Hi Jackie and Diana! What is the history behind BODYBALANCE?
JACKIE MILLS (JM): In the 1980s we began the development of a yoga class that was accessible to gym-goers. At that time yoga was regarded as spiritual practice, but I loved it as an exercise style and have been practicing it since the 1970s for both flexibility and strength. But, mostly, I created this class to give people who wouldn’t go to a yoga studio the incredible benefits of yoga. It did take quite a while, but I persevered and in 1997 we really got the format right.
At first, yoga traditionalists believed that adding music and other modalities disrespected the practice of yoga, but doing so made the practice accessible and fun, so people loved it.
Can you share some memorable moments of the program?
JM: One of the most special moments was the first song that you gave us Diana, do you remember? It was the first song you submitted into the program and it completely started our journey of becoming bold and modern.
DIANA ARCHER MILLS (DAM): Yes! It was by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
JM: Some of the filmings we did when you were pregnant were pretty fabulous.
DAM: Remember the one we filmed in the church and there were only about 10 participants and Stanton Lanier played the piano for us? Release 71? I was pregnant with Luna, and that was super magical.
JM: We’ve had so many incredible international Instructors come through and influence the filmings. Working with Bram [Prima Halim] – his energy was pretty magical. Peggy from Canada and, oh just so many hundreds and hundreds of amazing Instructors over the course of time.
The creation of a program is a magical thing and then of course there’s the filming of it and sharing it with others. We always take it seriously, in a light-hearted manner. Whenever Diana and I work together, we spend a lot of time laughing with one another, but we’re also very serious in our intention to make something that is good and that people will get value from.
DAM: Yes. We just love so much to work together and now we have to figure out, with the next generation coming through, how to bring more people into the program and keep that incredible vibrancy alive.
What does the future of BODYBALANCE look like?
JM: The intention of the program has always been that it’s not about any one particular person or people – it’s about the community. We might create the class, but it never felt like it was about us. We always felt like we were very lucky to be allowed to be a part of it. To make it up and be on the videos together. Maybe that’s why we always laughed, just because it was like: “Is this really what we get to do?!”
DAM: And now we’ve got these new, really different and unique presenters fronting it. I suppose for a while we were really the face of it but now we won’t have a consistent 'Jackie and Diana' on the video, and that’s the evolution of the program.
JM: Yes, that’s an evolution that we’ve both come to be very comfortable with. It was time for both of us to stop appearing on the Masterclass.
DAM: We’ve found these remarkable young individuals to present who have brought incredible new life to the practice. Each of them has brought a very unique way of teaching the program that has never been done before. And that’s really exciting.
I know that change can be scary, and when we make changes to the presenting team or the product, it can make people feel uneasy. But there is magic in all of these people that allows us to continue to evolve, because that’s how things continue to grow, right?
JM: Yes. We’re now also looking at how we can expand creatively. It’s something we’re looking at doing across all of our programs because when you have more voices in the room, it just starts to get a broader scope. We want to have intergenerational voices in the room so that the program can appeal to everyone.
DAM: Yes. In fact, Luna was just telling Gandalf [Archer-Mills, Diana's husband] the other day that she’s a much better choreographer than he is!
So we won’t be seeing you on Masterclass again? There will be some mourning over that!
JM: No, we won’t present again.
And we mourned heavily. We mourned before we made the decision. We mourned during the decision. And then we mourned tremendously after the decision. You know, it's been a huge part of my life. I taught on videos for 40 years. And then it was just time to hand over to the next generation.
Do you have any particular favorite tracks from releases?
DAM: One of my favorites is ‘For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti’, by Sufjan Stevens. It’s amazing. We used it on BODYBALANCE 47 and it was just such an epic track.
We also had the cover of ‘I’m Kissing You’ which was just incredible.
JM: You kind of have to be a little bit in love with each song and each release to be able to find its magic and choreograph it. It’s not like, "we don’t like Tracks 5, 7 and 9, so we won’t ever teach them". You have to really fall in love and connect deeply to the music so you can get the flow of the class right and the sense of balance in the music. That’s an awful lot of releases and songs I really like, isn’t it?!
What’s your message to the global Instructor family?
JM: I think it’s very important to actually take this moment to reflect. I’m not very good at reflecting. I’m a person who lives very much in the future. But it’s times like these that allow us to take stock of how far we’ve come, what those magical moments have been. And even reflect on the people you share the program with – other teachers and your participants.
I’d encourage people to reflect on the journey they’ve been on. I’ve heard lots of remarkable stories about how this program has changed people, and so why not just take a moment to dwell on their experiences with BODYBALANCE?
DAM: Yes, I think you’re right. We can all be so focused on moving forward that we forget about the amazing times that have come beforehand. You know, every time we make a new release, we’re always asking ourselves: “How can we make this the next best thing? How can we make this the special one?” But, looking back, every release is special for so many different reasons.
Reflecting allows you to find the significance in what you’ve been doing. So it’s not just a job, not just another quarterly release. This is the soulful practice that we pour hearts into. The journey is powerful and poignant – even more so for the Instructors who are out there doing the real work in clubs. We get to do the fun bit that we’re incredible lucky to do and constantly a little bit shocked at being allowed to do. But Instructors are the ones who are putting in the hard work. We really want to hear their stories, and celebrate the community that this program naturally brings.
JM: I was doing a Tara Brach meditation today, on finding the quiet. And it just took me to this place where, when you achieve quietness, you start to really appreciate the things in your life: the things you have done and the things you share, and how incredibly special and sacred it is to have opportunities to connect with people.
It’s a very privileged position that we have, and it would be amazing to hear how others see their privilege.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR KYLIE GATES SHARES WHAT BODYBALANCE HAS DONE FOR HER PERSONALLY
I first trained on Release 4, back in my hometown of Perth, Australia.
I have lots of special memories of filming the big releases like 50, then 60, 70. A big part of that is the connection you have with the team. We often came up with a theme that we’d integrate into our coaching. Obviously, there would be a theme in the choreography created by Jackie and Diana, but we’d then set our own intention as well. That’s what I love about filming – we come together and while we all have our own individual styles of teaching, we’d have a collective theme that we’d thread through the Masterclass. Recently, I’ve enjoyed coaching the next generation of presenters who are coming into the program, helping them to bring their beautiful uniqueness to life. It’s been really cool to pass that on.
What has BODYBALANCE done for me personally? Where do I start? It’s completely changed my life. I get emotional when I think about it. I think it’s the internal connection you get with the yoga. So along with coaching, it has this aspect of self-development – you’re growing yourself as much as you’re delivering a yoga class. There’s so much learning in class not only for the participants, but for the teacher as well.
The program opened the gateway for me to go out and explore yoga. I did my 200-hour teacher training and then I’ve done other courses too along the way to dive into the whole philosophy of yoga. On a personal level, it really opened me up. When I first started teaching, I was more about the high-energy classes and you know it’s always easier to hide behind the loud music and just be about the hype. BODYBALANCE taught me to really know who I am – to stand up for who I am and speak from that place. Yes, you’re teaching people poses, but you can also bring in a philosophy that’s meaningful for you.
I love teaching the program because I want others to experience the feeling that I’ve had with it. In my younger days, I was a dancer; I always focused on perfection, always drilled my technique until it was flawless. And it did serve me as a role model, but the yoga space is more about just showing up as you are today. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
In my class, I want to create a safe space where people can process and release their emotions. Sometimes I have members tell me: “I started crying, I don’t know why”. Yoga has a way of helping us release a lot of the tension that can manifest itself in the body, and the poses can help us to break that stuff down. I see a lot of parallels with coaching or even therapy. It gives people an opportunity to get quiet and listen to what their body’s saying.
As far as being an Instructor, it’s allowed me to be a lot more vulnerable on stage, which I think helps my participants be more vulnerable in class. You know – to accept that however they’re showing up today is just perfect.
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