Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Renee.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Whitney. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Despite all advice, I sought a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in English and writing. The payoff: student loans and a never-ending appreciation for grammar jokes, rhetorical discourse, and the craft of storytelling. I loved writing and dreamt of becoming a professor teaching literature and writing courses. But after graduating, I decided I needed a break from school and accepted a job as a grant writer. I became lost in long hours of work because I was managing the first grant office at a university. About a year into that job, my life shifted dramatically.
I needed a change of perspective because I felt as though I hit rock bottom. I was a yogi and someone in my community reminded me that volunteering restores happiness. So, I created and led a writing therapy class for incarcerated women. One day, they began yelling and cussing at one another. I was unsure how to respond to the crisis; there was so much anger. I pulled upon the foundation that helped me navigate my own life’s ebbs and flows: yoga and breath work. I sat calmly in that room, closed my eyes, and visualized a peaceful energy surrounding us all. I focused on breath. The inhales. The exhales. The room finally silenced. A peace flowed around us as we continued to breathe as one community.
That moment transformed everything.
We didn’t have mats or bolsters or blocks. It was just us and the yoga practice that eventually became a yoga/writing therapy class. The women would practice rewriting their narratives in short stories, essays, poems, and lyrics. I discovered vulnerability and trust emerged even more after we practiced yoga. A year later, I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program and realized I was home. I spent 10 more months in Indiana while I completed my certification, worked as a grant writer, and interacted with the women. In 2014, I was recruited to write grant proposals at a university in Los Angeles. I took a leap of faith and accepted the position.
Relocating to Los Angeles wasn’t easy. I left behind a support system that I truly needed, a routine that provided stability, and my yoga community. However, I wanted a fresh start – a place that didn’t hold painful memories of my former marriage and the what if’s and the should have been’s – and I knew I needed to follow my heart to California. I found myself practicing yoga on the beach. Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t have the ocean in my backyard, and I fully intended to enjoy it as much as I could. It occurred to me I could teach on the beach, and so in March 2015, I began hosting community donation-based yoga classes. For the first several months, I was the only attendee. I used the time for meditation and reflection. I remember sitting alone on the beach, sometimes feeling like a failure or as though I had made a mistake moving to California. I realize now how purposeful those first few months of solitude were; I believe the quietness and being still was paving the path for me to discover my calling in teaching restorative yoga and others to slow down and just be.
With time, the Playa del Rey beach class flourished. I started teaching at my workplace too and offering a lunchtime yoga class. The yoga began to flow with such ease, and a year later, I was interviewing with Yoga Journal to be an ambassador and travel the US to teach. Someone suggested I teach restorative and yin because of my calm, grounding demeanor; this was advice worth hearing. I found a training with Judith Hanson Lasater and enrolled. I spent so much of that training journaling and reflecting. When I returned to Los Angeles, I connected with a reiki master and began my journey as a reiki practitioner. Without a doubt, I knew I had found my calling: it was to integrate restorative yoga, reiki, and writing.
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?
Choosing to become an entrepreneurial yogini was the biggest challenge. I needed to overcome fear and find peace with the unknown. My fears of financial stability, being vulnerable, and embracing my role as a healer held me back for too long. This was part of rewriting my own narrative – learning acceptance, compassion, and creating a new perspective. I struggled with leaving behind the dream of becoming a professor. I held two degrees and I was opting to pursue this new endeavor of yoga and reiki. I continued to meet myself with resistance for quite a while. It was as though I was trying to control too much and force myself on a path that was no longer part of my journey. Acceptance of what I truly wanted and not worrying about how my decisions are perceived was key.
Once I found that peace, I walked away from my full-time job without the promise of income or any stability. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Whitney Renee Yoga story. Tell us more about the business.
My company, Whitney Renee Yoga, is rooted in the concept of karuna – compassionate action towards self and others. All my services embody this idea, including the 90-day intensive that combines yoga, reiki, and writing. I specialize in teaching restorative, yin, and slow-flow vinyasa yoga in various settings (studios, beach, in-home, and offices). Additionally, I offer reiki sessions (a technique for stress reduction and healing), host retreats and community events, and lead educational and writing workshops. This multifaceted approach enables me to work with a diverse population and provide clients with tools to facilitate a healthy and compassionate lifestyle; inspire them to see their world with a new perspective; and teach them they are resilient, strong, and enough.
As I’m building this healing company, I’m recognizing that the restorative yoga practice isn’t as well-known as other forms of yoga. I’ll describe how it is the art of doing nothing or how it is a nap for the nervous system. In a culture where we want to work out until we collapse, the art of doing nothing doesn’t seem to be the best option for optimal wellness and health. To truly understand it, one must experience it and the benefits. In this practice, the body is fully supported by various yoga props for relaxation and ease. There is no active stretching; it is relearning how to relax, which in turn facilitates a deep healing in the mind and body. This practice is ideal for those seeking to balance their busy lifestyle; recovering from injuries; battling anxiety, illness, or disease; transitioning through major life changes; and wanting to quiet the mind and restore the body. I travel throughout West LA to offer private sessions in the comfort of the student’s home. My car serves as my “mobile OM” and it is filled with yoga mats, bolsters, blankets, and blocks. When I arrive at a client’s home, it truly looks as though I’m moving in. My hope is to continue offering these services to individuals in need.
I am in the process of launching the Karuna Studio, which will be a traveling and online community. Eventually, the studio will have a permanent home. However, I want to make my practices of yoga, reiki, and therapeutic writing accessible to all. My vision is to travel throughout the Greater LA area, connect with various organizations, and create a space for healing, community, involvement – whatever it is that people are seeking I hope they find it through the Karuna Studio.
My 90-day intensive is taking off as well at the beginning of 2018. The intensive is purposefully designed for participants to rediscover and reclaim. This is both in-person and online based, which is beyond important because it creates that support and community after completing the intensive. I will teach and offer foundational tools to launch participants on a new path of holistic wellness and healing of self. The intensive is deeply rooted in the practice of karuna, self-love, self-expression, and community involvement. I’m beyond excited to share this with others! This will be an offering of guidance and support to transform lives – freeing oneself from behavior patterns and finding the courage and vulnerability to allow one’s authentic self be seen in an unapologetically beautiful way.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
What an interesting question! I’m not sure it is about good or bad luck, to be honest. Plans I make for my career never flow as I believe they will. Something always changes because I cannot control the timing of anything. Years ago, and before my yoga practice, I would easily call it bad luck. I’ve learned, though, rewriting my narrative time and again is okay to do. I’ve learned that in order to manifest I need patience and a positive outlook. Even in what I could label as “bad luck” will still offer lessons and silver linings. It also creates the opportunity to find gratitude in all good things – whether one labels them under the category of “good fortune” or “bad luck.” That is the attitude I want to maintain as I continue as entrepreneurial yogini and growing the company – and more importantly in all aspects of my life.
- Website: www.whitneyreneeyoga.com
- Phone: (309) 397-8223
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @whitneyreneeyoga
- Facebook: @whitneyreneeyoga
Kristin Krystal Photography
Jeff Poe Photo