Welcome to week four of our Hustle and Flow Teacher Spotlights! This week we spend some time with ass-kicker and gentle, healing soul Naomi Cooper, who brings you the strengthening and lengthening, pilates- and ballet-inspired movement class Sweet Cheeks twice a week! You can often find Naomi cutting it up as a student in class as well, sweating and laughing beside all of Hustle’s incredible students in her big dangly earrings, a signature look!
Check out Naomi’s core-crushing classes below and read on for her story of balance and personal growth through movement and healing work!
Teacher Spotlight: Naomi Cooper
Teaches: Sweet Cheeks
How did you come to teach at Hustle and Flow?
Slow Grind is what brought me to the studio. I moved to Portland July 2016. I had Googled “dance classes in Portland” and found Hustle and Flow’s website. So I went on and looked up all of the class descriptions and came upon Slow Grind. When I read, “knee pads optional”, I knew this was the movement I had been yearning for and could never find in Fairbanks Alaska, where I’m from. When I took the class and met Carla, I immediately felt a very strong connection to her and fell absolutely in love with the movement she facilitated. I kept attending different classes and fell in love with the entire vibe of Hustle. Every single instructor was amazing, the other students who were drawn there had a certain vibe about them, and the studio itself felt right. So orange!! I always say it’s like a womb, orange and warm. I spoke with Carla and Steph about teaching a method I was taught in Alaska that I felt would truly complement everything the studio was about. They dug it, so I was one of the lucky chosen ones!
What informs your movement practice, what influences do you consider key to your practice?
I was taught a method developed by my dear friend and mentor in Alaska. Her name is Melodee Underwood, she runs a movement business called Simply Core. It is a combination of pilates, ballet, jazz, hip-hop and barre. I was very drawn to her chair class, very much inspired by barre and ballet. It was the first time I felt an intense glute- and core-focused workout that also helped me to feel pretty while performing it. I was hooked.
I personally don’t have any dance experience aside from the dancing I do in my bedroom and in clubs, but I have always had rhythm. I’d been a certified yoga instructor since 2012, so when I started doing Simply Core I was very flexible. Melodee told me I had a natural ability for it so I eventually became an assistant instructor for her. After classes people would ask me if I was a ballerina and I loved hearing that! I always wished I had gotten dance training as a child.
Slow grind really helped me come out of my shell when it comes to moving my body in a feminine way. I was very inhibited to stick my ass out and twerk, for fear of negative attention from not only men but women as well. I never wanted to make others uncomfortable and in doing that, I hindered my natural movement a lot… I’ve grown past that now.
I love rap, hip-hop, soul, trap!! I love RnB-inspired music so much. That is the biggest inspiration for my classes. When I hear good music that I want to twerk to, I figure out how to create a workout to it. The type of movement that I strive to embody for my students is very feminine. I really try to isolate the glutes, and strengthen the pelvic floor… I’m considering starting a kegel strengthening class!
What do you do to prepare for class?
I listen to music! The music that I choose is really important. I find a song that I like and create a choreographed workout to it, so I will use this song in more than one class. So I make sure it’s a song I want to hear over and over.
I also meditate. I really love when I’m able to get to the studio early enough to create a strong intention for the vibe of the space. I’ve smudged the studio before my class on many occasions. I clear my energetic systems and call in my highest guides so that I’m strong enough to carry the class, and to allow that creativity to flow out in a way that matches my intention, but also so that my students are able to feel connected to me during class and aren’t intimidated by the difficulty of the movement.
I bring crystals with me everywhere I go. When I wake up and assess how I’m feeling that day, I choose certain crystals. I always have a little crystal layout on the floor at the front of the studio.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your classes – what can we expect when we’re in the room with you, what do you hope for us to take away from your class, or what kind of music or movements are you into right now? Or anything else you’d like to tell us about your life, hobbies or interests!
More than anything else what I want my students to experience in my class is, fun!! We’re a bunch of women sweating, dancing, twerking, and working out together – I want it to be a good time. I had a very terrible experience with a yoga instructor when I first started practicing when I was 19, I never wanted to make ANYONE feel negative, shamed or judged. I definitely want my students to get an amazing workout, but I want them to leave the class happy and inspired by what their bodies can do (especially when they thought they couldn’t do it).
My passion in life is my healing background. Fitness is one facet of that. Through massage I’ve learned healing energy work that I incorporate into every single thing I do now. Being in school for aesthetics has also helped me realize that I can perform energy work on people even while giving them a facial. There are so many avenues through which you can heal! I choose as many as possible to incorporate into my everyday life.
Also… I’ always working toward building a “Carla Booty!” Resistance bands are key. I use them in every single class I teach.
Among the many identities I embody, the one I am most proud of is a mother. My son is my world, and has been my greatest teacher and mirror. I often think of him while I’m teaching, or even if I’m in someone else’s class as a student, and I feel a great sense of pride knowing that I am a mother and can move my body the way that I do. Carrying him was one of my life’s greatest honors… showing the world that a mama bear can tear shit up is another!
Check out the schedule to join Naomi at a class this week – we’ll see you in the orange “womb room” soon!