A Retirees’ Unexpected Journey to the Yoga Mat

orange yoga mat

Sponsored by Horizon Hot Yoga.

Sipping piña Coladas beachside or maybe snowbirding in Arizona? As Mary and Mike Von Ahnen prepared for retirement, they were dreaming about a fun, new chapter. But maybe not in the traditional ways that you’d imagine…

Mary shares, “Neither one of us envisioned a retirement where we just sat on a beach. We definitely wanted to run a business together.”

Entrepreneurship became an enticing option, offering the advantage of a new adventure with a flexible work schedule. It was also the perfect way for Mary to use the skills she developed during her career as a Senior Vice President and CIO at Fossil Group, Inc.

Fate Intervenes

To plan the next chapter of their life together, Mary and Mike decided to keep a notebook of ideas. Yoga was not in Mary’s visionary business plan — at all — until a twist of fate changed her perspective.

Horizon Hot Yoga

Mary Von Ahnen, Horizon Hot Yoga

It was during their notebooking days that Mary’s trainer suggested she try a Bikram yoga class. She was apprehensive, to say the least.

Red lights and stop signs went off in her head — that whole idea of a mind-body connection didn’t resonate. Like many people, she had the notion that you have to be super flexible to do yoga. Add to that the spiritual side of it, and she was not eager to get her down dog on…

However, on a whim, Mary decided to give one yoga class a whirl. Her trainer’s advice backfired because Mary decided to trade her gym shoes for a yoga mat! Mary shares, “Although the class was hard, I loved it and felt it was a great fit for me.”

What started as a purely physical yoga workout turned into so much more. A type-A personality, Mary wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being part of a community, and she certainly wasn’t interested in anything that involved her emotions. As far as Mary was concerned, she would leave all the sappy sentiments to the other yogis.

Along her journey, she began to have a change of heart and found fulfillment in her yoga community. She even attributes yoga to healing her from rheumatoid arthritis.

When I stopped having contempt for the idea of an enriched mind/body connection and became open to it, great things started happening for me.

— Mary Von Ahnen, Owner, Horizon Hot Yoga

As you can imagine, yoga was jotted down in the Von Ahnen’s notebook. Mary became an avid practitioner and decided to immerse herself deep into the world of yoga. Eventually, Mike joined her and after several years, the light bulb clicked, ushering them into a bright and fulfilling retirement adventure.

Adventure Awaits

As yoga became their new lifestyle, the Von Ahnen’s felt inspired to create an inclusive space where local yogis could explore their practice. This led to the birth of Horizon Hot Yoga in 2018.

Horizon Hot Yoga 2

Horizon Hot Yoga 2

One of their priorities was “to meet the students where they are on the mat,” along with creating a sense of community. They accomplished this by offering a wide array of classes for all levels, taught by talented, inspiring yoga teachers.

At Horizon, yogis can take healing classes such as Yoga Nidra or power it up with weights in Sculpt. There’s peaceful Yin or energetic Vinyasa… They offer a variety of class styles to suit every kind of yogi.

Fate Strikes Again

“I did not have any designs on becoming a yoga teacher when we opened the studio.”

Upon opening Horizon Hot Yoga, Mary’s goal was simply to enjoy their new business while exploring her personal practice. In the yoga world, this is uncommon. Typically, studio owners are first students, then teachers, then owners. Mary did the progression in reverse.

In February 2020, Mary decided to challenge herself by taking yoga teacher training courses to deepen her practice. Like many yogi’s who go through intensive teacher training, Mary felt compelled to share what she had learned.

It’s been a tremendous joy in my life to give of myself to students and also learn from them.

With Mary’s change of heart to the mind-body connection, you’ll now find her teaching Yin Yoga every Friday. Teaching a restorative and meditative-style class still surprises Mary. Who would have thought?

Especially, because Mary really loves Hot 26, Horizon’s signature flow that works every muscle, ligament, and joint in your body, resulting in a sweaty detox. When asked, “Why Yin?” Mary responded, “I feel Yin is an underserved but very important style of yoga. Everybody who does any kind of exercise needs Yin.”

restorative yoga

restorative yoga

Why should everybody be doing Yin? The style offers stretching postures that are held anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, allowing for penetration deep into the fascia (the material in the body that likes to knot up and cause pain). Yin postures address mobility and help you perform better in other workouts. A Yin class will make your muscles say, “Ahhhhh” as the tightness releases.

A Few Kinks in the Yoga Mat

Although Mary has enjoyed her journey to the mat, there were a few bumps along the way. As a small business owner, 2020 took her and Mike on a roller-coaster ride. They got savvy with technology and began to offer online yoga classes via Zoom six days a week.

To successfully run a yoga studio during the pandemic, we learned to adapt, adapt, and adapt. We never envisioned holding online yoga classes, but when we were forced to close, we got creative and learned how to do that. The silver lining from COVID-19 was that we learned we could adapt to even drastic circumstances.

With 2020 behind them (sigh of relief, anyone?) and Texas 100 percent open, Mary and Mike are looking forward to what Horizon has in store for the future.

Virual Online Yoga

Virual Online Yoga

As usual, they have a ton of unique events and workshops lined up for 2021. You can feel the Zen at Yoga Nidra on June 6th or dance away the night on June 18 with a Zumba session! (That’s right! Mary is hosting the popular Latin cardio class at Horizon.) Prefer to get upside down? Consider booking the Handstand workshop on June 26th.

Other events coming up this summer: if you need to restore your mind and body, opt for The Root of Love: Healing Our Hearts From the Ground Up workshop. In July, you can learn to stretch out the fascia with a Yin for Athletes workshop. As the kids head back to school in August, consider learning the Basics of Yoga. (Call Horizon for more info about these upcoming events.)

Horizon logo orange

Horizon logo orangeThere’s always something hot, healthy, and happy going on at Horizon Hot Yoga! To learn more, check out HHY’s events calendar and weekly schedule at horizonhotyoga.com