In 2002 I was a young aspiring actor and yoga teacher looking to do something good.
I didn’t really know what or how, but I was eager. As soon as possible, and definitely with a hair of magic, I started teaching. I was first awarded a kids class at Casa De Luz with Healing In Yoga. And through that community I met many of my angels, who sometimes blindly trusted me, an eager young voice, offering me more classes for kids of all ages. From teenie toddlers to tweens, I was driving all over town in my car with no AC - yoga mat and Mary Poppins bag of tools for the kids in tow. After years of practice and a lot of patience, I finally started to land some classes for adults.
This was a big deal. There were not that many studios or classes at that time and I was a young doe, passionate and committed, but definitely finding my voice.
Performer at night, late nights.
Teacher by morning, early.
I’ve taught in private gyms, the YMCA, studios, homes, hotels, museums, and schools. It wasn’t till I moved to a regular teaching gig at our local professional theatre lobby/art gallery that I really started to unpack. In this space I was not glued to anything but showing up twice a week and offering affordable donation based yoga to serve others in a big way. I had fun. Did my best. I was blessed to have the freedom to play and fail many times over. A community developed.
JUMP to… a growing Austin. Growing so fast that each time I come home from travels I have to blink twice to recognize certain street corners that have long been the same my whole life.
Just about around the time that the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel started to transform into a business (something we could have never imagined really, not the way it has turned out anyway.), I started to notice more folks from out of town attending my classes in the gallery at Salvage Vanguard Theatre. It blew me away to meet folks who had once practiced with me online, now, in person, in my hometown, all smiles, sweat, stories - genuine connection. Again… community.
However, as Austin continued growing at rapid pace, a time came in which the East Side Theatre could no longer afford the massive warehouse space on Manor Rd.
Along with the loss of an impactful art hub - this meant my practice and the diverse community of folks who were committed to gathering weekly in that space were soon out of a home.
I got sad.
Then one day, after a positive pep talk from my business partner and after dreaming and scheming on what to do, and believe me we talked about every option, I sent a note to Rey Cardenas.
Rey was someone in the yoga community that I had felt like was a long lost friend when I met him for an event rental for SXSW. Not only did this person feel like family, but the studio in which he was leading also felt familiar. A place where you could kick your chanclas off in the lobby and make yourself right at home.
I had also noticed that his studio was fostering high level practitioners and teachers - some in which I had grown up with and already admired. I saw they were doing this while also offering classes at a donation rate. And I lit up.
I noticed this during a time when the cost of yoga and wellness was starting to rocket. I noticed this at a time in which the YWA mission was really starting to form and become much larger than the simple YouTube channel Chris and I set out to experiment with.
High quality free yoga for as many people as possible is our mission. So to see the sign on the window of E. 6th street that read Absurdly High Quality Donation Based Yoga I wondered, could we be pals?
Rey Cardenas, co-owner of Practice Yoga Austin, first welcomed us into the space for a SXSW event - one where I said I would do it only if I got to pick the space, wanting it to feel warm and like Austin, my hometown, not like a cold conference room. I also wanted the money to go to a local studio, vs a corporate biz. We catered the event with local handmade breakfast tacos right in the studio lobby. I remember meeting Rey in person for the first time that morning when, with such confidence and kindness, he tossed me the studio keys to play host, as if the space were my own.
From there Rey and I took the time to sit down and connect. We were looking for ways to support each other in the ventures we were creating with our communities, but we found ourselves fast friends, with good communication and a lot in common! Before I knew it, I had a place to invite my community to practice. Rey even gave me his prime time class spot and within the year I was teaching Monday, Wednesday, and Saturdays.
In the years that I was at the studio I enjoyed the authentic energy of both the teachers and the students. I loved the systems put in place to make everyone feel both empowered and cared for.
When once I taught class for a single person or two that showed up, now my classes at PYA started to spill over into the restaurant and bar across the street. I took a break to pause, evaluate, to tour, and to nurture meaningful projects. I stayed in contact with Rey and his co-founder Struan Vaz, the three of us sitting down to discuss the earth and the sky, the current climate of yoga, and why we do what we do. We agreed to remain inquisitive and open to any and all ways in which we might be stronger, working together in the business of yoga - vs the common competitiveness that comes with rapid growth. Camaraderie over competition.
I currently teach once a month in Austin, but we know we need a place to get cozy any day of the week. We know we are overdue to hold space for FWFG special events and future trainings. And we know people want to come to Austin to experience the magic of group practice.
We are still holding space at Fair Market each month, in collaboration with Bunkhouse Hotels, and this particular gathering always feels at its core like a true celebration of community.
But the time has come and I am a little moved with honest gratitude to even type this…
After many years of friendship, generosity, conversation, collaboration, learning together, and asking the big dang questions - together… it is with great and humble joy that I announce a merge, a hug, an intertwine of happy spirits in the Austin Yoga Community.
On the eve of the studio’s sixth birthday, I am honored to return to Practice Yoga Austin to join Rey Cardenas and Struan Vaz as co-owners of the studio.
May this be just one more sign of the power of yoga and community. May this partnership be blessed, held accountable, and spread accessible tools to many individuals to live well, be healthy and tap into their innate goodness.
And may it inspire you, dear reader, to know and feel, you belong and you are welcome, and we mean it.
Any day, any time.
Come visit at: https://practiceyogaaustin.com/