Not Your Mama’s Yoga: Neda Honarvar of Tough Love Wants to Rock Your Socks Off

Neda from Tough Love YogaPhoto: Mae Gurene

Yoga mat? Check! Expensive stretchy leggings? Check! BPA-free water bottle? Check! Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” raging as you start your sun salutations? Say what? You heard right; heavy metal music will be blasting your earholes for the entirety of your 60-minute Gumby session at Tough Love Yoga. This ain’t your mama’s Yanni yoga, and that’s just how founder Neda Honarvar likes it. WellATL headbangs with Neda for this week’s Friday Five.

You tell people to “Listen to metal. Do yoga. Melt your face off in a very relaxing and healing way.” How? Why?

I asked my guy friends what it would take to get them into a yoga class and they told me that if I played metal, they would come. I love metal (always have, always will) so that was an easy choice. It creates a different feel for class. Some students have told me that the music helps feed their practice and others have said they don’t even notice it after a few minutes. I have a blast teaching it and people seem to have fun practicing.

That was the initial inspiration but it’s more than that. For me, yoga is nurturing. It has made me strong and flexible. It has given me tools to manage things I struggle with (like anxiety) and has taught me more about myself than almost anything else in my life. I want everyone to have access to those things, and if playing metal is going to get someone interested and give them a glimpse of what’s available through the practice, that’s all the more reason to do it.

Tough Love YogaTough Love Yoga was originally in an art gallery, but now you’ve got your own space, nicknamed Cobraville. “Tough Love,” “Cobraville” — what are those names all about?

My dear friend Durgaya and I came up with the concept for Tough Love Yoga. The idea is to encourage people, in a loving way, to challenge themselves to live and practice in a full, up-to-capacity way. And by that, I mean each student’s individual definition of “fullness” and “capacity” on that day, which may be very different from what it was the day before. I encourage my students to work hard and make an effort in how they show up physically and mentally in their practice. It’s like when your best friend serves you some real talk. It might be challenging to hear but you know it’s out of love.

And Cobraville. Ha! Our logo has two cobras wrapped together at their tails. I asked R. Land to paint something with a bunch of cobras for our studio (which will be on display very soon!) and he jokingly referred to our studio as Cobraville. We loved it and it stuck.

Most people are pretty bendy when we’re young, but not all of us find our way to the mat. What made you into a yogi? Nature or nurture?
Hmmm. That’s an interesting question. I have a natural inclination toward all the practices of yoga. I love practicing and teaching asana (the postures), but I also love pranayama, meditation, puja, and seva. When I discovered yoga philosophy, I felt like I had found what I had always been seeking — like I was finally home.

The bendy thing? That’s not really how I am naturally. And not really my aim. I love that the tagline for one of our classes is “More Badass Than Bendy.” I ran track, lifted weights, and boxed for years so I was pretty tight. It’s taken me years of practice and tons of patience to open up and it’s still a daily practice. I never thought I would be able to do the things I’m able to do now. That’s the thing about yoga. It’s not one of those instant gratification, one-and-done type things. It takes time to work toward some of the things we learn to do with our bodies and minds. But for me it’s not about the result, or getting into crazy poses. It’s about the work. It’s about the dedication, discipline, compassion, patience, and tenacity the practice has taught me. It’s totally worth it. I’m committed for the long haul.

eMAE_7996Tough Love also offers other pretty eclectic yoga classes: Wine’d Down, Homo Flow, Buddahlicious. What’s next?

My passion is focused on yogahour™ at the moment. Yogahour was developed by my teacher Darren Rhodes, who is based out of Tucson, Arizona. It’s an affordable, accessible, expertly taught flow class and an ideal class for anyone who wants to get fit and flexible in the context of fun. It aims to be the most doable yet difficult one-hour flow class offered anywhere. I’m in love with it.

I was very ill for the second half of last year and couldn’t practice. I was in pain so I disconnected from my body in a lot of ways. Then Darren came to Atlanta in January of this year and taught four yogahour sessions and a barefoot bootcamp, which is 200 poses in four hours. It kicked my ass, put me back in my body, and inspired me to take my practice to a new level. After surviving that, I felt like I could do anything. A few of us at the studio decided to take the teacher training for it. We spent months working toward our certification and it changed the game. It changed my body, my practice, my sense of discipline, and my teaching wildly. We now have 16 yogahour classes on our schedule. I’m really grateful.

You were born and raised in our fine city. Tell us some of your favorite Atlanta spots when you’re not on the mat.

First of all, these are all going to be food related because that’s the kind of gal I am. I am in love with Candler Park Market and Deli. Not only is it run by the nicest people ever, they have the most delicious food and a really good selection of pretty much everything I need on a daily basis (chocolate, LaCroix, and coconut water). The deli gets most of their items from farmers markets and it’s always incredibly fresh. It’s a short walk from the studio and I eat lunch there four or five days a week. Seriously.

I also love El Myriachi. It’s owned and run by friends and has delicious food and an awesome patio. And they let me and my husband bring our Dobermans up there to hang while we eat tacos. Our studio manager Rachelle and I have a lot of Tough Love Yoga meetings there. It’s awesome. Coffee? Aurora. I can’t drink coffee anymore (long story) but they have a great tea selection. One is called Iron Goddess of Mercy. It’s delicious and has a kick ass name. Can’t beat it. And for cocktails and delicious dinner, we love Kimball House. I’ve known some of those guys since I was a teenager and there’s not much that makes me happier than seeing people do what they love and do it in an excellent way. Get the New Tokyo cocktail.

Last but certainly not least, the Beltline. I like to grab the dogs, put on some headphones, and start walking. It’s really grounding and a great way to clear my head.

Tough Love Yoga is keepin’ it metal and bendy on Facebook and Twitter.