“Have you ever thought about opening up a studio?”
That is one question that usually makes me cringe. Being around a several studios in various stages of birth, life, and death, I know how much work they are to manage. It also seems like you can’t have that conversation about opening a space without getting into those murky, soul-sucking conversations about “branding” or “target demographics.” In the age of high-end yoga spaces with amenities like showers, mat storage, free filtered water, and freshly laundered hand towels, I wasn’t sure how I could ever be able to compete. I had thoroughly decided that I couldn’t and never would.
When I moved back to Arkansas this winter, my old massage school had an available room and my teacher, Susie, asked me if I would consider it for a yoga room. I immediately began to think of all the things I just mentioned. I couldn’t help but think that I had no real disposable income, no students (they are in other states and other towns), and nothing really to give except for my knowledge, experience, and my presence. This room had concrete floors, was an undesirable shade of lavender, and it needed a bit of polishing, but I couldn’t help but see its potential. I could see if it just had a little love and a fresh coat of paint…it could be something. I left that day very excited and simultaneously a tad freaked out.
I think I just agreed to open a yoga studio.
While the paint is drying, I wanted to lay out a few of the things I wanted to accomplish in the space.
- Give a yoga education. In many studios in the U.S., you go to drop-in classes to learn asana (physical postures). Sure, your teacher might pepper in some life lessons here and there, but there may not be much mention of pranayama, or moksha, or the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, many of us don’t know such things exist until we take a yoga teacher training. So, now we have a model that everyone is participating in that you have to take a yoga teacher training to learn about yoga even if you never want to teach. You should learn about yoga when you come to class and not just how to perfectly align your knees in lunges. Perfectly aligned knees, does not a yogi make.
- I just teach yoga. – There are no “styles” of yoga being promoted here because every single thing I’ve practiced has contributed to what I currently teach. Iyengar yoga taught me the laser focus of proprioception. Ashtanga and Baptiste taught me discipline and the merits (and even joy) of hard work. Vinyasa taught me how to flow and express. Yin taught me how to soften. Viniyoga taught me how to breathe. All of my work with TIMBo and yogaHOPE taught me resilience, presence, and the power of simple practices. All of those practices are in what I teach, but I think the teaching has to depend on the student. My classes are called, “yoga.” The contents and physiological difficulty of the class depends on who shows up, and plenty of options will be given to raise or lower difficulty. All classes will always have some movement, pranayama, and meditation. (and at room temperature)
- and meditation. – Every yoga class has meditation because learning to meditate is the friggin’ juice of the fruit that is yoga. If asana practice has changed your life, multiply that by a million, and that’s how much meditation changes your life. In modern postural yoga, we’ve lost touch with the purpose of asana (to prepare the body for meditation).
- Low prices because I have low overhead – The great thing about having a little room in an already established business is that I have little overhead and those savings are passed on to the student. This practice should be accessible to all regardless of income, and I offer private lessons on a sliding fee scale.
- Focus on the individual student – Yoga here will largely be based on the needs of the individual, which means I’m not here to guide you through a creatively choreographed “flow” that will leave you scrambling to figure out what the hell I’m talking about and somehow magically deposit you at the end feeling peaceful and whole. As a teacher, I want to facilitate students finding the practice that best suits their abilities, bodies, and needs. I give options for modifications, and place emphasis on finding ease and stability in every pose. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be working hard, but the student is able and encouraged to determine how and when effort is applied.
These are all ideas I’ve been mulling over the past few years, and when I’ve talked about them with other teachers I get one of two reactions. I’m either looked at like a space alien, or they actually agree with me but the drastic change required to do it is so scary that we both hang our heads and go back to our hot power flow classes never to speak of this again. So, yes, I am opening a yoga room with a strange business model in the most likely, over-saturated yoga market of Fayetteville, Arkansas. I am calling the space “Hearts + Minds Yoga” not only because I feel I have some winning over of hearts and minds to do, but also after the Osho quote, “Love plus meditation equals compassion.” Above all things, I want this to be a compassionate and inclusive space where people can learn about yoga.
Classes begin on May 8th, and I’m looking forward to sharing yoga with you. If you have any questions about what I am offering or even suggestions on what you would like to see here, feel free to contact me.