Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Humble Beginnings of OYC

I've lost track of time. Whenever someone asks me how long I've been doing yoga, teaching yoga or owned a yoga studio, I have no idea. I often have to check my certificate to get an approximate of when it all began. My teaching certificate from my 500 hour teacher training is dated December 8, 2001. But I had been teaching for a little while before we received our certificates. Anyway, let's just call it 2001!

My yoga teacher had convinced me to quit my job and come teach yoga for her. It was scary, but I knew that it was the only thing that would make me happy and get me out of the corporate hell that was wreaking havoc on my body. The moment I did it, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulder. I had big plans! My yoga teacher had a small studio in Morrisville, PA. I would start a children's yoga program, teach on days or evenings when she was off, and pour myself into getting new massage clients.

You know how they say that life happens when you are busy making other plans? Well, here's what happened next:

When I told my teacher that I quit and spilled out all of my big plans for her studio, she retreated. Maybe I stepped over my boundaries, but I did still need to make a living! In any event, working for her was no longer on the table and I found myself in a bit of a quandary. Thankfully I have quick survival instincts and I immediately called another mentor of mine, Darby Lines, who owned a local massage studio in East Windsor called Full Circle. I was doing some massages there by appointment and knew that she had a small vacant attic. I approached Darby about the idea of starting a few yoga classes in said attic and she was more than enthused about the idea!

Now, the attic at Full Circle had a sloped ceiling. As many of my first students will attest to, we had space for 6 yoga mats, placed sideways, with me in the front, and about 2 inches in between them. Oh, and we couldn't stand up. No, the sloped ceiling wouldn't allow for standing postures.

Guess what?

The format for my now popular style of Gentle Yoga was formed out of a basic need to have a place to teach yoga only sitting down! The community responded so well that my classes were soon full. At the time, this was the only yoga place in town unless you lived in Princeton or Freehold. The students were thrilled and enjoying a nice, relaxing yoga practice.

Before the Logo, this was the business name & pseudo-logo I used.

When the people at the Kumon Learning Center moved out of Full Circle's basement, I asked her if I could move down and rent the space out for yoga. Again, Darby was very supportive of the idea. Now in the basement, we could fit 10 people per class AND were able to stand up! THAT WAS HUGE!
Check me out back in 2002 with my blond hair in the basement of Full Circle! Don't get me started on my form!
PS You will still see those pillows at the current yoga studio!
I still taught my many Gentle yoga classes, but now I offered several Hatha classes. The students were learning by leaps and bounds and my little teaching gig was growing and I was so happy. In a couple of years, we again started to grow out of the basement. I couldn't believe it, but it was true. So, I started looking to rent somewhere else, even though I loved the energy of Full Circle and being with a supportive community there.

Right down the street on Rt. 130 I found a small studio in the upstairs of Royal Plaza (where City Streets Restaurant is now located). The rent was scary, but I decided to go for it. The move allowed for about 15 students per class, but also gave me my own separate massage room (haha, this was the crawl space that I put a heater in and stapled up tapestries).

Yoga Room in Royal Plaza. Do the drapes look familiar? We use them now too!

This is where the evolution of what is now "One Yoga & Wellness Center" began. Prior to that, I was a small sole proprietor teaching all my own classes. Now at the official "yoga studio," I hired some other teachers and began to launch into something much larger.

I still remember the day that we shot the photos to make the official logo. I got the idea from a yoga ad to create the "ONE" with my body. I had some ideas, but needed someone to correct me and someone to take the pictures. I had a lovely teacher named Diane who's husband was a photographer and they offered to take the pictures at no charge. With the help of another friend, it took about 2 hours to take some shots, which you see in the picture at the very top of the page.

From there, a good student of mine offered her girlfriend up to creating the logo. At that time, not many people had the computer software to create things like graphic art unless they were in fact a graphic artist. And, it could cost a lot of money to have one created. Again, through the loving support of friends and students, this was offered at no fee. Jennifer took the photos of me, put them together, blacked them out, and created the first version of the logo.
And there it is!

Everything was going great. Business was booming. And then it happened again. I began to outgrow the small studio at Royal Plaza. I had some classes with people out the door in the hallway and in the small vestibule area where they signed in. Mats were pressed against each other and I knew I had to look again for a larger space.

When a friend told me about 405 Rt. 130 (our current location), I told her it was WAY to big for me. After all, what was I going to do with all those extra rooms!?!?!? But I went back with my husband to look at it again and started to think that maybe I could rent the rooms to massage therapists, acupuncturists, and other holistic practitioners and make it a real Wellness Center.

The move to our current location brought me back to the basement. I have yet to have as yoga studio at street level! There were some challenges to the space: cost of rent, poor signage, temperature control, parking, etc. But for the past 8 years it has been our home.

But it didn't look or feel like home when I first signed the lease. Premier Physical Therapy had been in this location for some 10 years. It had a cold medical feel to it. The walls were white and the trim and carpeting were teal blue. It was horrible! I went in with a team of friends and students and we painted and we painted and we painted. I chose dark, warm colors and infused good energy into the space. Now often people comment that when the walk in the space they immediately take a deep breath and feel more relaxed.


Now was the time to get real. I needed a good logo and a website to advertise the business. I wanted to really create a brand. So my husband took me to see his T-shirt designer, a guy named CJ in Bristol, PA. He took Jen's first draft and came up with the logo that I used for many years:

A nice pink glow really made everything pop. The addition of my website to the logo gave it an automatic advertisement.

I have been at our current location so long that it was a challenge to go back and think about the humble beginnings. I'm going to be 46 this year, after all, and I don't remember things like I used to! What I do remember is that every step has been amazing on this journey. I continue to be supported by so many wonderful people. I love my students like they are family. My life has been so enriched by being able to help others start their yoga journey, or take it to the next level.

This past year I once again redefined my logo. Why? Why not?! Everything changes, after all. That's evolution! I also continue to grow and change, and I felt like the logo needed an upgrade! I spent nearly 70-80 hours working on the thing because now I have photoshop! Another good friend, Yuth Harris, helped me learn how to use it and showed me some great techniques for sharpening up the design that I was playing with. And it came out really stunning! Have you seen it?

Now that's a glow!!!

When I look back a the evolution of the logo, the pictures of the old studios, and my old self with blond hair, I cannot believe where the studio has grown. I feel so blessed because of all of the people who helped me in the past to get to where I am today. 

Today we have amazing people bringing their skills to the wellness center in the method of yoga, massage, bodywork, mediumship, acupuncture, and physical therapy. I still do massage my appointment, teach my regular yoga classes, do teacher trainings and workshops, and meet with students privately. I often miss family events because of work, but I really don't feel like I miss much because One Yoga IS my family.

In 2016 I will officially be teaching yoga for 15 years. Does it seem like a lot? Or not a lot? I don't know because it seems like it's all I've ever done or will do. Will another change or evolution be on its way by then? Perhaps. Sure. Why not!? Everything changes. But, sometimes it is more than good to look back at the humble beginnings.

With Gratitude.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Sutras of Patanjali: Niyama

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Niyama)

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For April, let's discuss the second limb, also known as the "niyamas."

"Sauca Samtosa Tapah Svadhya Yesvarapranidhanani Niyamah." 
B.2, V.32
Translation: Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study of spiritual books and worship to God (self-surrender).
The next step (or limb) on the yoga journey is the observances or niyamas. Through the yamas we really just got ready for the trip ahead and prepared the body-mind for further study and practice. The niyamasrequires us to dig a bit deeper and trust a lot farther in the path of yoga. 
Our first niyama is that of saucha, which means purity. We must purify our body. The fact is that we are constantly detoxing through bodily secretions all the time. And yet, there is still more to do. Keeping our body clean is one part of saucha. Dressing in clean clothing, keeping our surroundings clean, and eating only foods that are healthy, natural and fresh are more. Most of us have a healthy method of daily hygiene already in place: we shower, wash our hair, brush our teeth, put on clean clothes, and head out for our day. I find that most students struggle the most with eating pure. Diets are getting better with more and more awareness that we are gaining, and yet many health issues due to poor diet continue. Yoga says to eat pure. That means eating only whole foods that are in season. In today's world, that also means eating organic. Due to our lengthy winters this is a challenge, so you have to make the right choices. Having an Ayurvedic consultation will also help you determine how to eat for the seasons as well as for your own body type. 
Samtosha means contentment. Contentment is found when one is truly happy with who he/she is. It means being happy in the moment. Cultivating samtosha means learning from your experiences and overcoming the limitations and obstacles that you put in the path of your own happiness. True contentment requires complete responsibility to your life and the situations that you are in, but also being able to release negative thoughts and take yourself lightly. In the spirit of the great philosopher Socrates who said, "True wisdom comes from the acknowledgement of our own ignorance," remember that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and then learn to let go.
Tapah is often explained as "accepting pain and not causing pain." Sri Swami Satchidananda tells us the perfect example of this is a mother who feels so much joy in bringing forth a child, that she, in a sense, welcome the pain of childbirth. When we can get to the point where we can actually accept pain, it transforms into joy because we now understand the benefit of it. This takes great mental awareness and strength for it is easy to get hung up in the victimization of a perceived negative experience. A shift of awareness, and you find yourself grateful for the opportunity to have learned.
The fourth niyama is Svadhyaya or the study of spiritual books. Every spiritual practice comes with study. In the yoga practice, of course the physical aspects of the body (asana) and breath (pranayama) are part of our continued study. The yogi is always studying: studying the body, studying the mind, and studying text and scripture. It is a never-ending journey. The day you stop studying is the day you stop growing as a human being. It is our duty to study and in the yoga family there are now literally thousands of different text on the subject from ancient ones being translated for the very fist time to older manuscripts like The Yoga Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipitka to more modern books on specific fields of study like Yoga for Depression and many, many more. Keep studying. Remember, acknowledge your ignorance!
The final niyama is that of Isvarapranidhanani: worship of God and self-surrender. This is not an option, this is an observance. The yogi believes that God is within him, not without ("as above, so below"). The yogi believes that his/her life is a dedication and that each action that each of us take should be for the greater good of humanity. A yogi gives everything to God and possesses nothing for the self. But what does that mean for those of us who are householders and not renunciates? Well, it means to have faith. It means to believe in "Spirit," "Universe," "Higher Power," "God," "Buddha", "Goddess," "Christ," or "Krishna." It means believe in Divinity. It means live your Dharma (duty, right). And it means to practice Karma Yoga (the path of selfless action). Yoga is and always has been a spiritual practice. Cling to this branch, because it will propel you to the next one.