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Ajax is a leading woman entrepreneur and the founder of New Orleans' first Black-owned yoga studio, Magnolia Yoga. After meeting her through a friend recently, I was struck by her badass style and deep commitment to her work. She is a powerful force moving health and wellness in a more diverse, inclusive, and affordable direction. I feel honored to introduce you to Ajax, our latest Smoke Sister...


Tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, and where we can find you?
I am a small business leader, yoga entrepreneur, and multicultural woman. You can find me most days in Downtown New Orleans at my business Magnolia Yoga Studio, 301 Basin Street.

Being a business leader comes first because this year I learned that it’s not enough for me to run my business. I need to step out and be a leader in this area. The area where we are located is being revitalized and people here still suffer from homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and re-entry. It’s a balance of advocating on behalf of the people who live here and protecting my space and clientele.

I’ve been a yogi for 15 years, a teacher for 10, and a business owner for 2.5. It’s amazing to run a business that helps people with their critical day-to-day needs – being able to walk, sleep, and breathe better – as well as more complex issues like passing the bar exam or getting through a divorce sanely and tactfully.

The multicultural piece is important too because I’m half Mexican and half African-American, I speak three languages, and that has allowed me to reach and connect many people. I honor that part of myself and try to talk about it and build upon it.

Where were you in life ten years ago, and did you ever see yourself where you are now?
10 years ago I was in New York teaching hot yoga in Harlem and Brooklyn. I was sleeping in yoga studios, sleeping on trains, and taking the jobs that no New Yorkers would take. It was a very humbling time, but I knew it was critical for me to do that to get to here. I knew that the goal was to open a yoga studio, but I didn’t know where that was going to happen. At the time, I didn’t know it would be here in New Orleans, but I am very grateful that it is.

Where do you derive strength? What gives you the fortitude to keep going when the going gets tough?
My strength is belief in self that I gained through my yoga practice. I’ve had to use it a lot in business to believe that I can be consistent, open, kind, and hardworking. I had to believe that I could do all those things and be successful.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome that challenge?
Before I opened, I had trained a crew of four teachers to be my inaugural teaching staff, but the first 3 months nobody came. I had to pause their schedules and have a really honest conversation with them that I could not employ them until business picked up.

I had to rely 100% on myself and teach all the classes. For nine months, I taught 20 classes a week. It was a challenging time, but it taught me I was going to have to build this business one student at a time.

What is an early or favorite scent memory you have? What comes to mind when you imagine your favorite scent?
I grew up with a lot of perfumes in my life. Kuros is a male cologne that my dad used to wear that’s just amazing. It comes in a beautiful white marble bottle with silver lining. That and Cartier perfume remind me of a secure time in my life there was a lot of family, friends, and stability.

Self-care: What is one non-negotiable self-care ritual that you try to regularly attend to?
Obviously my yoga practice, but also music, listening to good, uplifting music. Going to hear live music is part of why I moved to New Orleans. When I go hear a live band, you want to be in my next class because I am so inspired and so happy. Music really fills up my tanks.

Nature: We take great inspiration from travel & nature. What is the most inspiring natural place you've ever been to and why?
20 years ago, I traveled to Zanzibar. It inspired me because it was so far away. Zanzibar is an island known for its spices. It has a lot of history tied to India, Persia, Africa, a lot of legends. The people are extremely beautiful, a blend of skin colors, eye shapes, eye colors. I can easily go there in my mind because it’s so unique and so precious to me.

What is your favorite Smoke product?
I am really impressed by how much Night Cloud captures this New Orleans smell. I walk and bike NOLA every day and the spice and depth smells like it. The good New Orleans.

I also love Wellspring. It’s powerful. The cacao was powerful. I smelled it and I wanted to be in a kitchen where someone is cooking. The cacao smells like calm and reassurance, chocolate.

And finally: What’s your greatest hope for the future?
My greatest hope for the future is to have yoga services covered by insurance companies for things like migraines, insomnia, depression, eating disorders, quitting smoking. One of my number one goals for next year is to start chipping away at it. I want to bring together people from different sectors of the city to see how we can work together. / @MagnoliaYogaStudio