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.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.