October 6, 2011

The Mom and Pop Yoga Shop.

My project, 25 Days, is going to take me to 15 cities across the U.S. this year. I am in my fourth city, Austin, Texas. I am busy trying to find out what all the fuss is about. I will eventually find out. What I have found in Austin is an amazing yoga studio. Below is a taste of the conversation I had with the studio’s co-founder.

Walking into the East Side Yoga studio in Austin Texas is not a phenomenal experience. It is a simple space, arranged to function for the participants at the studio. There are hand-made signs on the walls, yoga accessories for sale on random shelving and racks, and a modest bottle of water, which the founders bring in each day from their home, with small paper cups sitting quietly beside it. There is a basket of loaner mats, which are free to whomever needs one, a basket for food donations,  and a board with the teachers’ info on it, though it is more of a interview than bio format, which is a nice familiar touch.

Meeting Steven Ross, co-founder of East side yoga, is equally un-phenomenal. He looks as average as any person I have ever laid eyes on. He is bouncy, small, and humble. He speaks softly and smiles broadly. His Scottish accent is charming, and his warmth and openness is remarkable. Steven is the epitome of the people I am finding in my project. People who seem quite run-of-the-mill, but people who are also incredible and brave and human.

Steven sat down with me for a conversation about yoga, Austin, and East Side Yoga, or, as he calls it, The Mom and Pop Yoga Shop.

Steven wants East Side Yoga to stay small, community oriented:

  • “I don’t feel like I am really the founder. It found me.”
  • “Two policies: Trust everyone. Don’t force anyone to buy packages.” 
  • “If I decide to open a second studio, give me a slap.”
  • “It’s not about growth. It’s about development, and about developing a program.”
  • “The most important thing in life is to find peace inside. It doesn’t matter how you do it, golf, work, whatever.”
Steven has a way of talking about his studio and his practice as if he really wants you to understand. He is careful with his words and asks frequently if what he has said makes sense. Steven is also incredibly humble, and sees his place in the world as a small but happy one. He recently did a yoga series for men:

“I just did my first guy series. Yoga for stiff and stressed guys. It was very successful. It was such a great energy. Guys came, and they were working out, and they had real stress issues. It is interesting to see what people really want. You might think they’re all coming for physical, but they’re not. They’re looking for something to calm their minds, and I think that’s exciting. I feel for them and I want to help them, but I think it’s exciting in the way that it’s making them look deeper. There is this conscious awareness that develops.”

There is really so much more. He was an amazing speaker and a very kind soul. I will be posting more about him and his philosophy in the coming days.


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