(My lobby area -not quite finished. Um… excuse the vaccum cleaner. It isn’t a permanent thing. I guess it was late and I was tired when I snapped a few quick photos.)
It’s been a crazy busy 6 weeks because, shoot me, I’ve been expanding my business. I made the decision to do so back when David was here. He offered to do all the construction for me, was going to be one of the evening teachers, and because it would be financially possible thanks to his contribution of time and talent, we decided to take the plunge. So I negotiated with the landlord and began the process. Then, David got his job offer and he had to abruptly relocate. Suddenly I was stuck with a project I felt totally unprepared to do all alone, but there was no turning back. So I just dove in and found creative ways to make it work. David flew in twice within a month to help, killing himself to squeeze in all the work he could in a short visit (and trust me that is not the first choice of how the man wanted to spend his time at home). He did all the electrical work, helped me buy and put in the bamboo floors, and repaired the drop down ceiling after we took out a couple of walls (no easy feat since the ceiling was at a slant due to poor planning from previous tenants).
Panicked, because I didn’t really have the money to invest in this project if I had to hire out all the work, I sent out an e-mail asking for help, and a plumber, a painter, and a construction guy came forward. Talk about the universe giving you exactly what you need. The universe even sent me a storm that closed the airports up north for two days, extending one of David’s visits just long enough for him to get work done that only he could do. Convenient luck or something more? Anyway, I opened this new studio on a shoestring, using nothing but creativity…. Last night I finished, and today is my open house. The place is drop dead beautiful and I expect a crowd to come help us celebrate.
I sent David pictures and he exclaimed. “Remarkable! It has “Wow” factor!” He added that he is even more impressed because he knows what I had to work with and where everything came from, and he is amazed what I’ve accomplished with so little resources. (Ha that is the story of my life.)
I did most of my shopping at Goodwill. My staff makes fun of me because almost every day I come in dragging something more from Goodwill; I have this little car that I load with way more than it should hold. There is always something hanging out of the trunk, sticking out of the windows, or teetering on the canoe roof rack. But eventually, I had to rent a truck and David and I brought the big stuff over on his last visit.
(Still a work in progress, I have yet to finish hanging tapestrys and brochure holders etc…) to make the lobbyinviting. I have plans to soften the lighting, rework the sales display because I sell mats, slings and other yoga things). But one thing at a time…. I also have totally ignored the little kitchen in the back… Don’t need it today…)
I found a big L shaped front desk, a Chinese screen, a wall unit to hold props, a wall unit for tea, bookshelves, a bamboo bakers rack for the bathroom, silk plants & trees, a full size stainless steal refridgerator forthe kitchen, a small fridge to hold waters for sale, end tables, wall sconces, a glass and brass rack to hold crystal bowls and sound instruments, furniture fo the new massage room (no pictures yet) knick knacks, and more – all for practically nothing at goodwill, and put the place together that way. I guess if you have an artistic eye you can create a beautiful environment out of very little. It is simply a matter of trusting your creativity and enjoying the challenge. And the yogi in me loves that I am recycling resources, treading lightly on the world rather than consuming valuable resources.
I even took an ugly picture I got long ago at Big lots to my Mom’s and asked her to paint me a Buddha head for the lobby.She did a lovely job, and I appreciate that I have something with meaning decorating the space. My mom is not getting any younger, and there is something poignant and heartfelt about my keeping a part of her with me in the day. I also have pieces I gathered from ReFlex, from my home, and from the former Flex, all embedded in the decore.Its as if my entire history, family and life experience is all circling about, reminding me of who I am and how I ended here.
Anyway, I am delighted with the results. Last night the night watchman stopped by to say hello. He walked through he place, whistled and said, “Man, when you do something, you do it right!” I thought it a very nice compliment.”
My new studio, designed just for yoga, has natural bamboo floors (bought on closeout at Lumber Liquidators). I have beautiful adjustable lighting and infrared heaters in the ceiling (bought on closeout 9 months ago) for hot yoga classes – thanks to David. I have a second massage room now because I’ve added a facialist to the staff, and this place has a little kitchen too. I have set this up for yoga teacher’s training, which is vital to my long term vision. There is a great energy in the place. Not only is it welcoming and beautiful, but “blessed” because a team of reiki healers came and put their positive energy into the space while also doing a ceremonial smudging to cleanse and make the space sacred. Don’t laugh. The world of Yoga has untold levels of spirituality, ceremony and meaning, and I embrace it all with respect, curiosity, and sometimes I admit, a leap of faith. More on that “hippy stuff” (as my mother calls it) later.
When I started the process, friends asked if I was excited. I wasn’t’. It felt routine at first. After all, I’ve opened 11 separate studios in my life, two before Mark, and three after him. The first studio in Sarasota (FLEX) was expanded 4 times, which meant 4 negotiations with the landlord, four remodeling projects to convert a former store into a dance space, buying and installing floors, mirrors, barres etc… So it feels like I’ve opened 15 studios. All of my locations have had between two and four rooms too, so all together I’ve put 29 studio spaces together.
(Pictures don’t do it justice… by the way those are not fans overhead – they are infrared heaters. When they are on, the entire place glows as if you are doing yoga at sunset. Gorgeous!!!!!)
This is the first yoga only space, and it has a few different considerations, but all in all, it feels like I’m designing another dance studio. I felt lonely and stressed during the process. This kind of thing always stirs up lots of memories of my marriage, but the fact that I did it alone felt great at the end. I did the negotiating myself, designed the construction plans, the décor, the schedule, hired the teachers, did the marketing, etc… It reinforces my sense of independence and going through this process has shown me just how much I personally contributed to my former successful business and how important my input was as compared to what others were doing. Frankly, I have a great deal to be proud of from my past, and I’m feeling confident and proud of my future too. Hard work teaches us important lessons. I’m really good at what I do. Nice to recognize that and not feel I have to apologize for or downplay my gifts. Nice to learn just how much of my past sucess was due to my own business accumine, work ethic, and creativity.
So, in the end, I did get excited. I love the new studio and everything my creating it represents. I love the possibilities I see in the directions I’m taking my life.
I’ve known since the beginning that I would have to eventually separate the dance and yoga portions of my studio because I’ve been running two totally different businesses under one roof. In some ways, a dance and yoga studio are compatible and one can support the other, but the energy, attitude and resource demands or each enterprise can be stifling to the other too. I’ve had serious obstacles to growing the dance portion of the business because I can’t build enthusiasm and do outrageous, fun promotional events when I’m telling kids to hush all the time so they won’t’ disturb yoga classes. And it is hard to instill a sense of serene healing (important for yoga) when your customers have to step over kids playing in the lobby or listen to laughing in the hallways during savasana (the final quiet meditative rest in a yoga class). For the first two years, I‘ve met the challenge with creative scheduling and compromise, but this year (the start of year three), the studio has grown big enough that I had to make a decision. Did I want the studio to lean towards dance, or become a serious yoga facility? Clearly I would never get my business as successful as I want it to be until I had chosen a clearly defined vision and “voice”. I’m a natural entrepreneur with years of experience and a degree in business all driving me to follow my instincts and establish a trademark. I have to do something, or the studio will flounder forever – or worse, deteriorate due to its wishy washy projected image.
The problem is, which way to lean? I love teaching dance and for the first time in many, many years I have students with great promise and attitude. I am deeply proud of how my program is unfolding. I am teaching truly advanced, sophisticated classes to students who have professional talent and focus. There is no drama or disgruntled customers at my school, no ego running amuck to make my life (or others) miserable. I simply don’t tolerate that behavior this time around. I handle issues with kindness, respect and nonattachment, and when I sense someone is making trouble, I respectfully convince them to leave my school and find someplace that will be a better fit. Amazingly, my mindset as a director changes everything about the dance studio experience for everyone involved – me, my staff, students, and my dance parents. Anyway, the future looks bright in the dance area. My enrollment is not huge, but it is healthy and growing. My studio is gaining a fantastic reputation. I’m building beautiful dancers and my children’s program is once again innovative and filled with future innovation. One thing life has taught me is that Dance is my dharma. It feeds a part of my artistic soul in ways I never want to live without – or at least not until I am too old to do the job effectively. Frankly, thanks to yoga and my new insight about how to retain integrity in art and teaching, I’m teaching stronger classes today than ever. Despite the years, my body is still able to do things that no one my age should. That is a gift from nature that I recognize and feel grateful for every single day – but sometimes I think it’s because this is my life’s work. Every time I try to leave dance, the universe constructs a situation where I’m thrown back in, and while I come back kicking and screaming, deep down, I love it too. I am totally at peace, filled with a sense of purpose and drive when I’m in a room with dancers and we are choreographing, inventing and exploring movement. It is good to do what you love.
But what about yoga? Ah, I love yoga too. Yoga is not a job or a calling, it is a life path. I started off just scratching the surface of yoga, teaching because it seemed a logical thing to do, but making yoga my business provided me with the resources and the motivation to dive deep and explore the path in depth. I will save commentary on all the things I’ve discovered and embraced in this journey for another blog entry, but let me just say that yoga is far more than a physical practice to me. I have studied a huge gamut of yoga techniques and styles, learned about the history of yoga, the energy system, chakras, nadies, quantum energy, eastern philosophy, and more. I’ve become a reiki healer, versed in gong and crystal bowl meditation, and many other non-traditional practices that I would have balked at a few short years ago. I am now in school to be an Ayurveda counselor, learning the “science of life” from the Eastern perspective. All of this makes me an extremely insightful yoga teacher, but in truth, I don’t teach that much yoga –at least not the one hour physical practice on the mat. I have instead become a yoga teacher trainer. And wow, has that taken me new places. I’ve always been a teacher’s teacher, and I am gifted at organizing material, communicating technique and theory in down to earth ways. I’m told I’m inspiring. The subject of yoga is broad and hard to wrap a brain around, so I designed a program that is very different from others. In my area, the local yoga studios train about 12-18 people a year, and they have been in business for years. My first year offering of yoga teacher’s training, I had 47 enrollees. People are talking about the program, recommending it. I keep adding sessions and they fill. Next year, I’m offering 5 sessions as well as the higher level of training and I’ve already got a waiting list for it. Amazing! Best of all I love, love, love yoga teacher’s training. Every time I teach the 8 limbs of yoga to others, I reinforce the principles and my own mindset. I keep going over the philosophy, reaffirming my beliefs, researching and learning more to share.
Anyway, I will write more about yoga later. For now, I have to run to Sam’s to buy paper goods, cheese and wine. I have to get to the studio to meet my fantastic, humor-filled staff for an open house that will be filled with good wishes, laughter and a few Oms. I’m teaching partner yoga today, and we are offering free gentle yoga, aerial yoga, and our first hot yoga class. Got the towels ready! We’ve had dozens of calls – people are excited. Everyone wants to see our hot yoga setup. It should be fun. I will share pictures later.
As they say. If you truly love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life…..
There are days I could argue that… but today I’m inclined to agree….