by Tyler Calder

Have you ever signed up for a yoga class – excited to listen to your body, find balance, and have a real conversation with yourself? Have you ever left that very same class just plain underwhelmed? Claire Fountain was in exactly the same position. When she turned to yoga and Pilates to help with anxiety and depression in her teenage years, it was supposed to be a safe, accepting space. So then why did it make her feel so out of place?

Not only did she dare to ask that tough question, but she’s spent the last half-decade of her adult life and career creating a community focused on changing that culture. When she started Trill Yoga in 2013, Instagram and yoga hadn’t quite met yet. But she was ready to be part of the first-wave of wellness experts to make the introduction. To some, she might be a godmother of the movement, but she’ll be the first to tell you it was never about gaining followers – it was about helping people find comfort and belonging in what helped her help herself: yoga.

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Work + Life

Trill Yoga is the name of your blog and the type of yoga you do. How did it come to be?

The term trill is from the south, and I’m from the south. At its most basic, it’s a combination of the words true and real. Bun B is the originator of it, and [since] yoga’s a journey back to your most authentic self, I thought Trill Yoga could work for me.

A friend and I were going back and forth about what we could call it that didn’t feel contrived or gimmicky. As much as this feels like it’s out there, I still practice traditional yoga. Trill Yoga is traditional. You just listen to different music. We’re not balancing weights on our heads or doing anything crazy. I’m from an ashtanga background, which is super structured – a lot about repetition and routine and breathing techniques – so it’s still super traditional in that sense, but it just doesn’t come with [the requirement] that you have to fit in a certain box to be a part of it. That’s what yoga’s meant to be anyway.

Why was it important for you to make a space for everyone to do yoga?

I had been in so many spaces where I was like, ‘Why am I not comfortable here?’ Yoga’s supposed to be this welcoming space. If I’m not comfortable, others probably aren’t either. [I kept thinking] there needs to be a voice that doesn’t look like everything else that’s being marketed. It’s so much more amazing when yoga is welcoming.

How’d you find your own space, message, and angle in an industry that can feel somewhat saturated at times?

I don’t know how to be anybody but me – good or bad. When this all started – back in 2013, social media looked a lot different. Instagram yoga and Instagram fitness didn’t exist.

I’ve watched people come up in it. And what I’ve seen is that you can’t come at this wanting to be famous – you have to do this because you care. Think of that phrase “cream rises.” It’s just something that organically happened [for me] and I think with that, though, comes a responsibility to use your platform for something good in an otherwise void and vapid space. It’s about creating a voice that’s unique and organic and the people that need it, will find it.

We don’t need six more new ways to get abs. That’s just not going to solve anything. We need to change the dialogue and the conversation about women, women’s worth, and what women are valued for.

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How do you balance social media and mindfulness? Do they run counter to each other or can you use them together as a resource?

The biggest thing I would advise, in terms of balancing it, is managing your real life in such a way that you can see the social posturing on social media for what it is. You can weed through the bullshit to get to the real stuff.

It’s about navigating your real life so you’re in a place, and centered enough, and balanced enough so you’re not fazed by the other stuff. Get to the point where you can put your phone down and you’re not thinking, ‘I’m not good enough. I don’t have a kid yet. I’m not happy about this. I’m not that size. I don’t own these shoes.’ It’s like they say – self-esteem and validation is an inside job. So if you already have that going for you, social media is not as treacherous. I think when you’re in a vulnerable place and you’re looking for the answers in these apps, then it’s a lot easier to fall into the negative side of it.

Other than that, if you’re noticing it becoming an issue for you, really stop and set those boundaries. Don’t put certain apps on your phone. Restrict mindless apps to your iPad.

Our January theme is self-investment. What does that mean to you?

I wrote about sustainable self-love recently – I don’t have the mentality that it’s about doing more, necessarily. I think it’s very individualized and it’s about where you are. Self-investment is doing the self-analytical work – asking yourself those tough questions of what I need, and how I can live a life that feels better for me.

I’m the anti-motivational speaker in a way because I think the message that you need to be this and that and do more, more, more is perpetuating the idea that we are not enough, as we are.

What are your favorite self-care products or practices right now?

I’m obsessed with oils. This year, my theme is nourish and nurture. I wrote a few blogs about this. I want things that are nourishing to my body and my soul, and things that are nurturing – I’m focused on just really taking care.

In terms of books, I read so many but I’ve been obsessed with Audible lately. You could say it’s getting serious. Audible and I are just best friends.

What does your relationship with skincare look like?

I think skincare is one of the most important things. I’m lowkey obsessed with it. People think all I do is yoga but I’m like, “NO, I read up on oils. This is what I’m actually doing.” It becomes a ritual that is so soothing, and feels so honest just to be able to touch your own skin.

When I was food writing, I had this whole idea about hands and what you will and won’t touch, and how it connects us to things. We don’t typically like people touching our faces – that’s because it’s an intimate exchange with yourself to touch your face in a soothing, caring way. I find skincare very intimate. It’s like getting in touch with you. Touching yourself is a big moment. Even when I was in treatment for my eating disorder, being able to touch my body and not be afraid of it – being able to say this is me, I like it, I touch me is a very holistic approach.

I feel like we’re far more willing to touch other people than touch ourselves sometimes. And all we do is touch technology all day. Having a tactile approach to skincare is beautiful. It’s about having a nice, honest exchange with yourself.

It’s like that saying, “Healthy self is really heal thy self.

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Quick Picks

Your favorite comfy clothing item? Oversized sweaters or the coat I have that everybody hates right now – it looks like Snuggles the Bear. I think it’s the best coat to ever come into my life. I’ve gotten so much hate on this coat. My friends have sent me memes about that coat.

What book are you reading or listening to? I have a couple: I’m obsessed with the book How to Be an Adult in Love. It’s conceptually about love as a whole – not just relationships or family or yourself. I think we should live our lives making decisions out of love, not fear. And also Being in Love by Osho is another book I just got. And then on my Audible, I mostly have psychology books right now as I’m getting my Master’s.

Favorite way to spend a night in? Order really good takeout (currently Thai food because I love green curry), take a super long shower that’s just obsessively long – uncalled for and luxurious. Get lost in thought. Use fresh sharp blades in my safety razor, and good soaps and lotions, and oils. And then your start glistening and glowing. And you’re taking good care of you and decide this is a gift I’m giving myself. Then listen to music and fall asleep.

Lightly edited for clarity and conciseness. Keep up with Claire and Trill Yoga on Instagram here. For more interviews with women we admire, go here.