Month: November 2014
If you’ve taken class with Bethany, or you’ve taken class with John, or — major bonus — you’ve been in a class they’ve co-taught, you know that they bring the magic individually, and together they’re downright explosive.
But there’s so much more to this power couple than their ability to ferociously and enthusiastically kick students’ asanas inside the studio. As co-founders, the husband and wife team are also business partners.
On the one-year anniversary of Lyons Den Power Yoga (!!!), what better way to honor the studio’s roots than by getting the inside scoop straight from the dream team? Read on to hear about their highs, lows, and the time John locked himself out of the studio…barefoot.
Take us back to the very beginning. Where did the idea to open the studio come from? Is this a lifelong dream being realized?
Bethany: It had been brewing for several years, but I had such great opportunities coming into my world from so many different angles and directions that I was honestly a bit scattered. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. I also really wanted a Baptiste-dedicated studio in the city I love. So this was not a split-second decision at all, but a process, and it ended up happening at exactly the right time. Getting John on board to do this with me was clutch — he is an invaluable partner. Once he was in, it was game on.
John: After I went to my first Baptiste teacher training, I came back and knew she was right on the money. Baptiste yoga is exactly what New York City needed. We set the intention to find the right space, and the rest is history.
When you found the space at 279 Church Street, did you know right away that was your spot?
John: No. I saw the raw space, but I couldn’t see it. But I looked at Bethany’s face as her eyes moved along the space, and I knew she had a vision. It was at that moment I knew we had found the home of our first studio.
Bethany: No! I ran away screaming (inside I was screaming) the first time I saw it. The building is old, with a very shady history. (Looking for a brothel, anyone? No, really…) And the build-out was daunting. It needed to be gut-renovated. But when we saw it again a year later and met with the landlord, I could just see it. I knew TriBeCa was where we needed to be, and after walking around the broken down floorboards, the vision appeared. At that point, I had zero doubts.
What were your biggest fears about opening the studio?
John: That no one would find us. I knew Bethany had a strong community, but for us to be able to stay open, we needed to reach complete and total strangers.
Bethany: Complete and total failure in making our rent and making this actually work, finding the right team of instructors, finding any sort of balance in my life, no sleep, running out of the money we borrowed. The list goes on. But once I figured out the worst-case scenario and said, “Yes, I can handle that,” I was OK.
Were you ever afraid no one would show up?
John: The bravado side of me says I never doubted it for a second. The reality is that fear was there right up until I went to my Level 2 teacher training, which was the week before we opened. Being immersed in the Baptiste community and feeling the power of the practice, something clicked. I couldn’t wait to get home to Bethany and our studio. I knew we had something special.
Bethany: The whole thing felt scary as hell, but I knew in my bones this was going to work. I knew people would show — this practice is made for New Yorkers — I just had no idea they would show up so quickly! John was worried. I kept saying, “Don’t worry, I got this.”
What are some of the funnier moments you recall from the past year?
John: There was the time I locked myself out with no phone, no shoes, and class starting in 30 minutes. I had a choice of finding a way into the studio or calling Bethany to tell her I had to cancel class for being an idiot. Let’s just say I channeled my inner MacGyver and class started on time.
Bethany: John and I putting together the refrigerator the night before our opening party. It was 1:30 AM, we hadn’t slept more than a few hours in several days, and every time the door opened, it would start talking to us loudly. “Thank you for purchasing a beverage!” Or it played a very loud jingle. Then it started playing classical music — like a symphony for hydration. I was losing my mind. John was determined. I finally broke down and started hysterically laughing and filmed it on my phone.
Let’s get personal here, if we may. How did becoming business partners affect your marriage?
John: It brings the marriage closer. It’s not a test, because it’s not pass/fail. Bethany is committed to co-creation and she inspires me to be better. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to check my ego. I come from a professional world where I’m the Chief Operating Officer for a large restaurant group. I came from “I know better than you.” That attitude didn’t serve the studio or me because I just tried to overpower Bethany’s opinions and leadership at times. Truly embracing Bethany’s talent, intuition, and knowledge allowed me to take a backseat and focus on supporting her and the studio as opposed to fighting her. And the results have been great. I could not be happier to have her as my boss!
Bethany is my wife first, and business partner second. At the beginning, I wanted to have a say in everything and the friction was harmful. Finally, I embraced that serving my wife and supporting her as my boss allowed our business relationship to click. Now, not only is she the love of my life, she is my teacher, leader, and someone I find new reasons to love and respect every day.
Bethany: I love and respect John so much more than I did a year ago (and I totally loved him then!). He is tremendous, loving, and generous in the way he shows up for me and embraces new challenges and growth. We knew becoming business partners was really going to work or really not going to work. Luckily for us, it works. And once John decided I was officially “the boss” of The Den, well, let’s just say things went a lot more smoothly!
What has surprised you most about opening the studio?
Bethany: The awesome community that has emerged in no time. I am consistently blown away by the way our students, team, and teachers show up for each other on and off the mat. It is inspiring and real. The fact that John and I have anything to do with creating a place where that can happen…wow.
John: Two weeks in, I remember coming to the studio after a 14-hour day at my other job, and dancing around the studio wiping sweat off the floor. I can’t remember a time when I was happier or more fulfilled. The pride and love I receive from seeing someone leaving class with a smile blows me away every time.
What are you most proud of?
John: The friendships, romances, laughs, tears, and genuine community our students have created. A year and a half ago, Lyons Den Power Yoga was just a thought. Today it is a living, breathing, badass community because of the magical and inspirational people who choose to practice with, and teach us day in and day out.
Bethany: I am most proud of the space we have created that inspires the courage I am fortunate enough to witness daily. I am also so proud of our teaching team and the individuals that have stepped up to that particular challenge.
We’re now entering year two for Lyons Den. What can we expect?
John: Our continued drive to empower others and, above all, to be courageous.
Bethany: The sky is the limit, my friends. I tend to play big.
You know that feeling when you’re eating your morning oatmeal, and it’s good, but then one day you decide to throw in a few chocolate chips and it’s suddenly so much better? Those chocolate chips were everything you didn’t know you were missing.
Lyons Den Power Yoga is the handful of chocolate chips to my morning oatmeal.
I’ve been attending classes at LDPY since day one (really — I was there for the first-ever Thursday 7:15 PM class with Bethany), and every day I walk in and out of the studio is a day my life is further enriched, enhanced, and invigorated.
I know the reality is that Bethany and John opened the studio at the time that was right for them. But on a purely selfish (and, OK, delusional) level, I believe that they opened this studio just for me.
In June 2013, I was in a bad place. I had spent the bulk of the past year mostly bedridden (and bathroom-ridden, if we’re being honest here) on account of Crohn’s disease. My illness left me on medical leave from my job, and unable to leave my apartment.
I knew Bethany from Crunch, and then from SoulCycle. She quickly became my favorite instructor, and I missed her classes terribly when I was too sick to get to them. Somehow, Bethany noticed my absence from class, and insisted on making a house call.
I was hesitant to allow visitors because I was sick and depressed and didn’t want to answer the “How are you feeling?” question with the truth, which was “awful, miserable, and sad.” But, one Wednesday night that month, I let Bethany into my apartment. She came bearing gifts — an outfit, a candle, a playlist, and a great attitude. We talked for an hour or two, and that was the night she told me she and John were planning to open a yoga studio.
I woke up the next day with a new outlook. I was ready to fight. I was ready to get better. I was ready to work my way out of my depression, even if my body didn’t immediately follow suit.
By the time Lyons Den opened, I was still sick, but was regaining my old strength. I’m a runner — a marathoner — and I wasn’t able to run at the time. Yoga seemed easier. Gentler. More attainable. There was a bathroom in the studio, so some of my fears were soothed, and I knew that with Bethany leading the pack, I would be OK. (We’ll get to the “easier” part shortly.)
That first class kicked me so hard in the very best way. I was never a regular practitioner of yoga, but I was hooked to the Baptiste style right away. I loved how athletic it was, and how I felt like I was getting an incredible workout without leaving my mat. I loved the fast flow, the way my heart pounded out of my chest each time I came down from Wheel, and the way my arms and legs visibly shook as I tried descending the stairs at 279 Church Street. I couldn’t even hail a cab home; I was joyfully exhausted.
Soon, I expanded my class selection. I took classes with Jessica, Patrick, and Terri, and later eagerly signed up to practice with Sara, Brooke, Michelle, and Annie. I found my sweet spot in Crow, yelped with joy the first time I jumped back from Crow into Chaturanga (and then looked up at Terri like a puppy waiting to be fed to make sure she had witnessed it), and texted a picture of my first-ever Tripod Headstand to Bethany the moment it happened. I was making progress both in and out of the studio. All the while, I was getting healthier, stronger, and happier.
The greatest highlight of my Lyons Den journey was actually an out-of-studio experience. When I found out Bethany would be teaching at Solstice in Times Square, I knew I had to be there.
The class — which took place in the middle of Times Square — was almost exactly one year after Bethany first came to my apartment and changed my life. This day was a celebration for Lyons Den, and I was so proud to see Bethany leading the massive group in the middle of this vibrant city. I remember seeing John demonstrating up on the big screens in Times Square, and closing my eyes at the beginning of practice, tuning out the loud city noises and just hearing Bethany’s familiar, calming voice.
For one hour on my mat that day, I thought about how grateful I was to be happy and healthy, and “flipping my dog” onto a total stranger’s mat in Times Square. I felt more at ease than I had in years.
During my worst, most challenging time, Lyons Den and its community brought me back to life. The instructors always understood when I said I might have to leave mid-class to use the bathroom (sometimes multiple times per class), and I made a ton of new friends who supported and furthered my journey. Lyons Den changed the game.
I am forever grateful for Lyons Den and am so proud to call myself a yogi thanks to the LDPY team.
Cheers to year two — may it be filled with countless Downward Facing Dogs (love ’em), sporadic Leap Frogs (holy cardio!), and a whole lot of hard-earned savasana.
Namaste, Lyons Den. You’re the best kind of chocolate chip.
Watching a seasoned yogi take flight into bakasana—crow pose—is a beautiful thing. It looks so simple, so effortless. And while this arm balance may look tricky, even scary, it’s entirely attainable for all levels.
All you need to get off your feet and onto your hands is a little confidence and this five-step guide from Lyons Den instructor Sara Packard. Read on, and get ready for takeoff.
1. Be confident. When you go into any new experience with confidence, it makes for a stronger start. Even if you’re not confident you’ll “master” the pose, have confidence that you’ll learn something new about yourself.
2. Start on a block. Any master of anything knows nothing is ever achieved without a little help. A great—and readily available—tool is your yoga block. Place the block on your mat and bring your feet on top of it. This will offer your body a bit more room to get your legs and hips up where they need to be. Even for someone who has already mastered crow, getting back on the block can be a great reminder, and can help take your pose to new heights—literally.
3. Feel your hands. In crow pose, our foundation is our hands. Give yourself the strongest foundation possible. Spread your fingers wide and really root down through the triads of the hands (the space between the forefinger and thumb). Really feel the support of the floor underneath them and use it. When we begin to work into any arm balance or inversion, we start to notice a direct relationship between our hands and our core; when we plug into one, we instinctually plug into the other.
4. Hug in. From the pit of the belly to the legs and feet, squeeze in toward your midline. Often we look at crow pose as coming from arm strength, but really it’s more about finding balance by being strong, and letting go at the same time. The strength of this pose comes by pulling up and in at the center of your body, so that the weight distribution is forward and up. Speaking of forward…
5. Look—and think—forward. This is the scary part for most of us, but the idea is that we go where we see ourselves, literally. By taking the eyes to a point in front of you, the body tends to follow. And where the eyes go, the heart goes. Since we are always working toward finding an open heart, this is important.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fall. Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back from trying anything new. While it’s perfectly OK to be afraid to try, that doesn’t mean it should stop you. Whenever I teach any arm balance or inversion and the student falls, I see it as such a positive thing! Once you fall out of something, it gives you the freedom to see that not only are you OK, but you can get back up and try again. Chances are, it was never as scary in reality as what you created in your mind. Remember: No crow learned how to fly without falling, and no yogi has either!
By Ali F