Interview of Owner AlisaMarie Gaccione by Kala Jenkins
I want to take a moment to brag about AlisaMarie. Getting this write up together has been a struggle, a one of those struggles’ life throws at you, well because it can. When I contacted her about wanting to do a write up for Burn and Bloom, she was so kind and personable. I immediately felt comfortable and was excited to be able to learn more about her and the beautiful brand she had created. Then life took over. Our first scheduled meeting had to be rescheduled, the lighting for a photoshoot that AlisaMarie was scheduled to shoot (AlisaMarie also owns her own photography business Sons & Daughter Photography specializing in Family, Love and Birth photography) was just right at the moment our meeting was going to take place so she was called away to do right by the clients she cares so much for. The next meeting was set and then life once again took hold, one of her babies caught the nasty flu that has been taking all of us out this year and AlisaMarie being a badass single mama was called to do her most meaningful job, love on those babies of hers. Next meeting was set, and this time it was my own flu that took hold. At this point I feel terrible and like I am letting her down. She took my cancelation in stride and didn’t make me feel like the failure I felt like I was.
Finally, I got to meet this incredible AlisaMarie. I stopped by the studio after one of her evening classes. It was beautiful outside that night and walking into Burn and Bloom felt magical. I walk in and AlisaMarie comes over and gives me a warm hug as a greeting, apologizing for the sweat after what seemed to be a wonderful class. All the people around seemed energized and full of life, unlike most people I know who have just finished an intense mind and body workout. She walks me around the studio, giving me a tour of the beautiful beast. The studio itself is gorgeous. A bright mid-century modern yellow couch is the center point, with perfectly curated art featuring beautiful bodies and invigorating mantras on the walls. It is the perfect amount of inviting and quirky. Her student’s energies were magnetic, all of them making sure to say goodbye to AlisaMarie and giving her props on a wonderful class. One student thanked her, and said the class really brought a lot out of them emotionally that they needed. And at that moment is when I realized the concept of “Burn and Bloom”. AlisaMarie holds “space” for her students in her studio. Space for them to completely break down and burn barriers and rise-up like phoenixes out of the ashes and bloom. AlisaMarie told me that Burn and Bloom is a special space, a space for the “weirdos” and that “people should only come when they are ready, and not everyone is ready”.
Before I wrote this write up, I had been waiting for AlisaMarie to send me her responses to the questions I had for her. I sent them back at the end of October and knew that she had been super busy (winning the Anchorage Press Picks for best Yoga Instructor, second place for Best Studio, celebrating her one-year anniversary of being open, holiday’s. etc.) and had hoped that she was still interested in working with me because I was still so obsessed with her and her studio. I finally had the guts to message her and ask her about it and she got back to me immediately saying she sent them back to me at the beginning of November and just figured I got busy and apologized TO ME. In a complete state of panic, I check my junk mail, and there the questions were, just waiting. I laughed to myself and took a breath and thought about Burn and Bloom and could hear AlisaMarie saying, “they will come when they are ready”.
Her questions “arrived” at just the right time for me. I needed to feel the excitement I feel when I think about Burn and Bloom at that moment and I needed to feel the safety and security that AlisaMarie allows her students, letting them be who they need to be when they need to be it. So, here is the Q&A with sensational AlisaMarie Gaccione, I know you will be just as mesmerized by her as I am.
What is your story? Are you a local Alaskan?
I’ve been in Alaska most of my life. Born in Florida, raised in Anchorage and I lived in California for a couple years but moved back home in 2014.
What does “Yoga” mean to you? How did you learn your practice and how long have you been practicing?
The word “yoga” literally means “union” in Sanskrit. So, I think many people forget that yoga can look different from the traditional imagery we may have in our mind. There are many parts to yoga, and our asana, the physical practice is only one part.
My yoga practice began with at home DVDs that were included in a workout program in 2012. So, my practice started very physical. But I wouldn’t say I really began practicing it until 2014. As I dove into that practice, I began to learn more and read more and did fall in love with how much was encompassed in the practice. And it helped me listen to my body and explore mediation and challenged me in many ways.
But I’ll be honest, I never felt like I fit in with the very calm, meditative yogi mentality. And I saw a lot of divisive and arrogant and abusive behavior in the yoga world and it was a turn off. I struggled with feeling a deep connection with the movement and practice and mindset, but also a little out of place.
I respect the history, but I am thankful for the evolution. We evolve, we have different needs, and yoga does not need to look the same for everyone.
Tell us about the studio space itself, what makes it special? I saw from your social media and website that you did most of the work yourself!
The studio is special because of the people that come in. It’s a feeling that can’t really be described. But every time someone comes in and compliments how it feels in the space, it makes me so happy.
I will never forget doing the first walk through to see the rental. It was a mess. It needed so much. And I felt scared and slightly overwhelmed. But it felt right, I could see it. I could feel it. I knew it was something I had to do.
I had no idea how challenging the next few months would be. It tested me. I wanted to quit. I had moments of fear and (short lived) regret.
When I first opened, the studio special because I created the space by myself. Now it feels special because I just hold the space for everyone to come in as they are and practice with me.
Tell me about your classes? What mindset do you want people to go into your classes with? Which one is your favorite?
Classes are intense. I have a variety of styles, but they will all challenge people and push them to their limit. I want everyone to feel confident trying something new, but also know that it’s okay to fall.
The mindset I want people to have coming in is openness and humility. We get out of our comfort zone. The practice is powerful, and it can make people feel pretty vulnerable. But that is a part of the journey. And if you aren’t ready to get deep and feel uncomfortable, you might not be ready for a class yet and that’s ok!
My favorite class is the signature BURN & BLOOM class. It incorporates everything that I love, and think is important for a complete practice. We feel the BURN with cardio and strength, and we feel the BLOOM with balance and stretch and a dynamic flow.
What are your goals for the studio? What community impacts would you see the studio and your self-making? Could you tell us how you decided on such economical pricing for the classes?
I opened the studio with no goals or expectations honestly. So, I’m not sure I have any goals for it now. I feel like it will become whatever it is meant to become, and I don’t want to limit that or hold it back with my hopes or goals.
I wanted my classes to be affordable because I don’t think yoga, or exercise in general, should be a privilege that only some people can benefit from. I don’t want finances to hold someone back from being able to experience such a positive thing for themselves physically and mentally and emotionally. And I think most people can agree that yoga today has become popular with a specific demographic that is well off, and not very diverse. And that can feel exclusive to someone coming in that may not fit that mold. At Burn & Bloom, there is no mold.
I would actually love to eventually partner with some local shelters and teach classes for young people in need, particularly women and young girls. When I was in my Yoga Teacher Training I needed teaching hours and my first class I taught at an alternative high school and I think that’s when I fell in love with teaching and new that I didn’t want to just teach at a boutique studio, but wanted to teach from my heart and connect with students on another level.
What health benefits would you rave about for yoga and mindfulness?
I think as you dive into your yoga practice, you will begin to find different benefits depending on what you are needing in that season. For me, I found more awareness within my body. I began to fall in love and appreciate it differently. There had always been a disconnect with me and through my practice, I found that connection. And that was just the beginning.
I think you do find an inner peace and mindfulness through your journey as well. But I am not about that fake calm “yogi” personality that is commonly represented in the yoga community. I feel at peace with who I am, I do feel confident and calm within my life. I no longer force things to happen and have taken a more receptive approach to life. But I also am extremely passionate and opinionated and loud and high energy. So just because you start doing yoga, does not mean you turn into a calm, peaceful person. I believe it means that you begin to pull back all the layers and get back to who you are, who you’ve always been, who you’re meant to be. And through that journey, there are so many health benefits. You begin to take care of yourself better, you listen to your body, you fuel it. You find your worth, within yourself, and learn that it has nothing to do with your actions or other people’s perception of you. And that changes everything.
Tell us about your merchandise, how did you come up with the design for Burn and Bloom? How do you want people to feel when they wear your merch?
I like simplicity. So, when I came up with the name for the studio, I knew I wanted something super simple to represent that. Flower and flame. But it was hard for me to represent that concept without it being cheesy. I hired a friend and talented artist in town, gave her all my inspiration and she came up with the official logo.
It feels surreal when I see merch around town! It is so cool to me. Because it resonates with people and that is powerful. My favorite is when I see ladies out on the dance floor on a Friday night repping Burn & Bloom and having a good time out on the town, and then I see them in class Saturday morning sweating it out.
Is there anything you have planned for the studio in the upcoming months that you are really looking forward to?
I am going into a bit of hibernation mode after the crazy October we had!
I won two Press Picks: 1st place for best instructor and 2nd place for best studio. So, we celebrated that. We had a giant Halloween party and GLOW class that was super fun. And then we celebrated being open for ONE YEAR on November 1st. So, we’re gonna just be a little quiet, enjoy our classes, get through the holidays and then prepare for a NEW YEARS celebration and then come 2020, there will be some new exciting things happening.