Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Liz Heffernan, Founder of Soma Yoga Institute, located in Arcata, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am an international yoga teacher, a certified Yoga Therapist, and a long-term practitioner. I combine my in-depth knowledge of anatomy and bio-mechanically safe alignment principles with insights and practical wisdom gained from over 24 years of yoga teaching and immersive study.
I am the Founder and Director of Soma Yoga Institute, a worldwide and ONLINE yoga teacher training school that embraces a therapeutically-oriented, heart-centered approach. These programs, heralded by many as truly inspirational, combine modern-day biomechanics and research-driven science with ancient teachings and serve to teach adaptive Yoga for all BODIES as a practice for vibrant health, self-transformation, and personal empowerment.
Tell us about yourself
The truth is... at 14; you could find me on a park bench in the suburbs of New York City with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a pack of Marlboro reds in the other. I wore a black leather jacket with the words "no future" written on the back and had an attitude to match. At this time, I stumbled into my first yoga class ever. In the early 80s, yoga was not easily found, so I think of this now as a miraculous intervention. In my very first savasana, I experienced a profound sense of peace and security that I had never felt before. I was able to drop below the noise and trouble of my everyday mind and tap into a place of deep recognition where well-being and ease was my natural state, not something I had to search for.
That moment planted a seed that left a whisper in my mind that said, "Liz, you really need to do yoga." It took 10 years of this whisper to begin to shout loud enough for me to listen. I wouldn't change my path or life experiences, as the contrast from then to now is profound. Yoga gave me the tools to explore my inner landscape; it provided moments of respite from both self-created and external stressors and opened a doorway into the sublime states of peace and ease within my own self. The practices and philosophy help me to shed belief patterns and dissolve the barriers of self-judgment and limitation that cloud my perceptions.
The fruits of my practice have helped me navigate through life's challenges with more tenderness and grace; it has helped me to unveil a deep connection to my own authenticity and access more heart-filled moments than I could have ever hoped for. Daily practice was the catapult from living with an inner world consumed by struggle, self-coercion, and belittlement to the lived experience of joy and wonder. And it was worth every single Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), Utkatasana (chair pose), every moment in meditation, and every ujjayi breath.
Dial forward about 20 years from that first savasana, and I found myself working in a career in higher education that was not aligned with my passion. It has a high responsibility job that comes with many challenges. At this time, after certifying as a C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, the idea of Soma Yoga Institute was born. Yoga became increasingly popular, and classrooms were flooded with diversity in fitness levels, body types, belief systems, and life experiences. Yoga classes were being offered with one size fits all sequences that benefitted some but not others. Many students were arriving in public classes with injuries, chronic health conditions, and mobility challenges. I saw a huge gap in the demand for yoga teachers truly qualified to teach adaptive, safe, and bio-mechanically sound practices.
I created Soma Yoga Institute to fill this growing need for high-quality instructors by educating our students in modern biomechanics while merging the best of ancient practices to create an in-depth yoga program that leaves our instructors with a foundation of knowledge, safety, strength, and skill. Soma Yoga Institute is dedicated to helping teachers and teachers in training receive the highest-quality education in the yoga space so that you and your students will experience true breakthroughs and transformation in their yoga journey safely.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Running a business requires many things. One is to think outside the box and pivot when necessary without contracting into a scarcity mindset. When the pandemic sent us all into lockdown, I met a crossroads - all of my in-person programs were canceled, tuition refunds were issued, and all of our income streams dissolved in a matter of minutes. At that moment, I was able to pivot and got to work building our most incredible offering to date, our online 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. This course continues to receive rave reviews, and due to its online nature and accessibility, we developed the diversity scholarships program and extended close to 200 scholarships. These graduates are now out in communities of need that can truly benefit from the healing practices of yoga.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There are so many aspects of running a business - content creation, teaching, marketing, finances, management, decisions, SEO, course production, contract negotiations, and the list goes on. The hardest part for me is knowing where to spend my time. Focusing on the tasks that require 10% of my time but bring in 80% of the results, sometimes I feel that I am spending 80% of my time on tasks that bring 10% of the results.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get clear in your vision and align your vision with your values.
- Be unstoppable. Life will through many curve balls and obstacles in your path; with the be the unstoppable mindset, you will make it through.
- Collaborate abundantly with others adopting an abundance mindset; collaboration makes you stronger and shrinking into scarcity, and the me/mine mentality will make your journey much harder.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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