Business

Rubin shares her knowledge with other yoga enthusiasts

Alison Rubin grew up in England and began studying yoga at 18 when she moved to San Diego. “I was drawn to yoga from a spiritual perspective,” she recalled, “and then discovered the physical side.”

Eleven years later, Rubin faced a career choice: continue working as a secretary, or share her yoga skills with others. “It didn’t take much for me to jump over to the teaching side of things,” she said.

Twenty-eight years after launching Harmony Yoga, Rubin – Ally to her friends and students – is ready to offer training for aspiring yoga teachers. She recently reflected on the joys and challenges of running a yoga studio, and shared advice for those considering a similar career path:

S-R: What is a common misconception about yoga?

Rubin: That you have to be flexible. You come to yoga to become more flexible. You develop flexibility and strength as you go.

S-R: You say you were drawn to the spiritual side of yoga. What is that?

Rubin: It’s learning how to accept the present moment – learning how not to react, but to respond to circumstances in your life. And you do that physically, as well. The spiritual practice and the physical practice support one another.

S-R: What did it take to start your own business?

Rubin: Basically, just deciding to do it. At that time I wasn’t really trained to be a yoga teacher. I set up shop in a house, and later moved to churches. At a certain point I outgrew those facilities and set up an actual studio, and started hiring other instructors, because it was becoming obvious I needed more space, more classes, more teachers.

S-R: Was there a moment when you realized you were going to succeed as a business owner?

Rubin: I never thought that I wouldn’t. The possibility of failing never entered my mind.

S-R: How has Harmony Yoga evolved?

Rubin: The quality of instruction has improved. My teachers and I have been teaching for a long time, and we have lots of training.

S-R: And now you’re ready to start training new teachers?

Rubin: Our 200-hour teacher training program will start in mid-February and run 10 weekends. All graduates will receive a certificate of completion and be eligible to register with Yoga Alliance, a national organization that oversees the quality of instruction.

S-R: What sort of person makes a good yoga teacher?

Rubin: People who are systematic and methodical in the design of their classes, and have the ability to offer advice with compassion. Good instruction requires a blend of strong direction presented with love and kindness.

S-R: How does your style differ from what someone might encounter at another yoga studio?

Rubin: My style is what I’d call more therapeutic. We teach our students how to practice the postures with attention to correct alignment, and we use props and hands-on adjustments to help facilitate learning. Another distinction is that we integrate the physical side of yoga with the philosophical side, which can be practiced both on and off the mat.

S-R: Does class attendance fluctuate?

Rubin: Yes. January and February are usually really good. It goes down in the summer, because people want to be outdoors, and then picks up in the fall.

S-R: Do yoga studios around town tend to cooperate, or are they competitive?

Rubin: A little of both. Studio owners know and respect each other. And yet there’s a bit of competition – especially now, with the economy the way it is.

S-R: What impact has the recession had?

Rubin: A big impact, because yoga is also offered in all the health clubs, and the cost is included in the membership fee. Whereas if they come to a studio, they’re paying extra for it. But I believe the quality of instruction is higher in a studio.

S-R: Does your yoga philosophy overlap with your business philosophy?

Rubin: I like to think I live the philosophy, so it’s integrated into my business, my grandmothering, my parenting.

S-R: What do you like most about running your own business?

Rubin: Being able to make my own decisions as to how to proceed and what to change.

S-R: What do you like least?

Rubin: All the administrative work – having to stay on top of it pretty much seven days a week.

S-R: What are you most proud of about Harmony Yoga?

Rubin: That we’ve been able to keep our doors open throughout all the economic changes, and continue to offer high-quality yoga instruction. Mostly though, I feel honored to have affected people’s lives in such a positive way.

S-R: Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Rubin: I ought to have bought a building. I’ve always rented, and in retrospect I think that was a mistake.

S-R: What advice would you offer someone eager to launch a fitness-related business?

Rubin: Start small and let it grow organically. Keep your overhead down. Be creative and believe in your vision.

Spokane freelance writer Michael Guilfoil can be reached via email at mguilfoil@comcast.net.


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