What Does a Yogi Look Like?

Meet Dave Calzi, Executive

Welcome to our new series, “What Does a Yogi Look Like?” where we feature yogis in our community who defy society’s idea of what a yogi looks like. 

502PY: Tell us about your first yoga class experience.

Dave: My first experience with yoga was in a Bikram class. My wife, Jamie, and daughters, Emily and Maddie, had been practicing yoga for a while and encouraged me to try it out. I had been looking for some alternatives and decided to give it a shot. I really didn’t know what I was getting in to. I had run Cross Country and Track and Field through the better part of college and figured how hard could it be. I was sorely mistaken. I have to say that my first experience wasn’t all that great. It was really hard. And I was taken aback by all the aggressive breathing, especially in the early poses. Then the heat took its toll. I thought I would throw up but just stayed with it, stayed in the class and finished. I was thinking of the old adage, “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

The Calzi family: Dave, Emily, Maddie, and Jamie

502PY: Why did you decide to stick with it?

Dave: One thing that I have tried to stay true to as our family grew was to spend the time outside of work with my family. Yoga is a great way to spend time together with family and friends and stay connected. I also recognized the benefits of a yoga practice. I thought nothing could be more beneficial physically than running. Clearly, there are so many different ways to stay fit and practicing yoga provides benefits that I never imagined. I learned that early on and stuck with it in part because of that, but also because of the opportunities to connect with others.

The studio I frequented mainly provided Bikram. Jamie encouraged me to branch out and take a Vinyasa Flow class. That is where I was introduced to Power Yoga and a Vinyasa flow. The guest teacher was Sarah Smith–the amazing co-founder of 502 Power Yoga—before 502 was birthed! I have to say that my first Power Yoga class was an experience. It was fast. I didn’t know all the poses. It actually was kind of frustrating at first. We faced to the side of the studio and not to the front–SACRILEGE!!!! Very different than what I was used to with Bikram. That night Jamie and I chatted about the class and I had mixed emotions. Despite that, I continued to take similar classes and got more used to the Power Yoga style. I really began to like it–it wasn’t all that different than some of the practices we would have in cross country when we would do intervals and hill work.

502 Power Yoga had a customer appreciation event in their parking lot. Jamie heard about it and decided to attend. I drove there. Didn’t practice–just watched. It was clear that 502PY was building a strong community. I was really impressed. Jamie won a prize that gave her a 6-month unlimited membership. We never looked back from there. This was going to be our Community

502PY: What benefits do you get from the physical practice?

I was recently certified as a yoga instructor. I was blessed to be able to spend time over the last two Summers with two Baptiste Institute programs that provided me the opportunity to become a certified instructor. The physical practice during these programs was beyond challenging. In last summer’s program, I met and spent time with one of the participants who was a cardiologist, about my age, who had built an amazing practice. I asked him about this style of yoga and its benefits. He laid out on the table what some of the naysayers say about heart rate and cardio workouts and the like. He told me that much has changed since medical school. He emphasized the importance of what we do with vinyasa power yoga–it’s all about moving. Getting the heart rate up is a good thing when working out, but the heart can only do so much. There are diminishing returns. The mere fact that we move and twist is a huge benefit to increase blood flow to places that the heart cannot do on its own. I agree with that and I see in certain poses such great benefits, for example, crescent lunge twist and thunderbolt (chair) twist are great poses to really get the blood flowing in and out of our vital organs; something that supplements what the heart does via an elevated heart rate. Now I am not a doctor, so this is not meant to be some medical endorsement – but it really feels right – especially when you are doing it. I think the ultimate is to combine a yoga practice with other forms of exercise. The benefits are endless especially as it relates to other things that people that practice has interest in. So if you golf, play tennis, swim, run etc – there are benefits in those efforts from a Yoga practice. I will throw out a crazy benefit from practicing yoga: I play guitar. I wouldn’t count myself as some musician–but I can hold my own. One physical benefit of a yoga practice has been my hand and finger strength!!! Go figure !!!

Real Men Do Yoga

Real men do yoga.

502PY: What non-physical benefits do you get from the practice?

Yoga does for you what you want it to do. Whether physical or emotional. While I don’t know all the science, it is clear that a physical practice has emotional benefits. Stress is a really really bad thing. And we have a lot of it these days whether self-inflicted or not. The practice of Baptiste Yoga is based on the physical practice, meditation, and inquiry. I will be the first to admit that I have to do better to embrace meditation. I am comfortable with inquiry – ie getting your “stuff” out there and dealing with it. Meditation is another thing. Something that I want to do more of because when I do there is so much more clarity on matters that are otherwise very complicated and hard to deal with.

One of the most significant non-physical benefits is the opportunity to be a part of a community of people that are so very different but yet so much the same. In my two summers of training, I have met so many people that I now can count as friends. People that I may not have ever connected with. We were all so very different but Yoga is an equalizer. It doesn’t know progressive vs conservative. It doesn’t distinguish based on gender or race, rich or poor or other preferences. The mat is the equalizer. In the right community that is so very evident !!!

502PY: Why 502 Power Yoga?

502PY is that right community. Cat Scott and Sarah Smith really built a special community, and Cat is now continuing this growth with a dedicated leadership team. I mentioned earlier about my first experience with the Baptiste style of power yoga. My first introduction was a bit of a shock. That was because it is different. Different in so many wonderful ways. Sometimes it takes time to get used to something that you aren’t used to. From the time that Jamie won the 6-month membership to today, we have formed a strong bond with the wonderful 502PY community. The community is an extended family for our family and a family that I am so very grateful for. I love to coach and teach and now I have the opportunity to do so in the 502 PY community. So many great years to come.

Dave Calzi

Dave Calzi is the Global Client Service Partner and Government & Public Sector Leader for the Americas Central Region at Ernst & Young. But around here, we know him as “that really tough yoga teacher who kicks our butts.” Dave doesn’t have a regular class on the schedule due to the nature of his work, but he picks up classes to teach regularly. Check the schedule and take one of his classes when you have the chance! By the way, all of his earnings from teaching he donates to Kentucky Yoga Initiative.