Ask an Expert: Paula Baake of Dancing Mind Studio

The owner of Dancing Mind Studio and fitness enthusiast helps you achieve your New Year’s resolutions and gives you tips to help you hit the mat with confidence.

Starting off the year with a list of wellness goals can seem exciting and daunting at the same time. To help you ease into a healthier lifestyle we have tapped Paula Baake, Baptiste yoga expert and owner of Dancing Mind Studio in Falls Church, for tips on how to take the first step. Keep reading for her advice on how to succeed when setting high fitness expectations, ditching at-home yoga practice for the studio experience and why CrossFit and yoga are actually more similar than you may think.

Paula Baake doing what she loves-teaching! Photo courtesy of Luis Caldeira Photography

Q: Many people begin a New Year with lofty fitness and wellness goals. What is your advice to help people stick to a healthier lifestyle without getting discouraged? 

 It is great to have big goals, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to enjoy the process and learn to celebrate small victories. Often we get so caught up in achieving goals that we forget to have fun along the way and when something does not go exactly according to plan, we beat ourselves up for it. Sticking to resolutions gets a lot easier when I am a ‘yes’ to the experience, and remember that ‘I chose to do it, I do it for fun, and I accept where I am, because I am here to learn something new.’ When I remember this, everything else just falls into place from there.


Q: Yoga can be intimidating for some people. What is the best way to begin a yoga practice?

 When I first decided to give yoga a try, it took me years to set foot inside a yoga studio. The thoughts racing through my head were ‘I won’t fit in’ and ‘I am not good enough.’ When I finally walked into a studio, the teacher was just a regular normal guy, ready to help and the people there looked exactly like me, some were brand new to yoga, some had been doing it for a month, and some were really amazing to watch. So the best way to start a yoga practice is to stop overthinking, put your fears to the side, take that first step forward and show up. In Baptiste language, we call that being a ‘YES!’


Q: For those that are unfamiliar, what sets the Baptiste method of yoga apart from other practices? 

Baptiste breaks down the yogi process into a simple and easier to understand terminology. A brand new student can walk into a class knowing absolutely nothing about yoga and leave having had an incredibly powerful, meditative physical and spiritual experience, aka ‘transformation’ in their very first practice.


Q: Do you recommend online classes for those that cannot make it into a studio often? Are these effective?

CrossFit is now a part of the Dancing Mind schedule; photo courtesy of Luis Caldeira Photography

 No, I don’t believe in online classes. Yoga is a philosophy taught from teacher to student. That face-face human connection is extremely important, especially in modern day’s technology driven society. With online classes, you miss that human-being-to-human-being community dynamic, which is at the heart of a yoga practice.


Q: Yoga and CrossFit seem to be opposites in that one can be relaxing and the other intense. What prompted the decision to add CrossFit (and cycling) to your class offerings? 

Ha, ha, ha… I knew this was coming! At first yoga and CrossFit may seem different, yet in reality, they are extremely similar, reinforce each other, support our mission statement and fit into our community model.  Physically, they are both athletic and challenging structured disciplines designed to bring balance to strengths and weaknesses and to defy and stretch the mind to believe anything possible. They are also inclusive, scalable disciplines, that is, a pose or an exercise can be modified or amplified to fit anyone’s body and needs. You could have an athlete training to qualify for the Olympic games, a mom, a grandmother, and someone brand new trying to get back into shape, practicing, working out, and having fun all together, in the same room! I find that inspiring and empowering! With adding cycling and CrossFit to our offerings, we create the space for our community to interact and have fun together. Mother and daughter can come for a yoga class or a cycle class and then go get lunch after. Husband and wife can have a workout date in a CrossFit class. Families can practice yoga together. Mom can do yoga, dad can do CrossFit while the little ones learn good values at Little Pretzels. We are now no longer just a yoga studio, we are now a community destination.


Q: What are your goals in the future for Dancing Mind?

Short-term is to take a breath in, get organized, and give ourselves a chance to fully digest this expansion. Long-term is for Dancing Mind to continue to be a leader in the mind body/personal transformation/fitness industry by continuing to inspire, empower, transform and connect.


Q: What is one thing (fitness or otherwise) that you can’t spend a day without doing?

Teach. I absolutely love teaching.