30 years. (Wow!) How did you get into this profession?

I saw an article in the newspaper about exercising to music, and I thought it sounded fun. After three months of attending the class, the instructor said I should become a teacher. I thought she was crazy!! 32 years later, I still love getting up on stage and teaching.
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Describe for us the experience your clients have in your classes?

I truly care about each person in my class and I want to create a fun environment where they can feel good about themselves and escape from life for an hour. Many lifelong friendships have evolved at Jazzercise, and I am so blessed to be able to help create that atmosphere.

From my understanding, you are an incredible athlete; please tell us more about this.

Jazzercise incorporates strength, flexibility and cardio packed into one hour. I have taught 5-12 classes a week for 32 years. I love what I do and feel very blessed to be doing it.

Women are continually challenged to balance all aspects of their life. What advice do you have for them?

Women really need to take time for themselves and their health. If you can find an exercise that works and is fun for you, then other aspects of your life will fall into place. “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

Let’s face it, we have an obesity problem in the US and it affects many women. What do you think is the reason for this?

I grew up a heavy child. By the age of 15, I weighed 210 lbs. The reason I was so heavy was because I didn’t do anything but sit on the couch. It is so important to have movement in your life and to have healthy eating habits.
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Is there a piece of advice you’ve received that stuck with you?

If you find something you love to do, you will never have to work a day in your life.

What are your favorite restaurants in Nashville?

My house–my husband and I both love to cook and entertain. However, when we do go out, I love to go to Table 3, City House and Jasmines.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

A beach, anywhere!
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Is there an event coming up in Nashville that you are looking forward to?

I love going to the artisan crafts fair anytime it is in town!

What books are on your bedside table?

Habits of Health by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen and 72 Hours by Dietrich Stogner. I also have WAY too many food, decorating, and health and fitness magazines.

Do you have a favorite musical artist?

Numerous! Thanks to Jazzercise, I love all types of music–rock, jazz, pop, R&B, anything with a good beat that I can dance to!

Name 3 things you can’t live without (excluding God, family and friends)

Good coffee, a great glass of wine, and delicious food, not in any particular order!

Thanks, Mary Helen! For more information about Mary Helen’s Jazzercise class, visit this website: http://jcls.jazzercise.com.

And thanks also to Ashley Hylbert for the beautiful photos. See more of Ashley’s photography at her website: www.ashleyhylbert.com.