Monday, February 29, 2016

Prana & Pints: Yoga with a Beer Back

by Jenna Bee, CSOY Alumni 2016, Yoga Teacher & Founder of Brewhouse Yoga

When I completed my 200-hour Teacher Training in 2011, I was excited and ready to teach. I have (and had) no illusion that I was a perfect teacher, but I knew I already had a lot to offer to both students and a studio community. I diligently “put myself out there” in the Boulder yoga scene and got plenty of sweet rejections. “We love what you’re doing, we just don’t have any space on our schedule right now,” “We already have a lot of young women teachers, but we will keep you in mind if anything shifts.” I quickly realized I didn’t want to wait around to be “needed.” With new teacher training graduates coming on the scene all the time, there was never going to be a pronounced need for “a teacher like me,”  from a purely economic perspective.

I quickly realized I didn’t want to wait around to be “needed.”
But as I continued to look for opportunities, I realized I had a knack for bringing people together. I started offering classes in parks around Boulder, and developed a little community (mostly friends at first) who loved to practice together. I taught free classes at a retail store downtown, where I met some people outside of my social circles as well. It got to the point where I started to see yoga spaces everywhere. I walked into a building and thought, “how hard would it be to move all of this furniture?” and “How many mats could we fit here?”
In the summer of 2013 I had some friends who were involved in the opening a brewery in Boulder, CO called Sanitas Brewery Co. When I saw their space for the first time and knew that I wanted to teach yoga there.  Before the taproom construction was even finished, I saw the industrial brew space and thought it would be a perfect and unlikely space for a yoga class. I mentioned it to the brewery’s founders and they chuckled.  But little did they know, I wasn’t gonna leave them alone about it.
Finally, about 4 months later, they came around, and I met with their marketing director to discuss specifics. I imagined an hour-long class followed by a beer and time for students to connect. I laid out the benefits to the brewery, which included bringing people into their space, building community around their brand, access to class for their employees, and a portion of the proceeds. Benefits for me included a space to practice and build community around a fairly unique offering. I learned from the classes I’d put together up until this point that students really loved the opportunity to chat and get to know each other after practicing. I had observed that the quality of these connections was higher than average superficial social encounters. There was also a financial benefit to me, that without a studio middleman, I had created a regular weekly class which I was fairly compensated for.
And so, Brewhouse Yoga was born. For two years now, students come and practice every Tuesday night at Sanitas. Students drop-in for $15 or purchase five classes for $60. Along with an hour-long yoga class, they get a Sanitas beer after class and a friendly atmosphere to socialize in. I think of this class as my “win, win, win” class. Students win because they get a yoga class, a beer, and connection time with rad people, all for $15. The brewery wins because they get new people through their doors who create positive memories and community around their delicious beer. I win because I have a chance to connect with my students after class and a space to teach where I can welcome new students and people who think yoga is “weird.” It also happens to be the class that I generate the most revenue from.
Through this unique scenario, I’ve become a better negotiator, marketer, and teacher. I’ve tested the limits of the yoga class environment and I have come to realize what I think are the most important elements of a yoga class. It turns out, for me, a quiet, clean, mirrored room with meticulously controlled heat and humidity is not a priority. We make do on the concrete floor and sound of industrial equipment (thanks to my investment in a sound system). Actually, it kind of reminds me of a line from Dr. Seuss’ classic The Grinch who Stole Christmas in which the Grinch realizes that after he takes away all of the external representation of Christmas, the spirit of the holiday still remains. “It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he said, means a little bit more.” In the brewery, we experience that a yoga practice doesn’t happen in a certain setting, with a particular uniform, a perfect body, or even surrounded by peace and quiet. In the brewery, we find the essence of our practice in the context of reality. Through connection, celebration, and a touch of indulgence, we cultivate breath, balance and strength. And then we continue our life practice, with friends, beer, and tacos.  

Jenna is a spirited teacher and student who recognizes the importance of laughter and joy in all areas of life including yoga practice. She offers classes in unconventional spaces to remind us that we really can, and must, practice yoga everywhere. This idea prompted her to found All Terrain Yoga in 2016. ATY aims to maintain a network of teachers who are approachable, knowledgeable, versatile and fun, to offer high quality yoga classes outside of studios. The goal of the organization is twofold: to help spread the practice of yoga to people who may never step into a studio, and to empower teachers to build classes that showcase their unique voice and gifts.

Jenna completed her 200-hour Power Yoga certification and Extensions program in 2011, under the guidance of Derise Diatta, Matt Kapinus, Jason Bowman, and Diane Friedman at Core Power Yoga in Boulder, CO. In 2016, she will complete her 300-hour advanced teaching certification with Gina Caputo, at the Colorado School of Yoga. Before all of that, Jenna got a BA in International Studies from Boston College, with a focus on comparative religion and language. She loves to ski, hike, and sing.  She loves to hear other people’s stories and share her own.