Kimberly Leo on the NEW Namaste Rockridge

Our fearless leader, Kimberly Leo, talked with local blog 24East about the opening of our expanded Namaste Rockridge studio. We wanted to share a bit of the interview here before it is published. Take a peek into the inner workings of how Namaste has evolved and where we are headed.

1. What is Namaste’s approach to yoga?

Yoga was my sanctuary and it got me through a really difficult period in my life. Namaste was a way for me to give back to the community where I grew up. I wanted to create an urban refuge in which I could share this gift with others. From the beginning my intention was to create a space that was inclusive and accessible.

Over the last thirteen years Namaste has evolved but at our core we continue to approach yoga as a powerful tool for transformation. Among many things, I believe yoga can provide the mind body connection that is severely needed in today’s fast paced world; and as I witness on a daily basis, results in people going out into the world with a bit more understanding, kindness and compassion. I believe that if more people did yoga, the world would be a better place.

New Rockridge

2. Could you explain the differences of the various classes?

Our mission is to serve the East Bay community, We do this with over 150 classes at three locations, and a diverse teaching faculty of more than 50 teachers. We don’t prescribe to any one style of yoga. We have classes ranging from Gentle, Therapeutics Yoga to the more rigorous Power Flow classes.

I am particularly excited about the more specific workshops that serve the changing needs of our society — such as Yoga for Anxiety, Yoga for Healthy Aging, and meditation and Mindfulness offerings. It is extremely gratifying to bring yoga to the complete beginner as well as serve the more experienced practitioner who is interested in diving deeper into our programs.

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3. What is your advice on how we can begin and develop our own yoga practice?

Do not set goals that are unobtainable or discouraging. Make a commitment to your health and wellness by committing to just one class per week!

I find it best to sample a few classes and a few different teachers. The first class or teacher may not be the right one for you. You need to find a teacher that will motivate you and excite you enough to bring you back every week!

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4. For a lot of us, it is difficult to carve out 1.5 hours for a yoga class, plus studio travel time. What do you offer for those who can’t devote so much time?

I am at the yoga studio daily and still find it difficult toget to a class! I’m a single mother and independent business owner.At the end of the day, I am tired and want to go home. However, if I don’t put my self care first, all other things – including how I treat loved ones and parent my son — will suffer. Commit to your health and wellness by committing to coming to one class per week. If you can’t make it to class once a week, take what you learn from class and practice at home — even if it’s 10 minutes in the morning or before you go to bed.

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5. Namaste has built an incredible yoga community in the East Bay. How have you done that?

I have been blessed with an incredible tribe of teachers, staff, and students. I think when people work with us, they recognize our commitment to consistency, integrity and community. Because of this fact, we have been able to attract the best teachers in the East Bay. Our front desk staff is phenomenal. They are passionate about bringing yoga to people. The industry has changed dramatically over the last decade and I believe people resonate with us because we truly put our heart and soul into the studio. There is a lot of love and mutual respect around here and I hope it shows.

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6. What upcoming plans do you have for Namaste?

It was never my intention to grow to three studios. We have responded to the demand for our services, and will continue to grow organically, as needed. The studio in Rockridge just finished construction and we’re thrilled to be expanding into the space next to us. We have built a new studio room, and we’ll have more space and more classes beginning this month.

Our yoga program is bigger than ever, and we continue to grow our trainings and immersions programs. This year we are launching our new 300 Hour Professional Teacher Training continuing our mission to help create and support the Bay Area teaching community. I am so proud of where we are and thrilled about the vision our team continues to manifest.

7. What does success look like for Namaste?

Getting more people to do yoga and watching them leave class with a clear mind and kind heart that goes out into the world and touches another.
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8. What are some of your post yoga East Bay places to enjoy?

I am a proud Oakland native and my family has been in Oakland for multiple generations since the late 1800’s. I am excited for Oakland and all that is has to offer.
Lake Merritt is a gem and good people watching, and the Lake Merritt farmer’s market is a diverse mecca of all the beautiful people and colors that make up Oakland.
My son and I love to hike up in the Oakland Hills, and the $2.50 Tilden Train ride is one of the best deals around!


Celebrate our NEW Rockridge Studio this month with all NEW Classes only $10.

Learn more. 

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Healing Teachers, Healing Communities

Imagine a world in which the humanity of both students and adults on school campuses are honored as an integral part of the education experience. Adults are well-equipped with stress resilience tools, able to honestly communicate their boundaries so they don’t burn out, and are well-fed and well-rested. When triggered by stressful situations at school, they know how to pause, breathe, step out of their reactive brains and into appropriate conscious responses.

As a result, student discipline referrals decrease. Students are able to learn more effectively and more deeply because classroom tension and distractions decrease. Reactive racial biases and test anxiety decrease. Adults on school sites are able to support one another when problems arise, much like thriving parental partnerships, and mindfully make the best choices for everyone involved.Everyone can finally exhale. Students and teachers alike live in a community of trust and mutual respect. Everyone thrives and rises together.

This vision is possible—and why we began The Teaching Well.

The Teaching Well

As any long (or short-term) yoga practitioner knows, our abilities to be present and mindul off the mat are a direct result of the work that we do to train our bodies and minds on our yoga mats.I began practicing yoga in Los Angeles (if only we had Namaste there!) over 7 years ago. Day
after day, merging the world of my body and soul, my capacity to be resilient in the outside world dramatically increased. As B.K.S. Iyengar says, “When I began yoga, my mind was in many pieces and my body in one. Now, my mind is in one piece and my body in many.”

As a teacher in public schools in Los Angeles, I needed the tools yoga provided me. Simply by coming back to my mat, I became conscious of my body’s stress responses and how I felt when I spent too many hours in a chair grading papers or how I reacted to students when I had too much
caffeine. I noticed that I was able to pause longer when a student triggered me, or come up with more compassionate solutions to student’s misdirected aggression.

The Teaching Well

I won’t beat around the bush—our schools in this country are in crisis. More than ever, we focus on test scores as the only measure of achievement. Funding is so low that many schools don’t have libraries, arts or music programs, or access to basic supplies. And worst of all, teachers, especially in urban environments, are leaving the classroom at a staggering rate. In Oakland alone, according to a study done by GO Oakland Public Schools in 2012, 70% of all teachers leave within five years.

Its time for us to take what we all know in our personal lives and bring it into schools. Many incredible organizations are bringing yoga and mindfulness into schools—and changing the student experience. But what happens when a teacher, overworked and exhausted, reverses all of the powerful work being done on behalf of the students? Or, having burn-out, leaves the classroom and is no longer able to channel her expertise to students?

The Teaching Well

 

Teachers are the socio-emotional leaders of schools and classrooms—and when they aren’t well, they simply cannot channel health and wellbeing (not to mention academic content) to the young people they serve.

Our mission at The Teaching Well is to provide educators (both teachers and administrators alike) the wellness tools that they need so that they can be their BEST for students. We provide professional development workshops in nutrition, stress resilience, mindfulness, yoga and healthy communication, and follow-up with one-to- one and group mentoring to ensure that like a regular yoga practitioner, our teachers are being given the opportunity to continually reflect up and practice their self-care.

As Namaste’s SEVA Recipient for this quarter, we are humbled and incredible grateful. This generous donation (made by all of you!) will allow us to serve educators in Oakland who cannot afford our work—but who serve our city’s most marginalized youth on a daily basis. We cannot thank you enough for giving to us, so that we may give to Oakland.

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For more information about The Teaching Well, a non-profit teacher wellness organization (and their current Back-to- School Crowdfunding Campaign with video!), visit www.theteachingwell.org or theteachingwell.mydagsite.com.

Jane Mayer, Director of the Los Angeles Region of The Teaching Well

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Owner Kimberly Leo Talks 10 Year Anniversary

Namaste is honoring our 10 Year Anniversary this year with a free 10 Year Anniversary Celebration & Kirtan featuring Grammy nominated artist Jai Uttal. As we prepare for our upcoming event and anniversary, we touched base with Namaste owner Kimberly Leo to learn more about the last 10 years of Namaste history and what lies ahead for us!

What was the inspiration for opening Namaste Rockridge back in 2003?

KL: I was going through a big life transition and needed to make a change to my quality of life. Yoga got me through the hard spots, and I passionately wanted to share the gift of yoga with others.

Being an Oakland native, I saw a real need for a yoga studio in the Rockridge neighborhood. I have big family roots here and a large extended family. I always saw myself opening a business in Oakland and nothing felt more natural than providing a sacred space for people to practice and find the same gifts yoga offered me. My father was always active in the Oakland, and Asian American communities, and this was a way for me to give back to my community.

Namaste has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. How has the Namaste brand evolved?

Noah3KL: The intent behind Namaste always has been to provide a refuge for those seeking healing and wellness. Our students come to Namaste because they know that when they enter our doors, they can find among many other things — peace, salvation, support and space.

Over the years, Namaste has, in addition, become to stand for quality — quality in our teachers, our service and services, and our programming. People know and trust that we will provide them with the best quality experience. We are dedicated to the safety and well being of our students and that shines through in all of the decisions we make here.

The drive to grow Namaste has been organic, based on the demand from the community. As our Yoga Teacher Training Studentscommunity grew, they wanted more products and services, and wanted to delve deeper into the yoga philosophy and practices. As our programming grew, so has the need to reach the larger yoga community.

Our students want to learn from their teachers’ teachers and so we have been successful at attracting nationally recognized teachers into our studio. You can find many options for visiting teachers in San Francisco, but the East Bay was greatly lacking. We felt that we could serve that hole in the market.

With three studios now, how have things changed from the early days of Namaste?

Kimberly_Street_FairKL: When we first opened, I was at the front desk 24/7. I would go into the yoga studio, close the doors, and take a nap mid-day. I was able to greet each and every student and know them by name. I still know many of our students by name — that gives me the greatest pleasure — knowing our students and the stories behind their lives.

Now it is not physically possible to meet every person who walks through the door but the basic premise of serving the community and touching people’s lives is still the same. Every person who now works at Namaste has their own personal connection to what we are doing here which really shows in the way they connect with our students. I am so lucky that we have been able to maintain that level of personal attention and love for our students. I am blessed and honored to do this work. It feeds my soul, and it is amazing that we can touch so many lives.

You have been an active member in the local and regional yoga community for over a decade. How do you feel about the direction the yoga industry is headed?

KL: I have seen the yoga industry change dramatically over the last 15+ plus years. Yoga can have a profound effect on people’s health and wellness — not only the physical but their emotional states. It is always interesting to watch new students come through our doors seeking a fitness class and after the first few visits you really see that they are gaining much more than they expected. Yoga has finally reached the mainstream, and I believe the more people doing yoga, the better place the world can be. I am excited for yoga to reach the masses.

Best advice that you could pass along to new studio owners?

KL: It is cliché — but just do it! Be smart and have a business plan — but don’t think about it too hard. If I thought about the risks, the dos and don t’s and all the what-ifs, I would never have done it. You can’t sit there and analyze things too hard. It’s stifling. You will be amazed at the way the world receives you when you decide to just go for it.

How has your personal practice evolved or changed over the years of owning a studio?

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KL: Opening a business around self-healing, and the practice of yoga has changed my life forever. I am a lifelong beginning student — learning new lessons every day, every minute. Yoga influences how I live and walk through life every day — how I live my life, run my business and raise my child.

I am thankful for my family and to my staff for making this life possible. I am blessed to work with such wonderful people and to be in an environment where people are taking care of themselves and each other.

 

 


If you are excited about our 10 Year Anniversary Celebration and Kirtan, please make sure to pre-register for free today: bit.ly/1thBc3F

Namaste 10 Year Anniversary Celebration & Kirtan featuring Jai Uttal
When: Sunday, September 21 from 4:00-7:00 PM
Where: Namaste Berkeley (Parking Lot)

Event will be featuring:
Kirtan with Jai Uttal.
Dancing by Nubia Teixeira.
Additional Music by Adrienne Shamszad.
Aerial Arts by Kameko Shibata.
Taiko drumming by Vera Leo!

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