All Good Things Must Come to an End

Ok, so I'm just going to rip the bandaid off first and then elaborate: I've decided to close the studio at the end of May.

Real talk: this is one of the hardest things I've ever had to write.

Owning a business is hard, like really really really hard. There's a reason that it so often gets compared to having a kid, because it takes the same amount of love, care, attention, time, dedication and commitment. Much like having a kid, the last year and a half has included a lot of sleepless nights, secret crying & screaming "just tell me what you want and I'll give it to you! I just need to know what you want!"

The last five years teaching, two years managing, and one and a half years owning Thank Yoga has given me some of the best memories, friends, and lessons I could have ever asked for (and some lessons I would have never asked for, but I needed nonetheless).

I had said for many years "I never want to own a yoga studio." It was like a mantra to me. When Josie came to me with the opportunity to buy Thank almost two years ago I had to make a tough decision: stick to what I always said or take a leap and do something that scared the shit out of me. It was time to put my money where my Instagram memes were and make myself uncomfortable.

What I learned is that owning a yoga studio is definitely not for me. It was a very hard earned and expensive lesson, but now I'll never wonder what if because I made the jump. I survived, but I'm a little beaten up.

I'll be sorting out the details of the last month of the studio over the coming weeks, but if you have any questions feel free to reach out. However, I will say I spoke to Patrick & Carling and we've decided to cancel the intensive at the end of the month. If you've already booked: you'll be getting a full refund within the next few days.

To all of you that have ever come to the studio: thank you. You made the last five years of my life absolutely amazing. To my beloved staff: you are some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing & I feel incredibly fortunate to have had you on this ride.

Love you all. <3

Melissa Petty
Is My Gut Malfunctioning?
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I'm not sure what happened first. Either I stopped trusting myself & everything started to fall apart, or everything started to fall apart & I stopped trusting myself. Or (most likely) both of these things happened simultaneously, hastening one another all the way down to rock bottom. 

It's hard to trust yourself when you feel like nothing you try is working. It's also hard to try things when you don't trust yourself.

Deciding to put my entire life savings on the line and buy a business was a huge leap for me. One that I definitely wasn't ready for, but I did it anyway. And you know all of those "start before you're ready"/ "jump and the net will appear" / "do one thing every day that scares you" memes you see all over instagram? The side of the story those prepackaged inspirational quotes don't tell is the crippling insecurity and self doubt that happen when you know you're in way over your head. 

So where do you start? How do you climb out of it? I think we can all agree that you can't control what works out and what doesn't. But I think we can also agree that you can control the energy that you bring to a situation. You can control how much to trust your own instinct and intuition.

I'm not trying to oversimplify the experience of self doubt. I've been living in that space longer than I care to admit. So I know how limiting and awful it is, believe me. But also believe me when I say that you can choose to live and think differently. It's really fucking hard, and you'll probably fail and backslide a lot. But it is possible. I promise.

One of the biggest mistakes I made this year was relying too heavily on the expertise of others. I looked for answers from people I respected instead of insight and perspective. I decided that I had NO CLUE so I needed somebody else to help me make my decisions. The more I sought out answers the less I trusted myself.

I was constantly reinforcing the idea that I didn't know what I was doing. I ignored my gut instincts until I was pretty much completely disconnected from them.

As I started to come to the realization of how I wasn't trusting myself in my business life (well, lets be real here business bleeds into personal life all too often, but I digress), the more I noticed this in my yoga practice. When something didn't feel right, I immediately assumed I was doing something wrong. I was trusting "the practice" more than I was trusting myself.

I feel like sometimes we depend too much on our teachers, mentors, gurus to give us the answers & lead the way for us. The magic of our yoga practice isn't in our ability to execute poses, but in how we integrate the lessons we learn on our mat into our lives. So if you're trusting your teacher more than yourself...what kind of lesson are you taking off of your mat with you?

If something doesn't feel right (on or off your yoga mat) don't blindly follow orders: ask questions, make modifications, or do something different.

I want you to trust yourself enough to try things that make you uncomfortable. But I also want you to trust yourself enough to know when something isn't working. I want you to trust yourself enough to know that when something doesn't feel right it definitely isn't your fault, you're not necessarily doing anything wrong---it might just not be for you. 

It can take time to come to a consensus with your gut, especially if you've been ignoring it for a long time. I want you to trust yourself enough to be patient. I want you to trust yourself enough  that during moments that feel like failure you can keep moving forward.

All of these things take time. It's easy to post the motivational meme on instagram, its a completely different (and much harder) job to put the words into action. If you're in the middle of a crisis of self, these things might seem insurmountable.

My recommendation with any task that seems larger than life is to start small. Notice the areas in your life where you're undermining your intuition. Where are you putting more trust in others than yourself? How is this lack of faith affecting you?  Whats the simplest shift you can make to get back in touch with your gut? I'd say start there.

Melissa Petty
Wait, Haven't We Done This Already?
 photo courtesy of youtube

photo courtesy of youtube

Let's have a little chat about class planning.

I'm not sure where along the line the pressure started to set in to have new and different material prepared for each and every class. I mean, I know I felt it almost immediately when I started teaching. Someone would approach me after class, "I always learn something new from you" and that little bit of positive feedback set me down a path to always offer something unique. And I know this story isn't just mine, because I hear it echoed back to me all over the place.

Its been wearing on me for a long time, years maybe, this need to constantly crank out new, exciting, unique classes. So a few months ago I started to make a shift: only two lesson plans a week. But even that felt like too much, one was always more successful than the other or sometimes they were both duds. But I kept rationalizing: "this is your only job, if you're not planning new classes...then what are you doing?" The answer to this ludicrous questions is: a lot of other important fucking things.

The only podcast that I really listen to with any regularity is Yogaland with Andrea Feretti. One episode she had her husband (and international yoga teacher) Jason Crandall on for a Q&A, which they do pretty regularly. The first question of the episode was "how frequently should I be changing my class plans?"

And what Jason said (of which I'm going to paraphrase) was exactly what I needed to hear. It depends on how you look at yoga: if you see your class as a singular experience for your students change your class plans frequently, if you see your class as teaching your students a discipline don't change your class plans often. To me this feels like the difference between entertaining and teaching. 

He also drew the comparison between yoga and other learned skills: if you take violin lessons you don't just play a song once.

What a freeing revelation it was to hear those words.

It got me thinking about other classes I've taken over the years. When Chad and I were doing Muay Thai, we'd do the same drills and go over the same skills. When I used to awkwardly stumble my way through hip hop fitness classes, we'd do the same choreography to the same songs. For those few months in fourth grade when I attempted to learn how to play the flute, we'd do the same exercises over and over and over again. Because repetition is how you learn.

So that was it for me: one focused and inspired lesson plan a week. I knew I'd lose some people. I knew there would be grumblings. I knew that some of you guys would get "bored." But despite this, I also knew it was the right thing to do. The more comfortable I got with this new (to me) approach the more benefits I started to see.

Because I don't have to memorize a multitude of complicated classes a week I am a better, more attentive teacher. I don't have to keep going back to check my notes, so I'm able to be more present with the students I have in front of me.

Over the course of the last few weeks I've made sure to check in with some of my regular students: "how did that feel the second time through?" And about 99.9% of the time I hear that it felt better, that they felt more confident and more empowered. And you know what your brain does with all of that confidence? It applies it to other areas of your life. That feeling of competency seeps into every cell of your being. 

So if you find yourself experiencing deja vu during class, don't think too hard about it--it's intentional.

Melissa Petty
Does This Opinion Matter to Me?
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Can we all admit that feedback is the fucking worst? Ok, so maybe it's not the worst, but its totally uncomfortable. And yes of course feedback makes us better, it takes us out of our bubble, its helps to show us other perspectives, yada yada yada. But it's still frustrating, it can definitely still make us feel like we've been doing things "wrong."

So first of all, we need to remind ourselves that the world is cut in half into "rights" and "wrongs." It's also crucial to understand that what is right for some isn't right for all, even if you respect someone their opinion doesn't have to make or break you.

But thats how it feels, right? Someone you admire gives you constructive criticism and suddenly your confidence is shredded, you're a puddle of used-to-be-person. How could you have ever thought (fill in the blank) was a good idea? You should pretty much just give up.

Now that we've gotten the melodramatic overreaction out of the way, let's actually unpack some of this shit.

Learning how to receive criticism is a skill that takes a long time to hone, possibly even a lifetime. In fact, I know very few people that I would consider good at receiving feedback (and i am most certainly not proficient). And often our ability to receive is directly related to the other person's ability to give good feedback. 

All of that aside, even if you're shit at getting feedback that doesn't have to be another thing on your ever-growing list of things to work on. You can have your reaction. You can feel defeated when someone tells you how to fix yourself. You're allowed to feel like you're standing naked in a room having all of your flaws pointed out for the world to see. And guess what...you're not alone in that either. 

I think whats more important is what we do once we pull ourselves back together. How do we take the feedback we were given and integrate it into our lives? A friend of mine, Regan Walsh, wrote a blog recently about recovering confidence after someone gives you negative criticism (it's a great resource, you should read it).

One of the things she touches upon is to consider the source. I cannot stress enough how important this is. But more than just how much you respect the feedback giver or how knowledgable they might be...consider them as a person.

Are they impossible to please? Do they "get" what you're trying to accomplish? Are they generally negative or nit-picky? Do they have a vested interest in throwing you off your game? (I know we'd all like to think that the last thing doesn't happen...but there are all kinds of people out there and sometimes their intentions aren't entirely honorable).

But you should also think about yourself as a person too. Does the opinion that was given to you really matter? Even if your respect the person, even if it was given with the best of intentions, does that opinion matter to you? Can you implement that feedback and still be yourself? If you're constantly taking on the opinions of other people can you stay true to who you are? Are you just a Frankenstein's monster of other people's creation?

I know it might feel like I'm just throwing more questions at you, but these are all really important things to think about. We focus so much on how to gracefully receive criticism, but thats assuming all feedback is good feedback (spoiler alert: it's not).

Since we're on the subject, let's talk about the feedback itself, the object of this whole conversation. Because even if you respect the feedback-giver, even if it fits into your narrative, does it align with what you're trying to achieve? If it doesn't, does it make sense to you to change directions? Do you think it will make you better? 

And LASTLY (I mean it), just because someone wants to give you feedback it doesn't mean you have to take it. When they ask, "Can I give you a few suggestions?" YOU CAN SAY NO! I know, that's fucking crazy, who would have thought? You can say: "No thanks, I'm good" OR "Wow, I really appreciate you offering, but I got it" OR "That's really kind of you, but I'm not ready to take feedback yet."

We all have room for growth...but you get to decide when/how/why. 

Melissa Petty
What Do I Need To Hear?
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I'm going to be totally honest with you: the new branding is nothing like I'd imagined. When I met with our designer Kate Davis I told her all of the things that I wanted the brand to feel like, but as far as the design went I gave her total freedom. Of course I had visions in my head inspired by logos I'd seen, other brands I keep up with--but I'm no artist, so I let Kate do what she was hired to do. 

She came over to my house one night about 6 weeks ago to show me the first set of logo options. Again, I thought I had a general idea of what she was about to show me. In case you haven't caught on yet--I was dead wrong.

The designs she showed me that night were sharp and intelligent and alive. They weren't what I was imagining because they were fresh. The last concept she showed me that night was the one you're looking at. When she flipped that page over I'm pretty sure I audibly gasped. I didn't know at the moment why I loved it so much, but over the course of following weeks I realized that the logo pivoted how I approached the whole project

When I first started the rebranding I was looking at it from a place of "how can I fit in but also stand out in the community?" But once we chose the design direction I started to see myself in it (something I thought I didn't want). In fact, I operated the first year owning the studio trying desperately to not stand out personally. I wanted to appeal to everyone. What do the people want to hear?

I've never seen myself as being "cool" or "hip" or "trendsetting", so I thought I had to take my cues from those around me. But here's the thing: trying to be cool is not so cool, right? It's like when your teacher called you dawg in high school, or your mom tried to talk to your friends: embarrassing and cringe-worthy.

As the pieces of the puzzle came together, and I saw Kate and our Photographer Morgan Whitney interpret my little ideas into masterpieces, the more I realized that I had a perspective worth sharing. I started to ask: What do I need to hear? 

I am super type b, like the-type-b-est-kind-of-type-b, though I like to think of myself as a relaxation specialist. ANYWAY! The type-a intensity in the world right now is like "woah" and it is exhausting trying to keep up. But I was convinced that despite how unfamiliar and inauthentic that intensity felt to me that was what people wanted to hear. 

But, hi! how naive and narcissistic of me to believe that I am the ONLY type b babe out there? I had to admit to myself that there are other people out there like me. There are other people who want to approach life and yoga with a little less stoicism and ferocity and a little more humor and levity.

In sanskrit there's this concept lila (lee-la) which translates most directly to "divine play." It's the idea that you can connect with the Truth or God(s) or The Universe or whatever higher power you may believe in through playfulness and spontaneity. So basically, sign me up for more of that shit. 

I don't want you to feel like coming to yoga is an obligation or even a ritual. Personally, if something feels like a chore to me it doesn't stay in my routine for very long. I thought this was a personal shortcoming, an inability to commit, a lack of dedication. But, hey...I'm just a human trying to live my life. And I understand that you are too.

So here's what I want for myself and for you too:

I want you to come to practice because you WANT to come to practice. I want Thank Yoga to be a place where you want to be. I want you to feel like yourself here: happy, sad, frustrated, giddy, angry, confused, joyful--I want all of it. 

I want you to not give a shit about what you wear to yoga (or if the cute clothes are part of the appeal, thats cool too). I want Thank Yoga to be a place where you can laugh at my terrible jokes, or cry if you need to (hopefully not at my terrible jokes).

I want you to feel OK if you're struggling with a posture or life in general. I don't want you to thirst after certain poses (but I also want you to do whatever the fuck you want, so if you're thirsty be thirsty). I want you to know that your worth as a person is not connected to your productivity or abilities. 

I need you to know that I don't care how frequently you come to class. I want you to leave feeling better than you arrived, and if you don't I want you to know that that's ok too. I want you to be OK with just being OK. I don't want you to feel like you constantly have to chase profound experiences.

I want you to know that I'm grateful for you, even if you were rolling your eyes the whole time you read this or if something I said rubbed you the wrong way. 

I want you to know that no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable you are in life, we're right there with you (with confetti poppers or a hug or a bro-nod or whatever you need).

Melissa PettyComment