Yoga Brings Together Mother-Daughter Instructors

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46.5091° N, 87.6069° W
Negaunee, Michigan

Brianna Salmela, owner of Honor Yoga in Negaunee, is a Superior Woman. Learning and teaching yoga has been a lifelong journey for Salmela, whose mother, Lori Jokinen, also teaches yoga at the studio, along with mother-daughter yoga teaching duo Julie Champion and Jaylyn Giotto.

By Dale Hemmila

If you think yoga is just about leotards and poses like dog-down or dog-up, well, you would only be partially right and just scratching the surface of what it means for those who practice yoga seriously. For them, yoga is not a sport, it is not a hobby, it is not a craze.  It is a passion and it is a lifestyle.  They take yoga seriously because it has seriously affected their lives.

“Yoga transformed my life,” said Lori Jokinen, an instructor at Honor Yoga in Negaunee, Michigan.  “You grow up with pains and hurts, and you think that’s how life is going to be. Yoga changes your perspective.  I can meet life where life meets me.”

Now, I am an admitted yoga know-nothing.  At least beyond the leotards, mats and one of those dog poses, I am clueless, but recently I visited the Honor Yoga Studio to learn a little more from the owner, Brianna Salmela, and Jokinen, who is her mother, along with two of the other yoga instructors there, Julie Champion, and her daughter, Jaylyn Giotto.  That’s right, mother-daughter, and mother- daughter, teaching at the same studio.  In the overall yoga world, that may not be that unusual, but in the middle of the Upper Peninsula, it is worth noticing.

Yoga all four 2
Clockwise, from top right: Lori Jokinen; her daughter, Brianna Salmela; Julie Champion; Champion’s daughter, Jaylyn Giotto.

So, as we sat on pillows on the studio floor (I creaked a lot more than the others as I got settled), I learned more about yoga and its effect on their lives, beginning with Brianna’s decision to open the studio and bringing teachers on board.

Brianna:  “I always said I was going to open a studio. It took five years.”

Lori:  “I encouraged her.  This process saves lives.  This is a place to be where you can breathe. Yoga changed my life, so I encouraged her to go ahead.”

Brianna:  “Then I knew I wanted to hire some amazing teachers.  I just knew I had to share my love of yoga with the community. I knew they needed something like this.”

Julie: “I started taking classes and felt better in all my workouts, so I got my certification and encouraged Jaylyn.”

Jaylyn: “I never thought I would be teaching. The first time I tried yoga, I hated it.  I thought it was boring.  Why are we just standing in place? It’s not competitive. But yoga finds you when you are ready.”

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Lori: “I never thought I would be leading a roomful of people. This process has led me to do so many things I never thought I could do. I can do yoga, I can keep leading, I can do anything possible. I never thought this was possible, but I’m teaching and I’m energized.”

While the teaching is enjoyable for all four, they don’t practice when they teach; instead, they work with students to adjust poses and provide encouragement.  So when they do get to practice themselves, it is their opportunity to enjoy the combination of mind, body and spirit that moves them and leads to a transcendent experience.

Jaylyn:  “It provides peace of mind.  It just helps you get everything worked out in a different way than any other.  A workout can be relaxing and energizing.  You can tap into so many parts of your emotions.”

Julie:  “I’ve run a business for 22 years and usually there is a lot happening at the same time.  Anything that happens at work, I take a moment and yoga has given me calmness; it’s made me truly be in the moment more and enjoy life.  And yoga helps you move in so many ways in life.  It releases toxins; health-wise, it’s amazing.”

Brianna: “Yoga has helped me slow down and be in touch with myself. If I was angry or sad, I would have to go to yoga and help myself acknowledge the sadness and anger on my mat.  I used to push it away, now I acknowledge it and I deal with it.  Yoga has made me so much more present.”

Lori: “It brings me stability. I want to do yoga ‘til I’m 90. I want to feel good while I’m here. Physical flexibility is great, but flexibility between the ears is good, too. You’re breathing, and after a while, you’re not bringing up all this stinking thinking. I can breathe and relax; you’re practicing the moves, but then you’re doing meditation. You’re holding poses, and you’re breathing. You have to stop and go within yourself and see how you can feel rinsed and renewed and washed.”

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Salmela and Jokinen

Then, as mothers and daughters, there is also the dynamic of doing something so important to their physical and mental well-being with someone so close to them.

Jaylyn:  “It’s awesome.  I have somebody else that I can talk to about this. We share and I can bounce things off of her.”

Julie: “I agree with her. For me, I needed a cheerleader.  She helped me get over my blocks, and age is a block.  It’s nice to go over a move or practice together. I just like the way it’s helped us in our relationship and to be able to watch your kid grow.”

Lori:  “We’ve always been close, and she didn’t like yoga, but came to my classes.  NowI can’t believe how courageous it was for her opening Honor.  It’s not easy opening a business.  Encouraging her, the training we’ve done together has allowed us to talk together.  The courage for her to open a studio and teach workshops—I’m just so impressed.”

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Brianna:  “Opening Honor was easy with my mom.  She was a huge supporter.  Honor Yoga wouldn’t have happened without her.  It wouldn’t be here without support from my mom. Sometimes I’m here working and wondering,  how did this all happen?  And as a business owner, you make so many decisions.  I turn to these three and they always give me honest feedback.  And the feedback from my mom is always, ‘You can do this; you got this.’”

Julie:  “So this is awesome.  Lori and I are able to watch our girls grow into such women; I’m really proud.  I think we should offer a mother/daughter class and all four of us teach it.”

For more information regarding yoga classes at Honor Yoga of Negaunee, please visit their website at

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