Rebecca Weible was enduring at a corporate job, slugging the days away while she realized the job wasn't for her - but after numerous interviews, it dawned on her that it wasn't just the job, but the corporate world that wasn't for her.
In the Yo Yoga! founder's story there lies an uplifting break from the Wall St-esque trundle of the corporate world to a calm, eloquent New York City rooftop that now houses the Yo Yoga! classes everyday. It is here that Weible created a mid-city sanctuary for the masses in the demanding heights of the Big Apple and has profited from the hyper-stressed and under active atmosphere of an office-laden Manhattan. We sat down with the flexible (in more ways than one) entrepreneur to find out more about her uniquely-positioned fitness-meets-meditation business.
Why did you get interested in Yoga? How did it start?
I had taken dance classes since I was about 3 years old and loved it but never quite excelled past an intermediate level. I grew up in South Carolina in the 80s and yoga wasn't prevalent at the time but I knew it about it from books and media and the calming, stress-reducing aspect of it interested me as much as the physical aspect, which seemed similar to dance. My mom bought me a book about yoga - it was one of those 'Eyewitness' brand informative books - and I poured through it learning more and teaching myself some of the poses including crow pose. There weren't many opportunities for me to take regular yoga classes but I took one at any chance. I began to practice regularly during college at a studio in Charleston, SC. The spiritual and peaceful part of the practice hooked me and, for me, the alignment and the more precise body instruction and mindful movement seemed to be what was missing from the practice of dance.
"There weren't many opportunities for me to take regular yoga classes but I took one at any chance."
Why did you decide to open Yo Yoga? What was your main point of difference?
From the first time I stepped into a yoga studio, I knew that I wanted to run a studio of my own one day. I was interested in creating a peaceful, sacred space to spend time in and share with others. After working for a handful of years in the corporate world, I wanted a career where I could see the impact I was making on people's lives. Opening Yo Yoga! was a way to offer something meaningful to anyone who was interested.
For those of us who can't be there can you briefly describe the space and the programs on offer?
Our space is clean and white with lots of windows to let in natural light. We keep the space relatively bare with minimal decor to prevent distraction, provide room to breathe and so anyone practicing can find their own version of zen during their time in our space. ur large, rectangular roof deck is accessed by sliding doors located in our lobby. This third floor roof top space is covered with green tiles that are firm and supportive yet yielding for knees and joints. We plant flowers every year and hang simple string lights. We also set up the mats so students can face the tree whose branches and leaves extend over the deck adding a touch of nature in the middle of the city.
Our main offerings are Open level classes and Basic level classes. Open level classes are vinyasa-based classes where we offer options for every level of yogi in the room so you can choose to make the practice more or less challenging as needed. These classes break down more challenging poses and offer the chance to remain in the most basic expression of a pose or take it deeper. Our Basic level classes are our beginner-level classes that break down the most common poses and move at a slower pace so you can learn how to do each pose correctly for your body.
Can you talk about the partnership with Sound Off? What does that entail?
Yo Yoga! is the first studio in NYC to offer Sound Off yoga classes as a regular part of our weekly schedule.
In these classes, students wear Sound Off Experience's Bluetooth, noise-cancelling headphones throughout class in which they hear curated playlists and the sound of the instructor's voice. This allows total focus throughout class and almost feels like getting a private lesson.
Students will wear the headphones throughout a 30 minute listening to ambient sounds and binaural beats along with guidance from the instructor. This allows space for the energy of a group meditation without the distraction of city sounds or sounds from your neighboring meditator.
Can you briefly discuss your transition from corporate to Yoga? Was it Zen or was it more difficult than you anticipated?
Strangely, I always felt more excited than nervous about leaving my corporate job and opening Yo Yoga!. When I began to feel restless and annoyed at my last corporate job, I began a half-hearted attempt to search for a new job. After a couple interviews it hit me that if I took any of these new jobs, I was going to find myself restless and annoyed once more after the initial challenge of being new wore off. I decided it was time to open my own business and the prospect of pursuing something I was passionate about gave me a sense of relief and happiness that overshadowed the fear of failure.
Walking out of the office building on the last day felt like I could finally stop pretending to be someone I wasn't whether Yo Yoga! was successful or not.
What was your first step to creating your own business? How did you get funding? How did you pick a location?
For me, the first step came in setting my mind to making this happen. From there, my business partner (my older brother who helped me open the studio and is now my silent partner) and I put together a business plan to get organized and solidify our vision. Our funding came from our savings and a small loan.
We worked with a commercial real estate broker to find the space. Initially, we wanted a space on an avenue and close to the subway but when we saw the outdoor space, we knew we needed to take it. Although at the time the roof did not look like anything special, my brother and I knew we could make it into something worthwhile and beautiful.
People tend to be afraid of Yoga. Can you tell us why they shouldn't be? What are the benefits?
Yoga's popularity has made room for lots of studios and different styles of yoga. This means that no matter what you're looking for from yoga, you'll be able to find it. From conversations I've had with those new to yoga, a big fear seems to be the unfamiliar and not knowing what you're doing. I always tell people to start with the beginner's classes which will break down the basic poses and move at a slower pace. These classes are designed for people that 'don't know what they're doing' when it comes to yoga and are the best option for learning your way around the mat.
The benefits of yoga are increased flexibility and agility, strength building and stress reduction. Flexibility helps prevent injury and keeps our bodies supple and mobile, especially as we age. Leveraging your own body weight builds strength without adding bulk. Stress is the number one cause of disease and illness and yoga gives us tools to handle stress as well as get rid of it.
What is your growth plan? Where would you hope to be in 5 years?
Currently, we're working on catering to our growing community at our current location by adding more classes to the schedule along with more workshops and innovative offerings such as Sound Off yoga and meditation. We led our first retreat in Fall of 2016 and have a Costa Rica retreat scheduled for the end of January as part of our plan to offer retreats on a regular basis. From here, the hope is to franchise to another location(s) around the tri-state area.
What is the biggest learning lesson you would tell to young entrepreneurs hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Get yourself a good accountant, one who specializes in small businesses, who can go over your business plan with you and answer your questions along the way. No matter how hard you work or how creative your vision is, numbers don't lie so make sure you have a handle on them.
What is your business and life philosophy?
Im a huge believer in work/life balance. Opening a small business certainly sways your life towards work but it can still feel balanced if you love what you do and recognize when you need to take a break. Life is too short to spend 40 hours a week wishing you were somewhere else or clock-watching the day away.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.