I was wrapping up career no. 9 in New York City. And on my second to last day of work, I came out of the building, turned right as I normally did for a year to walk home. Then bam! I smacked into an A-stand easel, placed in front of the building next door. Ouch, that easel was NOT there before. I would have seen it, or smacked into it already.
I looked down and saw a poster for "Sky Lab: Antigravity Yoga" with a photo of people flying in silk hammocks. I had to check it out! Right now!! It had all of my favorite things: flying, freedom and play.
I bought their 3-class promo pack. Even though I was entirely nauseated after the first class (due to my own fault for not listening to the teacher and pacing myself), I went back for more. Not because I'm masochistic, but because my inner Asian couldn't bare to "waste money" on a 3-pack and not use it all.
By the 3rd class, I was hooked! Never had I ever seen a fitness program that offered play, laughter, joy, alignment, harmony, strength conditioning, delight and freedom, ALL AT ONCE! Have you?
There is not a single athletic bone in my family gene pool. Heck, I didn't even know I had a body until then. I was raised to think that humans are brains meant for straight A's and making money, while the rest is just meager tripod accessory to prop up that prized brain. So of all people, I was the most shocked that five years later, I'd get certified to teach Antigravity Yoga (AGY).
About 6 months later, I was looking for a family physician and attended one of Dr. D's women's health circle. She didn't end up as my doctor, but another 6 months later, I participated in a second women's circle that she hosted about 3 blocks from my apartment. It's at that wellness center that I'd meet my future aerial yoga studio co-founder. It was love at first sight and we got it all up and running at superhuman speed.
So you could say I literally smacked into this business identity.
There is a huge difference between a great aerialist and a great aerial yoga teacher. No one would ever hire me to perform aerial tricks, but students flocked to my classes because I guaranteed 1000% safety: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual safety. With several sprinkles of ease, flow, joy, novelty and fun!
I had students in their 60's do moves they never thought possible. I had students, who had scars from accidents or surgeries and were limited in exercise options, regain such beautiful, fluid range of motion. They left each class in tears of gratitude for their newfound freedom from mental chaos, emotional rumbles, body shame, fear, and loneliness.
Ever student walked away transformed. They rarely talked about the fitness aspect, instead told me how much comfort, pleasure, safety and sense of home they felt. It was such a high for me to know that I had permanently graced them with some courage, freedom and grace.
On the business front, for the rare first time, I had a business partner to build with. Finally, I wasn't "alone at the top" or didn't feel like a tiny speck lost amongst giant entrepreneurial cogs. She provided the studio space, I provided the expertise, and together we promoted East-meets-West holistic wellness.
Extra perk, I lived 3 blocks away from the studio, how perfect is that?!? I mean, I got paid to play all day!! Finally, I had found my "thing"!
Letting Go / Walking Away
But I let it all go. Nope, this wasn't my "thing" either... Once I got off the sugar high of my students' bright faces and transformation, I actually sat down to crunch some numbers. I know, I know, we should have done before we started the business. But it was love at first sight, so we both went all in, right away, skipping the dating, courtship and engagement phases, lol!
Those numbers sobered me up quick. It was crystal clear that this was a passion project, not a sustainable business. The hours required to setup and take down the aerial hammocks, "chit chat" with students after class, limited by the number of hammocks available, I was making less money than in career no. 2, which was back in high school.
Even though I knew I had to let go (you know, they say if you're gonna fail, fail fast). Before I did, I even tried to hire a junior teacher, so that even if the classes weren't profitable, they could serve as lead generation for all the other services we provided at the wellness center. There were less than 4 certified aerial yoga teacher in the area, with 2 owning their own studios, 1 not actively teaching and 1 under exclusive contract with a gym. So that was the end of the line.
At this stage in my life, I was no longer capable of martyrdom, aka "sucking it up." I refused to continue doing something that was not profitable, nor sustainable. When I was younger and more naive, I might have kept going for two years in the false hope that it might eventually pay off. Nope, I'm wiser now. Besides, a location dependent studio goes against everything I stand for and my number one value of freedom.
Fears / Emotional Rumble
No fears whatsoever, we were both equally invested, out of our own pocket, and setup the studio in under 3 weeks!
The sting of being spat out into the cold entrepreneurial wilderness, all alone again
Gentle grieving* the loss of synergetic partnership and passionate co-creation
Gentle grieving* the loss of fun, play, physical movement and in-person community
Angry confusion as to why my passions can't be profitable [future answer: monetizing a passion puts out the flame of that very passion, so don't do that Ella]
Remembering and re-alignment to my values of freedom
Acceptance that I permanently enriched the lives of student, even if only a handful (as opposed to the thousands or millions that my ego wanted)
Inner peace with having "lost" $1,000 each in investment, but having had such a fun time
*Gentle grieving as opposed to full blown snot heaving ugly cry.
* Our synergistic passion for this joint project was far too grand for any criticism to even graze our vision and execution.
Everything counts. It all serves.
Unfolding Destiny / Lessons
Grit: 3/10 | Grace: 12/10
After that very first Antigravity Yoga class, I was so nauseated that I had to sit in the corner for 45 minutes before I could stand up and walk home. I also go slammed by comparison-itis, wondering how impossible it was to ever become as good as the other students in class.
I'm grateful now that the "cheap Asian" in me used up all 3 classes of that promo pack. Had I quit after that first class, I would have missed out on a massive pillar of health, joy, freedom, partnership, and growth.
And even though freedom is my number one value, I needed the lived experience of a "brick and mortar" business to once and for all check the box of "Nope, not for me!" I knew it in my brain, but now I knew it in my bones too. I'm grateful I didn't run it for 8 years before deciding to switch to an online business.
The best part unfolded and revealed itself a year and a half after we closed the aerial yoga studio. I embarked on my 16-countries-in-16-weeks Exquisite Freedom Tour. I was keenly aware of the importance of my health, so to sustain my enjoyment of this tour. It turns out most of the cities I visited had an Antigravity Yoga studio.
I went to one in Japan and they welcomed me with such warm, loving arms, I had insta-friends and insta-family. I wrote a blog about it and the NYC Sky Lab headquarters invited me to blog about every AGY studio I visited. They connected me to teachers and studio owners and I felt like a celebrity, rockin' up into loving pre-made communities.
Even though 12 years of training and practice, and thousands invested in 3 certification levels, didn't pan out into a lasting career, I carry within my body an even greater gift: the gift of play, freedom and family. THAT is worth slipping in and out of this career identity.
So I'd say my greatest lesson and takeway is to pay attention to coincidences, especially when you smack in to them, literally. Also, try everything 3 times, before you decide to quit. Either way, nothing will have been wasted. Everything counts. It all serves.
You may take a detour or like me 14 detours to come to this realization, but you’ll always land where you’re meant to be. If not in this lifetime, then in another. There are infinite lives you can have, not just this one.
Sacred Brand Archetypes
I knew students were drawn to my zen-like calm, but I didn't realize at the time that I was creating a safety they never had before. This safe space allowed them to experience deep intimacy with their body, while child-like delight, sensual flow, and enchanting ease. I was returning them to innocence, and I had no idea that's what I was doing. I mean, who wakes up and says, "When I grow up, my dream is to return people to innocence."? Lol!
It'd be another 6 years before I fully comprehended the nature of our soul, which is to express itself organically, regardless of egoic control. Here, my soul expressed itself through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Lover (primary) and Innocence (secondary). Ah, interesting, the Lover archetype has never appeared before. Was this why my soul had to try on this career identity, so that it could express the Lover? Maybe... Maybe you're meant to express 2 archetypes for the entirety of your life. Maybe I'm meant to express all the archetypes, in ever changing combinations. Ugh... Can we switch lives? :P Who knew?!?
In this series...
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Computer Teacher (Part 1/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Developer (Part 2/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Industrial Machinist (Part 3/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Banking Officer (Part 4/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerospace Engineer (Part 5/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Energy Researcher (Part 6/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Systems Designer (Part 7/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an International Aid Worker (Part 8/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Global E-Strategist (Part 9/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a United Nations Consultant (Part 10/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Design Agency (Part 11/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Success Coach (Part 12/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Wealth Mentor (Part 13/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerial Yoga Studio (Part 14/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Psychotherapist (Part 15/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Spiritual Guide (Part 16/16)