The fall is here, which means the new year is right around the corner and this year I’m beginning to audit my life a bit early. Last year I took two weeks off over the holidays, and I went away with my family. I spent the two weeks imagining how I could make my life better, less exhausting, and more effective. When I came home I cut my studio teaching schedule in half, and over the following months every other avenue of my business came into bloom.
Two and a half years ago I moved from Toronto to Cornwall Ontario, rented a tiny room in a chiropractors office, printed some flyers and declared that I had opened a studio. Two weeks later the city of Cornwall kicked me out of my space because of zoning infringements, leaving me in search of a new room to rent, with very little time. If I wanted to keep my first few students I needed a new space, and I needed it fast. I landed only a week later in a commercial space in downtown Cornwall that was much more expensive than I had planned when I moved. The room was available at the drop of a hat, that was the up side. The down side was it was freezing cold in the winter, I ran space heaters night and day, the bathroom ceiling leaked, we had people constantly smoking and chatting on our stoop during classes, and the list goes on. It was in this space that I started to reach the community in Cornwall, and my first few regular students stuck by my side through it all.
Six weeks later the city of Cornwall tried to kick me out again, posting a notice on my front door saying I was in violation of zoning rules yet again. This time I held my ground, I fought to stay in my space, and after weeks of stressful emails with the leading men of this microscopic city I had won the fight. My case was thrown away, and I never heard from them again.
A year later I moved my studio into a second floor space, a friend was giving up her dance studio and I scooped it up as she was departing. With a better, and much less expensive lease I could narrow down my teaching, and get away from the idea of running a full blown studio. I cancelled all the evening classes, and decided I would only teach in the mornings. Again, a few people complained, but nothing too major, and my loyal students kept on following the program.
My teaching career has grown living in Cornwall more than ever before. When I moved away from Toronto I had a chance to redefine the type teacher I wanted to be, and teach what I thought was important. For the first time in my life no one was hovering over top of my ideas, and the people I was teaching were completely open minded. No one complained if I played the right or wrong music, no one said it wasn’t yoga, people were interested in just moving better. I let go of 90% of the yoga poses I had been teaching before, and put together classes geared towards strength, and functional movement.
I began attracting students who were primarily over the age of fifty, which was different from my crew in Toronto. Everyone coming in my door seemed to have an ache or pain that their doctor had referred them to yoga for. I quickly made friends with a physiotherapist and started to think of all the ways I could make my teaching more accessible to the people I was working with. I learned how to work with certain injuries, how to try and prevent them, and how the body really worked.
It has been over the last two and a half years that I’ve come up with my own ideas around what the practice should be, no longer needing to fit into the mold of what a popular Toronto teacher should be doing. My students in town all know each other, the community is strong, and the improvement has been incredible. I taught four teacher training programs in downtown Cornwall, which means there are more classes happening than ever before. I honed so many of my skills working in this city, more than I learned in nearly a decade working in Toronto. So why would I ever want to change?
Over the last year I have been invited to teach on the faculty of five teacher training programs, I’ve been invited to teach workshops literally all over the world, I’ve launched a podcast, two online courses, a new teacher training program, I’ve begun writing a book, and I even teach a couple of private clients. Most of my weekends in 2018 are already booked, which means I’m already thinking about 2019, and super looking forward to it. So I guess that explains it! The overwhelmingness of my business development is requiring me to sleep more, write in the mornings, knit a few socks, and spend more time with my partner. I can’t do it all anymore, and something has to give.
This past summer my partner and I bought a house out in the country, making downtown Cornwall seem just a little bit further. We landed a place where I have a studio in the house, with a fireplace, a private entrance, and a private washroom. It is also in a part of town where there are very few class options. When we moved into the new house I decided to teach a class in the room that has now become my studio, I opened up eight spaces, and to my surprise they filled up within a couple of days.
As I move into the new year I’ve decided to close the downtown location completely, give up my space, and teach primarily from my house in the country. I feel guilty for leaving my downtown students, and I hope they follow me out to my house, or at least continue in town with another teacher. Over the last two and a half years it hasn’t been the money that has been bringing me back to the studio every morning, it has been the dedication of my students who have learned their first push-ups, and squats.
For the people reading this from the Cornwall area, the studio will remain open with regular classes running (unless I’m traveling to teach) until December 15th. Beginning in January I will be opening up four classes at my home studio, which will run in six week sessions, eliminating all drop in options. This means that I will be able to do the rest of my job, write my book, rest as I need it, and enjoy the community we live in.
For people reading this from a far, I will be recording all of my classes from now until the middle of December, and adding them to my online courses. This way everyone can practice along with us, and she the insights of Mindful Strength. This also means there will be more content coming out, and more opportunities to work together.
For everyone else, how can we take these moments every year or two to audit our existence, and make changes to our lives that once seemed impossible? What is one thing you can do this week to create a small change?
Thats all for now everyone, thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope to work with you soon!