How Yoga Prepared Me to Run a Business

I recently commented to a fellow yogi/communications professional that I loved how she flowed her business and her yoga philosophy together so seamlessly. After journaling and reflecting on interviewing Necole Kane at Boss Women Who Brunch, I realized that I too blend my yoga practice into my business, but in different ways.

I have practiced yoga for more than six years, and I still consider myself a student of the practice. Much like I am learning every day as a business owner, from creating processes to client relations and building partnerships, I am learning more about my mental and physical capabilities on and off the mat, to be present in the room and continue growing as a teacher.

Be present

In your practice, if there one thing you’ll hear from a teacher, it’s to stay present. Our monkey minds often want to think about what happened before class and/or what is going to happen after class, instead of the moment we’re in currently. Physical and mental discomfort brought about from your practice can make you separate from the moment.

Stand in it.

I felt the same way about starting my business. It was challenging to say what I do at networking events and among friends who only knew me as an employee. So I didn’t. I checked out, and I’m sure I missed opportunities by not speaking up.

I had to give myself a reality check: you’re not serving anyone by remaining small.

Photo credit: TONL

Say that again, out loud, to yourself. I’ve never been a shy person, and if you know me IRL, you’re nodding in agreement. (Don’t nod too hard!) I had to learn how to be present in this new situation, smile, and say who I was. No hesitation, no pause, no downsizing. Whew, that made my heart race the first few times. But much like the feeling of peace that settles over you once you accept where you are in your yoga practice, good or bad, I began to find calm in saying my new normal. And it was reflected in the level of engagement I received from my conversations.

Practice and all is coming

I love this phrase, because it speaks to the need to remain consistent. Do the work, and all is coming. What is “all”? Well, that’s for you to decide. When I first began as a yoga student, consistency wasn’t so much of a challenge. I had a set work schedule and I looked at what I was paying for membership and said that I had to attend at least four classes a week to make it worthwhile. More often than not, I was able to hit that goal.

As life has gotten busier, it is harder to stick to a consistent practice. However, I know that when I regularly attend class, I’m a happier, more clear-minded woman. Plus, my skin looks great with a regular sweat session!

Now, as a business owner, I am tapping into the idea to inspire consistency in my business marketing and outreach, sharing my thought leadership through writing and networking, and learning. In  business, the “all” that I want to come is a stream of opportunities to do dope work, help others, and live the life that is for me, not pre-written by what is expected of me. That means by practicing  making genuine connections, seeking to help others, and writing, I become a better professional and have more to offer to clients, friends, mentors and mentees, and my industry.

Ahisma- Kindness to Self and Others

Yoga goes beyond the asana, or physical postures. The principles of behavior and attitudes laid out by Patanjali in the “Yoga Sutra” are life lessons we can all use to live better. If you want to learn more, start here with the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga: yamas (ethical restraints or abstentions) niyamas (lifestyle observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (bliss or enlightenment).

The first of the yamas is ahisma, or the principle of doing no harm in thought, speech, or action to all living things. Another interpretation of ahisma is kindness.

Flickr – Caro Wallis

I think many women will nod with me when I say that it is hard to be kind to ourselves. On the mat, I practice ahisma by not comparing myself to others in the room and, as a yoga teacher, I encourage people to work to their level and remind them that there is no perfection in yoga.

As a business owner, and as the executive director of the ColorComm Dallas, kindness is important to give to myself, my clients, my fellow volunteer leaders, and the women we are connecting with throughout the city. Kindness means that I don’t have to be “on” all the time, at every event. I can, and should, take time to be alone, or with friends, or with my husband. Kindness means that even though I’m in charge as executive director, I don’t have to be a “boss” of ColorComm Dallas; I get to listen and allow others to lead and shine for the work they do for the organization. Mostly, kindness means taking a breath and a break when I need to, and not beat myself up for it.

I’d love to hear from my fellow fitness folks out here doing it for themselves:

How has your fitness practice informed your business, and vice versa?

Drop a comment in this post!

Presenting: Yoga Photos + 10-Minute Yoga Flow

My good friend, writer extraordinaire CJ Johnson, approached me about a photography project, I couldn’t say no. CJ and I originally “met” on Twitter. Upon discovering that we live in the same part of Dallas, we’ve managed to keep in contact and establish an in-real-life friendship, discussing creativity and life.

After explaining to me her vision, we met up in the visually-rich Dallas arts district, beginning in Klyde Warren Park. Since it was a (very) warm night, we chose to start at the quieter west end of the park. CJ’s approach was very conversational, allowing me to immediately feel at ease as I moved through Sun Salutations to warm up.

Over the next couple of hours, the photo shoot moved from Klyde Warren Park to the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Dallas Museum of Art, ending with a catch up session and ice cream.

I’ll be sad when CJ moves to LA soon, but that just means I have someone to kick it with on the west coast.

And here are the best of the best photos:

Smiling Upward Dog Dancer at the DMA Close Up Tree at DMA Side Crow Revolving Chair Handstand Triangle Chatarunga



Here is the first part of a recent flow I put together for my APY Flow class. I want to share this so readers get an idea of my style of flow.

Before beginning, warm up with 2-3 Sun Salutations. Find a library of postures, including the below, over at Yoga Journal.

Warrior One

(straighten the front leg and shorten the stance by bringing in the back leg)


(rise out of Pyramid, release arms to the sky, bend both legs and lift into the balance)

Warrior Three

(bring hands to the mat, keep hips level)

Standing Split

(bring lifted leg through to hip height, cross over standing leg)



The Importance of Sensing Where Your Body Is In Yoga

When I began practicing yoga, I threw myself into it with the zeal of a neophyte. Much like other fitness-minded folks, I wanted to be the best: stretch the furthest, hold the pose the longest and generally be awesome. Instead of looking building and using strength in my practice, I relied on flexibility in my joints to get me into postures.

Post-training, after learning about prime movers – muscles that create the movement – and the proper alignment in many common postures – I approached my practice in a new way: using proprioception.

Proprioception is “the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” In many yoga postures, you’ll need to be aware of specific body parts, from head to toe. For example, when in Warrior 1, you have to be aware of the following for your back leg:

  • outside edge of the foot pressing down,
  • hip rotating forward as you bring the hips square to the front,
  • and the muscles on the front of the thigh engaged to resist the urge to rely on flexibility to bring the front thigh to parallel.

Keeping awareness of these actions can take the mind away from centering. Through proprioception, you begin to sense that your hips are open to the side, rather than the front, and that your inner thighs aren’t working to keep you lifted.

Awareness of oneself, both physical and mental, takes a yoga practice from level 1 to level 10. Use these three tips the next time you’re on the mat.

  1. Take an assessment of your body. Use a mirror, and if there isn’t one nearby, use your mind to scan your body from head to toe. Has your knee gone over your toe in Bent Knee Triangle? Is one side of your body pulling forward in Twisted Chair pose? Make adjustments as necessary.
  2. Are your muscles engaged or are you relying on the body’s natural flexibility? Sure, you can balance in Half Moon, but it’s more powerful to use your obliques to stay lifted than to collapse and use the floor for stabilization.
  3. Back out of it. Part of honoring your body, day to day, is recognizing that maybe you’re not there yet. I had that experience with Standing Forehead to Knee. I just knew that I could get my head to my knee. I tried it several times, and had to accept that I had a death grip on my foot in an effort to extend the bent leg, compromising the goal of the posture.

Be fully engaged, listening to your body and honoring where it is. Until the next post, Namaste.

Adventures in Yoga: Teaching My First Class

I’d mentioned earlier this month that I was in a “name and claim” mood when it came to my development as a yoga teacher. Rather than be a bullhorn, I have selectively reached out to those who I know care about fitness. The one-on-one engagement has always gotten me more results, plus it saves me losing followers who don’t want to be “sold” on yoga.

Recently, in a conversation with my fiance’s cousin, I mentioned becoming active again in our sorority. I know she’s active in a graduate chapter, and I wanted to find out what activities the group performs in the community. By chance, she mentioned that the chapter holds fitness fundraisers after their monthly chapter meeting. *Ding!* My opportunity radar set off a loud ping; I dug deeper. After I asked her a few questions, she put me in touch with the woman who coordinates the workouts, who promptly asks me if I can teach a class…in 9 days. “Sure,” I say. “Not a problem.” Inside, total freak out.

Fast forward a few days and I’m leading my fiance through a series of postures and noting his feedback – he’s also fitness-minded, so I know he is thinking of the client experience in his comments. The day of, and butterflies are dancing in my stomach. Will I manage to get the words out of my mouth? Will they silently judge my teaching style? What if I forget something? Then, it was show time. And you know what?

I didn’t suck. Not even a little bit. In fact, I kinda kicked butt. We all did, together.

The ladies were comedians from the very beginning. Of the ten or so students, about a quarter had never done yoga and had no expectations other than a good time and a good work out. Once I put on the music, we found our groove easily. I made adjustments (something that always made me nervous in training), demonstrated postures and got sweaty myself. And I did forget one move…but no one knew it!

At the end, they called me Major Pain/Payne, and I loved it. High fives were exchanged and the kinetic energy that I adore was in the room. I was reminded all over again why I teach, and that was the best part.

Shout out to the ladies of the Collin County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I am open to coming out any time. Check out our fun pictures below!

Regular smiles.
Regular smiles.
Fierce yogis!
Fierce yogis!

Inspiration for Creating Your Community: From Running to Yoga

The majority of my career has been spent in fields where diversity is lacking: travel/tourism, public relations/marketing and yoga. Despite the limited number of professionals who look like me, I’ve managed to create a network of contacts, associates and friends who understand the unique challenges people of color face in our shared industry.

Yoga, both as a community of practitioners and as a career, is facing a critical review. Many students feel a sense of otherness while in studio. And while you can find many photogenic yogis on Twitter and Instagram, it’s not likely that you will find a brown or black face among the well-known teachers and leaders at yoga conferences and events. Yoga may bring to mind peace, love and good feelings, but it’s also a business and a billion dollar industry. It’s hard to get excited about investing in an fitness environment that prices you out and doesn’t embrace you when you do venture into a class.

Knowing the challenge of representation in the yoga community, the growth of running clubs started and run by African American men and women has given me hope for what could happen to yoga. Groups like Black Girls RUN!, Black Men Run and Run2Live created multi-city communities from people who felt unwelcome in mainstream running clubs but still wanted to participate in the sport. Black Girls RUN! has been on my radar for about a year now. While they’re runs are far too early for my blood (seriously, what does 4:45 a.m. look like?), I have friends who swear by the camaraderie of the group, clocking multiple-mile runs two to three times per week.  The same high they get, heels pounding the pavement and sweat flying while they surpass personal records and create memories, is what I’d like to see created for men and women of color in yoga.

Now that I’ve made the comparison, I will point out that yoga is a different beast. For starters, most people practice yoga in a studio, which can be a restrictive cost. Running starts at walking, which requires minimal equipment (shoes, hat, iPod for music). Issues about costs can be addressed by offering classes at a reasonable rate in the communities that aren’t being exposed to yoga. Additionally, the running groups participate in races, which is another layer of satisfaction – who doesn’t love the thrill of a race and getting a medal? Yoga typically isn’t associated with competition or awards. By setting and achieving individual and group goals, yoga can create that feeling of accomplishment that some derive from running.

I was lucky enough to be in a certification course with two other Black women. I’ve kept in touch to learn more about their experiences of being a student and in finding a place to be a leader. The USA Today article and the founders of the running groups have inspired me to create a network of independent and in-studio teachers of color. Though Dallas is not considered a major hub like an Atlanta, NY or DC, the city is fitness-focused and greater visibility of black and brown yogis can bring additional people into the fold.

What is the multicultural yoga community like in your city? Do you see a unity like the running groups, or is it more disjointed? What are you doing to create a more inclusive community?

#YogaGoals – The Poses I’m Working On Lately

Here is the long and the short of it: I FINISHED!

That's me and my hair on the far right, looking way too excited for life!
That’s me and my hair on the far left, looking way too excited for life

After eight weeks of work, (some) tears, plenty of sweat and, thankfully, an absence of blood, the Scorpions completed the 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher program. Much love to my fellow students, our trainers and the loved ones who dealt with our absence for those weekends. Although I’m convinced the BF secretly loved the training program because he got to watch college and professional football undisturbed all weekend!

Now that I’m finished, I’m seeing friends, sleeping and enjoying life. Even though I’m not in a studio 12 hours a day, I’m still working on my (semi-) daily practice because that’s the only way I’ll grow and start sequencing series of my own. In yoga training, we studied more than 100 poses, which only scrapes the surface of the full range of yoga poses and the ways your body can express a posture, from beginner to advanced. Below are some of the poses I will be focusing on as I commit to a daily practice, deepening my range of motion and moving to a higher level of understanding.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

Photo from dahon (Flickr)
Photo from dahon (Flickr)

This pose gave me the blues for the longest time. I was making the mistake of thrusting my head back to reach for my feet without first learning how to open my chest and lift up out of the lower back. Best advice I got about Camel: Squeeze your glutes. Harder than you think, squeeze them, and press your hips forward. Use your inner thighs to stabilize and press into your shins.


Crow/Crane Pose (Bakasana)

It’s me, preparing for Crow
Still me, working on that Crow

I have a confession. I’ve fallen out of Crow pose, onto my face, no fewer than two times. Since I have cat-like reflexes, I managed to get an arm in front of my face before it met the floor. The damage from embarrassment was done. As you can see from the photos below, I have some work to do before I can achieve two goals in this pose: knees in the armpits and straight arms. Again, this is why I practice. I’m excited to see the progress in this, since I have dated photos of where I have been.

Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Seeing the world upside down.
Seeing the world upside down.

This is one of those lifetime goal poses for me. Inversions scare most of us – the thought of being upside down, supporting oneself completely, can be scary. Once I learned about the proper alignment, I stopped throwing my legs over my head. Best advice I’ve received: engage your mula bandha (root chakra). Using the muscles in the center of your body helps to align the body, engage the thighs and torso and stay centered in an upside down position. Next step for me is to find my center and balance without the use of a wall.


Now it’s your turn: What is your challenge? Is it a specific posture? Finding an inspiring series? Tell me your favorite posture and how you’re working it in practice.

My Next Adventure: Yoga Certification

There is a saying that I’ve seen for years but only recently come to understand: “If your dreams doesn’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” Once I made the decision, or the decision was made for me, to stop letting my work contribute only to the bottom line of other people, I truly got this phrase. Fear can be a big motivator; it can move you forward or it can keep you in one place. Once I got the swift kick in the tail that made me reevaluate my career trajectory and start looking at additional streams of income, I used any residual fear to move me forward.

With a bit of fear and a lot of excitement, I am super happy to tell you that I signed up for the 200-Hour Training Program with Sunstone Yoga Academy. The classes at Sunstone are what kept me sane and in phenomenal shape for the past 18 months, and the philosophy of their teaching resonates with me. I want to learn how to instill the feeling of peace and the ability to leave stress on the mat that I receive after every class with others. So, I’m taking my first step.

Clearly, I don’t mind being “different.” One goal in doing this, aside from learning more about my yoga practice, is to expand the visibility of African American yoga practitioners. While I know several women who integrate yoga into their exercise program, some view it as an Eastern practice at odds with Western Christian practices. I want to change those minds and help them discover a new way to keep the body and mind healthy.

I’ll be detailing my progress on here (because, of course I will) once the training begins next month. Until then, if you’re in the Dallas area, check out Sunstone (if you’re near the Skillman Live Oak location, holler at me so we can meet up). Are you a yogi (or aspiring to be a yogi)? What do you enjoy the most about your practice?

Early in my practice, last summer.
Early in my practice, last summer.
Yoga Photos 2
Look at that concentration 🙂