Meaghan Kennedy Townsend was not always a yoga instructor.
After nearly losing her leg in a skiing accident, the L.A.-based member of the Kennedy family opened Up Dog Yoga + Cycling on Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of West Hollywood.
“Doctors can’t believe I am doing the things that I am doing," Townsend told Weho Patch. "There’s something about connecting with your body that you can kind of overpower your mind."
But the Harvard-educated former business analyst's "aha" moment came well before opening up her own studio.
Townsend was out to sushi with a friend when the man sitting next to her at the bar asked what she did for a living. Townsend's mouth full, her friend volunteered. "She's a yoga instructor," she said.
Townsend had fallen in love with yoga in college, but later decided to become a certified instructor as a hobby. She was working only part time teaching yoga then.
The stranger at the restaurant explained he had leukemia. With just three days left to live, he asked her to be his teacher. Townsend couldn't decline. She called sick to work the next day.
“Yoga comes from ‘yoke’ meaning union. It’s that connection with other people that really creates strength," she said.
Townsend ended up teaching the man yoga for one and a half years, and that experience, she said, changed her life. Yoga, she said, gave that very first client a reason to get up in the morning and someone to connect with.
"We spend so much of our day going from place to place," she said. "[It’s about identifying] what it feels to be in your body."
Today, Townsend works regularly with celebrities and locals at her Weho studio, but she continues to use yoga to help many with physical injuries, epilepsy, leukemia, chron’s disease and psychological matters such as depression or anxiety.
West Hollywood resident Leah Elias has been taking class since Up Dog opened. "I’m more flexible. I’m stronger,” she said. “Overall, I feel healthier." She speaks highly of Townsend. "She’s got an awesome personality and when times get hard, we laugh," she said.
Townsend says yoga is about checking in with yourself and connecting with yourself. One simple tip she offers is to close your eyes, inhale your arms up and exhale your arms down, then concentrate on what you feel.
“Beginners look at the crazy yoga poses and think, 'I could never do it,'" said Townsend. "It’s not about that, it’s more about can I live my life more in connection with myself and connection with others, and finding that sense of joy and happiness.”