Yogi Feature: Meet Jessica!

Yoga_halloween-2063Photographer Jessica Onderwater sees the big picture. She first became interested in Bikram yoga in 2005 when she was in college and going through a difficult time.

“I was extremely out of shape, overweight and just did not have a good outlook on life at all,” Jessica says. “I was on vacation visiting my aunt in Colorado. She dropped me off at a class and afterwards, I felt absolutely changed.”

For the next nine years, Jessica was able to practice only sporadically.

“There aren’t many studios out where my family lives,” she says. “The closest is the next state over, 90-plus miles. So trying to go regularly was difficult.”

About a year ago, Jessica moved to Richmond, where she works for a local school portrait company. It wasn’t an easy transition.

“I moved here for all the wrong reasons,” Jessica says. With her friends and family 800 miles away, life was difficult. Fortunately, on a visit the previous year she had discovered Bikram Yoga Richmond.

“As soon as I could, I signed up for a monthly unlimited and made it my goal to go 10 to 15 times a month,” Jessica says. “With my schedule, some months are better than others. But I could barely touch my toes when I started in January, and now I can go 75 percent of the way into Toe Stand.”

In addition to her practice, Jessica has become a regular at BYR special events, photographing visits to schools, the pool party, the juice social, Garland’s and Mary Jarvis’s workshops and the Speak Up race. Her collection of portraits of BYR yogis in action will soon be hanging in the West End studio.

Her job takes her to schools all over Virginia, where she photographs students of all ages, including cadets at VMI. She loves children and has four nieces who are very important in her life.

“My never-ending goal is to show them how big the world is and how important it is to travel and get out of the little bubble you grow up in,” Jessica says.

Jessica developed her love of travel in 2011 when she went to work as a photographer for a Hawaiian cruise line for a couple of years. “It was a crazy experience,” she says. “Work hard, play even harder.”

“Having Bikram in my life has enhanced it in so many ways,” Jessica says. “Not only has it helped with maintaining my weight, it has also helped me control my depression.” She is happy to have a “yoga family” at BYR. “I love all the instructors and the wonderful people I have met there, including my new best friend.” She also talked a work friend into coming to yoga.
“I brought my three oldest nieces to class when they came to visit, and they loved it,” Jessica says. “The oldest especially. I think she already wants to become an instructor, which hopefully one day I can become.”

When she’s not working or practicing yoga, Jessica says she is “Jane of all trades.”

“Groupon helps with that,” she says. “I knit, sew, paint, glass blow, do archery. I’ve gone paddle boarding on the James, gone kayaking.”

And her vision for the future is full of adventure: “So many things on my list to try: scuba diving, hot air ballooning, re-certifying for my motorcycle license. The list is ever growing.”