Anasa Yoga’s tagline is “yoga, health and community.” The studio opened its doors in Oakland in December 2013 after a 6-month gut and remodel of its 2,500-square-foot facility.
However, the company was actually formed back in 2011. Jean Marie Moore and Katrina Lashea, the co-founders of Anasa Yoga, worked on the business plan for a year and a half while looking for the ideal location for the studio.
With a carefully crafted plan in place, the duo decided on Oakland, in hopes of introducing more people to the benefits of yoga.
Moore is a UC Berkeley Architecture grad, a LEED AP in the green building industry and a 2016 graduate of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Oakland program. Previously, she built K-12 schools through her construction management business, before becoming the co-founder of Anasa Yoga.
Here, Moore explained what makes Anasa Yoga unique and keys to its success.
Mindful Studio: You mentioned Anasa Yoga is a “Black-Owned Business.” Can you explain a little more about this?
JM: Being a “BOB” is a badge of honor in some communities and we wear it proudly. First of all, there are many Black yoga practitioners in the U.S., and more than a handful of Black teachers. But there aren’t many Black-owned yoga studios. Although our mission is to make everyone feel welcome, we have a vested interest in getting more People of Color (POC) onto their mats and into yoga studios. If you’re from the dominant culture, you don’t usually have to think about fitting in. But Black folks often intentionally look for BOB and studios in their cities and towns, and when they travel, in order to experience someplace where they’ll feel safe and welcome. Perception is sometimes a reality.
Secondly, our neighborhood is in transition. I hear references to gentrification on a weekly basis from folks that worry about the older businesses being pushed out. That includes many of the Black-owned barbers, nail salons and boutiques. When we promote Anasa as a BOB — it sends the message that BOB’s are alive and well and are a part of the neighborhood transformation too.
Mindful Studio: Why did you want to make that a part of your mission?
JM: Originally there were three co-founders of Anasa Yoga. The three of us met in early 2011 in yoga classes. Although numbers are growing, there aren’t many African Americans in your typical studio, so we usually reach out when we see each other in public classes. That’s how we all met. We got together for tea and discovered coincidentally that all three of us shared the same vision of opening a yoga studio and providing yoga and other wellness classes with a focus on healing the African American community that is disproportionately plagued by stress-related diseases such as hypertension and cardiac disease. We knew yoga could help. We always wanted our studio to be diverse and inclusive. But we knew it was more likely that people of color would come to Anasa once they saw people like themselves operating and teaching at the studio.
Mindful Studio: What are some practical ways you go about making sure every student feels welcome?
JM: Remembering our student’s names, a personal detail or two, and greeting them when they come through the front door is crucial. I try to practice loving kindness and actively listen to what everyone has to say. Our altar in the lobby is a beautiful collection of spiritual and personal artifacts reminding everyone that all faiths and beliefs are welcome. We have four or five beginning yoga classes on the schedule so that new students have lots of choices for beginning a practice.
We offer two contribution-based, pay-what-you-can classes and hope to add more. One of them is a Y12SR class, the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, which opens the studio to the recovery community with a 12-step meeting followed by a yoga class. We also schedule 30 minutes between classes with the intention of building community and have a cozy back lounge with a tea bar. We hold space for workshops and special events on Saturday and Sunday afternoons between classes. Our first event in 2014 was a highly attended rental by a group of local, queer women and was promoted as such. I think that sent a clear message of inclusivity from the beginning.
Mindful Studio: What advice would you give you to other yoga studio owners to ensure they’re keeping their practice and studio diverse?
JM: Hire a diverse group of teachers, work exchange students and front desk help. If your community isn’t diverse, bring yoga as a service out into nearby minority communities … to health fairs, parks, schools, and community or senior centers. The opportunities are endless. Visit yoga studios that promote diversity to understand more about their vibe, and explore mentoring and partnership opportunities with those studios.
Mindful Studio: You’re involved with Off the Mat and Into the World (OTM). Why did you want to get involved in that organization?
JM: Seane Corn is one of the co-founders of OTM and is one of my teachers. I attended my first class with her about 5 years ago at the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference and was deeply inspired. She teaches from the heart and opens my mind, body, and spirit in a way that no teacher has ever done. And she inspired a large group of our community with her “Radical Healing Dharma Talk & Practice” at Anasa last month.
Anasa Yoga recently underwent another structural change and I’m now the 90% managing partner. Working full-time at the studio is very different from my previous left-brained, 20-year career as a construction manager. The OTM community of other studio owners, teachers, activists and students helps bring clarity to my leadership role and service work in the community, which is evolving. They’ve helped me understand the use of yoga and self-inquiry as a tool for my own conscious healing, transformation and responsibility so that I can fully participate in a global shift toward a more healthy, awakened and loving society.
Mindful Studio: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your studio?
JM: Anasa Yoga is the only green-certified yoga studio in our county. I used my architecture and construction management background, and my green building skills as a LEED AP, to help design and build our beautiful space.