In the attic of Two Wallace Avenue, housed in the community space of Parkside Lutheran Church, is Olivia Frank’s Wednesday evening slow-strong vinyasa. The room feels ceremonial, lit from two lanterns hung at the north and south sides of the room. Mats are laid on hardwood floors. In the inviting, dimly lit space, the timbre of Olivia’s voice is all that is necessary to guide practitioners through the seventy-five minute flow.
Olivia begins class cross-legged and eyes closed. She is petite in build with a mountainous presence that gives warmth to the room. Her voice is dynamic, exuding strength, control; one could easily suspect a prior theatre or performing arts background. The quality of her voice nurtures and challenges. It makes sense that she leads a classroom of toddlers during the day.
At sleepovers I’d whip out sun salutations…
Olivia found her calling as a yoga teacher early on. “At sleepovers I’d whip out sun salutations and have us all doing things together, or before track practice, I’d be the one leading stretches. I found that as my role early on because I felt blessed to have all this knowledge and practice from doing it every week,” she said.
Finding yoga at an early age helped Olivia to counteract stress and growing pains. “I was really fortunate to have a mother who was interested in yoga. Ten years ago I was twelve, I was in that preteen “everything is too much” stage—I had a lot of anxiety that was starting to physically manifest. I had nervous twinges, I clenched my jaw—I had all these physical manifestations of stress. My mom started bringing me to yoga with her,” she said.
“It was when yoga wasn’t as popular, so there were very few places to practice. I really resonate with Yoga Parkside because my first yoga class was in the basement of a church—where they set up the room to look beautiful with all the lights dimmed.”
Olivia continues with this aesthetic in her class. The lights are kept low. She defers from playing music. Music would only take away from the delivery of her speech and of that moment which is carefully crafted.
Olivia’s yoga sequences are thoughtfully constructed, confident, and fresh. She is a weaver of creative movement thanks to her extensive background in theatre, yoga, and dance. “My comfort in doing that comes from studying contact improv — studying a dance style that weaves the energy of the moment — and what’s best to do next,” she said.
Olivia’s love of movement began as a three-year-old ballet student. Now a dance veteran, she has an impressive resume. Just this past winter she’s danced with Moné Dance Company, Buffalo Contact Improv, and is a prominent figure in Buffalo’s acro-yoga community scene. She’s a prolific force dedicated to filling her days with all things movement-related.
When I met with Olivia, it was interesting to hear about how her movement and dance studies influenced her teaching style. She borrows elements across dance styles yielding excellent results in her yoga class. A visualization technique which she attributes to an experience in a hip hop dance, Olivia instructs her students in a movement holding hands-at-heart center, visualizing an energy force between cupping hands, and harnessing that force outwards. Another technique which she attributes to her acro-yoga experiences is a cat-cow variation in which students are encouraged to move and sway their torsos in a circular barreling motion.
Olivia is set to leave for India this month to further her yoga studies. It will be exciting to see the influence this opportunity will have on her practice upon return to Buffalo. While we wait for her to return, you can enjoy many other amazing yoga classes at Yoga Parkside.