M A H R I R E L I N
Don't you love when you meet someone for the first time and you feel like you've known them forever? That's how j felt when she first met Mahri Relin. She's beautiful both on the inside and out, and gets our vote as a force to be reckoned with in the fitness and dance worlds.
Mahri is the founder and creator of the cardio jumpin', calorie burnin' , heart pumpin', put a smile on your face, Body Conceptions method.
Body Conceptions is designed to create the coveted lean and sculpted body of a dancer, but you don't need to be a dancer to do it! As j can personally attest, every body part is targeted- and you FEEL each muscle work and engage. There are cardio class options and body sculpt options (even BroCo classes for the boys!) Add in a rockin' playlist, Mahri's infectious energy, and you'll almost forget you're working out! One of j's favorite moments of Mahri's class was when she shut the lights in the studio, and you could only see the silhouette of our bodies move to the beat.
A big shout-out to her talented team (Lauren's class was killer too-who's also her Training Director.) Book a class and see for yourself. Why not bring a friend because you're guaranteed to have fun.
j is incredibly honored that Mahri took the time to sit down with her to share her inspiring story with us. If you ever have any doubts about following your gut, keep on reading and then re-read this interview. Without further adieu..... MAHRI.
I was born in Las Vegas, NM but grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
DANCE VS. ACADEMIA
I started taking ballet lessons when I was 5 and didn't truly realize how serious and strong I could be as a dancer until I attended the Boston Ballet summer program during high school. I also loved every minute of performing onstage as a dancer and also as a singer and actor at the local theater.
I was encouraged to focus on academics in my family, so I still assumed dance would be a side hobby while I majored in psychology and neurobiology at Williams and went on to pursue a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology. However, I danced every moment I could and even went to Spain to dance between undergrad and graduate school.
After 3 years in my PhD program, I knew I had to leave and move to New York. I had to see whether I could "make it" as a dancer in the hardest city in the country and prove to myself that dance was the right world for me.
Making that move and becoming a dancer was the BEST decision of my life.
I didn’t actually begin teaching fitness until I started working for Tracy Anderson (6 years ago!). Before then, I had taught many master classes for Broadway shows with which I would tour throughout the country (teaching numbers from the shows), and I also taught some modern dance classes in the city.
I spent an amazing 12 years performing and dancing all over the world before focusing solely on fitness.
I toured with Swing!, Doctor Dolittle, and West Side Story. I also performed in the first production of Trip of Love in Japan and helped set a production of West Side Story in Russia. I'm an avid traveler and took any opportunity to travel that I possibly could. I was able to perform in Italy, China and Lebanon plus several theaters in the U.S. My favorite theater experience was singing solo on the La Scala stage in Milan in West Side Story!
THE 'I'M GOING TO DO THIS MOMENT'
I decided to start my own business while I was Creative Director for FlyBarre at Flywheel Sports. I loved creating material for the FlyBarre program, but I realized that I had so many ideas outside of the FlyBarre method. I had also previously built a private client following, and I tested my new ideas on them in our sessions together. I finally decided to take the leap to do my own thing when I felt that I had developed something effective that people loved and that had really clear, unifying principles. And my clients were extremely supportive throughout the whole process. They really pushed me over that final edge.
"Find joy in your movement today, " Mahri shares with a huge smile before she teaches class.
I wanted for Body Conceptions to be both a method and a community. Through the work I had done in the fitness industry before I started Body Conceptions, I realized that I wanted to create an environment that was extremely friendly and supportive and that welcomed women of all levels. I also felt it was crucial to develop a method that was extremely effective but also safe and alignment-based. And above all, I wanted people to lose themselves in the amazing music and realize that hard work could also be extremely fun and fulfilling.
I have learned a lot from my instructors who inspire me with fresh energy all the time, and I also spend lots of time developing ways of incorporating new props and exercises into the existing method to keep the method fresh. I hope that I can always continue to learn better and different ways of working with clients who have a range of needs — and continue to develop programs and classes that keep our clients happy, stimulated, and constantly challenged. I think we have already done a pretty good job of changing things up and learning new things along the way, but we can always do more.
I am inspired by music, movement, joy in others, connecting with and helping people, and creating a community. The greatest thing I have learned about myself is that dance is the most powerful source of inspiration and transcendence for me, so I feel so lucky to be able to use my body this way every day.
And this might sound a little out there, but my grandmother was a true example for me. She traveled all over the world later in life, and she never lost her curiosity and interest in people. She wasn't the kind of person who would compromise herself or her dreams. She came to the United States when she was 19 and only had her camera – and she built a whole business out of her photography. I think of her a lot as I make my own life plans.
Believe it or not, most of our classes and workouts are IMPROVISED.
I designed the method that way so that our instructors could be as responsive in the moment as possible to the individual needs of their clients and adjust on the spot to their ability levels, injuries, and individual needs.
This structure also allows us to respond to our music, which means that the movement and the way we structure our classes changes every time we feel the music differently.
As a team, we also share ideas all the time. If someone comes to training feeling like the thigh work they are doing is getting stale, we all get down and share our ideas and give each other new inspiration!
I look for strong, talented dancers who are also caring, conscientious, thoughtful, and hard-working. I am very lucky so far to have found charismatic, warm, and exciting instructors who each have unique styles. I also require everyone working for me to have nationally recognized certifications in personal training or Pilates. I train them separately in the Body Conceptions method, but I also want all of them to know the body well and to understand how to address injuries and special conditions in their clients. Most of our instructors are also certified in pre- and postnatal exercise.
Hmm. It’s tricky to answer this because down time for me can be physical exercise or dance that’s different from the workout I do every day - as evidenced by all the exercise and yoga I did on the retreat! But honestly, I am looking for ways to find more balance and rest this year. I am so lucky to have an amazing network of friends, and I am spending some serious time this year getting in touch with the aspects of business and life that really make me happy and give me balance.
REMEDIES & PICK-ME-UPS
My solution is always music. I turn on my favorite playlist, and I instantly feel relaxed and energized. Music also compels me to move my body, and it makes me feel excited to exercise and test my physical limits. I recommend putting together your favorite music and listening right before walking into a fitness class. You'll have extra energy and will work harder than ever!
BOCO & BEYOND
I attended a yoga retreat in Costa Rica over the holidays and New Year’s at a resort called, Pura Vida. The company running the retreat program was an Atlanta-based studio, but the attendees for the retreat came from all over the world. I took amazing yoga classes every day, and the co-owner of the studio also taught early-morning fitness classes in their outdoor gym. Of course I had to do EVERYTHING, and it was a blast. I also taught a few Body Conceptions classes to the group, and they loved it!!
I am definitely interested in running some Body Conceptions retreats. I LOVE to travel, and I feel like I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work through my own experiences. I already have some great ideas for locations and programs, so stay tuned!!
Oh boy — we have some much on the horizon. I can’t reveal too much, but be on the lookout for our next challenge that will kick-off on Valentine’s Day. You won't want to miss it!!
I was so inspired by the yoga and meditation that I did in Costa Rica, I am focusing this upcoming challenge on loving yourself and your body and incorporating principles of intention and self-care into the program. On top of that, challengers will be able to take our full roster of classes and will benefit from all the perks they’ll get from our amazing sponsors and partners. We also are working on exciting collaborations, especially with Jane Jourdan of the popular blog Fit for Broadway. My Fuel Happiness event last year with Jane and the cast of On Your Feet was so much fun. And our first collab was last May entitled #BeEmpowered, which focused on celebrating and supporting girls. It was a magical night featuring cast members of Cinderella. (And two of them event performed!) Not sure how we'll top that, but we will try!
Thank you, Mahri. We're so excited to see what's next.
j + e