Getting to Know
Yogi Yoga Wear’s
Nina Joy Rizzo
By Sheri Hawkins
Photography By: Greg Griffin
Getting to Know
Yogi Yoga Wear’s
Nina Joy Rizzo
By Sheri Hawkins
Photography By: Greg Griffin
When I first met Nina Joy Rizzo, owner and founder of Yogi Yoga Wear, I must admit, she surprised me…
As an artist, spiritual masseuse/body worker and Buti Yoga® instructor living in Sedona, an Arizona desert town known for its galleries, holistic shops and vibrant arts community, I fully anticipated Nina would encompass the archetypal bohemian flower child. Even though I was familiar with her line of unique and colorful yoga pants, I expected her to be wearing a long, flowy skirt, presumably made from hemp. I envisioned her with hand-picked wildflowers placed delicately in her long, brown hair. With her propensity for wearing long scarves and bright, energetic colors, I also expected she would be a whimsical, soft-spoken woman who would press her palms together and gently whisper “Namaste” as she bowed to greet me. And yes, I also fully assumed she would be living on a diet restricted to granola, pine nuts and organic berries.
Every stereotype I’d had about Nina was immediately disproved from the moment I began to interact with her. Nina is not your typical yoga instructor. In fact, she’s not your typical “anyone”. She’s not just a person who lives “outside the box”, she seems unaware that “the box” even exists. In many ways, she is a walking contradiction. Yes, she is a deeply spiritual person, but she also possesses a sharp, scientific mind. She is an artist, but she is also a smart, highly functional entrepreneur and tenacious businesswoman. And yes, she is a yoga instructor with a body she has clearly worked hard to maintain…
but she also makes the most delicious bacon-wrapped scallops and cooks with real butter.
Nina is most definitely NOT a wall flower. She is a bold, outspoken woman with an educational background steeped in Osteopathic-based manual therapies and anatomy. In fact, this is how she spends her early morning hours, assisting people from around the world to feel better in their own bodies. She connected to her passion with manual therapy when her fiancé died in her arms many years ago. By using her grief as a vehicle to connect with energy, she was able to move through one of the most painful situations of her life. She has learnt to understand and appreciate the relationship between spirituality and the physical energy and has used it as a way to help others.
Perhaps Nina’s most endearing quality is that she wears her heart on her sleeve. When she’s mad, she cries, raises her voice and drops the F-bomb liberally.
That word is locked and loaded in her verbal arsenal and ready to be unleashed at any given moment, and not just when she’s angry. She’s just as comfortable using it when she’s excited. And when she’s happy, her eyes light up and her huge smile radiates her warmth and positive energy through every pore of her sun-kissed cheeks. She uses her voice and doesn’t live in fear of it because she knows exactly who she is. Nina is completely, even at times painfully, real and is always 100% authentic.
ORDER IN CHAOS:
Nina didn’t always possess the level of confidence and self-awareness that she has today. Her journey has had many unexpected twists and turns that have created a cosmic pretzel that she has only just begun to piece together. She is a fractal artist, Buti Yoga® – Deep instructor, OMT instructor, Ortho-Bionomist® Energy Worker LMT, (“Hands that Hear You”) and astute businesswoman. Every facet of Nina’s identity is beautifully interwoven and connected to each other. During our interview, one train of thought that Nina reiterated a few times was that,
My life has been a constant state of chaos, but I’m always rebuilding. I jump in and I learn as I go.”
But in spite of this, the common theme that kept resurfacing was connection. There is a strong impression of reciprocity in everything she does, and somehow, even amongst the self-proclaimed “chaos”, therein lies an intuitive sense of order.
THE TURNING POINT:
MOVE TO SEDONA
Back in 2008, Nina moved to the small town of Sedona to escape what she referred to as “the BS in Phoenix”. In addition to raising her daughter in Phoenix, she put herself through college and, upon graduating from culinary school, helped build a dynasty for a small, local company there.
During this time, Nina had incurred an injury to the ulnar nerve in her left arm. She had felt that, with a different treatment program, her recovery process could’ve been accelerated, and surgery could have been eliminated altogether. Once she moved to her current home in Sedona, she dove back into her bodywork passion by furthering her education in alternative healing. Nina attended the Sedona School of Massage and began a new and concurrent self-reflective journey that would completely change her life.
As with every new venture, Nina “jumped in” and fast-tracked through the Ortho-Bionomy curriculum, earning herself a license/degree in Ortho-Bionomy. “Ortho-Bionomy is an Osteopathic based bodywork modality that was developed by combining the structural principles from Osteopathy with the energetic and philosophical concepts from Martial Arts and Homeopathy.” [Ortho-bionomy Association of Canada, 2018]. She is now an Advanced Registered Practitioner and has accumulated hundreds of CE hours through the Upledger & Barral Institutes.
Ever since childhood, Nina has maintained her strong beliefs in spirituality and energy. She has always been on a spiritual quest, searching for a deeper meaning to her life. In the few hours of spare time she had, she began to engage her innovative side by creating fractal art.
Fractal art is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animation and media. – [Wikipedia May 2018]
This specific form of artwork appealed to Nina’s scientific mind, while engaging her creative mind as well.
Nina created a few pieces of her artwork and displayed them on the walls of her home. She noticed when her friends and family members came to visit that they were intrigued by their colors and design. This piqued Nina’s curiosity, so she began to ask questions about what it was that engaged them about her art. The common theme she heard in their answers was that “it changed my mood”.
So, Nina decided to try to market her artwork, thinking that Sedona’s strong spiritual community would be a good fit for her art that was a delicately constructed combination of both energy and science. Unfortunately, it was not as well-received as she had hoped. Her critics considered that it was too “avant-garde” for the rustic, nature-based artwork that the Sedona galleries favored.
When her critics told her that her art was “unmarketable”, Nina headed in a different direction.
In September 2016, she entered one of her first original pieces in a contemporary art contest called the “Las Vegas International Juried Arts Competition”. The contest had been sponsored by Jana’s Redroom Gallery, in Las Vegas, NV. Her piece entitled “Galaxy 11:11” won first place!
Returning to Sedona with a renewed sense of optimism, Nina reached out to friends and family to see if she could find a different way to market her “unmarketable art”. Trying to keep under the price point of $20, she first sold copies of her prints on greeting cards, but she didn’t want to sell coffee cups or small collectible items. Having spent some timing working in retail and then at the local artists’ gallery, Nina knew the two biggest sellers: jewelry and clothing.
THE ORIGIN OF
YOGI YOGA WEAR
YOGI YOGA WEAR
Having been heavily influenced by her grandfather in her formative years, her family suggested that she put her prints on fabrics. Her grandfather worked as a designer and tailor in the garment district in New York City, creating fine fur and leather coats for women.
In October 2016, she decided to put her prints, first on scarves, and then on leggings. Knowing absolutely nothing about “yoga”, she had grown up wearing leggings and felt comfortable in them. Her one main objection was absolutely NO polyester!
Nina engineered her very first pair of leggings and on the first day she wore them out in public, a woman stopped her and asked her where she had gotten them. Nina told the woman they were her own design, and she offered to pay Nina $70 for them on the spot! The exact same situation happened again with her second pair of leggings. Another woman approached her and purchased them from her, quite literally, “off her body”. Once she got a bit of momentum, she began to sell them to retail shops in uptown Sedona. Shortly thereafter, a local art gallery juried them and displayed all of her beautiful pieces of NJoyFractal Art.
Early in 2017, curious about ‘Yoga’, Nina decided to volunteer at the Sedona Yoga Festival because she wanted to learn about yoga and check out the vendors selling similar products. There she met one vendor after the next. One such vendor suggested that she had a niche in the market, because, “as the artist, you engineer your own patterns”. Nina also met Brett, the person who would become her fifth manufacturer, and ultimately a key influence in helping her develop her brand as it is today. He also acknowledged her niche market adding, “with your artwork, it goes beyond an athletic line, it appeals to the fashion world as well.” Brett told Nina about fabric, weight, thread count, etc., all of the things she would need to know in order to engineer her own pattern templates.
In the process of learning it all “the hard way”, Nina studied patterns and taught herself how to engineer them. At the beginning, she struggled for nearly a week with just the waistbands alone. Then nobody liked the design of her first logo. Finally, when she received her first order of 203 pieces, there were inconsistencies with the sizing. But in true “Nina style”, she learned as she went, fighting her way through and finding solutions to every problem.
Within this time, Nina discovered Repreve®, a company that made threads from recycled water bottles. Nina was impressed with the company’s mission statement and their profound support for startup companies. Determined to challenge the odds, Nina got her company certified as an official clothing line using the Reprieve brand and logo. Today “Repreve” is synonymous with Yogi Yoga Wear and is one of its key selling features.
FOR THE REBEL IN YOU
In May 2017, Nina sponsored a fashion show in Sedona for ‘Cinco de Mayo’. The fashion show showcased men, women and plus-sized women as models, people that wouldn’t typically feel comfortable wearing yoga pants. However, she noticed that these women and men, who arrived wearing black, baggy clothes were instantly re-energized by the look and feel of her clothing. The vibrancy of the colors and the design flattered their curves and muscular features. They were transformed. Their body posture changed as they walked the catwalk with grace and confidence.
Perhaps the most unexpected thing that I learned about Nina (so far) is that she truly dislikes yoga! I had always assumed that she was a yoga enthusiast, which is why she got into the business of selling yoga pants in the first place. The truth, as I discovered, was exactly the opposite.
She had marketed herself as the “anti-yoga” yoga pants, opting for the comfort and style of the pants rather than the functionality.
This was the conception of her branded hashtag #FortheRebelinYou. A year and a half later, Buti Yoga ™ grabbed her heart and her passion. Now, Nina is a Buti Yoga® — Deep Restorative instructor and soon to be Buti Yoga Instructor. You can follow her on Instagram as she posts daily updates and gets involved in challenges both as a sponsor or a participant.
As I wrapped up my interview with Nina, she left me with one final thought, which I will in turn, leave with you.
Every single person has a unique story waiting to be told. What’s yours?