15 Years of Service in Action

It’s crazy to say it, but Namaste has been serving the East Bay community for 15 years now!

Do you remember us way back when?

Our schedule looked a little something like this. We opened the first one room studio at our Rockridge location with about 15 classes on the schedule. We’ve now grown into a full schedule of over 165 classes a week at 3 locations.

Send us a message with your memories of our beginnings, or use hashtag #makeeverydaysacred on Instagram to post a new or old photo of a Namaste moment!

Some Things Stay The Same:

  • Some of the teachers from those first schedules are still here with us, like Ashley Sharp, Naushon Kabat-Zinn, David Schlussel, and Vickie Russell Bell!
  • Some of our students have been with us from Day 1 and continue to be passionate supporters of Namaste. We are so grateful to our whole community, but especially to these folks who believed in us from the very beginning, trusted us to find them amazing teachers, and stuck by us as we evolved into ourselves.
  • Our passion for and commitment to bringing yoga to all people will never change.
  • The heart and soul of Namaste as an urban refuge and sanctuary remains true.
  • We continue to be locally-owned and family-run. From the beginning, owner Kimberly Leo’s dad worked at the front desk. Even while we’ve grown, we still rely on Vera Leo, Kimberly’s mom, to keep our studios connected and humming.


Our Milestones:

Our values:

Namaste has been blessed with an incredible tribe of teachers, staff, and students. Our tribe recognizes our commitment to consistency, integrity and community, and we have therefore been able to attract the best teachers in the East Bay. Our front desk staff is phenomenal. They are passionate about bringing yoga to every human.  The industry has changed dramatically over the last fifteen years in that yoga is everywhere and all kinds of people are doing it,  and people resonate with us because we truly put our heart and soul into the studio.

Our Future:

  • Our yoga and wellness offerings will continue to expand.
  • We will become a stronger resource for yoga teachers and provide education and offerings to help them to refine their craft.
  • We will continue to support our diverse community with more specialty classes that resonate and inspire.

We can’t wait to see what’s next. Follow along on social media and stay in touch!

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3 Branding Tips for New Yoga Teachers

The yoga industry is booming. In the last year, over 15 million new yoga students began practicing within the US alone, spending over $27 Billion on yoga related products and services. Where it use to be difficult to find a quality yoga class – now, in certain cities, studios outnumber Starbucks. The improved yoga studio business model, an increase in celebrity attention, and the rise of mindfulness practices (especially in tech) have led to a massive boost in popularity.

New students entering this space are often excited, nervous, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, including what style and whose class they should take, and that is once they decide on a studio.

With so much marketing, advertising, and corporate money being poured into the yoga scene – it can be daunting figuring out where to start as a new student, let alone a new yoga teacher. Who are you? How can you communicate your uniqueness to your students?

The good news is this…yoga is still very much about just being yourself.

At Namaste, we have a large community of over forty teachers and over a hundred classes per week. Over the last few years I have had an opportunity to watch what works best. Here are my top three branding tips for new yoga teachers:

Yoga takes discipline. Most yoga teachers don’t end up teaching because they have nothing else to do. A large percent of yoga teachers have master degrees, some of them are CEO’s, and some of them have gone through immense life challenges to be here, sharing their path. Let your students in on your life.

Write down or say aloud to yourself why you love teaching and why you decided to become a yoga teacher. Think of it as creating your personal brand’s “About” page. What was the catalyst that led you to this way of life? How has your life changed? You are a living, breathing advertisement for your own product (your class), your content (your own practice), and your brand (your teachings). Streamline this story, so it becomes easily digestible, succinct, and highlights the parts that are unique to your path.

Share this story with your students. They will appreciate your openness; they will feel more connected to you, and they may even share your story with friends (leading to bigger class sizes!). Depending on how succinct you can make your story, you may share intermittently in class, but always have it available online. In addition to having it on your website, consider writing a blog post and posting through social media to gain more traffic. Also, spending time to connect with the front desk staff at your studio will increase the likelihood they also share your story with new students.

New teachers can have a difficult time building yoga classes off the bat. The best technique I have seen for gaining new students is through subbing. In order to sub for popular classes, new teachers must put themselves out there and get to know the other teachers in their community. I highly encourage new teachers to make the rounds. Attend other teacher’s classes and workshops, community events for the studio, and yoga industry gatherings. If your style resonates with another teacher (or vice versa), it works out great for both parties.

Once you have connected with teachers, share your experiences. Share photos of you attending their class, status updates about hanging out with others in the community, and event invites for workshops being taught by other teachers. These types of social media posts are attractive to students. They enjoy seeing your engagement with the community, syncing with more established teachers who they trust already, and will assume you likely teach a high-quality class, since other teachers are actively supporting you.

The more you share other teacher’s works, the more likely those teachers are to promote and share yours. When you are cross-pollinating your promotions with other teachers, you give yourself access to a larger demographic. Students can categorize you and your style of teaching faster when you are connected to another group of teachers, and this allows for faster development of your personal brand.

Deciding to be a yoga teacher means you have chosen a life that is now largely in the public eye. Your regular students will look up to you the same way people look up to some celebrities. As tempting as it may be to shy away from self-promotion, embrace it. It is a necessary aspect to ensuring your career is successful.

Take advantage of all the self-promotion tools available. Set up a Facebook Page (not a personal page) as a public figure. Create an Instagram account dedicated to your yoga practice and teachings. Create a website and make sure to list all of your classes, your bio, and any upcoming workshops. There are several great website services such as Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress that all make it easy (and cheap) to create beautiful sites with minimal technical experience. It is also worth hiring a professional photographer to take a variety of photos that you can repurpose across all of these platforms. A professional photographer out of the budget? Ask a friend or even your studio. Often times studios have access to a nice camera and may be willing to help you take a few pictures.

Once you have established your social media pages, continue to update. Feed your new fan base with recent pictures, new insights, and fresh content such as blog posts and favorite teachings of yours. In order to stay at the forefront of your student’s minds and to attract new students you must stay engaged with your online community.

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Worth The Tea Time: November 15

With so much going on around the internet it is hard to zone in on the best articles pertaining to yoga and wellness. Forget about the quick posts that give you the top three reasons to do anything and instead, set some time aside with a nice cup of tea to read a few articles that dare to take us a little deeper. Starting now is our new series “Worth the Tea Time” where we provide you with three articles a week we feel are worth the extra five minutes of reading:

Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?

“The whole notion of pushing your physical limits — popularized by early Nike ads, Navy SEAL mythos and Lance Armstrong’s cult of personality — has attained a religiosity that’s as passionate as it is pervasive. The “extreme” version of anything is now widely assumed to be an improvement on the original rather than a perverse amplification of it. And as with most of sports culture, there is no gray area. You win or you lose. You leave it all on the floor or you shamefully skulk off the floor with extra gas in your tank.”  Read More…

The Meaning of Life

BY TIM WU       OCT. 15, 2014

“Beyond the beliefs, the practice of Buddhist mindfulness-centered meditation is also undeniably having a moment.Corporate mindfulness programs, such as General Mills’s pioneering at-work meditation program, in which participating employees begin the day listening to the sound of bells ringing, are increasingly popular. Google’s seven-week course for employees, “Search Inside Yourself,” is oversubscribed. Similar programs have begun to crop up in universities and public schools, as well as in the United States Marine Corps, to help deal with stress. The explicitly nonreligious nature of mindfulness meditation makes it an easier sell for those who are allergic to all things New Age; Buddhism has succeeded in part because it does not directly challenge the nation’s dominant Christian faith but still gives nonbelievers a spiritual centering.” Read More…

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy


“This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” Read More…

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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?


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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