MISSBISH Flex Zone | Meet The Hottest Megaformer Instructor, Francesca Valarezo of SLT

Instagram: @spiritualrebelyogi

Location: New York City

What was your early life like – before the endless amounts of yoga?
I was born in the Bronx, NY but I was lucky enough to spend my childhood in South America in Ecuador. My very early life was full of nature, barefoot walks, endless amounts of outdoor sports and fun. As a child my life was very simple, I always loved dancing and choreographing dances for talent shows. I was also the nerdy kid that got A's in every subject. As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone, which made me curious and made me think a lot.

Once I moved back to New York City, I was culture shocked. Learning to speak and write in English took me to a whole different level, mentally, emotionally and socially. I was quiet, I became an introvert. I had no friends. So I really dedicated my life to studying and observing people. I worked part-time to support myself and I went to college full time. Eventually, I got myself into Model United Nations, and landed an internship at  the Civil Supreme Court. I graduated  from John Jay College with a Bachelor's in International Criminal Justice.

I also have a minor in Psychology and Sociology. From day one, I was interested in people's life struggles and I felt the need to contribute to the big picture. Early in my career, I realized that I wanted to take a break from school to dive deep into myself and find my true life passion. Yoga found me after a bad breakup. I used to take Hilaria Baldwin's yoga class before she was not married to Alec. She reminded me of myself, she has a Hispanic accent and she used to play Latin music in all of her classes. One thing led to another and I did my 200-hour Teacher Training at Yoga Vida, where I found my passion for teaching and found a way to make a meaningful contribution to society. I think yoga allows me to do both things I'm passionate about: Choreography and helping people find themselves.

Before yoga, I was a New York City girl looking for a dream to chase.

What would you tell someone who was hesitant about yoga to convince them to get involved and take part in one of your classes?
I think yoga is a physical experiment that can teach you so much about yourself and about your body. I also tell people that yoga makes you feel high and makes you shed weight because it elongates your muscles and spine. I would tell people "yoga is fun and it changed my life so It can also change yours!"

How is your style of training unique and different from any other?
My style of teaching yoga is different because I have combined all of the disciplines I am trained in to produce a class that is therapeutic and core strengthening.

I am an ashtanga/vinyasa yoga teacher trained in therapeutic yoga. I'm also trained in the Lagree method which is all core oriented (we teach it at SLT). I am a Thai Massage level 1 specialist and a dancer. I believe my classes incorporate all of this in one.

In my class, you get vinyasa flow with a few core intelligent moves, therapeutic poses to align the body and the spine, as well as correct imbalances, before finishing with a gentle Thai massage.

You frequently use the hashtag #spiritualrebel and it’s even included in your Instagram name. How would you define a “spiritual rebel?”
A spiritual rebel can be anyone who has decided to search for answers within. I think the word spiritual and spirituality is overused nowadays, but if we really pay attention, we can conclude that we are all spiritual beings. We all connect to each other through vibes and energy. A simple look, a smile can communicate so much.

A Spiritual Rebel to me is someone who is non-conformist, someone who hustles to make their dreams come true. In America, we have decided to rebel against the 9-5 job system. We no longer want to follow a monotonous schedule and routine. We now want to use standing desks and meditate at work. We feel the need to eat cleaner and take care of our mental and spiritual health.

A Spiritual Rebel is that person who  quit a job they weren't happy with to search for their true passion. To me, a Spiritual Rebel is someone who decided to face their fears and perhaps let go of an unhealthy relationship to seek happiness within.

A Spiritual Rebel is anyone who wants to embrace their spiritual side to connect to themselves and to people with an open mind, an open heart, who works hard to operate at their highest potential. The brand is all about the urban lifestyle that speaks to the yogi, the hard worker, the athlete and the stylish he or she seeking to connect, improve their quality of live and contribute to a healthier society.

“We all connect to each other through vibes and energy. A simple look, a smile can communicate so much.”

You're PUMA's Yoga Ambassador and your Instagram bio is stacked with titles like “Yoga & SLT Instructor, Athleisure Model, Therapeutic Yoga, Thai Yoga Massage, and Rebel.” How do all of these diverse titles come together to describe who you are?
I am simply a yogi who happened to cross over into the fitness industry through SLT. I became an athleisure model by accident and through Instagram.

I became a therapeutic yoga teacher when I was looking to heal myself from my little bother's passing. I consider myself a rebel because I am a non-conformist woman with a strong opinion and I live my life according to my rules. All of those components make me a Spiritual Rebel. Always looking to be the change I want to create out there.

I'm creative and I embrace diversity. I love to challenge others to follow their inner voice and to face their fears. My brand speaks of a person looking for inspiration and inner strength. A Spiritual Rebel is someone who has decided to not live by other's opinions but to believe in him/herself. We embrace a life of creativity, dreams, healing practices, fitness, dance, health, fashion and fun.

Yoga requires a certain mastery of your mind that some people aren’t in touch with. How would you describe your mindset?
I wouldn't say I'm in full mastery of my mind yet. However, I am in touch with my thoughts. The practice of yoga is a meditation in movement that allows you to notice certain mental and behavioral patterns. Meditation has helped me to observe my internal dialogue. The internal dialogue in a matter of minutes can be positive or negative. It can be aggressive or friendly and it can be encouraging or very discouraging.

With that said, I have learned to ride the waves. The mental waves change consistently and, like everything, they are impermanent. So I try to keep an open mind, to understand myself, to be gentle in my thoughts and to embrace my doubts and fears. That practice of observing, recognizing and accepting, investigating in Buddhisim is known as RAIN -  this technique helps me shift my perspective so that I keep my mind as a friend rather than an enemy. 

With a healthy lifestyle comes healthy eating. What are some of your favorite eats that don’t leave you feeling guilty?
I love food! Almost nothing makes me feel guilty, but I love healthy options. Some of the foods that don't leave me feeling uncomfortable  are vegan ice cream, green smoothies that I make at home with Lucuma powder & turmeric powder. French fries, pizza once in a while and a good homemade paella. Cooking at home always makes me feel grounded and not guilty. I would say that almost everything made with veggies - and not a lot of sodium and sugar - can make you feel energized and at ease in your stomach.

Mindful eating is a balance of guilty pleasures and clean eating, it's definitely a practice in itself. I think food should never make you feel guilty, but simply make you aware of what your body likes and dislikes.

We can’t ignore the fact that you have the cutest fitness gear known to man. Where does the inspiration come from when it comes to your amazing style in athleisure?
This is such a compliment coming from you MISSBISH! I don't want to sound cocky but I think that growing up in New York inspired me a lot. I have always been a sneaker addict, and sporty.

Most of my inspiration comes from social media. I follow brands like Carbon 38, Koral Activewear, Tanya-B, Bandier, Alala, adidas, PUMA and more. Most of the time I choose a few key pieces for the season and mix match to my taste. I stay away from prints and love plain colors.

I combine inspirations to come up with my own style. Chic, relaxed, sporty, yet feminine and urban.

What is a typical weekend like for Francesca Valarezo?
I Netflix and eat on Friday nights, almost always in good company. Saturday mornings I teach at SLT which gives me a boost of energy and it's a great way to close my work week. On Saturdays, I also nap and do skin care rituals like masks and Epsom Salt baths. At night, I usually go out to dinner with friends. The occasional party in Brooklyn is a good way to shake and move.

On Sundays, I practice yoga, go to the sauna or run, and I prepare for the work week. I am very organized with scheduling, staying on top of emails and creating routines. Meditation and seeing my close friends are always included in my weekend.

What is your favorite style of yoga?
Slow flow therapeutic with a good focus on core and pranayama (breathing techniques). I recommend Skyting for a class and my teacher Dana Slamp. She changed my life and my view on yoga.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
When I think of MISSBISH I visualize a list of words that describe a woman who is: Bold, unique, strong, feminine, a dreamer, a hustler, intelligent, and inspirational. To me, MISSBISH showcases the lifestyle of women who connect through the same intention but are unique in their own way.

Photos by: Carmen Chan