TURNING THE YOGA WORLD
by Robin Fitzhugh photography George Fuller
In just 31 years, Megrez Mosher has lived in a castle, gone to school in Utah and Oregon, worked in China and New York City, been a dance instructor and a news producer and a circus performer, and written and published a book about her hometown. Her latest venture brought all those experiences together and brought her back to Fairhope, the only place she has ever considered calling home.
Mosher grew up with her artist father, Dean, and her dancer mother, Pagan, encouraging her and her brother Cleveland to be creative and independent spirits. Early on, she thought her calling would be as an author, and she studied creative writing at Pacific University, but her intense background in dance as both student and instructor at Creative Outlet Dance Center in Fairhope continued to draw her back to performing arts and theater. In 2011, she moved to New York and became part of the Gowanus Circus based in Brooklyn, where, she says, “I got a taste of the freedom of flight” as an aerial performer.
While working with the circus for four years, she resumed her yoga practice that had begun at age 7. She found herself living with chronic pain that was later diagnosed as a connective tissue disorder, and yoga helped her to deal both mentally and physically with her illness. It was during a visit home and an appointment with family physician Dr. Lynn Yonge, who owned the former Masonic Lodge on Young Street, that the plan to open her own aerial yoga studio fell into place. “I had to take care of my own body and I wanted to teach, to share the sense of freedom in my body that yoga provides, with other people,” Mosher says, “and that’s how my business began.”
Planting Kudzu in Fairhope
In the summer of 2015, she opened Kudzu Aerial with classes for all ages from 7-year-olds to senior citizens. “It took me a while to find my people,” she says, “but now we have built a dedicated tribe.” She counts among her students physicians, massage therapists, and an anatomy professor that she says “keep me on my toes” to be knowledgeable about the functioning of the human body. Her goal is to have Kudzu provide a comfortable space where all her students feel at home. She places great emphasis on giving teens self confidence through yoga, to eliminate the tendency to judge their own bodies and to give them the freedom to pursue their dreams.
The practice of the more conventional ground yoga dates back centuries, but aerial yoga with the use of hammocks and drapes is relatively new. Mosher says “New York friends told me they knew of yoga hammocks in New York lofts back in the ‘70s, but its popularity didn’t really take off until 15 or 20 years ago, and it’s still evolving.” She was drawn to aerial yoga for the freedom of movement and found she has stayed more focused, more in the moment with her practice, and experiences a great sense of calm as she works to strengthen her core and increase body flexibility. “Everyone comes to yoga, regardless of its form, for different reasons,” she explains. “Some students come for the exercise aspect, others for the peace yoga offers, and some really enjoy the challenge of trying something they never thought they could do.”
The Young Street studio is not the only place Mosher has exhibited the benefits of her high-flying practice. Last year she was the opening performer at a women’s conference at City Hope Church in Daphne, working from the conference goal of empowering women and changing their perspectives on what each individual can achieve. She also does a summer camp for special needs students at the Exceptional Foundation, letting them experience swinging in the hammocks and, most importantly to Mosher, laughing and having fun. Whatever the venue, Mosher says her role as an instructor is to encourage, nurture and help each student meet their personal expectations.
Building a high-flying community
Mosher feels a strong Fairhope connection, being part of the third generation of her family to make this place home. While she was anxious as a young adult to try out new places and to leave the confines of small town living, she has returned to the place that drew her artist/writer grandfather, Craig Sheldon, here in the years following World War II. “I feel I have a position of legacy in Fairhope,” she says, “and I want to give back, to create a conversation about how to build a community that everyone here can enjoy together.” She and her new husband, David Burke, whom she met when he signed up to take a class at Kudzu, plan to make Fairhope their forever home.
Her strong sense of preserving the old Fairhope and helping to move the city forward in this time of unprecedented growth is reflected in the place that she has chosen to locate her business. The former Masonic Lodge for African-American men on the outskirts of the original town is almost 100 years old and built of original Clay City bricks. Mosher has been working with structural engineers, designers, and other craftsmen to freshen up the space while preserving its history and making it safe in its newest transformation. “I want to integrate the old and the new, just like Fairhope is doing.”