yoga studio owner

It's Just Yoga

After selling It's All Yoga last year, I realized that if I were to open a studio now (which I'm not and don't have plans to ever:), I would name it It's Just Yoga.

Not that the practice isn't a serious endeavor. Not that our practice doesn't sometimes feel like life or death. Not that practice doesn't make a huge difference in our lives.

In fact, I think the two phrases could mean something similar.

Like in the talk by Stephen Batchelor, the spiritual path can lead us to perplexity, wonderment, even doubt, rather than answers.

In the What is this? approach, the aim is to penetrate the Mystery. And in that, it becomes MORE mysterious, not less.

That's where the awe and curiosity and surprise live.

It's All Yoga feels solid and knowing.

It's Just Yoga is less certain, leaving room for discovery and the not-yet-known.

What do you think? What would you name your yoga studio? ;)



Like many people, at the end of every year I do a general review of how things have gone the past 12 months and some dreaming and scheming for the coming seasons.

This has been especially helpful in business -- assessing what programs and events were well received, which did not go over so hot and what new things I want to create.

As I did my review of 2017, selling the studio was a major focus under the headings of triumphs and changes and biggest gifts. 

It also made me feel a little nostalgic and the memories have overflowed, especially memories of the early days.


My stepdaughter was 8 when It's All Yoga opened. She's 21 now. Our whole family was "in the business"... carting, washing and folding endless towels; checking in every class on the paper cards we used for class passes; cleaning, promoting and caring for the studio daily.

I taught 12 classes a week, both at the studio and on-site at a local law office. All while working a full-time job as a business consultant. After two years, I made the scary leap to full-time business owner. At the time, it was a huge risk for our family and opened us to a wonderful simplicity of time and resources. It also forced me to develop (a small amount of) business savvy, expand my creativity and eventually grow into a larger space.

At our first location on 11th Avenue, we had a quirky neighborhood coffee shop next door. Espresso Metro was the perfect pre- or post-yoga hang out. Which was great, except for the dogs tied outside our windows who would start barking or the people who would congregate for long (and loud) goodbyes. I thought it was my job to protect the perfect container of peace in which the students could practice. I have since learned that the "noise" is a part of the practice, not in opposition to it.

michelle marlahan at it's all yoga

Our 2nd birthday was quite a party. Southside Art School had an art show and their band performed. There was, of course, cake. And somehow, the evening culminated with fire dancers. Cervantes Park across the street held all of our birthday parties, as well as a community arts fair, poetry classes, innumerable Yoga in the Park and 4 R Friends benefit classes, many with coordinating bake sales. It was always fun when the sprinklers would come on in the middle of a down dog.

southside art show
fire dancers
yoga in the park

Our second location came at the last moment possible. I had already declined renewing the lease on 11th but had not found a new place. A friend had been shopping at the antique store at 21st and X and got to talking with the owner, Steve, about the "annex," which is now the studio space. He was trying to pare down inventory and wanted to sublet. It had concrete floors, florescent lighting and the most disgusting bathroom you've ever been in. We renovated in less than 20 days.

before remodel
a big pile
before remodel
outside painting
it's all yoga

So many memories....

In those 12 years, It's All Yoga held people through personal transformations, diagnoses, births and deaths, marriages and divorces, job changes and moves. It's been more central to people lives, friendships, health and sense of "place" than I could have every imagined. What a blessing to have been a part of it.


i used to have a "real" job

Some people are surprised by this fact.

They think I was born a Yoga Teacher.

Au contraire. I was a Business Consultant first.

Ya, I’m not really sure what that means either.

It’s said that consultants are sort of good at a lot of things, but not really good at any one thing.

I worked for a company called Synergy Consulting. It was a small, Sacramento firm which contracted solely with State agencies. I was the 96th employee.

My projects included the Department of Health, the Department of Child Support Services, and CalPERS. My responsibilities ranged from Business Process Reviews (making maps for a current workflow and identifying potential inefficiencies or dead-ends) to Data Conversion Mapping (matching pieces of information in one system to their correct location in a new system) to Training (Hi, Department of State Workers, I’m going to train you on this new computer system I know nothing about).

Feeling like I knew nothing was something I was pretty used to. I mean, I faked it for a while. We can do that, you know.

For six years, Synergy (later acquired by AMS, later acquired by CGI) was a wonderful place to work. I was surrounded by people much smarter than me and I knew I would grow because of it. It paid well, I had health insurance, and at the time, job security. My dad was proud.

And yet. And yet.

By the end, I dreaded going to work. I arrived late and left early. The best thing about my day was my outfit.

To boot, for the last year and a half I was running the studio and teaching 10+ classes a week.

My health was declining due not only to physical exhaustion, but also the disparity between my personal integrity and my actions. The body takes on what the mind/heart cannot handle.

I actually thought of closing the studio. Sometimes we imagine it would be easier to completely deny a dream than it would to allow for the changes that would take place should that dream become reality.

Even though I dreamed of devoting myself to the studio and teaching, the lifestyle changes required in order to do that seemed too large. To ask my then-husband to financially support the family (at least for a while) seemed unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be easier to shut that part of myself off, to do the responsible thing.

Thankfully, after much discussion and a near break-down, I decided to retire as a consultant. Every day I am thankful for this decision. (I am such a better yoga teacher than I ever was a business consultant.)

My health gradually improved, my confidence increased, I was more willing to take risks, I was engaged and participating. Not that there haven’t been bumps and unexpected turns, but that’s living, that's being human.

So I’m wondering about you. What dreams do you have? What small step could you make toward that reality? How does your body/spirit respond to denial? Or if you’ve taken a big risk in your life to follow a dream, what has that been like? Even a small victory, like painting the bedroom the color you’ve always wanted.

Part of the richness of life is sharing and telling our stories, being heard. Thank you for listening to mine. I hope to hear from you.