Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Hyman.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started teaching yoga after I completed a 200-hour Holistic Yoga teacher training certification program with Saul David Raye and special guest teachers at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice Beach, CA, in 2010. At that time, my friend Chelsey was a teacher at Jade Apple Yoga in North Hollywood. She told me they were looking for someone to teach a lunchtime community class. She gave the owner my contact information.
The owner invited me to come to teach a class as an audition. A few friends of mine showed up to support me. There were about 10 or 12 students in total. I taught the one-hour class, and I got the job. This was the first class that I was hired to teach. I taught there every week after that. Next, I reached out to LA Fitness and Updog Yoga & Cycling in Hollywood. I auditioned with those two locations and was hired to teach yoga at both.
I now taught a few classes each week at three different locations, which meant I had about 20-30 students in Los Angeles whom I saw regularly. I felt like I was beginning to become a yoga teacher, although I was working other jobs to make a living. Regardless, I felt that it was important to incorporate the yogic principle of Seva (service) into what I was doing so I began to volunteer my time as a teacher to various causes.
I joined an initiative created by Rising Lotus Yoga in Sherman Oaks; through that partnership, I taught yoga at LAMP Community, a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles. I also worked with Yoga Aid and Lotus Light Arts to help raise awareness and funds for their causes. New opportunities to teach began to appear. Other teachers who were friends referred me to their studio managers. Students suggested my name to owners of fitness centers.
I picked up more classes at Pop Physique, Equinox, and Fred Segal Yoga. There was a beautiful, organic nature to the way things unfolded, but I also did do a lot of work to prepare for this moment – I practiced yoga every day for years before I trained to teach; I read and studied every book I could find at local libraries that had anything to do with yoga, life, spirituality, poetry, Buddhism, Zen, mindfulness, meditation, anatomy, physiology, philosophy; and I called, emailed, and visited every studio in Los Angeles to see if I could work with them in some way.
I began to follow the yamas (moral codes) and niyamas (self-discipline) of yoga as best as I could. I began not only to teach a spiritual practice but live a spiritual type of life. Being a teacher and practicing the principles of yoga in all my affairs began to transform me into someone I had always wanted to be – a man who could be present, content, helpful, and useful.
During this time in Los Angeles, many notable teachers taught weekly classes at local studios. As a new teacher, I continued to take classes with teachers I admired: Annie Carpenter, Shiva Rea, Erich Schiffman, Seane Corn, Bryan Kest, Sara Ivanhoe, Vinnie Marino, and others. I learned a lot about how to teach by listening to what these teachers said and how they said it, and by watching what these teachers did and how they did it.
I also sought out teachers of styles of yoga which were unfamiliar to me – Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Shadow, and Bikram – so that I could be well-rounded in my approach to the practice. Additionally, when Maty Ezraty (Yogaworks founder) visited Los Angeles around this time, I completed her five-day teacher training immersion. I also attended workshops led by Max Strom when he traveled through the area.
Next, a mutual friend introduced me to yoga teacher Tommy Rosen. He was the first teacher I met who offered the tools of yoga as a solution to addiction recovery. He had recently created and taught a Yoga for Recovery class in Santa Monica at The Yoga Collective. I took the class and knew this was the type of work I wanted to do in the future since yoga was such a big part of my personal recovery from addiction. Tommy became a mentor and friend. I asked him how he did what he did. He freely shared his experience, strength, and hope.
A couple months later, Tommy asked me to substitute teach his Yoga for Recovery class while he went out of town. I agreed. I taught the class, and it was great! I was further convinced that my inner calling within the calling to teach yoga was to bring its healing benefits to people in recovery from addiction.
I soon created and taught a free class that I called 12-Step Yoga. My intention was to bring elements of yoga and addiction recovery together for men and women in the 12-Step community where I lived. I rented space at a church on the corner of Fountain and Fairfax in West Hollywood, and I taught 12-Step Yoga there one night each week.
I had now been a teacher for about a year. Within the next year or so, everything continued to expand: I built a website so students could learn more about what I offered as a teacher. I created an email newsletter. I picked up more classes at studios where I already taught. I began to substitute teach and get on the schedules of other studios in Los Angeles. I began to teach private students.
I began to teach classes in sober living homes and treatment facilities. I created and taught classes at workshops and festivals. I volunteered to teach at benefits and fundraisers. I became a yoga ambassador for Yoga Earth, Manduka, and Lululemon. I wrote a blog for a yoga website. I wrote articles and essays about yoga and wellness for magazines using my experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga. I no longer worked other jobs. I became a full-time yoga teacher.
Where I am today: I have been teaching yoga for 8 years. I have taught thousands of classes. This is my vocation. I have been blessed with the opportunity to share yoga as a vehicle for healing and transformation. My extensive work with yoga and addiction recovery has been featured in many interviews and articles. I would not trade any of this for anything.
By the grace of God, I get to do what I do one day at a time. I wake up each morning very grateful that I get to do this in the name of love and service. I feel that this is my purpose and my reason for being. This is my journey. Presently, I teach throughout the week at a treatment center for addiction recovery in Malibu, CA.
I have been on staff there for 6 years. I love it. I also recently created and teach a new, donation-based Yoga for Recovery class at New Hope church in Agoura Hills each week.
Has it been a smooth road?
I have to admit that making a living financially as a yoga teacher early on in the journey was not easy for me. I supplemented my income as a teacher by picking up shifts as a waiter at a French restaurant, collecting unemployment, working as a background actor on TV commercials, and collecting residual payments from previous employment so that I could earn enough money to cover rent and expenses.
But here is something I will share about all of that: I never asked any yoga teachers how much a teacher makes before I decided to become a teacher. For whatever reason, it just did not matter to me because I felt from an innermost place of knowing that I was supposed to do this and that if I trusted the process, everything would work out as it should. And it did. I think that’s how I kept going early on.
I had faith in what I felt was my purpose or my calling. I didn’t focus on how much I could make, but instead, I focused on who I could help. I focused on love and service. I focused on trusting God and the belief that there was a Divine order to this new direction in my life. I figured if I took the right actions for the right reasons, I would be on the right path and the right results would happen. I think that’s why opportunities continued to come. I was willing to say yes. I prayed. I meditated. I remained open-minded. I never turned down a request to teach or be of service.
And when I wasn’t teaching, I kept busy behind-the-scenes – I contacted lots of places to find new opportunities to teach; and if I couldn’t find something, I created it. I designed a new email newsletter each week. I edited and updated my website almost daily. I built a social media presence as best as I could. I made tutorial videos and sent them out to students. I went to networking events and talked with anyone who would talk with me.
I mentored newer teachers if they asked for help. I shadowed and learned from experienced teachers. I answered every email I received from every student. I was dedicated to all of this one-hundred percent – mind, body, heart, and soul. Regarding other struggles along the way, I do not think there were many outer struggles to overcome. If anything, the inner struggles were more threatening.
I believe one’s own limiting beliefs can be a terrible enemy. For example, one’s own conditioned behaviors, poverty consciousness, selfish desires or greed, fear of failure, and fear of success can stand in the way of prosperity and happiness.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I teach yoga and meditation. I teach from a holistic viewpoint. I incorporate principles of Bhakti, Vinyasa, and Ayurveda into the classes I teach. I weave philosophy, spirituality, and mindfulness into the dialogue. I create and hold space for collective healing and transformation. I often work with people of all ages who may be at a crossroads in life.
My intention is that when students leave my classes they will feel more alive, more connected to the center of their being, more aligned with the rhythm of the cosmos, more energized, more calm, more hopeful, more at peace, and more grateful for all that life has to offer. My extensive work with yoga and addiction recovery has become central to my career. I am invited to participate in relevant panel discussions, retreats, and workshops. I am humbled and grateful that my experiences with these matters are requested and appreciated.
I am most proud of this type of work, especially when the intention is to simply offer love and service so that others may also become well, whole, balanced, and healthy, and then they can go out into the world and influence their communities in a similar, positive way. I also specialize in using yoga as a healing modality to treat back pain. I suffered from degenerative disc disease early in my teaching career.
I was unable to sit, stand, walk, or lie down without pain. However, my yoga practice healed me completely of these conditions. And it brings me great joy and satisfaction to share this solution with others so that they too can reclaim their freedom, mobility, and serenity.
What may set me apart from other yoga teachers is that I have not taught regular or weekly public classes in a few years. A majority of my work recently has been at a private treatment center for addiction recovery. Early in my career, I spent a lot of time in my car, driving from one studio to another, teaching one class after another.
I loved it – meeting new people, being part of different communities. But, my priorities have shifted. I now have a set schedule and regular hours so that I can keep my evenings and weekends free to be with my daughter, Lilia. I do not want to miss playing with her after school or reading bedtime stories and tucking her in at night.
Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years? Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc.?
I see a current trend moving toward more online yoga and meditation, especially through apps on phones. I do not think this trend will slow down. But we ought to remember that the word yoga means “union.” I feel that the teachings, if they are to remain intact, are likely best taught from teacher to student, without interference or distraction. I feel that the teachings will become less potent if there is not a direct relationship between teacher and student. There should also be a sacred space set aside for the lessons.
For example, when I did my first teacher training (with Saul David Raye), I sat in the front row of a dedicated room and listened to every word he said. I arrived early and I stayed late. I trusted him as a teacher. I trusted the transmission of the teachings, face-to-face, heart-to-heart. I trusted his presence. I also trained with Saul again for advanced studies in Ojai a few years after my first teacher training in Venice Beach to learn even more and to keep our relationship relevant.
I personally do not think I would have had the same transformative experiences I had during my trainings if they were conducted over the internet, or phone, or in a place that was not quiet, private, and dedicated to yoga. I know that I need to continually see how the teachings are physically embodied and shared within a collective, special space, person-to-person. I do think the trend toward more online/app classes will eventually swing back toward more personalized, group classes though… however, not if prices for yoga classes continue to rise.
So perhaps unaffordability of yoga may be a second, current trend. And if rate increases for classes at studios continues, many people may not be able to practice. Further, yoga would become a luxury only for people who have extra income, and those without additional financial resources will not be able to attend classes and receive the benefits of practicing in a community setting.
This would be very unfortunate. I feel that yoga ought to always be accessible and affordable. That is why as a teacher I have always tried to offer free or donation-based classes in addition to paid work I am grateful to receive. That was why I created Strand Street Yoga in Santa Monica years ago, which were donation-based classes at a public park. And that was why I recently created a new, donation-based Yoga for Recovery class in Agoura Hills. And that is why online and app content I have created is either free or very reasonably priced.
Now, I fully understand that yoga is a business, and studio owners need to pay rent and expenses, and teachers need to make a living. But we also must remember that the healing benefits of yoga are universal; therefore, we must find a way to make yoga accessible in some form to anyone who wishes to practice. In my opinion, yoga should always be viewed as something that can unite people, never something that can divide people.
- Website: www.brianhymanyoga.com