After several years of ministering to others, LaToya Brassell found herself 20 pounds overweight.
Not liking what she saw in the mirror, she vowed to get into shape.
She looked around, searching for an exercise regimen she liked. She found it in WholyFit, a Christian-based form of yoga, which uses soothing music and Bible verses to accompany the typical yoga poses. She teaches the class through her company, Song of Deborah Fitness.
After graduating from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, she came to Columbus to start an internship with St. Francis Hospital. Later, she became the chaplain at Columbus Hospice.
To get back into shape, she first started walking on a regular basis.
"Just by walking and watching my diet, I lost 10 pounds," Brassell said. "After that I hit the dreaded plateau."
She worked with a personal trainer and lost the final 10 pounds.
Brassell, 40, then became pregnant. She stayed at home with their baby for two years.
"Being a stay-at-home mom isn't as glamorous as people think," she laughed.
But she didn't want to go back to work full time. And after having a baby, she wanted to give back and help others.
Brassell also wanted to shed the weight she gained during her pregnancy and found WholyFit, which is aimed exclusively at women.
She now has a studio in the Corporate Center downtown and holds classes in the activity center of St. Mark's United Methodist Church.
But there was a difference for wanting to lose the weight this time.
"Before, it was about looking good," she said. "This time, I changed from looking good to being healthy."
With WholyFit, before going into a yoga pose, she will recite a passage from the Bible. The women in the class will meditate on the Bible verse and go into their poses.
Her class typically runs about an hour, with the first 15 minutes dedicated to stretching. Then there's a standing cycle and a balance cycle to tone the core muscles. After that, there's mat work and, finally, restoration "to relax at the end."
In her group class, she does each pose in three levels, depending on the women. There are beginner, intermediate and advance levels. There is also a fourth lev
el for the very advanced student, she said.
WholyFit is as much a stress management regimen as it is for weight loss, Brassell said.
Because so many women work and take care of their families, the person who isn't taken care of is the woman. And the busy schedule often manifests itself in lack of sleep, Brassell said.
"The biggest benefit for some women is that they get better sleep," she said.
Randalette Williams became a mother for the third time six months ago and wanted to get fit.
She took one class at her church.
"I was so blown away with this form of exercise," Williams said. "I like it. It's non-impactful on my knees. I like the mind-body-spirit part of the class."
Williams, 43, said she bought a DVD, and tries to do that at home while baby Braxton is napping, but says it can't compare to being in a class.
"You have to experience the class," Williams said.
Besides helping women get fit physically through exercise, she helps them find healthier options in their diet.
She has written a book, "The KISS (Keep it Simple, Sisters) Diet." It's to help women find a simple system to keep their diets healthy and to change their lifestyles.
She feels the four ways to a healthy diet are to eat salads, sandwiches, soups and smoothies.
The book should be released in a month or so and will be available at Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon.