Melissa Coppola, owner of Vibe Yoga at 182 Main Street, in Downtown Nashua.
You know that dream you have of chucking the corporate job and doing something you really love? Do you have a passion or talent that sits on the sidelines as a beloved hobby, that you wish occupied more hours of your day?
Well, somebody is living that dream.
Melissa Coppola, 40, is the owner and operator of Vibe Yoga, in the heart of Downtown Nashua at 182 Main Street. A mechanical engineer by degree, Coppola worked for defense industry titan BAE Systems for 17 years, right out of college. “I love math and data and patterns, but still felt out of place in my career,” she said.
Originally from Burlington, Mass., she moved around with that job, living for a time in the D.C. area and Long Island, moving back here about 9 years ago. It was her yoga and meditation practice that illuminated the direction she realized she should be pursuing.
AT RIGHT: Melissa Coppola turned her career trajectory
on its head – literally – when she opened Vibe Yoga.
“I started doing yoga and meditation 10 years ago. Through meditation, I realized music and being healthy made me happy. That’s when I realized what was important,” Coppola said. “I had just ended a five-year relationship where we were focused on making and saving money for our future plans. And I thought, ‘who am I making this money for, who am I trying to impress?’ I had proven myself in my career; my degree was paid off and had been lucrative.”
But Coppola knew it was time to refocus her priorities; she took two more years to leave her corporate job, and strike out on her own, doing what she loved. She considered her options and her passions. “Do I want to travel and do yoga, do music, teach, open a studio? I landed on a studio because I feel like Nashua has a great history and we’re doing such great things on Main Street. It’s more of a community, like I’d found doing yoga in Long Island,” she said.
Vibe Yoga isn’t your ordinary experience, though. Coppola has combined yoga with her other love: hip hop. She has been performing as a rapper for 15 years now, under the name Observa. “People have different ideas of what hip hop is. When I lived in D.C., I was educated as to respecting the elements,” she said. “I really feel connected and moving in my own truth; it’s liberating and empowering.”
AT LEFT: Melissa Coppola performing, under her hip hop rap name, Observa.
So she took these two important facets of her life and combined them in her studio. Vibe Yoga offers not only traditionally run classes, but also live music and hip hop nights. As things progress to the ability to gather more safely, Coppola says she’d also like to incorporate other types of performance artists, with freestyle nights, hip hop cyphers (a gathering of rappers, beatboxers, and/or breakers in a circle, extemporaneously making music together), and more. “I really want to especially encourage young women to get on the mic – to speak out and live their truth, with rap, spoken word, or other expressions,” she said.
This would all be an extension and adaptation of the SOFAR model of pop-up gatherings of entertainers. Coppola was one such artist; the group lines up acoustic shows, interested people would pay to attend at a surprise location, not knowing who’d be playing. “I performed at a shoe store once,” she said. “It’s BYOB; you learn the night of the show and where you’re going. But as an artist, you get a receptive, captive audience who might see up to three singers, who also got paid. I want to copy that model at the studio.”
As a performer herself, Coppola says she has gained an appreciation of the life of being an artist, and trying to line up gigs, get paid, make a living, etc. And she feels that with her successful corporate career as a financial foundation, she can help others. “One of the goals of the studio is to bring in those artists, to support them. People talk to me about how to make more money with my studio; I’m just breaking even. Once I accepted that this is not about making money, though, it liberates you to support others and bring the most joy – eg, I’m always going to pay the artists. I know that struggle and hustle. If I’m in the position to help and pay for a gig that helps them continue to make art, I will.”
Coppola also wants to expose more folks to hip hop music. “I want to educate people on the strong message and hip hop culture, by incorporating it into the yoga practice,” she said. The studio holds at least one live music event a month; they will also hold an outdoor, live-music event at Greeley Park in June.
Vibe Yoga offers all kinds of classes and workshops; check out their extensive calendar of in-person and remote classes. If you’re new to yoga, they offer a recurring “Yoga 101” six-week series to introduce you to the practice.
“Vinyasa means connecting movement and breath, in Sanskrit,” Coppola explains. “I focus on that because I love it. Regular Vinyasa are more advanced and move faster. We offer it to anyone, but you really should have some foundation in yoga. The Gentle classes are also flow, but geared toward beginners. I’ve had people ages 14-78, and folks in wheelchairs, that are injured or limited mobility. I want everyone to feel like they can do yoga and feel included.”
Opening amid a pandemic certainly added to the challenge of starting a new business. But Coppola feels like even that is kismet, as the practice can help many people get through these difficult times. “Yoga lowers stress and worry. I know yoga can help people a lot. I like feeling that I’m making a contribution to our community, what they’re going through,” she said.
For her own part, Coppola acknowledges that “this has been a year of loss, with me coming into this “who am I?” period, going from the corporate job, the competitiveness and the need to make money, the feeling of importance… But I realized: Is money enough (to make me happy)?”
Vibe Yoga has done well enough, and that’s all Coppola wants for the moment. “I’ve been able to hire some great instructors, and that’s finally giving me some free time – I’ve even been painting again. All my life, I’ve been an artist who was told you can’t do that, you have to go to work and make money. You know what? I’m going to do my art. I’m excited to see what this phase of my life will bring.”
ABOVE: The interior and exterior (shown at the holidays) of Vibe Yoga, 182 Main St., Nashua.