What I've learned over a decade of Yoga studio ownership.
Trust is a Tricky Thing
I don't always trust myself.
I love being up high and looking down. I like to climb mountains, ride the gondola, bungee jump, fly in planes, etc. On stable ground, I feel great. If I have to balance on the edge or jump down, I get scared. I have a fear of falling; of failure. For some reason, I keep climbing, though. I keep going even though I know I may eventually have to balance, jump, or fall off in failure.
This is the life of an entrepreneur. I keep trying, climbing, struggling, reaching, and growing. Sometimes I get to stand on top, feeling proud of my accomplishments, and look down upon where I was. Sometimes, I fail. In the moments when I am succeeding, I trust myself. I follow my gut and my dreams. When I fail, I doubt myself. I worry that I'm no good. I consider quitting. . .I never do, though.
It's All Yoga
I'm no Yoga master. I'm doing the best I can and learning as I go. I keep practicing. As I do, I keep learning more about myself. Then, I share what I have learned with those who share the practice. I do my best to articulate how the practices of Yoga help me as an individual, a teacher, and a business owner.
I remember when I first began developing strength and skill in Asana. It was very exciting because I was attending classes at the gym and my teachers seemed to like me. They were encouraging and supportive as I developed my skills. I recall practicing sirsasana. I would try it everywhere I could; at first with a wall and then on soft surfaces. Once I was able to access the posture I started performing it everywhere. I felt strong, balanced and trusting in my own body.
I could have stopped with sirsasana, but I didn't. I kept wanting to learn more, to be better. I continued to practice and develop new skills both physical and deeper. Over time, I have moved more and more inward in both study and practice. As I do so, I have learned more about myself and my interactions with the world. I have learned to be a better person and business owner.
Taking the Leap
Fear is a very strong force. It can freeze you in your tracks or force you into movement. I like to think that I am one of those people that is forced into movement. I used to allow this movement to propel me without paying attention to where I was headed. I was reactive and protective. My practice has given me the skills of observation, reflection and intentional action. Now, I realize when the movement begins and am able to choose in which direction do go.
During periods of transition, rather than becoming anxious, agitated or aggressive I try, instead to take pause and be more reflective, patient and informed. Sure, I am still afraid, sometimes don't trust myself and I know that I still stand the chance of failure. Now, instead of feeling out of control, at least I know that I am the one who chose to balance or jump down.
More Than Poses
Yoga provides us with so much more than physical prowess. The strength, balance and self awareness we develop through the practice can be generalized to every aspect of life. We can connect Vinyasa with the flow of events and learn to make better decisions. We can apply the practice of mindful focus when interacting with others and choosing to commit to something.
To practice Yoga is to change the way you feel, think and live. You may already have noticed the effects that the practice has. Beyond feeling physically healthy, you might also begin to experience your wellbeing expressing. Yoga gives us the tools to see, know and be. It applies to every aspect of life.
If you're ready to balance on the edge or take the jump. If you would like to learn to trust yourself. If you are finished being frozen by fear. Try Yoga. It might help you discover your Self. It might help you be a better person, partner, business owner, teacher, you name it.
I invite you to join me in the practice and to share how it has changed your perception of the world.
Lake Tahoe Yoga began as an idea. For years I would joke about various locations being "a great place for a studio." I never thought I would actually become a studio owner. It wasn't until I was approached by some locals who were curious about my skills beyond counseling that I considered starting my own business. I began with just a few classes, some private sessions, and free classes. Once I began actively teaching, I realized how much I had to learn about business, people and community.
Giving too Much Away
I am enthusiastic about instructing, guiding, and helping others to discover their paths. The teacher in me is always proud to see my students demonstrate their understanding, develop new skills and grow as individuals. While instructing others, I am always learning. It wasn't until it was too late that I realized the very people that I had been supporting, guiding, and instructing were planning on attempting to become my competition. Upon leaving Lake Tahoe Yoga Studio they took more than the knowledge I had shared; they took practitioners, ideas and more.
It is incredible to look back to 2008 and review how rapidly technology, advertising, marketing and business has changed. During this time there have been positive and negative shifts in every field. I have had to change everything about the way I market my business. What will never change is the roots of Lake Tahoe Yoga.
Many of the studios, gyms, etc. in town may be listed on Mindbody or some other app. They may have pretty photos with people posing on their instagram. Maybe they are offering classes at breweries, art studios, wineries, with goats and cats and dogs. They are viciously competing with one another. Lake Tahoe Yoga continues to remain focused on our roots: the practice, the knowledge and sharing it with others.
Putting our Money where it Matters
Lake Tahoe Yoga wouldn't exist if it wasn't for our community. It was the locals that encouraged me to begin instructing and who continue to support the studio. I didn't practice at any other studio in Tahoe. I didn't train with a studio here. I didn't learn how to run a business by working for another studio. Everything at Lake Tahoe Yoga grew through active learning, community engagement & support, and the dedication I have to the practice, studio, and practitioners.
Our social media photos are of Tahoe and people just like you and me doing their best to access more than a pose. They are trying to access Yoga. They are living in this world, working beside you. They are breathing, moving and observing themselves and the world around them hoping to bring forth positive change.
Every penny spent to advertise Lake Tahoe Yoga is purposeful and focused. From local memberships for TRYP, SLTWHS and Tahoe Chamber to social media the advertising is calculated to be the best way for us to reach the community and to give back.
Supporting Small, Local Yoga Studios & Businesses
Over the past 10 years I have learned much about Tahoe South, business, and people. I have grown as an instructor, business owner and individual. I have deepened my understanding of Yoga and what it means to truly practice. I know I am not perfect. I remind my students that not everyone lives life with an open mind and that most people are in service only to themselves. Taking this lesson to heart, I have chosen not to advertise on the popular apps so that I can donate a portion of Lake Tahoe Yoga's profits to local and international non-profits.
When traveling, I seek out the small, locally owned studios that are not listed on Mindbody and do not have fancy advertisements or websites. I have discovered wonderful studios, new instructors, friendships, connections and more. I have expanded this practice beyond Yoga studios and have begun seeking out small businesses, as well. It has opened many new doors.
Go Small, Support Locals
There is no guarantee that the studio you find listed on Mindbody is the best, nor is there a guarantee that the teacher instructing in the basement of her house is any good. You will never know if you don't try it out. How about giving that new teacher in the basement a try before heading to the studio paying to be noticed? Step into that funky little shop on the corner instead of going to the one with thousands of reviews. Ask a friend for a recommendation, ask a local where they go, step off of the beaten path and try something new. For it is only when we try that we know.
Yoga + Focused Concentration = Less Stress
Stress from work, school, and family can build throughout the day until, when it’s finally time to get some much needed rest, you have trouble closing your eyes. You need a full night’s sleep, that’s a solid seven to eight hours every night, to rejuvenate, energize, and refresh the body for a new day. Yoga and focused concentration both offer ways to help clear your mind, slow your heart rate, and prepare your mind and body for better sleep.
Yoga, especially those forms that use directed breathing, reduce the inflammation brought on by stress. Focusing your mind and body before bed has measurable benefits by reducing the activity of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation. Yoga Asana also helps relieve tension and tightness in muscles.
Focused concentration that centers on mindfulness is another way to help center your mind, putting stressful events and thoughts in the background for better sleep. Mindfulness concentration encourages practitioners to focus on the moment so that thoughts and emotions center in the present rather than dwelling on the past or speculating about the future. This type of concentration helps relieve symptoms of depression, chronic pain, and conditions like high blood pressure.
Yoga for Better Sleep
Yogic and concentration techniques can be performed before getting into bed or after you’ve laid down. When doing poses in bed, your mattress type may prevent you from getting a stretch with the same intensity you are used to on the floor, but that doesn’t reduce the relaxing benefits.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with the feet hip-width apart, folding from your hips toward the ground. Reach your arms to the ground. You can grab your elbows with your hands and let your arms gently dangle for a better stretch. Slightly bend your knees to relieve any strain. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm.
Seated Spinal Twist
Start by sitting on a mat or your bed with both legs out straight in front of you. Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot over your right leg. Gently hold your left leg with your right hand, and twist your torso so you’re looking over your left shoulder. You can keep your right leg straight or bend it toward your left hip. Take up to eight deep breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
On your knees, sit with your knees wider than your hips and bring your big toes together. Lengthen your torso between your legs. Extend your arms out in front or rest them beside your legs. Let your forehead drop toward the ground or your bed. Take up to eight long, deep breaths before releasing.
Focused Concentration works well once you’re lying in bed. Start by focusing on your breath. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm and listen to the sound of the air entering and leaving your lungs. Focus your mind on the calming sound of your breath. If it helps, focus on a calming word with each inhale and exhale. As you continue breathing, keep your mind focused by pulling it back to your breathing when it begins to wander. Continue until you feel calm, quiet, and relaxed. You may even drift off to sleep.
Special thanks to TUCK for their contribution of this blog and active work in the study of Mindfullness, Sleep and accessing Dhyana (Meditation).
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
On October 27th, my pitch for Lake Tahoe Yoga was shown on the Vistaprint Facebook page as part of a live feed during which they provided feedback to business owners.
As I watched the feed with one of my practitioners she commented; "Talk about being vulnerable." I was more overcome with excitement to have Lake Tahoe Yoga reach thousands of people rather than concerned about the fact that I was putting myself out to be critiqued.
I have always seen LTY as a reflection of who I am and what I want for our community. When the studio doesn't do well, I feel like I am failing. When it succeeds, I am encouraged. Regardless of success or failure, I will continue to strive for change and growth both for myself and LTY.
The feedback I received was valuable and will guide me as I move forward in promoting what we offer. I should note that this is not the only feedback I have ever received and certainly not the only contest I have entered. I belong to multiple business groups both locally and online and am often asking for guidance and honest feedback from others. In fact, when we remodeled in 2015, the funding came partially from a contest that I won through a business group created by Quickbooks.
As a business owner, I know that the best guidance comes from those who are in the same boat; people who own or have owned businesses in a variety of locations and fields. Their guidance helps me to learn lessons without going through the struggle and to take consideration of things that may have never occurred to me.
As a yoga practitioner and instructor, I know that there is much to be learned from teachers outside of my local area. I strive to bring traditional, new, and unique practices and ideas to our studio and hope to spread them throughout the basin. My husband often comments that Lake Tahoe Yoga is "where good ideas come from" and that we "populate Tahoe with high quality teachers." I would never assume that I am the only one who is drawing from outside of the area, or that I am the best in Tahoe, but I hope that which I am teaching is having an influence on the yoga community in Tahoe.
I grew up in New England. There's nothing that can compare to the fall in the East. Maple leaves, maple syrup, pumpkin patches and apple trees, they all have a special place in my heart. Now, living in the land of arid climates and high alpine forest, I sometimes lament about what I used to have. And then, I remember, where I live.
After Labor Day, Lake Tahoe takes on a whole new vibe. As the crisp, fall air drifts in each morning and the warmth of the sun is felt later and later in the day, a peacefulness arrives. The hundreds of boats cris-crossing the lake are gone. The average driving speed has slowed, once again. All of us, who live here, take a deep breath and sit down to relax.
This is Yoga, my friends. This is honoring what we have and enjoying the present. As we sit back and review all the hard work of the summer, this is Yoga. Our lives in this community are cyclical, just like the flow of life. As yogis, it is our duty to recognize our habits, patterns and hurdles. Living in Tahoe offers a unique perspective on this practice. Every Summer, we work, we play, we sell. We rest, in the fall. Every Winter, we burn the midnight oil and rise with the dawn to hit the slopes. In the spring, we pause, again.
During these pauses, these moments of rest, there is an opportunity to learn. Yoga is the practice of understanding who you are. Of understanding our habits and changing them. As Autumn arrives and settles in upon us, enjoy the peace and quiet. Sit back and look upon yourself. As the seasons change, maybe you will, too.
As a Yoga studio, our job is to share knowledge, experience and philosophies about Yoga. Our hope is that you, our practitioners, will absorb what we share and eventually, begin to do the same. There is a middle ground, though, for all of this. You see, we all have to practice and our practice is more than just what we do in the studio. It is the generalization of the skills we learn in class into our lives. It is a lifestyle.
You are Me
Have you felt the effects of your practice? To find Yoga is to find your Self. In order to get there, you have to restrain (Yamas) your wants and observe (Niyamas) your needs. The way you treat yourself should be reflected in how you treat others. And, if you see yourself as spiritual, holy, god-loved, etc. then you will see all others in this way.
Restrain, Direct, Control
Every posture is a demonstration of the practice of Yama. We move with intention trying to retain the position prescribed in any way that our bodies are able. We can generalize this practice into our lives through the Yamas.
The Yamas are five-fold: Truth, Helping, Generosity, Moderation and Sharing. Living your life with the intention of retaining these aspects of Yoga can shift our perspective and have an effect on others. Imagine if everything you did was guided by these principals. What would you do differently?
Observe, Reflect, Realize
Pranayama practices are tools designed to focus and limit our thoughts. These breathing techniques include a count of breaths, length of each, pauses between and various aspects of mudra or mantra. These techniques are the first step in establishing Niyama.
Niyama are five-fold: Purity, Contentment, Self Study, Dedication and Devotion. These practices direct our attention toward our own habits. We live life based upon memories, experiences, wants and desires. Our thoughts and actions are a demonstration of subconscious karma. To practice Niyama is to practice treating yourself well. The more you do so, the better you will treat others.
Shift, Adjust, Change
Our continued practice of Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama ultimately leads us toward the additional four limbs: Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
The more we live a lifestyle of Yama and Niyama, maintain our physical health through Asana and consciously breathe the less our attention will be drawn to distraction (pratyahara).
Allowing ourselves opportunities to spend time alone, in quiet spaces allowing our minds to be directed by rhythmic breathing or sound vibrations, the better we become at focusing upon that which is important (dharana).
Silencing the chatter of useless thoughts, detaching from toxic people and environments, recognizing that which we can control and letting things happen as they will while remaining present becomes natural (dhyana).
Eventually, we will settle into contentment and recognize that we are each a tiny droplet in the ocean of the universe (samadhi).
We've hit that point, the part of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika where we learn about "posture." The word "Asana" means "seat" or "pose." Consider this; 3000 years ago people weren't sitting in chairs at desks or driving around in cars. They were squatting, sitting on the ground, moving along the earth on their own two feet and taking a seat wherever they needed.
In the Yoga Sutra we are taught "Sthira Sukham Asanam;" to take an easy, steady seat. The same is true in Hatha Yoga. In order to quiet our mind, slow our breath and focus inward, we must have steadiness of body. No matter what pose we choose to take, if that posture remains steady, easy and balanced, we will be able to maintain focus.
Tight walkers, slack-liners, acrobats, gymnasts, etc. all have the ability to remain balanced, steady and focused in order to maintain their pose. In Yoga, rather than posing to perform, we are posing to turn within.
As you practice, look not upon how your posture looks but, instead, look within and feel the pose change you.
July; the most summery of months. During July we tend to be outside, with others, enjoying the world around us. Funny thing, that sounds a lot like Yoga to me.
This month, we will be hearing and sharing stories about how Yoga has effected us. In the book "How Yoga Works," there lies an outline of the practice and a story of how it effects others. Stories have been told about how
Yoga has helped alcohol and drug abusers recover. Those suffering from depression and insomnia have found solace in the practice.
People have found balance in their lives and learned to trust in who they are.
Take some time this month to consider what your practice has done for you. What changes have you allowed, what have you created, discovered, experienced? Share your story here and let it be told to inspire others.