Warren Buffet was speaking to a college class at Columbia Business School when a student stood up and asked the simple question, “What can I do to better prepare for a career in investing?”
To which Buffet replied, “Read 500 pages like this every day,” while reaching toward a stack of manuals and papers. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
That’s the beauty of education — it puts everyone on a level playing field. Most books are public, making the information available to those who want it. It just turns out most don’t want it enough. However, that is the key indicator of what separates good and great: the want and desire of constant education.
In Miami, Florida, Tim Feldmann and Kino MacGregor founded Miami Life Center in 2006 following this same principle. The duo strives to create an education facility rather than just a yoga studio.
“We call ourselves a yoga school, not a yoga studio, because we offer yoga teachings on every level, from complete beginner to the most advanced,” said Feldmann. “I believe that is one of the reasons students from all over the world seek us out and travel to come study with us. We want people to learn as much as they can while they practice with us.”
The pair have had the constant desire to learn and educate themselves from the beginning of their yoga practices as well. Feldmann, having found yoga in 1993 after a dance injury, met MacGregor in the early 2000s while they both were studying Ashtanga yoga in India.
“I got really inspired after getting deeper in my practice in New York City, so I went to India after practicing Ashtanga yoga for less than a year,” said MacGregor. “I can look back now and see that was a pivotal moment that led me to devote my life to the yoga practice. I met yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswami, who were defining factors that sealed my life. I continue to go back to India every year to continue my practice.”
The pair was traveling around Europe together when MacGregor suggested returning to her home city of Miami to open a brick-and-mortar location to teach what they had been learning.
“I remember looking at these beautiful, flourishing yoga communities and centers around the world and thinking there was nothing like that in Miami, where I am from,” said MacGregor. “I don’t really deal well with the cold, so I remember telling Tim I was freezing constantly in Europe. Thankfully, he was on board completely.”
The constant growth and desire for education that both Feldmann and MacGregor possess for their practice trickles down to what they expect from the instructors at Miami Life Center as well. Feldmann has developed a two-year apprenticeship program each instructor follows.
“Compare teaching yoga to massage therapy training — a yoga teacher is just as responsible for a student’s body as a massage therapist is, but the training level of a massage therapist sometimes goes up to a thousand hours,” said MacGregor. “We think about 200 hours for a yoga teacher, and that is really just the base minimum of training. One of the commitments we have at Miami Life Center is to have quality teachers, so if we can’t be there ourselves, we want to make sure all the teachers have above and beyond the industry standards. They say you need 10,000 hours to be considered a master of anything, so that is something to consider rather than relying on training programs outside your studio to take responsibility of who is teaching for you. You should be responsible for the continued training and mastery of each of your instructors.”
Because the pair devotes a significant amount of time to training their instructors at Miami Life Center, they are able to travel and educate others around the world more frequently than most as they trust their studio is in the right hands when they leave.
“When we leave we still have really awesome and knowledgeable people in place to run our business,” said Feldmann. “We still call them a lot, however. I was just in India for a month and spoke to our staff once a week to ensure everything was going the way it needed to go at the business. But we feel secure in knowing the center is being handled with the same care we would devote to it while we are gone.”
Even with Feldmann and MacGregor traveling during parts of the year to teach and educate other yogis, they still devote time to creating workshops for their home space to make sure that desire to learn is being enforced there as well.
“We try to do a lot of fun things like challenges to make people practice more and bring them in to understand a little more about the background of yoga and what Ashtanga yoga is,” said Feldmann. “In general, our idea is to keep working Miami Life Center as an educational facility and school rather than just a yoga studio.”
On top of their desires to educate themselves, their instructors and their students on the practice of Ashtanga yoga, Feldmann and MacGregor have also learned the importance of equally balancing their education of yoga with a knowledge of business.
MacGregor explained they spent time in their early years of business dedicated to learning the ins and outs that go along with the backend of running a yoga studio. In order to make their passion for yoga succeed as an operating business, they needed to have the required tools to make that happen.
“Put in the groundwork of running a business if you want to open a studio,” said MacGregor. “Write a business plan — if you can’t do that, hire someone who can help you. Do financial projections, and if you can’t read them, then get with people who can. Do the work so you understand what it actually takes to run a business. Really understand if it makes sense, if it works financially, and if the profitability of the business is something that can sustain you before you dive in.”
Feldmann and MacGregor have rooted Miami Life Center in a perfect blend of passion and education — from their yoga practices to their business strategies. Navigating between yoga ethics and financial gain is something they have always had to battle, however. Turning points have risen, but they have continued to keep their business in line with their personal values by putting yoga first.
“If you don’t put yoga first for your business, then your heart will start to break,” said MacGregor. “The whole reason you got into the business of yoga is because you want to align your passion with your profession, so if that isn’t aligned there is no amount of money that is going to make up for it. Profitability is a byproduct. A yoga business has to come from a place of wanting to share yoga with the world to enhance the yoga community.”
And sharing with the world is exactly what the duo has done. Through traveling workshops to teaching at Miami Life Center, Feldmann and MacGregor are working to bring Ashtanga yoga to the masses, educating students one by one.
“From Day One, we have been committed to teaching yoga the way we were taught by our teachers and as yoga has been taught for centuries,” said Feldmann. “We have never had any doubt about what our mission is — we have full faith in yoga’s ability to help, heal and strengthen the body, mind and spirit of anyone who walks through our doors. We have seen it again and again, we have experienced it on our bodies, in our own lives and that is what we do. We find by focusing on one method, we avoid knowing a little bit about everything and knowing nothing in depth. Instead, we have built expertise and craftsmanship within one classical, time-tested and central method of yoga.”