Nora Helmy El Wassimy and the Yoga of Owning a Studio

Nora and Donielle (Photo by Jolie Loren Photography)

Nora and Donielle (Photo by Jolie Loren Photography)

You know when you meet someone you feel like you’ve known for a lot longer than the years you’ve been alive? That’s the only way I can describe my friendship with Nora Helmy El Wassimy. When I met Nora in March of 2012, less than a year after she opened the doors to Fahrenheit Yoga Studio, she had already accomplished much more at a quarter century old than most do in their lifetime. I remember thinking in awe, “How does she do it? She’s two years younger than me!” But now, over four years into our friendship, her success comes as no surprise to me. Everything she does, she does with her heart. I cannot wait to give you a little insight into the life of one my best friends...the beautiful, compassionate, servant-leader, Nora Helmy El Wassimy.
— Donielle Morris Aparo

Q: Yay! Thank you for sitting down to chat today, Nora. I'm sure there are so many of our Fahrenheit fam who are excited to learn more about you! Let's get started. Have you always lived in the Nashville area? Where’d you go to school?

Nora and son, Gavin.

Nora and son, Gavin.

Nora: My parents were born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, but I was born in New Britain, Connecticut and moved to Brentwood, Tennessee when I was one-year-old, and that's where I was raised. I went to Williamson county schools and in 2008, I graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Business.

Q: I remember when I found out you and your family are Egyptian, it was when you began dating your now hubby, Omar. I had one of those palm-meets-forehead moments when I said, "OMG Nora, how awesome is it that Omar is from Egypt!" And your response was, "Um, Donielle...I'm Egyptian too." We got a good laugh out of that one. I can't even remember now where I thought you were from for the first four years of our friendship...maybe Italy?! haha! Whoops! But that's a perfect segway into one of your biggest passions, your family. Tell us a little about them...

Nora: I remember that too! That makes me laugh, but I guess it had just never come up! My family is my rock. My husband’s name is Omar Helmy El Wassimy and yes, he is ALSO Egyptian. He teaches me unconditional love and inspires me to always work to be the best version of myself, I am so grateful for him. My mom, Nazek, is an anesthesiologist and one of the kindest souls you will ever meet. I strive to be like her daily. My sister, Dina, is the backbone Shakti energy of the family and is so, so strong. She's an extremely gifted attorney and along with her partners, owns MMRS Law in downtown Nashville. I have an angel-baby-man-son named Gavin who melts my heart into a puddle on the ground every single day. He's the most beautiful thing I've ever made. But my family truly extends so far beyond blood. My Fahrenheit family, my friends, and loved ones are a constant reminder of how far passion can take us. I have so much love and inspiration around me.

Nora and husband, Omar Helmy El Wassimy.

Nora and husband, Omar Helmy El Wassimy.

Q: Everyone starts somewhere. Let's go back to the beginning of your yoga journey...tell us about your first class...

Nora: I found yoga in 2005. My best friend Laura and I went to a class in Cummins Station. We were laughing the whole time because we were facing the wrong way. We were basically those annoying, awkward girls in the back that couldn't stop giggling. But a year later, I enrolled in a course at Belmont taught by Marie Coz and that's when I fell in love with the practice. The rest is history!

Q: And so Marie's class led to years of practice, practice led to teacher training, teacher training led to the birth of this beautiful yoga space. Obviously, not everyone who teaches ends up opening their own studio, what drove you to open Fahrenheit?

Nora: To put it quite simply, I wanted to spread love. The Hot 26 series had touched me on such a deep level that I knew I wanted to, that I had to make a bigger impact. I knew it couldn't be just me because so many people need this. Ultimately, it was about coming together with a community of teachers, all sharing the same vision, but all carrying their own unique voice and talent. A place where we all share, grow and learn together. I’m so proud of how far we have come.

Q: As a friend observing from the outside, it's been such a cool thing to watch unfold over the years. I'm so proud of you and this community, you really do have something special. You touched on vision in your last answer...what's your vision for Fahrenheit?

Nora: Well, I started with spreading love...and now I guess I just want to spread love further!

Q: I love that answer! It honestly doesn't surprise me as we both share a lot of the same philosophy on living our lives from love and not fear. But, I think for the people who might be reading this, they should definitely know where that idea "love" comes from because we're not talking about the hugs and kisses version of love at all. This is probably a great moment to ask what your favorite go-to read's are...

Nora: You're right, the true meaning is not what we typically think of when we hear the word love. If you're interested in exploring this concept, "A Course in Miracles" is a life-changing read. It's a massive text with a lot of meat, so if you'd like something a little easier to digest, Marianne Williamson's, "A Return to Love" is a great start. Also,  "Embraced by the Light," Betty Eadie and lastly, "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, both amazing books.

Q: Do you find similarities between owning a business and spirituality?

Nora: Absolutely. They go hand-in-hand. I run my business purely on intuition with advice from trusted business geniuses. And the studio itself was born out of a foundation of spirituality, love, and passion.

Q: Beautiful. I'm sure there are so many moving parts owning a business, teaching yoga and trying to have time for self-care. How has owning a space impacted your teaching and your yoga practice? 

Nora: *big sigh* It took me 4 years to realize I must keep my practice first. The times when my practice was on the back-burner, my business lacked clarity and direction. When my practice is strong everything flows with a sense of ease. I think it’s common for all teachers to struggle with the balance between teaching and keeping up their own practice. And so you can imagine, the struggle intensifies when you also own the business. Learning to be "selfish" in the best possible meaning of the word allows me to be the most effective in every role I play a part in. 

Q: What has been the biggest thing you've had to learn as a business owner?

Nora: The biggest thing I’ve had to learn as a business owner is learning my role and trusting the vision that we’ve put in place and trusting the team to execute that vision. 

Q: What about as a teacher?

Nora: The biggest thing I’ve had to learn as a teacher is that if I don’t practice, I shouldn't be teaching. Period.

Q: Who are your biggest influences and why?

Nora and her mother, Nazek.

Nora and her mother, Nazek.

Nora: I've got a great list of people who have supported and inspired me throughout my life, a few at the top are my mother, Nazek. She is an angel walking this earth. She is pure love who chooses to radiate that at all times. Cassie Aiken, former owner of Hot Yoga Nashville and current owner of Hot Yoga Jupiter. This woman is one of the most brilliant, eccentric genius business yoga gurus I have ever encountered.  She taught me everything I know about the Bikram series and is the reason I fell so deeply in love with it.  She also inspired me to open my studio. Marianne Williamson, her teachings on ACIM have shaped who I am in every aspect of my life. And Donielle Morris Aparo, you introduced me to the best nutrition in the world and are my health and spiritual coach! 

Q: Aww, Nora, we definitely have a special bond. I'm honored to be on your list, and you're definitely at the top of mine! We're coming to the end of our little interview, tell us what a typical day looks like for you...

Nora: Great question! A typical day includes spending time with my hubby, Omar, and Gavin. I also spend time working at the studio to empower the teachers and students to be their best selves. And then I go home and wake up and do it all over again. Oh yeah...and I practice.

Q: And what would you say to someone brand new to yoga?

Nora: Relax, have fun, and let your mat be a space where you can check out from the world for about an hour.

When Nora Helmy El Wassimy first started practicing hot yoga, she felt she had found her niche, something to call her own. A 4x6 ft. rubber mat became her safe haven and she looked forward to the instantaneous relief she received from the series. Each time she returned to my "happy place" she almost felt as if she were taking herself on a date, "A HOT date, that is...cheesy, I know, but I couldn't resist!" she says laughing. "My practice was all about me and for a whole hour and a half each day, and I felt safe from the rest of my life." As her dedication to her practice grew stronger, the inevitable happened....her heart opened, and her sprit caught fire. "Many of us see our yoga practice as a separate area of our lives. We go to work, we hang out with friends, we pay the bills, and then we get to go to yoga, 'Ahhhhh...'; It is quite the contrary, actually. Yoga is not a separate aspect of our lives. It is the central area of life. Why? Because yoga has to do with where we live within ourselves. Every corner of our lives and every practical life experience is a direct out-picturing of where we live within ourselves. The asana can then become tools we use, daily, to express ourselves and thus reflect where we are within. Eventually, we no longer see our yoga practice as something we do at 4:30 for an hour-and-a-half to 'turn-off'. As we learn what it means to integrate yoga into every relationship, every situation, and every moment, our practice then becomes a gift not only to ourselves but to those around us as well. Sharing the precious gift that yoga has given me is an honor and a huge source of joy and thus, is the biggest reward of all. I am committed to dedicating my life to sharing this transformative practice with the special community of Nashville. It is my intention and my deepest hope that each person who walks through the doors of Fahrenheit will uncover what had been there all along, a masterpiece. May we all experience our highest degree. "May you fall a little bit more in love with your practice and may you use your practice, as often as possible, to fall more in love with your life.' "