Words by Marléna Ahearn
Photos by Julia Merrell
Though yoga teacher and entrepreneur Martissa Williams is not a Rochester native, her spirit and sense of community is so deeply identifiable with Rochester it’s easy to see why she’s made a home—and a business—here.
When she arrived at the University of Rochester, Williams wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. Rochester is, after all, cold and snowy. But as she made her way through a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies degree she began to connect with the undeniable current of community that makes Rochester home. In finding a path that brought together her creativity, love for all things social justice, yoga, and clothes, Nekkid was born.
“I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says Williams. “My mom always reminds me when I was in fifth grade she got me a t-shirt press. I would go around to all the different schools and farmer's markets to vend and sell. She tells me ‘you’re doing the same things, just elevated.'”Nekkid (pronounced neck-ID, an homage to her mother and grandmother) is fundamentally about community. In yoga, Martissa explains, self love and searching are the basics—but what comes next is how we grow.
The clothing element of Nekkid is meant to be a medium to boldly share a message of community and self love, while also prompting others to think.
“We can’t heal our country, our world, we can’t find world peace unless there is individual peace. We are super interconnected and interdependent,” says Williams. “There is no being in your own personal turmoil and sharing peace with others. Yoga is where you can come and find some sort of internal peace.”
“When you have words on a shirt or on the back of your jacket, you are a walking billboard for that message. People are seeing it. So why not create something that sparks a thought or a feeling,” says Williams.
Ultimately, Nekkid is a manifestation of what it means to deconstruct yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically to find the root of who you are. Getting “Nekkid” is about finding yourself so you can connect with others and have the necessary conversations to make effective and lasting change in your community and your world.“I believe we come into this world completely perfect, exactly as we are supposed to. And we begin to collect fear and insecurity,” says Williams. “So our job is to deconstruct and take off those layers so we can come back to our true self. That’s the process of getting Nekkid.”
Her senior year in college, Williams started working with Yoga For A Good Hood and fell in love with bringing yoga to people who are not represented and to people who don’t have the means to practice. Williams was inspired to create opportunities for self-healing and self-work for people who don’t have the time, resources, or privilege to connect with and heal themselves.
Inspired by the possibility of radical change, Williams has become a sort of workaholic. As Vice President of Yoga 4 A Good Hood, owner of Nekkid, partner in Books and Yoga, and branding-and-marketing-girl at Revolution Studio + Wellness Bar, Williams certainly keeps busy.
“I fell in love with yoga when I realized there was a way to make it accessible for all. It started a revolution within me, so I knew it could start a revolution in anyone given the opportunity,” says Williams.
Her other passion project Books and Yoga is a space where people can get together to talk about books on really difficult topics (such as rape culture and race) and then have a place to put that energy—that’s where yoga comes in. The yoga practice after the heavy discussion provides an opportunity for people to digest and not leave the room reeling from the discussion.
Martissa's partnership with Rochester Brainery is another extension of her passion for community and outreach that makes all the sense in the world. Join us for her free yoga class on 2/24 from 10am-11am.