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Meet Stephanie Schestag of Bikram Yoga L.A.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Schestag.

Stephanie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I became a yoga teacher out of my obsession with yoga, with no intention of ever actually teaching yoga. I’ve trained to teach Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga. In 2004 my life went through some major changes. I had been a very adventurous traveling young person but I was ready to settle down and start a family. I started staying put in Los Angeles and trying to figure out what was next for me- other than starting a family. I kept asking the universe/God/whatever you call your higher power- what do you want me to do? I wanted to feel that I was giving something back to my community. Doing something that was valued and needed and wanted. I was practicing yoga as I had been since 1994. I asked studios that I was practicing in if they would let me teach a few classes. The more I taught, the more I was asked to teach. I loved it. I felt like I was helping people to heal their bodies, minds, and spirits. The universe had answered me back with a resounding yes to giving the gift of yoga. I had gone to Bikram Choudhury to let him know I was devoting my life to the yoga and asked him if I could open a studio in Los Angeles. He said no. He said he could send me to Japan to teach. I told him that I didn’t want to leave Los Angeles because I was starting a family here. He said he had waiting lists of hundreds of people waiting to open studios in Los Angeles. As I started to walk out his door he called out that he did have one possible location I could open. I asked where. He said downtown. The woman he had given that area to was not moving forward. I responded to him that I would have a studio open downtown within months. He said, I’m not giving it to you, I have to ask a bunch of people first. I told him he had just given it to me and smirked as I walked out. I had my first yoga studio open in downtown Los Angeles within months of that conversation, as I had promised him. 5 years later came Hacienda Heights and 3 years after that came North Hollywood. For North Hollywood, I had to fly to Thailand for less than 24 hours to ask Bikram in person even though he lives only 10 miles away from me in Los Angeles. Can you imagine? Flying half way around the world for less than 24 hours to have a 20-minute conversation with someone who lives 10 miles away from you? Hahahaha. Those were the days. But now I happily operate 3 yoga studios throughout Los Angeles. I do feel like we are healing people’s bodies, minds, and souls. We change people’s lives in the best way possible. I am proud of that and the fact that I am the mother of twin girls- I got my family.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has much of the time been smooth but it’s only interesting when there are twists and turns and we’ve had plenty of those. I decided to go to law school when my twin girls were 3 years old. Why do you ask? Because I’m crazy! Clearly, I needed support to be able to take on law school, toddler twins and one yoga studio at the time. I hired Orlando to help me manage the studio. He had been doing yoga at my studio and I knew he was looking for a career transition and I liked him very much. I basically told him when to start and disappeared into law school abyss. He got no training whatsoever- I just threw him to the yogi alligators. At this same time, we ran our first Living Social offer. We sold 1000 yoga packages in 24 hours. Living Social was so new that nobody, including Living Social, really knew how to regulate attendees. It seemed like within the first week of the offer being out there all 1000 purchasers tried coming to their first class at the studio. We were fielding calls all day, turning away dozens of students because our classes were overfull and people were screaming at us from every angle. That was a huge learning curve for us. There have also been huge learning curves as we’ve opened up each new studio and navigated through expanding. Currently, we are renovating our downtown studio and there are yet more learning curves through that process. We expand and grow with every new project we tackle. But, we are so lucky to be spreading this healing that it’s all worth it. Now Orlando is training me.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Bikram Yoga L.A. (Downtown, North Hollywood, Hacienda Heights) – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We specialize in the original hot yoga. The Bikram Method, 26 postures and two breathing exercises in 105 degrees and 40% humidity. That’s all we do and we do it better than anyone. It’s a full body method of exercise, detox, and active meditation.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Continuing to grow and strengthen in our customer service. Like I said, we are renovating Downtown, Los Angeles. We will be offering pilates mat classes in our new studio B and TRX classes too for a cross training element. Maybe we will open more studios, but not immediately- we want to improve what we have.


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