the 10 things i wish i had known before opening a yoga studio

today, Ekam Yoga closes its (current) doors (temporarily) for ‘renovations’. it was a fun 2 years, but i’m ready for a cleaner, better-maintained, cheaper, homier space and a more consolidated, minimalist lifestyle. the insane running around of the last 2 years is finally at an end (whew!). i can now look forward to 1 june, when Ekam will begin a new phase in Parkhurst.

i opened Ekam Yoga in March of 2010. i had these beautiful fantasies of introducing johannesburg to the joys of traditional ashtanga vinyasa yoga. i had practiced in Mysore and NYC and those places were always packed! i thought, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; the traditional ashtanga practice and teaching method is beautiful, practical, and it works. people here are going to love it!

looking back on the last 2 years, here’s the reality:

1. everyone that you need to get your studio up and running is ‘un-yogic‘. the shortlist: landlords, contractors, builders, financial advisors, interior decorators, branding agents, your own family, etc. it’s business as usual, and no one knows (or cares) what ‘yogic’ means. it’s ok. remember: you’re yogic and you understand the nature of karma.

2. your practice will disintegrate, rebuild itself, disappear, become transparent, rise, fall, and spin in circles. just like everything else in the world. you will then come to realize that you’re always practicing. and that is a priceless learning experience.

3. your practice will take new forms, for example: cup washing, mat cleaning, snack sourcing, flower arranging, website updating, email answering, budget balancing, etc. each new form reveals itself through a love of the practice.

4. you will have over 600 followers on FaceBook, but no one will show up at 6am in the dead of winter. on the up-side, you can use that time to practice! or go back to bed.

5. that person with the 2, 3 or 12 friends who can’t wait to experience your studio? they’ll never pitch. it’s the same with those who said they were coming to your workshop, your retreat, your class on saturday, etc. and then there are those that call to ask you if it’s ok to come to class (‘sure!’) and they’ll see you tomorrow am (‘bright and early!’). i’m sorry to break it to you: they’re just teasing. but there will be lots of nice surprises that walk into your studio too!

6. you will teach more private yoga classes than you thought possible, and your students will love you for it!

7. you won’t make as much money as you thought with those famous yoga teachers who pass through town. but they will draw numbers and gain recognition for your studio. they’re a lot of extra work, but they’re worth it.

8. if you stick with it, keeping true to your vision, you’ll lose friends, but you’ll make friends too. be grateful for both.

9. it will be a rough ride for a while, and you may not make it. but,

10. you will never, ever regret it.


“take this pink ribbon off my eyes…

…i’m exposed and it’s no big surprise.
don’t you think i know exactly where i stand,
this world is forcing me to hold your hand.”
                                           -just a girl, no doubt

i’ve been trying to finish this post for a while, but couldn’t think of a way to write it that didn’t sound like a pissing contest between me and most men on the planet (which i would undoubtably win), or a militant feminist, or both. i am not militant, and i’m not a feminist. i’ve never identified with being a ‘girl’ in such a way that it prevented me from doing whatever the hell i wanted (doesn’t everyone think this way?). maybe it’s not so much that i don’t identify as a ‘girl’, but more that i don’t identify any activities as being ‘boy’, e.g. gender specific (except maybe pissing contests). but i am getting a bit tired of people joking about how underneath my lululemon 50 rep bra i’m actually a man. i’m just a girl. throughout my life i’ve ended up in activities whereupon, when i do eventually get distracted from the activity itself and look around, i find myself surrounded by men. i don’t know why this is. it’s as if men took all the fun activities on the planet and peed on them, and so most women stay away. in any case, here’s some of the fun i’ve had-, not being able to distinguish the smell of male urine from anything else.

raft guide the raft guide training itself is challenging. in Maine, it takes place during one full week in May when there’s still snow on the river banks and ice chunks floating in the water. it’s freezing cold, the river is at flood-stage, and you have to exist on peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti bolognaise. every morning you slap on a (wet) wetsuit that gets more and more ripe each day. the job itself requires a certain amount of physical strength and endurance, the development of a technical skill, a level head under pressure, a loud voice, and a certain feel for the element of water. it’s also not without serious risk. once you’ve taken your practical and written exams and get your Level I Whitewater Licence from the State of Maine (and your Maine Guide patch, which i’m extremely proud of) you can now throw 8 overweight punters who don’t know what ‘down-river’ means and call a paddle an ‘oar’ into a 16″ raft and take them through some class IV whitewater. it’s a fabulous test of endurance of body as well as mind. one of my guide instructors told me once that women make better raft guides. they know they can’t rely on strength so they plan ahead and make their runs work for them, rather than relying on muscle and dumb luck. i’ve seen this concept crop up in other activities as well- technique and skill over brawn and muscle.


i’ve owned 4x4s since 1998. my first was a wood-paneled, navy blue jeep grand wagoneer, but i prefer land cruisers, specifically the 80 series model with the solid front axle. the new FJ is nice too, but the IFS doesn’t thrill me. since moving to africa in 2001 i’ve kitted two cruisers with: roof rack, roof top tent, 3-drawer packing system, 40L national luna fridge-freezer (sun-downers require ice), 55L water tank (i require showers), the ultimate 168L long range tank (made in australia) bringing my total fuel capacity to almost 250L of petrol or an off-road driving radius of about 1200kms, a dual battery system, a compressor, B.F. Goodrich all terrain tires with an IEF dual spare carrier carrying 2 more, and a VHF radio. i know the difference between brake fluid and diff oil (specifically with regards to smell), and i’ve assisted with two diff repairs in the bush (the reason i always carry diff oil). you don’t know what a diff is? 4x4s have two. with my kitted vehicle i’ve travelled throughout botswana, south africa, namibia and kenya. i also drove from gabs to nairobi (towing a trailer with all my earthly possessions). i didn’t do all those trips alone, but i was the principal driver, navigator, and chef. and i make a mean pan bread.

somewhere in Namibia...


male-dominated, but not for long. the ladies are catching up! it’s the same as with…

besides, what woman could go that long without taking a bath!


yes, yoga! until only recently yoga was a male-dominated activity. for the last 5000 years the traditions, sequences, practices, and philosophies have been passed down through the ages via oral and written tradition through by men through guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student oral tradition). only recently, probably since Indra Devi emigrated to the US in the 1950s, has the practice of yoga become dominated by women. this, however, is a western phenomenon. worthy of a movie even.

i’ll continue to do my own thing, regardless of labels. i’m having way too much fun. and you guys can join me, be it on the mat, at a jam, in the bush, anywhere- as long as you’re not up for a pissing contest. because i’m really not a man. i’m just a girl.

every practice is beautiful

i’m still high from an amazing jam i had two saturdays ago. after a week of rest from strength and conditioning i felt like i was floating that day. there’s nothing like a nice float through things you once thought were impossible to encourage you to dig deeper. but then i saw the video. yes, the video footage of my so-called floating. and there i was, mentally, back at square 1.

there are a lot of parkour and free-running videos out there- most of them are not very good. people are quick to film themselves doing something they think is awesome, but they forget to add the awesome. i’ve been on a mission lately trying to find those few and far between videos of traceurs/euses that really get to the essence of beautiful movement and combine it with the art of photography and video. so i’ll save you from wasting 2 minutes of your life watching me until i’ve created something worth watching. you’re welcome. but if you’re willing to waste a few minutes of your life on worthwhile parkour/videography, here are a few links:

i’m thankful that the yoga community isn’t about posting videos of awesome yoga tricks. oh wait, they are. for the most part yoga videos have stayed instructional or inspirational rather than being promotional. ok nevermind, upon review, it really is mostly about self-promotion. recently i told a friend that if i ever said i was making a yoga video or writing a book about yoga to please, please stop me. i’m going to leave inspiration to the masters.

so how did it happen that my practice that saturday felt amazing but looked like crap? because every practice is beautiful. and this is my message for today- your practice is beautiful whether you were flying through the air with the greatest of ease or crumpled on your mat in a pile of blood, sweat and tears. any practice that is a true expression of your current state is beautiful. all those bodily fluids are just as much a part of you as the wind in your hair. and however good or bad you feel while you’re practicing, if you can live in that moment, you have found your moment of truth.

beginners claim to me that their practice looks terrible, that they’re not as good as [that person on the mat next to them], that they will never be able to jump through to sitting, they will never be able to get that bind. when i watch a practitioner, when i see the evidence of passion, frustration, exultation, or pure doggedness, i see a person whose practice is real, grounded in truth, and who is experiencing transformation on a molecular level. and that is a beautiful thing. sometimes, one of my jobs as a yoga teacher is to refocus the practitioner’s awareness from the actual, physical practice to what is going on deep inside and to help the practitioner transcend both the ‘good’ practices and ‘bad’.

i’ve never seen myself practicing yoga, but i feel amazing when i do it- that’s real. i’ve reached the point where my yoga practice is fulfilling whether i’m lying in snot on my mat or flowing from one chaturanga to the next (sometimes both are happening at the same time). so for my parkour practice, i’m resolving to take the perceived difference between how it feels and how it looks, and transcend it. i know i’m getting stronger and more agile, and sometimes i really do feel like i’m floating. so i’m going to avert my eyes from the video evidence and keep my mind on the practice itself and its transformative effect on both my physical form and my mental self-doubt. and someday i will make that video worth watching.


Goal Setting Part 5: SHARING is caring

a few last things about goal setting and then i’ll stop. i promise.

1. write your goals down. seriously- if it isn’t written down it isn’t a goal. the writing process takes those nebulous thoughts that float around in your head, those desires and dreams for your future, and makes them real. and attainable, if you’re willing to accept the challenge and change and opportunity they bring. writing the goal down is like an invitation for it to manifest in your life and sometimes it’s the hardest part. so remember- it can only get easier once it’s written down.

2. sharing is caring. share your goals with relevant people. they will help you, they will encourage you, and they will be inspired by you. and it’s really cool to get feedback from people, and exciting to be able to share the little steps along the way. really, don’t be shy. one christmas my entire family sat down and did goals at the dining room table and that’s when we decided to hike kilimanjaro together. which we haven’t yet. but for those few hours we were together as a family, affirming each other’s ideas and dreams, which in the end was more important.

2. don’t get discouraged. as you know i’ve been doing goal setting for years. i write them down and print them and post them on my pin board at work. a few years ago i was really frustrated with my job and with the reviews i was getting and resolved to increase my overall annual evaluation score from 2.8 on a scale of 1-5 to 1.4, if 1 is the highest and 5 is the lowest. because, to me 2.8 is a 3, which is just average, and i know i’m better than average.

my boss was visiting and he noticed my goals and he read them. we discussed the new goals/task lists for the coming year and i told him about my goal to achieve an overall score of 1.4 on my next annual evaluation. he said that he had read that and thought it amusing since he was the assessor and he was the one that decided my score, not me. at that instant in time the following things crystalized for me:

  • my boss was an asshole. i lost a lot of respect for him in that moment- he had the opportunity to mentor me, and to encourage and inspire me and he failed.
  • most importantly i realized: if i write a goal, i OWN the goal. it’s MY goal. i have the power to achieve it and i will own it like a BOSS! if anything i wanted that 1.4 even more now just out of spite. NB: motivation can come from unlikely places.
  • i was inspired by a new goal: to ensure this guy was not my boss in nearest possible future. which i achieved by using this, and a few other examples, to illustrate the toxic nature of the working relationship.

so don’t be discouraged by the occasional speed bump, or asshole, that gets between you and what you want to achieve for yourself. remember this is about you and your path as you define it. forgive yourself and don’t get caught up in the little things, stay focused on those big things and don’t forget to grow.

i will not post anymore blogs on goal setting until 25 December, 2012.