By Brittany Tiplady
Alex Mazerolle is a beacon of warmth and feminine radiance. She manifests genuine west coast energy, strong hugs, and the ability to transform your outlook on self-confidence and self-care in one simple conversation.
Thriving off of girl power and good vibes, Mazzerolle serves as the driving force for change in how women, young and old, view themselves and the world.
Her mission to bring together the power of female voice, has been a catalyst for innovation starting with the hearts and minds of young women.
She is somewhat of a triple threat, owning and operating three businesses: Girlvana yoga, Ladyvana retreats and The Distrikt Movement co-owned with Jian Pablico. She has been an ambassador with lululemon for six years, a Wanderlust Festival teacher and a Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist from the Chamber of Commerce in North Vancouver.
But a centre of all these business endeavours begins with her commitment to engaging and bonding with youth.
I sat down with Mazzerolle, who was cloaked in Cowichan, cross legged in the Distrikt’s bright and industrial foyer. We talked guilty pleasures, self-care techniques, and what is means to be a modern woman in business.
“When I moved back to Vancouver from dancing in Los Angeles at 20. I had an eating disorder, and was super unhealthy. It was too much. So I stopped dancing, and started doing yoga. And a year into yoga, I was like, ‘Holy shit, I wish someone taught me how to breathe when I was 14, I wish that I had someone telling me that it was possible to love my body. I wish that someone told me how to honour and respect my body instead of push and abuse it. None of that messaging existed in my world,'” said Mazzerolle.
“I wanted to go back to my 14-year-old self because there was a lot of healing to do there. Girlvana came out of that place to free myself and in turn has helped me give girls that language and messaging that yoga has.”
Girlvana Yoga began as a retreat, and has since expanded throughout the lower mainland, as well as becoming a staple and after school program at the Distrikt. Girlvana retreats are five days long, from Monday to Friday, with Mazzerolle leading all the sessions in yoga, along with four other mentors, women from all different walks of life.
“Girlvana retreats are about creating a safe space for girls to tell their story, because they need to feel like they can relate and they need to feel like they are not bad and they are not wrong or messed up. Because rich girl, poor girl, pretty girl, that girl – all the same issues just packaged differently,” she said.
“Yoga is so powerful and transformational and no one is talking to teenagers where high-anxiety, high-depression, suicide rates, eating disorders, social media. There is so much going on. Girls are on meds, they have therapists, they need yoga.”
Two years after the birth of Girlvana, Mazzerolle joined forces with Jian Pablico to begin what would be her second business adventure. The two shared one major commonality: a mutual appreciation for youth.
Pablico, a cross-fit and boxing athlete, was also a prominent youth worker for the North Shore multi-cultural society, helping immigrant youth integrate into the community. At the same time, Pablico was also running Varsity – a program similar to Girlvana working with boys and fitness.
“The Distrikt was going to be a youth studio but we looked at the business plan and realized we can’t just run after-school programs.We decided to do both adult and youth classes and re-frame what fitness looks like,” explained Mazzerolle.
Classes at the Distrikt vary from power and flow yoga, to classes like Crush Hush, a signature Distrikt class that features a blend of HIIT and yoga. On Fridays, beer from Deep Cove Craft is added to the mix to cap off the week.
“The people that come here have put their roots down. The Distrikt now is the community, the heart, the hub. The pulse of everything I do, which allows me then to have a greater impact with youth work. I think the word community is so over-used, but that’s really what we are here.”
“Ladyvana was born out of our generation looking at Girlvana and being like ‘I need that.’ That’s how wine and crying started, because that’s what the Ladyvana retreat was, it was exactly what we did at Girlvana but with wine and beautiful food and giving women the space,” explained Mazzerolle.
The next Ladyvana weekend retreat will be happening later this Fall. (Can you say suspense?)
“It was such a surprise for me, I didn’t know that there was such a need for women in this way, and that’s kind of informed my work. I thought I was speaking to girls, but I am still speaking to the teenage girl in all of us,” she said.
Q&A WITH ALY
Q: What are your self-care techniques?
A: The biggest part of my self-care is nature. That’s why I live in Deep Cove, now. I’m tucked away and I rent a suite in a waterfront house right on the ocean. I have to be quiet, I am actually such an introvert and that is really something I have learned throughout the years. I get so burnt out being on all the time. Nature is the big recharge for me.
Q: What is your thoughts and stance on the Girlboss movement?
A: My issue with the entrepreneurial ‘ladyboss’ world is that we are valuing hustle over nurturing ourselves and rest. And I know that first hand. I have burnt out so many times and continue to, why I have this desire to be successful and this is where my validation comes in. I want to be soft, and I want to relax and I want my boyfriend to make me dinner and be taken care of. And it’s like that challenging balance of ‘What does a woman look like today?’ We are all trying to figure that out.
Q: What is your advice to other women entering business?
A: You don’t have to have your armour on all the time. I always tell the girls: your vulnerability is your superpower. Don’t cut yourself off from your sensitivity, your vulnerability, your nurturing qualities, your creativity. That’s who women are. In yoga we talk about the feminine energy. It’s like the ocean, sometime’s it’s settled and sometimes it’s wild.
That is something I denied myself of in my first years of business. If things were really stressful or something was upsetting me, I would secretly go and cry. Or pretend like I really needed to go home for a nap. I wouldn’t allow myself to be soft, because I was trying to keep up with Jian. There are times were women need to go in, and be quiet, and nurture and we need to be honouring our cycles within the work place.
Our emotional bodies need to be taken care of.
Q: Who’s in your circle?
A: We call ourselves the Dream Team. I’ve been keeping my circle really small. I think that the misunderstanding with being an entrepreneur is that you are constantly networking or in the game, and I can’t do it. I have learned a lot in the past couple years about who is really with me.
Keighty from Tight Club, she was working at Nelson the Seagull, as a barista when she asked if I wanted to teach yoga at the cafe. And that was the beginnings of that. Zack and Ryan at the Juice Truck, who were mentored by my good friend Devon Brooks.
We lean on each other, we meet a lot, we text each other a lot, we bounce ideas and collaborate a lot. It’s nice to have that. People think these partnerships are strategic, but no, they are completed organic. We are all buds and just lucky to be in the same industry together.
Q: With all of these businesses-where is your heart tied?
A: My heart is always with Girlvana. The malleable, hearts of teen girls is the future and that’s what I want to pour my heart and soul into. But really my heart is in everything, it all bleeds into each other.
Q: What’s next!
A: I just signed a deal with Random house to write a book! It’s a Girlvana book. If you think about books by Brene Brown, or Eat Pray Love, and other books that are speaking to our generation of women about vulnerability and bravery, and spirituality. It will have personal stories and anecdotes, simple yoga meditation sequences, and then it’s a workbook for journaling.
I’ve been holding a vision for a long time, and now it’s the right time. Take care of yourself, and know who you are, and you will be ready for the world.
Follow the Distrikt on instagram for daily updates on class schedules and other news.
Brittany Tiplady is a part-time poet, and a full-time goat cheese enthusiast. She loves the indoors, fast wifi, collecting maps, and a generous glass of red wine.