People Connected By Similar Obsessions

Alexis Novak

Meet the athletic yogi with an arsenal of jokes

How do you envision an L.A. yoga instructor? If tanned and toned with impossibly great hair and teeth comes to mind, then Alexis Novak certainly fits the mold. But do you imagine her saying that “belly buttons look like buttholes” or commenting, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s anxiety”? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Novak’s hilarious Instagram feed is just one of many ways she’s trying to break down the barrier of entry to what can be an intimidating practice.

On how and why she started practicing yoga. “I had danced for most of my life and started professionally dancing when I was 18. Until this point, I didn’t really think about my body or fitness or what I was eating, but as I developed, I started to gain weight and ended up getting dropped from my dance troupe because of it. This sent me into a dark, weird place where I was crash dieting and being really hard on myself. So when I initially started yoga, it was to lose weight. As I got into it, however, I realized that there were so many deeper treasures to be found. It helped me to heal and realize that I should be kinder to my body. It made me feel like I could do all things.”

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On why she started teaching. “I wanted to introduce yoga to other people who I felt were in similar situations. People who want to know more about their bodies and want to love their bodies, but don’t really know how. It’s not always about pushing yourself to the brink. There’s really a beautiful balance, where you can say, ‘I’m not going to work out today because I’m tired,’ and that’s the end of the sentence. Because if you constantly push, push, push and shame yourself for taking a break, that’s when it starts to get unhealthy.”

On her athletic approach to yoga. “I have found this amazing community of what I call athletic yogis, who are basically girls and guys who like practicing yoga, but also enjoy other things like running or spinning. My classes involve cardio bursts in between poses and integrate free weights. I make the poses dynamic, so you’re not just holding crescent lunge and isolating your muscles, but you’re taking that crescent lunge into a front kick…or you’re doing hop switches. My goal is to get everyone to breathe and connect with their bodies in a way that feels good. I’m not so much worried about the rules or whether you’re getting the poses 100 percent right.”

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On her funny Instagram captions. “I like to write a lot of jokes and have been doing it for a while on my Twitter account. I also do some fitness modeling on the side, so I get these great pictures that I want to share, but then I feel silly. So I started putting joke captions under my yoga pictures and people seemed to respond. I love coming up with new jokes—and I think it keeps it human.”

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On her power pose. “Tadasana” or the mountain pose. It’s so basic, but it’s just flipping your palms up next to your hips and standing straight. When you’re standing in this upright position, you’re really opening up your accessory breathing muscles. Just by lining everything up and leaving that space open, it calms your nerves and grounds you.”

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On personal growth and change. “Right now, I’m struggling with labeling myself as this or that. Like writing jokes and also being a yoga instructor. But mostly I feel that we shouldn’t limit ourselves or set boundaries. As long as you’re trying your best and being honest in the moment, it’s all you can ask of yourself. Look at J.Lo. She was a dancer first, then a singer and an actress, and then a judge on American Idol. She just goes for it.”