Today our favorite yoga shop turns 4 years old. We are happy to say it has cultivated quite a wonderful community over the years. To celebrate this, and its addition of a new practice space, we sat down with Steven Ross to speak about how this journey has been and where it may lead. Thanks you Steven and Elsa!
How did you first get involved in yoga?
Steven Ross: Initially, I started this journey as a way of dealing with some serious stress and anxiety issues. My feelings have always been quite sensitive and this did not really gel with my un-enthusiastic corporate career. Within me there was no desire to be promoted or to get ahead of the pack, yet I had to deal with some difficult people and serious pressures from above. The result was that I found myself losing sleep, and eventually falling into chronic fatigue. This crisis point forced me to give up an ambivalent approach to health and start to take care of myself. Although I started the path in tai chi and qi-gong, my first real experience of Yoga was then a friend brought me to see an Indian Guru. From that point on I was completely transformed, I was literally never the same again. I developed an intense longing for higher consciousness, yogic wisdom, and an insatiable desire to experience these states through yoga meditation.
My desire for the higher truths hit a bump in the road due to the fact that I had never taken care of my body, nor lived a healthy lifestyle. It was clear to me that I would never get to where I needed to be unless I took care of all parts of myself. This led me to hatha yoga.
Meditation, asana, and the philosophy of yoga is a lifelong study for you. What inspired you to open a studio and offer this as
For years I had this recurring thought that I just want to help people; somehow make a positive contribution in our community. If I did that my life would be worthwhile. I knew in my heart that if I did nothing I would seriously regret this incarnation. This nagging thought, my love to talk about yoga as a way of healing others, and a lifelong wish to be a simple shopkeeper, seemed to naturally fit. I love to chat with people, to greet people with a smile and to be of service to them. It makes me so happy that some of the locals on the street refer to ESY as “the yoga shop” because that’s exactly how I see it!
So you have this idea to open a studio… now what made you choose the East Side of Austin?
Elsa and I really fell in love with this neighborhood. When we spoke with local business owners and residents it was clear there was a
different vibe around here, there is a potential in this community. I don’t mean to gentrify, but to maintain a diverse neighborhood and a progressive culture. To me it feels more like a European city on the east side of Austin, and I really like that. In the last four years things have changed considerably. In the beginning it was extremely daunting as we came through the big recession and progress stalled. However, the last couple of years have seen an influx of people moving in and trying yoga, many for the first time.
What is the vision for East Side Yoga?
East Side Yoga was created to hold a sacred space of yoga for the study, practice, and Self realization of every student. Our purpose is to offer classes with a sense of care, nurturance, and heartfelt sharing from all teachers transmitted to all students. Here there is an opportunity for each student to step back and gain a wider perspective of daily life. One that recognizes there is something more than habit and routine; there is an inner reality to be discovered and lived from. Through this space we build community (satsang) and find enjoyment in the practice through sharing and living the teachings of yoga together.
What is your biggest challenge in running this studio and guiding its growth?
It’s always been clear to me since opening that this space carries an energy that is much more than myself or any person. At risk of
sounding cliché, we are literally holding the energy. I feel like the creative ideas come through me intuitively, based on teacher/student intention. To be honest, my challenge with the intention is getting little Steven out of the way from that process. My intuition is far from perfect. The other challenge is that after four years doing this, I am not entirely sure what my job title should be. For sure not the owner, I don’t really own anything. For sure not the founder, this place found me! The only appropriate description would be caretaker or steward, it might sound odd but that’s how it feels.
The most important element for me is to have a welcoming space where all people have an opportunity to practice, and connect with the deeper teachings of Yoga. What matters most is that we can offer yoga from the physical level to the spiritual connection; this is the potential of yoga for each of us.
What is your plan for the expanded yoga space that opened in August 2013?
Before opening the new room we asked for student suggestions, and we got them big time. Right now we are trying to meet the more popular suggestions and see what works. We are seeing more and more requests towards yin/restorative/meditative based practices which is an interesting trend that we will try to accommodate.
This year we launched the Sacred Roots yoga school and our plan is to be recognized as a place of deeper yoga studies in Austin. The school is not just to teach teachers, it is for anyone who wants to journey down the rabbit hole to gain a deeper understanding of yoga.
Yogic philosophy is a vast area of study. I find the techniques to be comprehensive and the opportunity for inner growth tremendous. It is a big undertaking that will put very good use to the new room.
I am already lining up some exciting events for 2014!
what, so far, has your favorite east side yoga memory?
Gosh, there are so many to choose from. I always love our staff get together as they are often more like a party than a meeting. Seeing all the teachers, staff, and volunteers together gives me a sense that we are part of something really special. Those gatherings give me the momentum to keep going.
Without a doubt, my all time most memorable moment was the day of the studio fundraiser. I was dumbfounded and lost for words as I watched the students enthusiastically donate for the studio improvements. I generally don’t like to ask people for help, but thanks to Marythis event really blew me away. I will never forget that kindness, enthusiasm, and generosity.