They say music tames the savage beast, but in this concrete jungle, it takes more than a little mood music to unwind.
Carolina Villalba, 25, is attacking the nerves of the Miami scene at both ends. Not only does she inspire crowds to let loose as one half of booty bass rap duo Basside, she's also proudly opening her own 1,500-square-foot Bikram studio in South Miami, Bikram Hot Yoga 305.
Villalba will host a soft opening this weekend with free classes from Friday through Sunday, but the grand opening party on Saturday, Aug. 16, is the big celebration, featuring a "dope DJ set" from Chocolate Sunday fave Mr. Maneuvers, live performances from Curls, Basside, and more.
"As a young woman myself, I look for other women to look up to, and sadly these days, it's really rare," Villalba says. "(Basside) and this is my medium for being here for the women of Miami, or South Miami, or the whole 305 who want something to look up to."
Villalba is short in stature, tiny in frame, and full of energy. She jokes that she's 25 but looks 12. She attributes her ageless appearance to her Bikram studies. It's a lifestyle she's dedicated herself to for the past 10 years. As a manic 15-year-old without much parental guidance, Bikram gave her life a center.
"After I started doing this, it completely changed my mind," she says. "I realized what discipline was, what time was, what my time meant. When you're in here, because of the heat and how fast everything goes, it makes you meet your maker. You become really humble when you're in there."
Bikram yoga is a 90-minute series of static stretches (meaning you hold, release, and hold again) in 26 poses. Classes are traditionally kept at 105 degrees at 40 percent humidity, which aids in the relaxation process and gets those muscles nice and limber.
"Miami is Bikram weather. We're Bikram people," she says. "It's a lot easier for someone in Miami to do Bikram than somebody in L.A. or New York where you get dry weather. We're used to wearing less. We've got no shame. Nothing to hide."
Not to mention the benefits are "unlimited."
"I have friends that are a little obese, they always complain about the pain in their ankles or back. They don't know how it feels to not have that weight on them all day long," she says. "The pain you feel in your body, if you feel uncomfortable with your body, if you have lower self-esteem, whatever it is that you have, it goes away."
Villalbas hired her friends in the art community to decorate the walls of BikramHotYoga305. Here she poses (left) with Savanah Kodish (center) and Marilyn Rondón.
Because Bikram is the same series of moves, you get better benefits each time you take it.
"One of my goals is to get at least five handicap people in here a week to get them to try it out because anybody can try this," she says. "This is the type of yoga anybody can do. It's for beginners. It's for advanced people. You always get the same benefits no matter what level you are."
With Bikram Hot Yoga 305, it's Villalba's mission to involve all members of the community and give our busy bodies a place to relax, let go, and take care of ourselves while escaping the routine hustle and bustle.
"In today's world, when you're stressed out, in traffic, at your job... Where can you relax really? Do people even know what the word relax means?" she says. "This is Western meditation, this is meditation for everybody, this is going to teach you how to stay calm and meditate with your eyes open at any time. This is going to teach you how not to react but just take things as they you, to live in the now. I call it the isms; I is, you is, we is, and it's all good."
BikramHotYoga305 before and after construction.
A tom-boyish pint-sized rapper is not the usual yoga instructor, but Villalba wants you to leave all your preconceived notions at the door.
"Everyone thinks yoga looks like a guy with poofy pants and dreads," she laughs. "Yoga looks like everybody and everything. This is the one place where there's no judgment. I'm the only yoga instructor you'll see a Grand Central or the Garret at 5 in the morning doing back bends."
Villalba hopes to use her position in the local music and art circles to encourage creative types who may otherwise balk at yoga to give Bikram a try.
"A lot of my friends are artist, and artists have crazy schedules," she says. "They're working all day on all this stuff, they don't take care of themselves sometimes, they forget about their own body. Then they think yoga's weird or exercise is weird, not cool enough. I wanted to make a place where they can come and detox, get their mind off their work and not feel judged by the community, or by society, or by whoever is around. Whether they're an artist or a lawyer or a doctor, whatever you are."
The grand opening celebration aims to encourage those from different walks of life to explore the studio, have a little fun, and realize the many ways Bikram could enhance their lives. Besides the live music and dancing, there will be "thirst quenchers" from Jugo Fresh, a pop-up trunk show by La Belle Rebel, gift bags by WildMedicine, and live mural painting @CreateCollect artists.
But you don't have to wait for the grand opening party. You can come out this weekend and enjoy free classes Friday, Aug. 8, at 9:30 a.m., 4:45 p.m., or 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m., noon, or 4:45 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 10, at 10 a.m..
"Just come in, check it out, bring your homies. Bring your homegirls, your cousins, your tias, your primos, whatever," she says. "Just come and hang out."
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Bikram Hot Yoga 305, 5820 Commerce Lane, South Miami. Grand Opening party featuring Mr. Maneuvers, Culrs, Basside and more. Live paintings for sail from @CreateCollect, refreshments by Jugo Fresh, pop-up show by La Belle Rebel, and goodie bags from WildMedicine. Saturday, Aug. 16, 4:45 to 6:15 pm. Admission is free, but rsvp to secure a goodie bag via email@example.com. Call 305-785-7633 or visit bikramhotyoga305.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.