Yoga is a centuries-old discipline that provides its followers with a path towards inner peace, spirituality and strength. Classes are often held within an enclosed studio space, but there are teachers who reach beyond the confines of these walls to hold sessions in parks or at beaches. Entrepreneur Ashley Baldwin, owner of Soul Cleanse Yoga, is breathing new life into a time-honored practice by presenting classes in non-traditional venues throughout Louisville. Prior to yoga and owning her business, Ashley attended Western Kentucky University, where she received her degree in advertising and psychology, proceeding to work for Underwired Magazine as the advertising director. The lure of big-city living pulled her east where she made her home in New York City for several years. She entered into commercial real estate, working with celebrity clientele, and her wanderlust took her, her former husband and 1-year-old daughter on excursions to Central and South America where she began diligently studying yoga. Now, she’s back in Kentucky introducing her classes to novices and veterans alike. Let’s meet this week’s FACE of Louisville, Soul Cleanse owner Ashley Baldwin.
How did you transition from being an advertising executive and selling real estate to teaching yoga?
I had a great time in real estate, and that’s actually where yoga came in. I had practiced yoga a while before that. The stress of the city and the career, living in a new place, I really found yoga was my outlet. I fell in love with yoga and was able to train with some of the best teachers in the world.
Tell us about your travels and how they play into your teaching and business.
After living in New York, my husband at the time and I moved to West Port, Connecticut, had a baby and decided to quit our jobs and travel for a year. During that one year, we were in Central and South America and some of the states. I did my 200 hours of yoga teacher training in Costa Rica. It was 31 days in the jungle — a one-month immersion, 14 hours a day.
It was during that time through traveling that I realized that practicing yoga outside of a yoga studio is so cool. It’s so beautiful; it’s so inspiring. Why do we have to practice yoga in a studio all the time? So when I completed that one year and came back to Louisville, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I decided to start Soul Cleanse, which operates as a mobile yoga studio.
Who has been your inspiration in the world of yoga?
The teacher who has really inspired me is Bryan Kest in Santa Monica, CA. Bryan has a way of explaining yoga in very modern terms. Yoga is a 3,000-year-old practice. When you read these ancient yoga texts, you think, What is going on? Bryan teaches in real time. He is the father of Power Yoga — his branded yoga. I’m Power Yoga-certified.
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Where does Soul Cleanse hold its classes?
We have partnered with Copper and Kings, Speed Art Museum, 21c and the Louisville Slugger Field. We’ve been on stage at the Louisville Palace Theater and at the Mercury Ballroom. One fun thing we’ve done is ‘Silent Disco.’ Participants wear headphones while the house DJ plays music. We also hold an annual yoga festival. It used to be more of a local event, but it’s grown over the years to become more of a regional event.
Besides holding classes at non-traditional sites, what else makes your sessions unique?
Along with the class, we have a community element. We serve alcoholic beverages, like mimosas or a glass of wine. That’s not to encourage drinking, it’s to encourage people to stay after and chat with each other — to not just roll up your mat and walk out of the studio, which is what you see a lot of in yoga spaces.
Do you utilize your knowledge anywhere else?
I sometimes teach at The Healing Place. It’s a rehab facility, and they have a really strong program. I teach yoga and meditation, which help these women just learn to sit still. They learn that the things we’re telling ourselves don’t define who we are.
What are the challenges and rewards of having your own yoga business?
One of the most challenging parts is the schedule, starting your day when everyone else is getting off work. Also, finding your niche, finding where you fit in and finding a following. Once you get into a studio, then it becomes the pressure of getting students into your class and really developing a style people will want and that people will come to.
The rewarding aspect is seeing yoga change people’s lives. It happens all the time. It will eventually become a part of your life and something that you will carry with you the rest of your life.
If you weren’t in this line of work, what would you like to do?
My dream would be to be the wellness coordinator at a resort in a Latin American country.
If you could live anywhere else, where would that be and why?
I would like to live in South America — Panama, Costa Rica, Columbia. I also love Ecuador. I love the people, the culture and the weather of Latin American countries.
Do you have any places in town where you like to hang out?
Is there something surprising that people don’t know about you?
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I just have so many ideas — I guess I’d identify as an entrepreneur.
Do you have any hobbies?
I’m really into photography. Also a hobby my daughter and I have is jewelry making.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share?
You’re so much stronger than you think you are. I’ve been in so many situations when I didn’t know what was going to come next. Also, don’t operate out of a place of fear.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?
Travel, red wine and yoga
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing with us, and to Gretchen Bell for these beautiful photos!
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