May 8, 2010

Bomb Threats, Immigration and Opening Your Own Yoga Studio

I was ambushed into becoming an entrepreneur.

U Studio View

I’d like to say I walked into the business section of my local bookstore, bought several titles, spent months coming up with a 20 year business model, and then dazzled a bunch of international financiers who handed me the keys to my studio.

Unfortunately, there are two problems with this scenario. One, unless Isabel Allende starts writing business books, you’re not going to find me in the business section. Two, I had my yoga mat pulled out from under me before I could even get to the bookstore.

Let me explain. When I realized I was no longer welcome where I’d been teaching for over 5 years, I had only 3 weeks to get something going. That’s not a typo—I only had 3 weeks. I didn’t have a vision of my own place—name on the door, flashy logo, merchandising. The only thing I knew was that I had to do something quick.

U Studio was named for the comm“U”nity that built it with me in record breaking time. Whether it was the lawyer who negotiated the deal, the architect who helped with the demolition, or the unbelievably dedicated students who came with me, some magic happened during that time that I’d never witnessed before. I was graciously helped at every step of my journey—my 3 week journey that had the breathless, frantic feel of traveling with a two year old who’d just eaten an entire bag of jelly beans.

The lesson I learned: it’s incredible what we can do when we all join together!

So I learned this amazing lesson in miracles and then I hung up my shingle. I’d arrived. Little did I realize that I was only just starting my lessons—God has a much better sense of humor than that!

Day 1 was like throwing a party where you aren’t sure anyone is really going to come. Remember, this is LA, where we’ve actually patented the technique of saying we’re going to attend something without any intention of attending. We’re all guilty of it, and then we hold our own event—karma! I can’t even remember teaching the class, it was like I was having an out of body experience. I do remember the kind faces of that first group of students—their eagerness and enthusiasm reminded me to breathe, to focus on the fact that everything was going to be okay.

That is…until…

Day 2, when my building was evacuated by the LAPD. It turned out there was a suitcase on top of a bus stop—we could see it from our 5th floor perch. For me, it was just another example of typical airline service, but in these anxious times the authorities considered it a bomb threat and the whole neighborhood was yellow taped and every building emptied. To this day my students tease me that I suggested they take a savasana while we were being escorted out.

At least they couldn’t read my mind, or they would have heard me telling myself I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life.

Day 5 there was an enormous immigration rally that marched down Wilshire and stopped literally at the front steps of my building. I watched it on my TV at home as it was happening—you know, one of those live updates that makes everything seem really, really DRAMATIC! Once I stopped freaking out that there was no way I could possibly teach the class that was supposed to have started ten minutes earlier, I admired the way LA Mayor Villaraigosa spoke to the passionate crowd. Then I started thinking about why they’d stopped in front of my building? Was it some kind of protest staging area? Exactly how many passionate causes were going to represent themselves on my threshold? I imagined a sea of people with pickets, yelling “meet up at U Studio in an hour, tell everyone!”

I turned off the TV and took a deep breath. Can I still get out of my lease? I thought.

But then something wonderful happened…


The next day we laughed about the unpredictability of life, before we went about our sun salutations and enjoyed our beautiful new views.

As we settled into our new nest, I realized yet again that so much of our yoga takes place off of our mat, breathing through the inevitable curves that life throws us. On our mat we learn that in our life we need to focus in a progressive, positive direction towards our ultimate intention. Starting a new venture is the same leap of faith we take when we turn upside down in a headstand for the first time. We prove to ourselves a little at a time that we can do it, that there is nothing to be afraid of, and before you know it, whatever we were attempting becomes part of who we are. Creating a community that encourages this kind of exploration is the most rewarding thing I’ve been blessed to be a part of. I encourage everyone in some small or large way to do the same…because “U” can do it!

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Andrea Marcum  |  Contribution: 1,100