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?
KL: 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 community 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?
KL: 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?
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)