Interview Series: Elizabeth Feinstone and Avery Westlund of Yoga on the Fly

In anticipation of our event TOMORROW, Yoga in Central Park, co-hosted by Yoga on the Fly, I sat down with the brains behind the company; Lyfebulb Patient Entrepreneur, Elizabeth Feinstone, and co-founder, Avery Westlund to learn a bit more about them, and their inspiration behind Yoga on the Fly.

Bruna Petrillo: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Elizabeth Feinstone: I have lived in coastal towns and large cities and have traveled around the world, so I knew from a young age that physical activity looks different in different communities and countries. I studied Exercise Science and Psychology at George Washington University, and Public Health at Columbia University in order to better understand how people can maximize the control they have over their health, in an effort to prevent or minimize trips to the doctor’s office.

Avery Westlund: I am an avid traveler, crazy animal lady, and lover of food and laughter. As an MA, ERYT200 and ERYT500, I have spent the last decade living, traveling, and teaching throughout Europe, Asia, and Central and North America. In addition to running Yoga on the Fly with Elizabeth, I lead retreats, workshops, and classes for professional athletes, anxiety and depression sufferers, veterans, and studio and corporate clients in Connecticut and abroad.

BP:  How did you both get into fitness?

Physical activity has always been a part of both of our lives.

EF: From childhood to young adulthood, I was a competitive figure skater. I put on my first pair of ice skates when I was 4 years old and hung them up halfway through college. My focus shifted from competition to how and why the body does what it does when it’s moving and how those actions affect physical and emotional well-being, making the transition to studying yoga very easy. I’ve been personal training and teaching yoga for over 5 years now, and I understand my figure skating career much better now than I did while actually competing.

AW: I was a competitive gymnast and athlete for many years and while I truly loved the sport, I later came to understand some of the damage that such training and high impact activity can have on people, both physically and psychologically. So while initially seeking yoga for a challenging, but gentler physical practice, it became clear to me quickly that there were also myriad additional therapeutic benefits beyond simple strength and flexibility. Combining extensive yoga training with my graduate degree in psychology, I naturally gravitated to working not only with athletes, but also with people suffering from anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

BP:  Elizabeth- can you tell us a little about your history with a chronic disease?

EF:  I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was 8 years old. Treatment only lasted for 2 years and 2 months, but I have been dealing with long-term effects of leukemia and chemotherapy for over 15 years. I manage these chronic conditions, such as epilepsy and fatigue, with a diet and exercise regimen that’s proper for me. There was a lot of trial and error in finding the right balance, and some days are better than others, but physical activity, meditation, and breathing exercises have made the management so much easier.

BP: What was the inspiration behind Yoga on the Fly?

AW: We met while teaching yoga in Nicaragua and bonded over the toll that life and travel can take on us all, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. We saw right away the need to make the travel experience both healthier and more enjoyable and recognized that our combined expertise made it possible for us to do so. It took us some time to work out the kinks in the system, but eventually we found the formula and partners to make it work! Empirically informed classes delivered by tablet, wireless headsets, and custom mats allow us to provide safe access to the therapeutic benefits of yoga to diverse populations in chaotic situations.

We were incredibly fortunate to find enthusiastic partners in Sound Off™, whose headphones are tried and true and super comfortable, and in Yoga by Numbers, Inc., whose targeted mats make proper alignment clear and accessible to beginners and experienced practitioners alike. We also found BigTinCan, who built us a beautiful hub for all of our content and made delivering our classes incredibly simple. Bringing calm to whatever form of chaos or struggle people are dealing with allows them to both invest in their own well-being and to extend compassion to others and that’s what we’re hoping to do with Yoga on the Fly.

BP: Elizabeth, you are part of the Lyfebulb Entrepreneurship Circle. How do you find that Yoga on the Fly better the lives of those living with chronic disease?

EF: Yoga on the Fly designs classes that target specific health conditions. Yoga on the Fly will exist as a retail space in airports, with a number of private mini studios so people can practice in silence, at their own pace, and choose their own classes. Our main goal is to bring health and wellness to air travelers by designing movement, breathing, and meditation classes to manage stress, anxiety, circulation issues, and other conditions that pop up during air travel. In an airport setting, these are mostly acute conditions, however the same principles are applied to people with chronic conditions. The class in Central Park is a low impact class in a group setting, however the noise cancelling headphones will offer the participants some solace in the chaos of NYC.

BP: Why partner with Lyfebulb on this event?

AW: We are acutely aware that people’s struggles, disabilities, and illnesses aren’t always visible, but are nonetheless present. Yoga on the Fly partnered with Lyfebulb to offer those living with chronic conditions in a chaotic city some calm in one of the most peaceful locations in New York. This event is an opportunity to help support people using the skills and access that we have and partnering with Lyfebulb gave us a wonderful opportunity to expand that reach.

BP:  Which airports can we find Yoga on the Fly in?

Both: You can’t find us yet, BUT we have lots of things in the works! You’ll see us popping up in an airport near you very soon!

BP: What is the importance of fitness for those living with chronic disease?

EF: As a survivor of childhood cancer and living with epilepsy, having many many hospital stays, I understand the importance of managing my health in the best way possible in order to stay well. Of course, not everything is in my control and my body does what it wants, but I’ve always found that a simply a walk, or a lap around the ice skating rink, can improve my mood and how I’m feeling physically in the short-term and long-run. Everybody deserves to know how to do what makes them feel good – and that might be breathing exercises, meditation, and physical movement. Hopefully the event in Central Park will teach you some important tools to put in your toolbox to decrease your stress and anxiety and increase your health and quality of life.


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