August 10, 2013

Food and Yoga: Understanding their Business.

It is the dawn of the new moon in Leo, and I have awoken in an unlikely place, awash with pure, natural and radiant beauty.

Located in the cool hills of Jamaica, Bromley Retreat Center’s history is alive in the wooden floors that creak beneath my feet as I walk throughout the estate home. The British colonial inspired wrap-around balcony provides pristine panoramic views of the raw beauty that is the surface of Jamaica.

Photo: Courtesy of Nadine McNeil. View taken from yoga deck at Bromley Retreat, St. Ann, Jamaica.

Quite unplanned, this trip serves to remind me that life lives in the unpredictably of the now, rather than the safety of routine.

Gathered around a circular table, our post dinner community comprised of five like-minded souls sharing stories from past and present, creating powerful alliances, as the future guides.

The host’s kind heart and gentle soul lives in his clear blue eyes that reflect the Caribbean Sea that surrounds. His current resident guest possesses a beautifully complex soul; a reflection of being born in in New Orleans and currently residing in Colorado.

Jamaica has called her forth to write a book…or so seems to be the raison d’être for her first visit to this equally if not more so complex land that reflects right back to her the questions that she begs for answer.

The over-arching theme of our discussion boils down to the concentrated question:

How do we, as travelers along the path of the business of yoga, build and maintain integrity both on and of the mat?

As one fellow teacher seated at the table notes, “yoga and the business of [it] are two separate entities. The shady-ness emerges when we’re unable to separate the two.”

My retort: “an ass-hole off the mat doesn’t immediately transform into being a saint simply by stepping upon the rectangular cut canvas that becomes the outlet for our healing, our growth or simply an awesome stretch!”

A common mistake that even I have fallen prey to is the fallacious notion that because someone is a yogi—whatever that vague label has come mean—that they ought to know better, in everything!

Really?! Where and how do I, the [not] queen of self-righteousness arrive at such a judgmental conclusion?

In our western world, we come to the mat through a myriad of routes and reasons. For some the quest is physical, for others it is soul driven.

Invariably however, once there, we encounter ourselves, oftentimes for the first time ever.

If we’ve been leading a life of entitlement, privilege, self-imposed victimization and/or all of the above, this [may] only become apparent as we maintain our practice.

Simply put, sometimes we have to breakdown to breakthrough.

When I began to take my gift of sharing yoga with others seriously—by this I mean owning it as my divine duty in a life of service; I knew that I wanted to offer yoga to people that, primarily for economic reasons, it remained inaccessible.

The practice has had such a deeply profound and cathartic impact on my own life, it drives my volition to share it with others. The process of teaching and practicing yoga is an interdependent and integrated one; i.e., the more I teach, the more I learn and the more I learn is the more I grow.

Being an awesome yoga teacher doesn’t automatically qualify one to be an equally awesome business-person.

In fact, one of the most successful yoga enterprises that I know is owned and run by a woman with immense vision, leadership qualities and entrepreneurial abilities. While she absolutely understands and appreciates all of the values and merits of yoga, her primary role has been to establish a sanctuary where people can and do travel from far and wide to be a part of.

The number of studios that have opened and subsequently had to close their doors over the past several years serves as evidence of a ‘dis-connect’ between yoga and the business of yoga.

Yet, paradoxically, everywhere we turn we read and hear of yoga growing, even in unlikely places, across the world.

Many years ago, I flirted with the possibility of opening a restaurant. This fantasy led me to a one-day workshop held at my alma mater, the New School in NYC. At the outset the teacher emphatically stated:

“If at the end of this course you still want to open a restaurant, then I’ve not done my job well.” She expounded to say that the restaurant business is never [entirely] about the food. Many an exceptional restaurant has failed because their owners didn’t grasp this fact.

Yoga business like food business—certainly in our Westernized oriented world—is intrinsically linked to the ‘gut’; pun intended.

In other words, ignoring or not understanding psychological component of these businesses is what oftentimes determines success or failure. We all know restaurants that serve mediocre food that have excelled in the business aspect for years.  These business owners understand that when it comes to food their customers expect and demand consistent satisfaction.

With a variety of styles of yoga and a smorgasbord of gurus, followers of gurus and teachers OM-ing around, competition is fierce!

Those who have excelled from a business standpoint have taken the time to hone their gift, packaged it in an appealing manner and marketed it accordingly; some with more integrity and adaptability than others. But isn’t this the same in any industry?

Unlike the business of food, the emergence and super-rapid expansion of the yoga business is relatively new. Subsequently, there are still lessons to be learned all around; by the teacher, the student and the business owner.

And so it is.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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