Thursday, May 22, 2014

Body Soul Bliss May Be Closing

(08/23/2012)

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you, my students and friends, that unless things significantly improve by then, Body Soul Bliss at Lothlorien will close its doors next summer. That is when our liability insurance expires and I cannot justify renewing it when I will in all likelihood have to get a “regular job” of some kind, maybe at Publix or Home Depot. I really hope this will not happen, but honestly I am not optimistic.

In retrospect I wish I had gotten into the yoga business sooner. Although I’ve been practicing yoga since 1976 and teaching since 1980, until a few years ago I never entertained the idea of teaching yoga for a living. I didn’t think it was practical, and I also felt a bit uneasy about accepting money for doing this “spiritual” activity. I had taught for free until the late 1980s when I spent many lunch breaks from my real job hanging out doing yoga and meditation on the back porch of a New Age store down the street in Berkeley. The owner asked me if I would be willing to teach, and I agreed. To my surprise they offered to pay me $20 per student per hour and nobody seemed to think this was expensive. So I taught there “on the side” while continuing with my regular job as Operations Manager (i.e. glorified secretary). I moved to Southern California and had various other secretarial jobs and eventually went into medical transcription, which was quite lucrative for a few years until our jobs started going overseas during the Bush administration. I moved to Florida to be near family and continued my private yoga practice but paid little attention to what was happening with yoga in the world outside my little farm north of Panama City.

Only when the medical transcription work petered out in 2009 and I needed to find another way to make a living, did I consider yoga – and only by process of elimination. You see, I’m really not qualified to do much of anything else. My philosophy and psychology degrees are useless and jobs here are scarce. When I read in a mainstream medical journal, “Yoga demonstrated to have health benefits” and it was being promoted by doctors, I thought, “Hey, this is actually a service that I can provide!” We turned our double-wide “manufactured home” into a yoga studio/retreat house and Yoga at Lothlorien opened for business. This little redneck hick town in the Bible Belt (yoga is satanic, you know!) was already FULL of yoga studios, far in excess of the demand, and the going rate was just about $10-12/hour. Nevertheless I was quite optimistic, as I had finally found my calling in life. How obvious it now seemed, that this is what I should have been doing all along! If only I had realized it years ago and gotten established prior to the Yoga Alliance takeover and the recent boom in studios.

Since opening in 2009 I’ve had some students here at Lothlorien and a couple of gigs teaching at other places, but unfortunately nothing has been steady. I keep losing students. In my more paranoid moments I think it is because I am a bad teacher. However, I have never gotten a single complaint about my teaching. Rather, the consistent theme has been: $$, or lack thereof. Everybody is broke. They say $10 is too much. For $10 a student can buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread to feed her family. Yoga is a luxury. Besides, the cost of gas – Lothlorien is out in the boondocks. I get calls from potential students at the beach all the time who are very interested, until they learn our Arnold Road is NOT the Arnold Road on the beach. I can’t blame them. Why should they drive 45 minutes to pay $10 for a class in a trailer, especially given their options at the beach?!

Back in December I decided to sell the house that Hawk and I built in order to buy a studio on the beach, to answer the demand there for yoga. I didn’t want to sell the house, but it was the only way to get out of debt as well as to fulfill my dharma. In the 9 months since I made that decision, not only have I had ZERO offers on the house, but also, 3 new yoga studios have opened on the beach! One is very luxurious. Another has all kinds of classes – some type of “yoga” and zumba, pilates, ballet, etc. for just $7, or $6 if you pay in advance. Plus they have childcare! Other teachers in town now offer classes for $5 or sometimes for free. We simply cannot compete with that.

Yes, it’s true that we are the only Heart of Yoga studio in town, in fact one of just 2 in Florida. This is REAL yoga from the source, and there’s nothing like it! But people are mostly just looking for “a workout.” We can do that here, of course. I can work your ass out, to be sure! We have weights and everything, but you can get it much cheaper at a gym. And Lothlorien is the only studio around here to offer Equine Assisted Learning – “yoga with horses” and riding lessons. But nobody is able and/or willing to pay for it.

Meanwhile, I am weary of teaching in my home studio, in this trailer where we now live, Hawk and myself and 2 cats, and can only fit 3 students at a time in our converted living room. I really need a yoga studio separate from our home. The beautiful house we built (which is currently being rented out) would be PERFECT for a yoga studio/retreat! However, upon doing the math, we can’t afford it. The studio would need to generate a minimum of $1000 per month in order to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities. And that’s just not happening.

So, if it’s still not happening by summer of 2013, we will close. It breaks my heart because I do believe at age 49 that this is why I am here on earth – to teach yoga – but I could be mistaken. Maybe teaching yoga belongs to the young, beautiful, skinny and rich. Maybe it’s really my destiny to have a job stocking shelves at Publix (I don’t even know how to use a cash register), or helping people find tools at Home Depot, or even an office desk job, which I detest, and hope that it will pay the bills. But, whatever is God’s will. If He wants to strike me down dead with lightning and thereby end the whole “how in the hell am I supposed to make a living?” drama, that’s ok too. Ishvarapranidhana. Or as my mother used to sing to me when I was a little girl, “Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be…”

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