Jillian Scuderi-Longsworth is the co-owner of NoDa Yoga and is widely recognized as one of Charlotte’s top instructors of the practice.
As a youngster, Jillian bounced around the country — Syracuse, Texas, North Carolina, and Delaware were all homes. Eventually, she landed in New York City for college, where she studied musical theater and theater education.
Two years after graduating, Jillian left a job in advertising and relocated to North Carolina to teach at Northwest School for the Arts. “I came to Charlotte due to my own anxiety after September 11th. I found it to be very peaceful, where I could get away from the PTSD that I developed in New York.”
Up until moving to the Queen City, Jillian’s familiarity with yoga was limited to pre-dance stretching routines. She ended up “finding yoga” at a Matthews studio that no longer exists. “Yoga became a place where I could start to manage my own anxiety and also come into personal growth,” she explained. “Spiritually and physically it changed my life.” The experience was the catalyst for her to begin teacher training in Asheville and to eventually start her own studio.
The yogini quickly realized that “it’s really hard to make money teaching yoga.” Charlotte at that time was in the middle of a power yoga boom, so Jillian decided to set herself apart from the competition. “Hot yoga was the place to be,” she said. “But the type of yoga that I love and like to take (diverse, restorative, meditative) really wasn’t offered anymore.”
So, Jillian and some like-minded partners decided to open their own studio in 2010. The fledgling NoDa Yoga’s first classes were held at the loft of one of her partners in Highland Mill. When they outgrew that space, the classes moved to a small commercial building at 35th Street and Whiting Avenue. In 2015, the partnership took over the space above Cabo Fish Taco, where it remains today.
According to Jillian, “The vision was to create a space that was very heart-centered, where you could learn from the ground up. It wasn’t about what you were wearing. We wanted people to get into their bodies, understand their breath. It wasn’t a place where we were looking to work out.” Jillian is quick to point out that there’s nothing wrong with sweating; “it’s just not what we all felt was needed in the community.”
Keeping things small is also one of NoDa Yoga’s core values. “We also wanted to create a boutique space where we know your name and your practice and you’re not just one of a hundred people in the room,” Jillian said.
That feeling of community is perhaps why students have stayed with the studio, some even going back a decade. “With all the online classes we’re offering now, people are even popping in who have moved away,” Jillian said.
Those online classes are new, one of the challenges of adapting to the state’s COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order. “It’s our specialty to have people in a room,” she explained, “for us to look at your body and create a class from whoever is in a room energetically. Also, physically because a lot of our background is yoga therapeutics.”
For a teacher who typically knows about her students’ hip and knee replacements and shoulder surgeries, moving online was tough. Jillian waited a week to process closing the studio doors before pivoting to cyberspace. “I wanted to do it in a way that felt authentic to us,” she said.
So, they named their online classes The Living Room Sessions because so many of the studio’s devotees describe NoDa Yoga in home-like terms. Logistics forced scrubbing many of their regular classes from the schedule, but they are able to program three to four classes per day, in a variety of styles, with the intention of being accessible to all. To see the schedule, visit nodayoga.com.