FEATURED YOGA STUDIO:
KULA YOGA SHALA
“If our inclination is to flee from that discomfort we may miss out on the beautiful unfolding of our own soul. So I think there has to be a little bit of patience and commitment.”
Mannabliss seeks to highlight conscious business owners. There are a lot of business that actually use Yogic philosophy and principle in their business model. We had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Feinberg from Kula Yoga Shala in Jupiter, Fl. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity. Scott is a huge inspiration. He is someone who is walking the walk. After this interview, we felt the same blissful feeling that we receive in meditation or at the end of a yoga practice. This feeling of Bliss and Peace is apparent to us when we am in the presence of Truth. Enjoy.
How did you get into yoga? Why did you try yoga for the first time?
SF: The first exposure that I had to yoga teaching was in a class in my senior year of college, last semester, a blow off class really, called “stress management”. It turns out it wasn’t a blow off class at all but a serendipitous turn of events that changed the trajectory of my life. One day the teacher brought in a yoga teacher to teach us how to manage stress through breath, meditation and a bit of movement. Little did I know that one encounter was going to change the course of my life. I walked out of there feeling a different sense of me that I had ever experienced… and it peaked my interest. Upon graduating, I moved to Atlanta and started practicing yoga on a regular basis to manage stress.
So you went into a teacher training in Atlanta? When did you decide to go into a teacher training?
SF: I moved to Atlanta in 1999 and did my teacher training in 2001 at Peachtree Yoga Center. The motivation behind that, like for so many people, wasn’t so much to teach yoga. I was feeling emotionally, psychologically and spiritually more resolved within myself and wanted to really understand on a deeper level what I was experiencing. That there was really nuanced systems for self-transformation that have existed on our planet for many millennia that I was never exposed to it because it was not predominate in our culture was a profound discovery. It was a blessing to be able to receive these teachings and be open to them. They were a gift to help navigate challenging years of self-discovery and existential crisis.
What is your favorite thing about teaching yoga?
SF: That is challenging to answer because my nature is curious. I am open to everything in terms of being a student to yoga-mutt, so my teaching style in turn seems to be hybridization of all the things that I have been exposed to in my life. But I would say that one common denominator to my approach is rooted In self-exploration and healing. Yoga is first and foremost a healing practice and it is a way to connect with the Sacred. I can’t say that I have a certain style, but I tend to say that I practice mindful movement. I really enjoy bringing people into a space of self-inquiry and using the asana as containers to do that.
What is the hardest part about yoga for you, if there is one?
SF: The most challenging part of yoga to me – and when I say yoga I mean yoga in the most broadest sense of the term – its encountering the parts of myself that have yet to be fully reconciled. It’s like I can know something intellectually, I can share it as a yoga teacher. And then I’ll go home and do the exact opposite and I will see the parts of myself that I haven’t fully embraced in terms of their light – and so, I haven’t fully brought them into their light yet…so that causes pain, and it causes heart-ache sometimes, not only for me but for the people I share my life with. Its ok, this is the practice. It’s all part of the journey, and so is keeping it real. I feel like we live in a world of “bummer karma”. My karma bumps into your karma and that creates this explosion and sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s a hot mess. But hopefully this practice gives us a place to land where we can reflect upon that and then reset our course in conscious way.
Are you aware of the incredibly powerful energy that surrounds you when you are teaching yoga and the positive energy you bring to everybody?
SF: Yes. I think that there is definitely a standing in your power that this practice gives to us. I don’t perceive it as a power over anyone but it is a sense of owning our bigness. I think it’s contagious and we have to be willing to claim it. I think a lot of teachers have a hard time with that because paradoxically it fuels that sense of power that feeds the ego. We feel afraid of fueling our power because we think it’s the ego. So much of our work about power is really healing the 3rd chakra and standing in our autonomy and our self-assurance and using it in positive ways – that’s for sure.
What are you focusing on in your personal practice right now? Is there something you are working on in particular?
SF: Whatever challenge I am looking at in life, I used to say that this is in the way. I’ve started to view that as the way. I am moving through life with greater fluidity and a sense of moving with grain instead of against the grain. When I stopped viewing life as moving against the grain – it became the grain. In a way, I’m finding a way to be in deeper harmony with the perpetual impermanence of everything. In terms of a specific practice that allows me and brings me to that space of are really 2-fold. That is pranayama and mantra. I really think of mantra as a pranayama as well. They just seem to be the practices that really still all the fluctuations in my consciousness. I feel like a recalibration occurs when that happens. And it gives me a new lenses to see my circumstance through, to choose my words from and to make my decisions from. Those two practices, I’m just really falling in love with.
A few questions about Kula Yoga Shala. What does it mean to you?
SF: The word Kula means “community of the heart”. Community in many ways has been fragmented in our modern day culture and I think a return to our connectedness is essential. What really inspired me to want to open a yoga studio was the idea to create a community center rather than a yoga studio. Regardless of style, yoga lights you up, it brings you to the deep place of connection with yourself. I kept asking myself what would happen if we connected to each other from a space of connectedness within ourselves. What would it become? If we saw into our sameness rather than our differences? And our differences became diversity that we cherish while understanding of our innate interconnectedness. That Idea excites me, inspires me to bring people to a space of union with self and others. The center is a gathering place. We are a collaborative of 45 yoga teachers. We all chip in for the rent and then we offer out the classes on a donation basis so people can come practice regardless of their financial circumstances. A yoga studio is a really potent opportunity to bring people together and serve and heal the community. My biggest goal is to offer a place that is really genuine and where the energy is really warm and inviting, and not in the least bit pretentious, and to give people the freedom to be who they are, where they are on their path to heal. And to be not only completely ok with that, but excellent in that. And to look at the space together as home.
How has this paradigm that is different from other yoga studios effected your business?
SF: It’s been remarkable – truly incredible to see what has transpired. The root mission in my mind is to run the center as an extension of my spiritual practice and an embodiment of the principles which are expressed through the wisdom teachings in yoga. And I kind of wanted to know if they were real or if they were b.s. In other words, is the stuff that I am teaching in class is true? I didn’t want a of membership-based studio with a contract and fear-based rules and regulations like having to use all of your classes by a certain date and fixed prices, I wondered if there was a better way. Let’s see what happens if we’re transparent and say, “ Pay what you can and come and leave whenever you want”. Let’s say, “If you want to support us and be here, then we will continue to be here and support you”. It’s a way of calling our own bluff. If there is a stream of yoga consciousness moving through the walls of the space then the space being here is evidence of that. I don’t have much interest in teaching if yoga is not really happening. So the answer to your questions is its going fantastic. We are going on just over 5 years and every month, with a few exceptions, has been the best month that we have ever had. It’s almost like when a video goes viral. It’s like yoga gone viral. It just continues to grow and more people come and practice. They choose to support us from a conscious place and its really beautiful because it gives them a sense of ownership in the place. It gives all the students a sense of ownership and every teacher a sense of ownership. There is a bond there that goes beyond a a business/customer relationship. It’s something much more steeped in the heart of yoga.
I would not have done it any other way. It’s called a disruptive business model. You take things and flip them on their heads. Instead of charging a certain amount for a service, people pay what they want. Instead of paying the teachers, the teachers pay to teach at Kula. Instead of paying the teachers a small feefor what they do, we give them the majority of the revenue earned. It’s kind of like this win-win all around. It’s almost like taking business school and putting it into a headstand. Like inversion practice. It’s really cool and its fun. There is a generosity that exists in people. Not everybody’s selfish. You turn on the television and get a framed picture of the world that is full of danger. The world that I see every day is so epithetical to that notation. I’m surrounded by everyday people being generous, compassionate and caring. Maybe it a small sample size or maybe it’s just a different demographic, I don’t know. But I choose to believe that when one person is living in their truth and coming from a place of love and connectedness it inspires others around them to do the same to help it happen on a greater scale all around the planet.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SF: Hmmmm…. Be Here Now. I don’t want to sound complacent, but right where I am. I think I have spent a lot of time addicted to the future and living in those plans. And a lot of work on the yoga path has been to recognize that contentment is not the same thing as complacency. I’m kind of feeling like putting it into cruise control a little bit and just enjoying this and watching it grow instead of me exerting my will onto it. I’m more curious to see what direction all of this will take. Not only with Kula, but with my own life, and teaching. And I love writing and am working on a book. I think that might come with the territory, like all yoga teachers need to be working on a book. In all sincerity my heart is feeling the sharing of the teaching. So, I just want to continue to write and to teach. My vision of the studio wasn’t really to open a center to put my vision into, but to open a studio for the whole community. The studio should be an expression of the artistry of the collective rather than just one person’s ideas. It will be what people want it to be.
What advice do you have for people who are starting yoga?
SF: A lot of things come to mind… My best advice for someone starting the yoga practice is to accept yourself, where you are and to be open to what you discover. You really have to give it some time, because I don’t think everybody finds immediate gratification. I think the spiritual path can be somewhat disruptive to our norm and it can take us out of our comfort zone. If our inclination is to flee from that discomfort we may miss out on the beautiful unfolding of our own soul. So I think there has to be a little bit of patience and commitment. And it’s hard to commit to something when we are first starting and we don’t know much about it. But if what we are really making is a commitment to be ourselves then that may give us the potential to stick with it. It’s also important to find the style and the teachers that you really connect with and that may be a sorting out process for a while. Try out different places as well, find where you feel at home. Then when you do, stay the course and don’t judge yourself. I think a lot of people, when they’re first starting this practice, are outcome driven. Postures are destinations instead of explorations. As are feelings and still minds. That’s just not the case. Meet yourself where you are and grow into where you’re not.
Is there someone that you really admire that you have learned a lot from? Someone that inspires you. Do you have a yoga mentor?
SF: Most definitely. My most influential yoga teachers have been my mom and my dad. And neither of them have been yoga teachers, but both of them are yoga teachers, you know what I mean? I feel such immense gratitude for the way that they raised me. My mom and her unconditionally loving heart, friendliness, kindness, compassion whose beautiful virtues on this path are held in the highest. My father for his capacity and direction to see the big picture in life, to not get caught in the current of whatever drives the psyche of a person at a certain phase of their life, to keep your eye on the whole scope of life and be willing to work for things that are meaningful to you. So, both of them, my mom’s heart and my dad’s mind really influenced me. My dad taught me the power of positive thinking and mom gave me “Many Lives Many Masters” which set these little seeds into my consciousness at a young age. I’m really thankful for their guidance.
There are of course “yoga teachers” that I have learned a lot from, but ultimately the biggest teacher is life. My challenges have spurred growth, inquiry and healing. They have forced me to really claim my truth amidst all the chaos. I don’t love the concept of teacher/student, it’s so hierarchical. The people we practice with, our community, and their sincere commitment to practice these teachings they really hold space for me. When I look around and I see people working together, it gives me a lot of strength, support and
Is there anything else you want to add? Open page…
SF: There is something very beautiful that unfolds through the process of teacher training, an exquisite energetic exchange. I look back with such deep appreciation from my heart for the teacher training that I got to do. I’m so thankful. So, leading teacher training, after raising my kids, is the most blessed part of my life. I started teacher training before opening Kula. You get to be with people who are completely devoted to their path and really want to wake up. They are not just dropping in for a practice and heading home for the day. They are in if for an extended period of time and working through the sacred text and the conversations that emerge. The transformation that you witness and the trust that is instilled in you on their behalf, and vulnerability of that exchange and the empowerment that is birthed from it are all such tremendous gifts. To receive and be a part of other people’s lives, to see them stand in their power and to see the ripple effect of them going out their teaching is truly incredible. It is within the context of these trainings where my heart feels most at home.
Thank you, SCOTT, for taking the time to sit down with me, answer my questions, and share your thoughts.
– Darnelle Quinn
– Darnelle Quinn