Fitchburg Yogis of the Month: Tammy Holtan Arnol & Denise Quinn

Tammy started in the fall of 2015, attending Sunday Slow Flow, Monday Core Flow and Tuesday Yoga Up, on the recommendation of her husband. Soon after she started, she invited Denise to join her at Shawn Smith’s Yoga Up, because she knows how Denise enjoys an athletic challenge. Denise took a few months to mull it over, terrified by Tammy’s challenging description and her affectionate nick name for it, MoFoYo. Denise gave it a try in February of 2016 and was instantly hooked. Shawn always says, “The class doesn’t get easier, you just get better,” and we couldn’t agree more.

We didn’t have yoga practices before taking classes at Dragonfly. Like a lot of people, we’d taken a yoga class here and there (but never hot yoga), and had done some at-home yoga videos. So, we knew what a down dog was, but not much more than that!

We’ve been friends for a long time, meeting in the 1990s at Verona Area High School where Denise is a 9th grade U.S. History teacher and Tammy was a teacher and then 9th grade school counselor. Through our work, we had many ‘in the trenches’ experiences that brought us close as we served students and families. We’ve also had a lot of fun over the years with our husbands and kids, playing volleyball, running road races, taking family ski trips, and spending long weekends at Denise’s family’s lake house.

Attending Dragonfly is the first thing that we’ve done together without our kids and husbands, and that puts Dfly in a special place in our hearts. Dragonfly has brought us closer and more involved in the daily doings of each other’s lives, bringing more joy to both of us. We feel like working out this regularly is another way that we’re, ‘in the trenches’ together. We help pace each other in the fitness classes, and we cheer each other on as we grow our repertoire of yoga poses. We’re grateful to Dragonfly for creating a variety of classes that meet us at our cardio, strength and spiritual levels. We never dread coming to Dfly, like we sometimes did going to the gym or heading to the basement to jump on the treadmill. For that, we credit the warm & welcoming Dfly community, the open-hearted & skillful teachers, the hot room, and the ever-present option to lie on the mat.

As former high school athletes, we are naturally drawn to the challenge of Yoga Up, Power Up and the future Circuit Up. But, wiser in our 40s than we once were, we also appreciate the balance that the Flow classes give us. It seems crazy that we went through most of our adult lives virtually never stretching. We’re more flexible & muscular and have better balance and more inner peace than we did in our thirties thanks to the all of the forward folds, planks, twists and intentions Dragonfly inspires us to do. Tammy’s a semi-regular at Lynn Lanning’s Thursday Fire and always feels like she’s had a massage afterward. And, Denise dabbles with BarreAmped when she can, especially in the summer. Denise’s husband joins us on Sunday for Kelly Perna’s Sunday Slow Flow, which we fondly call church, as in, “Are you going to church on Sunday?” Kelly’s messages about doing yoga and life with confidence while standing tall are words to live by! We’re also regulars at the Monday and Friday Core Flows with Katie Frank & Anna Dobbs.

We are at Dragonfly, either together or separately, every day that the schedule allows, which is typically 4-7 times a week. We LOVE the variety of classes offered and would want every instructor to know that if we’re there, it’s because we think they put up a GREAT class. That said, we consider ourselves the unofficial co-presidents of the yet-to-be-formed Shawn Smith MoFoYo Fan Club. She makes us feel like badasses in that class, which translates into how we take on the rest of our lives. And, the more we’ve gotten to know Shawn, the more we love her. She is authentic and living her purpose, and she motivates us to do the same.

Last February, Tammy broke her ankle slipping on the ice. After a couple months, she came back to Dfly in a walking boot, chauffeured by Denise. Our affection for the Dragonfly community swelled during the walking boot weeks as several yogis approached Tammy’s mat to encourage her. Every ‘at-a-girl,’ kept her motivated to move, and we enjoyed making many new yogi friends. After one booted Flow class, a young woman turned to Tammy and said, “You are such a badass in that boot.” Stunned and touched, Tammy paused to collect her thoughts to let the woman know that she considers badass the highest level of compliment. Before she could spit the words out, the woman was gone, like a super hero who’d done her deed and flown off.

Despite her efforts, Tammy put on some pounds after the ankle break and was especially heart-broken about it on one ride to Dragonfly. Ever a great friend, Denise delicately suggested that we take on a weight-loss regimen, and we did. Notching up our commitment to nutrition and losing some weight while doing Dragonfly has been a blast, elevating our experience on and off the mat! One more reason for us to love Dragonfly.

Recently, when Tammy’s husband asked her how she wanted to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday, she knew immediately – a Dragonfly birthday party! Intertwining her special people with her special place will mark the occasion festively and meaningfully.

If this reads like a love letter to the Dragonfly community, then we’ve expressed our feelings accurately. We are grateful to Megan Ryan for what she’s created, a nonjudgmental space where friendship bonds are fortified, strangers grow into friends, bodies get stronger and spirits are lifted. We are honored to have been selected as Yogis of the Month. It’s given us the opportunity to put into words what our hearts already knew. We look forward to many years of learning, growing and making new yogi friends through Dragonfly. Namaste.

Instructor Shawn Smith: “The Power of a Workout Buddy: If you’ve ever taken a class with Tammy and Denise or taught to them you would immediately notice the energy they bring as a workout duo. Whether they are cheering, singing, or yelling they have this CRAZY amount of energy they bring to the whole class. You will often see them encouraging each other or even assisting one another during certain poses. Both Tammy and Denise go out of their way to make each other work just a little bit harder and this is infectious to the whole class. I admire their friendship and their workout loyalty. I’ve also seen tremendous gains for each of them personally throughout the time I’ve known them. Tammy was a trooper when she broke her ankle but didn’t let that injury deter her recovery. Denise doesn’t ever shy from a challenge.”


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