Recently, Her Campus had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jessie Lipkowitz, the owner of aUM Yoga and Polarity. Jessie is a UM alum, yogi, and a businesswoman. Lucky for us, she had a few spare moments to talk about what she does through her work, and how she got to where she is today!
Her Campus: Jessie, tell us a little bit about aUM and Polarity for those who don’t know.
Jessie Lipkowitz: aUM (opened in 2013) is located at 1220 South University on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus. The name is a play on the sanskrit word ‘aum’ (more commonly spelled ‘om’) as well as Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. aUM Yoga is a playful, energetic, and welcoming space dedicated to bringing the sacred practice of Ashtanga-Vinyasa to students, local businesses, and community members alike. With knowledgeable instructors and a wide variety of classes, the aUM team hopes to build an oasis that inspires growth, promotes tranquility, and brings a playful awareness to its clients. We are committed to building a strong community and cultivating our own intangible heritage (on and off of the mat) and lineage of both teachers and practitioners. Amanda Topping and I run three Yoga Teacher Training Programs per school year (Fall, Winter & Spring) and have certified over one hundred (100) yogis, who are now working in the greater Detroit area and beyond. aUM Yoga is also home to Michigan Yoga Club and aUM was voted best Yoga Studio by the Michigan Daily two years in a row (2016 & 2017)!
Polarity (opened in 2017) is Ann Arbor’s premier pole fitness studio and event space, located adjacent to aUM Yoga. Polarity is a nuanced movement venture blending the modalities of Pole Dancing, Pole Fitness, Contemporary Dance, Barre, and Yoga. With a wide variety of classes and knowledgeable instructors, the Polarity team hopes to build an oasis that inspires growth, promotes self love/body positivity, and teaches students inner strength, fluidity, and endurance. Polarity is the perfect location for any event including: bachelorette parties, birthday parties, date parties, sorority/fraternity fundraisers, etc. Polarity is also home to Michigan Pole Dance Society and Polarity was voted best New Business in 2017!
HC: Tell us a little more about your background? How did you decide to open a yoga studio?
JL: I’m originally from Las Vegas, Nevada (#vegasstrong) and fell in love with Ann Arbor at a young age while attending the University of Michigan’s [high school] debate camp. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 with a BA in Classical Art and Archaeology as well as Art History. I then went on to study at the University of Cambridge where I received my Master’s of Philosophy in Archaeology: Heritage and Museum Management. I am so proud to own and operate a yoga studio & school (RYS 200, YACEP), where intangible heritage is a part of of the daily landscape and curriculum. Yoga, for me, has become a creative canvas to blend everything that I have passionately studied.
I was a competitive dancer for almost ten years, seduced by many modalities of dance – ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, clogging, hip-hop, modern, etc. – and began to dabble in yoga after I left this intense world. At first, I just didn’t get it. The mindfulness presented by the yogic path was so foreign to me. And to be honest, it translated (initially) as boring. It took me years to learn to sit with myself and unearth the true power of yoga.
During my time at the University of Michigan, I practiced rope Yoga at RussaYog on State Street – a specialty type of yoga developed by an engineering professor, Jasprit Singh. I began practicing yoga more seriously during my time at the University of Cambridge. Each week I would attend a Hatha style yoga class at one of the different colleges. It was at this time that I decided to pursue my first Yoga Teacher Training with Jasprit at his RussaYoga Studio in Santa Barbara. I completed this training shortly after graduating from my Master’s Program in 2011. While I thoroughly enjoyed the training, this particular modality of yoga still didn’t resonate entirely.
After graduation I went to work for the University of Michigan – fulfilling three different positions: visiting scholar at the Kelsey Museum, graduate student instructor for IPCA, and research assistant for Christopher Ratte. After the expiration of these positions, I became an associate for a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the University of Cambridge – CAMLA as well as a curatorial intern for the Detroit Institute of Arts. During this chapter of my life, I largely neglected movement and exercise. I hit rock bottom in a sense. I was in an unhealthy relationship. I wasn’t practicing self care. I became engulfed in ‘’office culture’’ – work, drink, rinse, repeat. It was at this time I decided to pursue my second Yoga Teacher Training. I was in search of a new community, but received so much more.
After completing my training and learning more about the landscape of yoga in Ann Arbor – I saw a large niche in the market that needed to be filled. So, I envisaged the concept of aUM as a studio that I would have frequented during my time at U of M. In addition to being an E-RYT 200, I am certified in: Aerial Yoga, Personal Training (NASM), Pole (ElevatED, Level 1),Sports Massage (AAIMT), and Thai Massage I & II (IMT, Chiang Mai, Thailand). I am also a Lululemon Ambassador and strive to create commUNITY both internal and external to the aUM Yoga & Polarity spaces. Through the multiplicity of trainings, my education, and my movement background, I have developed a style of yoga unique to aUM and have curated a team of highly trained and talented instructors.
HC: What makes you say f*** this is hard and why does yoga help?
JL: Finding balance is always something that has made me say, f*** This is Hard. Yoga is the number one reason I am able to maintain balance in my life. The practice of yoga, eventually becomes a moving meditation. And through this meditation, the practitioner begins to develop something yogis call ‘Upekka’, the Buddhist concept of equanimity, or put simply; non-reactivity. Yoga teaches you not to sweat the small stuff. Yoga teaches you to live in the present moment. Yoga teaches you that you already have everything that you need.
HC: What are some of the benefits people can experience from practicing yoga?
JL: Yoga has taught me how to love myself and through that love it has taught me how to cultivate meaningful and compassionate relationships with others. I believe that this is the greatest gift of yoga. Of course yoga has many other scientific health benefits (both mental and physical). Each semester, aUM Yoga proudly offers two yoga scholarships. Almost every applicant writes eloquently and extensively about two things – anxiety and depression. Yoga has such a profound impact on mental health. Physical benefits include improved strength, flexibility, blood flow, joint health, bone health, circulation, etc.
HC: What made you decide to open POLARITY?
JL: When I initially took over the leasehold for the expansion of aUM Yoga on South University (2015), I divided the space into two halves. I didn’t need (and couldn’t afford) all 7,000 square feet. However, I always knew that I wanted the rest of the space – as it was intimately connected to something that I had already created. One of my main goals with aUM has always been to ‘demystify yoga’ – to make it fun and accessible to everybody. Yoga has become a very widespread and commonplace ‘fitness’ modality. I believe that pole fitness is on the cusp of becoming a very popular fitness trend and I wanted to be ahead of the curve. There is still a lot to demystify about pole fitness and getting people to try it is the first step. Finally, there is no better cross training for yogis than pole. Put simply, in yoga you push, whereas in pole, you pull. Partaking in pole fitness and undergoing my Pole Teacher Training has transformed my yoga practice and has definitely enabled me to reach new heights.
HC: How can people get involved?
JL: Rush aUM: Are you in a Sorority or Business Fraternity? Now that RUSH is over, it’s time to rush to the mat for mental and physical well-being! During the month of October, anytime you practice you will receive a point for your Chapter (one class = one point). At the end of the month, the three chapters with the most attendance will receive the following GRAND PRIZES:
First Place:Six (6) Exclusive Classes for your Chapter on aUM’s Schedule (to be scheduled monthly from November – April) ($2400 value). Month Unlimited Packages valid from November 1st – 30th ($115 value) for ALL members.Second Place: An Exclusive Class (1) on aUM’s Schedule (to be scheduled in November) ($400 value). Five (5) Class Packages ($70 value) valid from November 1st – 30th for ALL members.Third Place: An Exclusive Class (1) on aUM’s Schedule (to be scheduled in December) ($400 value).
Photos Courtesy Of: Ann Arbor News, and Polarity Ann Arbor