While I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga for years, I’ve never had the honor of witnessing the journey of a yoga studio from the very beginning.
Walking into California Yoga by Kimi Rae, located in Sylvania, Ohio, took me back to my years in NYC. It has the same big city feel--but with double the space. Natural light floods the yoga studio, illuminating the fresh wood floors that extend throughout, the old wooden beams that reach from floor to ceiling, and the exposed brick that ties the space together.
We were told to wear all black for the yoga photo session, but the rest of our look was up to us. Some were fresh-faced while others were full glam, but all were beautiful. The room echoed with laughter, music filled the room, and hugs were plentiful.
From the start of the photo session, it was clear Kimi had a precise vision.
As she would say, she was in “girl boss” mode that day. We may have been a bit skeptical of a few of the shots--like our Calvin Klein inspired “lay on the floor picture”--but once we started, we realized her ideas were creative and unique. Kimi is willing to take risks, and the video and photos produced that day are evidence of her artistic ingenuity.
Kimi worried that so many people--almost 30 people filtered in and out throughout the photo session--be hard to manage, but our photographer, Mary Wyar, assured her she’d take care of it. Mary perfectly organized the inexperienced lot of us, and despite the vast age differences between some of us, we shared many laughs. Nothing like meeting someone for the first time and being so close you can smell what they had for lunch! Side note: I should NOT have had red onions on my avocado. Sorry, guys.
The most emotional part of the afternoon came at the end when we filmed the promo video. Kimi allowed us to choose a line from her manifesto that spoke to us, and she asked simply that we read it from the heart:
California Yoga by Kimi Rae Manifesto:
My soul is my guide.
What you seek is seeking you.
Protect yourself from your own thoughts.
The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you.
This is a subtle truth: whatever you love, you are.
You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.
These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.
I crave a love so deep the ocean would be jealous.
Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.
Respond to every call that excites your spirit.
Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious.
What you seek is seeking you.
Be your own note.
We had to remain absolutely still and silent to minimize background noise, so all eyes and ears were on each yogi during filming. Kimi repeated her entire manifesto for the camera, and when she reached “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens,” she fought back tears before asking to take a break.
Kimi explains, “I cried during filming because I never expected a journey this difficult NOR this beautiful.”
When Kimi found the inspiration to open California Yoga, “It was a really difficult period in my life. For over three years, I’d been enduring a tumultuous divorce and grieving the loss of my first yoga studio. I felt bitter and robbed of my passion, and I swore that I would never do it again.”
However, during a trip to Beverly Hills, California with a childhood friend, Kimi eyed a Rumi quote in a yoga studio that moved her, and she started to hope that maybe her dreams didn’t have to die.
“I was feeling betrayed by the universe and had tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t recover, but yoga, the love of my 3 amazing and wild boys, and my immediate family kept me going.”
“I’ve realized that nobody is perfect. We all sin in different ways and recover in different ways.”
“I cried, too, because Yogaja Yoga, my past employment for the last few years, has been so loving, kind, and gracious,” Kimi continues. “Margaret Penn and Brent Divine truly live their practice and supported me and nurtured me to be what I am today. I feel so grateful for both of them, and they truly live their practice.”
Kimi’s honest tears set the tone for the rest of the filming. Each yogi was true to his/her self, reciting lines with sass, humor, openness, and even tears.
If that day was any inking of what’s to come for California Yoga, we can expect the new Sylvania yoga studio to be filled with diverse, joyful individuals who aren’t afraid to express their own truths, or satya, and who are willing to share in one another’s joys and sorrows.
Come practice with us.