Category Archives: Guest post

Q&A with Leah on Owning Her Own Yoga Studio

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I’m so happy to share this Q&A with Leah Zaccaria, owner of Haute Yoga Queen Anne. When I started practicing at this studio a few years ago, Leah had just finished up her teacher training and was gearing up to start teaching classes of her own. That’s when I first heard her story of how she decided to leave her job in corporate America to start her own yoga studio — right when the recession hit. I hope you’re inspired by her story and words of wisdom below.

What is it that attracted you to yoga in the first place?

I have always been into fitness and dance.  I was going through a body transformation, changing my diet and life and I heard hot yoga was a great workout.  Little did I know that it would change my life.  It allowed me the space to be quiet in my mind.  It allowed me the space to see what my life really was and how I wanted to be.  I became awake.

When did you decide you wanted to make the career change to yoga studio owner/instructor, and how did you set that into motion?

I had been in the corporate world for 15 years.  I was not happy. I knew I was meant to do something greater, with more purpose.  I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and one day a co-worker and I dreamed up owning a yoga studio.  I was so passionate about yoga, I thought was a perfect way to marry my business expertise and love for yoga to fulfill my bigger purpose.

I kept my full time job as a CPA for the first 2 years of building my yoga studio business.  It was a huge sacrifice and I did not sleep much.  But, I was able to focus on building the community without worrying how I was going to pay my bills.  I worked really hard for over 2 years and once the studio was profitable enough, I was able to leave my job.  I am grateful every day that I made that transition.

What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in getting HYQA off the ground?

I was a bit naïve when I first opened, having the “build it and they will come” mentality.  It took some patience and extra capital (that I did not really have) to really get started.  Fortunately, I had some key team players like Jenniferlyn Chiemingo that got people in the door quickly.  And after 6 months, hyQA was doing quite well.

HYQA has such a distinct community — what people/events do you think contributed to its unique character?

hyQA is all about community.  I have always told my teachers to be themselves, to teach their own style and from the heart.  I wanted to be my own person, why would I put restrictions on them.  If people are allowed to be themselves, they feel safe.  I want everyone to walk through the doors and feel welcome, to feel like they belong.  The relationships and friendships that I have seen develop here are so amazing.  hyQA is not just a place to practice yoga, it is a home away from home, a place to build yourself and community.

It is also very important for me to reach the greater Seattle area.  Giving back through events like Yoga for Hope or sponsoring projects like Africa Yoga project stretches us greater than just Queen Anne.  I also just recently partnered with another yoga studio to bring in a national teacher.  If we can bridge the communities together, we can do more.  I don’t fear competition.  Competition just leads to greater awareness for yoga at large. We all can be successful, life is abundant.

What’s your advice to professionals who work full time and who would also like to teach yoga on the side?

Try to stay balanced. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Be present and prepared when you are teaching.  Stay the course and answers will be revealed.

Any last thoughts on your journey from corporate America to yoga studio owner/instructor?

You can do anything you set your mind to.  You just have to be willing to take the risk and put in the work.  I am so grateful I had the courage to make the huge leap that I did.  I finally feel like I am on the right path.

 

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Jenniferlyn Chiemingo: “My Journey to Yoga”

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I’ve been taking classes with Jenniferlyn Chiemingo (JL) since I started practicing yoga, and there are many other yogis who can say the same. JL makes yoga accessible to the average person with great music, inspiring words and an energizing flow. I’m excited that JL has decided to share her story on “Yoga for the Soul” of her journey to yoga from her news producer role in San Francisco. In her own words:

When I was a kid in the 1970s (Yes, I am that old) – my mom did yoga.  She married young, but still wanted to be a cool hippy.  Growing up, we had yoga and meditation books around the house that my sister and I used to giggle about and make fun.  Little did I know I would make a career out of this path!

I’d always wanted to be a TV News Producer.  And I am the kind of person, who, once I decide something, it is done.  At 13, I decided.  I was relentless in my pursuit of that dream. I worked at a local cable television station, I applied to college to study journalism, and even watched Tom Brokaw nonstop. 

I graduated at the top of my journalism class and secured a job in the Midwest right out of college.  Not bad, really. Granted it was a small town and the ‘TV station’ was in the middle of a corn field, but I was the six and ten o’clock news producer. I was also the top writer, editor, and janitor too 😉

From there, I moved up quickly becoming an Executive Producer in a top 50 market by the time I was 24 years old.  It was high stress, but I thought I loved it. I was married young but then divorced young too.  I lived in tiny apartments and had to defer my student loans because of my measly salary. 

Then I moved up again. San Francisco.  I wasn’t sleeping, I had lock jaw, my chronic back injury flared up and I was married again.  We wanted a baby. But after three years of trying, we were still alone.

The doctors all said it was stress.  My mom suggested I try Yoga.  (Um, no way.) I was a runner, a cyclist, not a chanter and stretcher.  But mom made a bet with me; she would pay if I went to three classes.  Of course I hated the first; I tolerated the second and LOVED the third.  I was practicing several times a week. It helped me sleep, it helped me laugh, and it helped me find peace in a high stress job.  Then 9-11 hit. 

I was surrounded by horrific images and honestly felt so much pressure and pain.  I realized that day; my life was passing me by. I was a 3-time EMMY nominee but I had no children, barely saw my husband and was really unhappy.
I went home to my husband and said, ‘I want to be happy. I want to have a family.  I love yoga. I think I want to be a yoga teacher.  Can I give up my BIG salary?’ 

With time and planning, I did give up that job and that salary. 
This year, I just passed the 10 year mark of teaching yoga. That’s equal to the time I was a TV News Journalist.  I have a son and my husband and I have been married 13 years now.  Do I credit yoga with all this change, transformation and growth – You bet I do. 🙂 

You can join JL at Haute Yoga Queen Anne for one of her regular classes — you won’t regret it!