CARY — After years of living among the constant commotion of New York City, yoga instructor Nicole Nichols was ready to escape to a calmer environment.
“I was feeling exhausted all the time,” she said.
When she knew the time was right to make a move, Nichols figured the Triangle would be an ideal location for her new yoga studio. Republic of Yoga opened last month in Cary’s Stone Creek Village with two studio spaces.
“The opportunity to do this is not possible in New York City,” Nichols said. “There are more yoga studios there than there are Starbucks.”
At Republic of Yoga, Nichols emphasizes self-awareness, hands-on assists and meditation. The subtle scent that wafts through the studio is Asha, an essence oil perfume Nichols helped develop. Music is incorporated for a more soothing experience, and chanting is common.
“It’s a little like going to church,” Nichols said. “We sing. ... Yoga is not a religion, but the ethical principles are the same in most religions.”
Nichols, a native of Ohio, grew up visiting grandparents in Pittsboro and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her parents now live in Pittsboro, so relocating to the Triangle was a homecoming of sorts.
“I wanted to be closer to family,” she said.
Now she calls Republic of Yoga “an oasis in the heart of Cary.”
Nichols discovered yoga by accident 20 years ago. She was a ballet dancer when she offered to go to a class with a reluctant friend and immediately felt a connection.
Soon, she was training to teach. She has advanced certification as a Jivamukti teacher and is nearly fluent in Sanskrit, an ancient Indic language used in yoga.
In 2011, Nichols led 2,000 people in a yoga class in the middle of Times Square on the summer solstice.
“It was so cool,” she said. “I love the city so much, and the people were incredible. I majored in theater, so I like to call it my Broadway debut.”
Republic of Yoga classes are taught in Vinyasa style, which Nichols describes as “like a moving prayer.” A beginner class includes instruction on the what, why and how of yoga. A children’s class is offered on Saturdays.
“Yoga builds confidence and body awareness in a healthy way,” Nichols said. “It’s not competitive and is never too anything for you. I call it the great equalizer. ... It never gets easier, but it does get more familiar.”
Some classes will be accompanied by live music.
“Music is powerful to me,” Nichols said. “But silence is equally profound,” she added, explaining that not all teachers use background music.
She wants the studio to be a place for students to recharge and meet like-minded people.
“Yoga is empowering and transformative,” she said. “Often, time on the yoga mat is the only time during the day that people have to themselves.”