When we first met Meredith Conroy, she was walking across the parking lot with no shoes on and her leggings pulled down over her heels. She is radiant and calm and … well, zen. She is the co-owner of Bend and Zen Yoga in Westport Village, which seems more like a spa than a studio. It was made with all sustainable materials, highlighted by its water wall, beautiful natural light and calming atmosphere. After working in human resources for Humana, Meredith changed career directions and devoted herself to becoming a yoga instructor full time. She’s never been happier, and we can see why. She is the manifestation of the benefits of yoga. Today, we’re excited to feature her as our FACE of Louisville.
You co-own and operate Bend and Zen in Westport Village. What drew you to this career?
I am one of three owners at Bend and Zen — Mitch Collins and Lisa Pepper are my partners, and we each bring unique and diverse skills that make for a phenomenal leadership team. I have been teaching yoga full time for nearly three years after attending a five-week intensive training in Brazil in 2012. I feel like this career has been a process of elimination of sorts, eventually leading me to the right path. I earned my master’s in counseling psychology from UofL in 2005, but changed course and took a role at Humana in HR and was there for five years. It was during that time that I found hot yoga as a student and was given a leave of absence in 2012 to complete my 500-hour training in Brazil.
After making the leap from the corporate world to teaching full time in 2013, I dedicated myself to truly becoming a student of being a teacher. I worked with as diverse a group of yoga students as possible … from professional athletes to seniors with mobility issues, teaching not only in the hot room, but also in studios without heat. I learned so much in that time and am forever grateful, as it has shaped me into the teacher I am today.
I believe what I’m doing now draws on the skills I learned as a therapist-in-training, in the business world and, of course, from my yoga-specific training, preparing me for the wonderful adventure of studio ownership.
How important is yoga as a part of overall health and wellness?
Where do I start? I believe yoga, specifically hot yoga, is the best full-body workout out there. The heat does several things. It increases the physicality of the workout, taking the beautiful practice of yoga up a notch, making it an interval training workout, but WITHOUT the stress on your joints. With every posture and in every class, you are improving your strength, balance and flexibility. When you are in a hot yoga class, all of your focus and energy is on your mat, eliminating the mental chatter that typically fills our daily lives. That is the key benefit to overall health and wellness. Not only are you getting in amazing physical condition, but you are practicing a form of moving meditation. The skill of mindfulness that one calls upon every time they step onto their mat is what sets this form of exercise apart from all others, because it allows students the opportunity to go deeper. To take their practice from just exercise into a more spiritual realm, if that’s where they want to go — it’s a powerful and often life-changing experience.
What is the hardest part of your job, and what is the easiest?
The heat can be taxing after teaching multiple classes in one day, and if I have a particularly busy teaching week, I sometimes lack energy to practice myself. That’s probably the most challenging part.
I simply get to do what I love every single day and bring the amazing practice of hot yoga to so many people — that’s the easiest part.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
We have 36 classes per week on our schedule, with 12 unique class offerings. I designed the schedule with diversity in mind, so Bend and Zen could truly be your hot yoga one-stop-shop. I teach every day except Friday — either once or twice per day.
What advice do you treasure?
Be authentic and be bold — don’t be afraid of letting your light shine, even if it makes others uncomfortable. And the Golden Rule never fails. Do to others as you would have done to you. If that’s at the heart of every decision and every encounter, then you can’t go wrong.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ___________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Well, at Bend and Zen, of course! If I’m not there, I am typically being my 9-year-old daughter’s taxi driver to and from gymnastics. If I have a night off, my boyfriend and I love exploring the incredible restaurant scene in Louisville.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love supporting local businesses — the shops, but particularly the restaurants. Louisville is now nationally recognized as a foodie hotbed, as it should be, and I take full advantage of that!
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Definitely night owl. I usually teach until 7 or 8:30 and love to come home and relax on the couch with a glass of prosecco.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
I just finished an amazing book called The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, about Charles Lindbergh’s widow and his adventures and success through her perspective. It was fascinating.
Lightning Round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Chocolate
Guilty pleasure song: Taylor Swift
Tearjerker movie pick: Steel Magnolias
Standby nail polish color: Pompeii Purple
Favorite cocktail: Prosecco
Cartoon alter-ego: Not sure on this one … if there was a Moon Child cartoon character that would be it.
What are three of your favorite things right now, besides God, family and friends?
Getting back to my personal yoga practice, researching where I’ll do my next yoga training, and living and enjoying every moment!
Thank you as always to Adele Reding for her beautiful photography.
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