By Kristen Miller
COKATO, DASSEL, MN Former Miss Cokato, Annalicia (Johnson) Niemela has traded her crown for a yoga mat and is sharing her fitness expertise as a blogger for a national online news and blog site.
A year after Annalicia Niemela, a 2004 Dassel-Cokato High School graduate, launched her own online yoga and Pilates membership program, her first blog was published in the Huffington Post.
Published under Annalicia Lynn, “Do You Make These Seven Mistakes in Yoga?” was posted to the online news outlet March 17.
“Yoga is all about respecting where your body is currently at and gently pushing its comfort zone,” Niemela wrote. “It’s certainly not about perfection or looking a certain way in your yoga gear or on your mat.
“However, there are certain alignment principles that will keep you safe and will ensure that your time on your mat is actually doing your body good.”
Her blog went on to show and explain the correct way for common yoga poses such as the chair, warrior, and the crescent lunge.
Niemela has a degree in physical education, and currently lives in Mankato, where her husband, Phil (a 2003 DC grad) is in graduate school for sport and performance psychology.
Her Huffington Post story
“I think there are many different ways people get invited to be a HuffPost blogger,” said Niemela, who two years ago couldn’t even imagine it being a possibility.
Three months ago, Niemela realized she had a lot of great health and fitness tips to offer and was ready to share them with a larger audience outside of her own blog, originally titled “Truth Beauty Peace.” In April, the name will change to “Yoga and Pilates Online.”
“So, I put “HuffPost” on my visions for 2015,” Niemela said.
At the beginning of March, she wrote the article and took a shot in the dark as to what co-founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington’s email address would be.
“Being a business owner myself, I knew, if I was wrong, someone at Huffington Post would receive it because there would be a HuffingtonPost.com ‘catch all’ email,” Niemela commented.
In her email, Niemela offered gratitude to Huffington for having the courage to redefine success.
“I told her I appreciated a woman with her list of accomplishments, acknowledging the critical importance of self-care. Then, I told her I wrote a health article with her audience in mind and copied the text of the article to the body of the email,” Niemela explained.
Much to her surprise, Niemela guessed her email address right.
“She graciously responded to me within 12 hours. And, the rest is history,” Niemela said.
Now, her goal is to submit two to four health and fitness articles each month to be published by the Huffington Post.
For Niemela, being published in the Huffington Post is “a fun reminder that big goals can come true,” she said. “Now that this vision has come to fruition, I’m expanding my comfort zone further and am looking to begin promoting my health and fitness tips via television interviews. It’s scary and exciting!”
The Huffington Post, though it’s unpaid, will allow her the exposure to expand her reach and impact.
Her start in yoga, Pilates
Niemela discovered Pilates first and, after a few years, yoga was a natural next step for her, she said.
“My mom (Lynda Johnson) got me into Pilates originally when she purchased the Winsor Pilates DVD series,” Niemela said, recalling how she used to do it with her mom on their living room floor in high school.
When she went off to college, Niemela went to Pilates classes at the college’s wellness center there. “I loved it,” she said.
What she found she liked so much about Pilates and yoga is that it always makes her feel better after doing it.
“Whether it’s pain in my muscles, stress, or even if I’m just feeling anxiety, I know I can just pull out my mat . . . and I’m guaranteed to feel better,” she said, adding, “It’s really empowering.”
During her time as Miss Cokato, Niemela was looking for a way to make money, but also work around her already busy royalty schedule with parades and other weekend events.
Her first Pilates teaching “gig” was through Dassel-Cokato Community Education.
She’s been teaching ever since.
It was while spending a year in Taiwan in 2010, that “the seed was planted” for Niemela to create her own online membership program teaching yoga and Pilates. After all, it was a business she could do anywhere she had her mat and a video camera.
The videography aspect was one of the biggest obstacles for her at first, she said. That wasn’t going to stop her, however. She knew she could still offer value, and with time and additional resources, the quality would improve.
“It still gave people a good workout, and I knew I could improve,” she said.
Niemela offers monthly and yearly memberships, which allow members access to all of her videos all different durations and skill levels.
“I love teaching beginners, but also those fitness enthusiasts who like to get an intense workout,” Niemela commented.
Through this, Niemela has found she has a gift of “showing people how to adapt these forms of exercise so they can really get what they need. It’s really empowering for people,” Niemela said.
She also found that it’s something she loves to do.
“If this is my work, it doesn’t even feel like it,” she commented.
To read Niemela’s Huffington Post blog and to find a link to her website, visit www.dasselcokato.com, under Featured Links.