Capitol City Designer Finds Inspiration in Living Yoga

One of the beauties of yoga is that we can bring it into all aspects of our lives. Here we catch up with the super talented Northern California interior designer, Amy Aswell. In this talking story, Amy shares how her living yoga practice assists in inspiring her designs and keeps her spirit alive and at peace. Thanks for the inspiration Amy!!!

Photo Credit: Kat Alves Photography

Tell us a bit about your yoga story….How does yoga benefit you as a busy professional?

I enrolled in my first yoga class when I was 20 while living in New Hampshire on a amy5school exchange program. This was around the time (1999) in my life when I began hearing more about yoga and it piqued my curiosity. At the time, I was continually physically active while becoming increasingly interested in the mind-body connection.. While that experience was positive, I practiced only sporadically for the next few years, until I was in my second year of graduate school and feeling beaten down by the rigor and associated stress of my program. I enrolled in a series of yoga P.E. classes at the student fitness center and became addicted! It not only helped me feel calmer and more in control of the stress, but it relieved the chronic back pain brought on by hours of hunching over a computer and constructing design models. My favorite pose during this time was wheel because it felt great on my back and I remember I could hold the pose longer than anyone else in the class, including PAC-10 collegiate football players! I revisited yoga again a few years later during another period of professional and personal angst, this time falling in love with Yoga Nidra or ‘yogic sleep’. The guided meditation and supported, restful poses helped keep me centered and calm outside the studio. I attended classes 3-4 nights per week and felt the residual positive benefits every day. Now that I own a small business, I lean on yoga and meditation more than ever to conjure a sense of balance and strength in my busy life. I now practice Power Vinyasa 1-2 times per week and love the energetic and upbeat nature of my classes. I also have a teacher who cracks great jokes and plays the best music during class, which is great. I’ve found I really appreciate and am inspired by the combination of physical rigor and humor.

How do you bring yoga off your mat and into your designs and every day life?

Yoga inspires my life off the mat in that I’m much calmer and better at handling stress when I’m actively practicing (at least once per week). I think practicing yoga takes aamy2 great deal of discipline, and for me especially Power Vinyasa because the poses are so dynamic. My energy level is also higher and I’ve found that I also make better food/drink choices too. Another benefit is posture. Finally, I like how a particular class becomes a ritual. For the past few months, I have attended the same Saturday morning class with a good friend, and we have a habit of going out for healthy organic smoothies afterward. So it also has social benefits. 

Can you share a few tips on how to create “zen” spaces?

I believe that the things we choose to surround ourselves with have a significant impact amy6on our overall happiness, well-being and quality of life. I’m currently reading and loving ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, who advocates for having a de-cluttered home full of belongings that ‘spark joy’. Another simple ‘zen’ philosophy that has always resonated is by iconic designer William Morris who said, ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. In my professional design work, I have been told that I’m an ‘intuitive designer’ which I think translates into creating spaces that are understated, thoughtful, timeless and sometimes provocative. Another favorite inspirational design quote is by Dieter Rams, who said ‘good design is as little design as possible’; emphasizing the boiling of life down to its purest essence.  


How can we all bring more sustainable design concepts to our homes and businesses?

Sustainability ideally should be implemented comprehensively, but there are also little things we can do to make a big impact on the earth and uplift our spirits. We’re currently experiencing a severe drought in California which is making everyone, either by choiceamy3 or mandate, rethink their daily water habits and lifestyle. I’ll use the toilet as an example here…we can all make more sustainable choices by reducing our water use by replacing with a low-flow dual flush toilet (if you’re remodeling) or by placing a brick in your toilet tank (if you’re stuck with an existing, older toilet) or even using the ‘if it’s yellow…’ strategy. I feel encouraged just knowing that every time I have the power to make a design decision for my home or for a project, it can be informed by sustainability. For instance, I can hire the local furniture fabricator, who sources reclaimed wood for his products, which keeps these items out of landfills, retains money in the local community and reduces transportation reliance on fossil fuels for transport. There are so many pieces to the sustainability puzzle and often it’s a matter of just doing a little extra research and asking questions that can make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like our choices are small and insignificant in the grand scheme, but even just attempting to live more sustainably can bring about increased feelings of well-being, which is reason enough for me!

What inspires you? What makes you happy?

Happiness for me is being around people I love, who make me laugh and push me outside my comfort zone. I feel instantly gratified when I’m in nature, and often in water (aka. swimming in a scenic river). I’m also made happy by completely losing myself in an artistic endeavor; one where time melts away and I’m fully engaged. I’m equally happy exploring new (and old) cities by foot, visiting art museums, hiking, riding a bike and lying in the grass with my terrier mix puppy, Gus. Finally, using my body in a physically challenging way every day, being optimistic and believing in myself makes me happy. 

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amyyogaAmy Aswell is a Northern California-based commercial and residential interior designer who draws upon her almost two decade-long love of yoga to create thoughtful and engaging yet minimalist interior and exterior environments. Before establishing her design practice, Amy taught interior design at a college for the arts and worked for both large and boutique-size design firms. Being both a ‘Certified Interior Designer’ and a LEED Accredited Professional, she has demonstrated her value of professionalism in practice and the importance of sustainability in design. Amy’s current love of Power Vinyasa and meditation influences her daily business practices and her design concepts and philosophies.

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