FROM CUBA TO Winston-Salem
Luis Bayón ’13 had been searching for his passion in life since his family left Cuba in 1998 — he was seven. His family settled in the town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after earning permanent residence in the U.S. through the Green Card Lottery. He remembers the dramatic shift from life in vibrant Cuba to North Carolina took some getting used to.
While grateful for his smaller community upbringing, Bayón dreamed of living in a larger city with more opportunities and offerings. His dream became reality in 2009 when — following in his older sister’s footsteps — he moved to pursue his education at UNC Charlotte. His path took some twists and turns, switching majors from business to public relations, but his unique journey eventually allowed him to blend his love for people, movement and healing.
Now, as a yoga instructor, strength trainer and clinical massage therapist, he not only found his passion, but he has found a way to apply his communication studies degree in a unique way.
In college, Bayón picked up yoga on a whim during a season of self-exploration and discovery, immediately falling in love with the practice’s focus on body, mind and spirit. He began teaching in 2016, empowered by the connection with others and the sense of presence yoga offers. He helped open Khali Yoga in late 2019, realizing a dream to fully integrate yoga and its values as a permanent part of his life. Beyond enjoying the healthy lifestyle, he found a community and wanted to deepen those connections.
"I’ve always found parallels between public relations and yoga; they share a lot of the same principles: Be essential. Be specific. Be clear. Be concise. These are integral tenets I learned studying PR that also hold true in the practice of yoga."
"Communications and yoga have similar tenets: build connection, provide support, cultivate authenticity."
Tip: Khali Yoga believes yoga is vital to building self and community — for this reason, the studio seeks to keep classes as accessible as possible, offering unlimited memberships for just $80/month and drop-ins for $12. Keep an eye out for Bayón's furry sidekick, Tucker.
BUILDING IT UP
While yoga served to whet his appetite when it came to integration and health, Bayón yearned for something to satiate his athletic prowess — enter MADabolic. Described by Bayón as a boutique fitness experience, MADabolic provides personal and group training, rooted in science and backed by years of experience. As a trainer, he focuses on building muscle, strengthening the body and teaching movement, which dovetails nicely with yoga's principles.
"Both strength training and yoga allow me to explore the body, just in a variety of ways — some more nuanced than others. At MADabolic, my level of energy and approach to movement are in stark contrast to my approach in the yoga studio. What I love most is the opportunity to connect with people in a very intentional way."
"MADabolic’s science-driven methodology is intelligent athletic training, which I find incredibly enjoyable."
Tip: MADabolic is Charlotte's first and only strength-driven, interval training center with locations in South End and Elizabeth, both offering an intro offer of 5 Days For $5.
Bayón’s toolbox continued to grow when he found clinical therapeutic massage/bodywork as a result of his own ankle injury. The experience ultimately served as the impetus to enroll at the North Carolina School of Advanced Bodywork in 2018 — he became licensed in 2019. With a goal of therapeutic healing, clinical massage therapy is the practice of soft-tissue manipulation to rehab or heal an injury or pain.
"My interaction with my bodywork clients is truly one-on-one in nature, which is something I take very seriously. I really enjoy listening to them to cultivate a positive experience — again, drawing on many of the shared principles of communication and yoga."
"I take pride in creating a welcoming environment that promotes healing and awareness of one's body and its connection to the mind."
Tip: Bayón administers bodywork therapy on location at Khali’s studio with one hour and one and a half hour options.
Bayón continues to shape his own path and sees himself further exploring the intersection of health and wellness. He’d like to expand his holistic approach by delving into the world of nutrition, possibly becoming certified. He also has his sights set on physical therapy school and perhaps opening his own business. One thing the part-time model (he really does everything) is certain of is a desire to deepen his roots in Charlotte, the city that’s given him so much.
"Charlotte truly feels like home. It's where I've lived the longest and where I've planted my deepest roots."
"Sometimes you need to let yourself be moved by the wind, not forcing the answers. Your heart will guide you in the right direction."
MAKING NINER NATION PROUD
Students come to UNC Charlotte from different backgrounds and leave as alums on a variety of paths. What we have in common is that we all take a piece of Niner Nation on our journey and use it in a unique way. And when you think of it like that, we’re all striking gold.
Keep up with Luis on Instagram to follow his latest adventures, including an upcoming Yoga Retreat in beautiful Croatia.
These images were shot in a closed and contained area with members of the University Communications team practicing social distancing protocols and adhering to CDC guidance with masking recommendations.