This blog post is an excerpt from a work-in-progress memoir about starting 8 Limbs twenty years ago.
On a snowy return drive from Jackson Hole, Wyoming the Christmas of 1995, my boyfriend Mike and I got into a conversation about the future. It was New Year’s Day, and there were hours to kill on our way back to Seattle. I sat in the passenger seat of Mike’s Toyota van that had carried us more than 4000 miles on our road trip from Vermont to Seattle. Shaped like a toaster, it seemed too tall for itself––like it might just tip over at any moment.
The I-90 highway headed West was slick and spotted with rightfully cautious red brake lights. We inched slowly toward the Cascades, listening to Fugazi and wondering where our lives would take us next. You know, things you do when you are twenty-five, unmarried, and childless.
Mike stared off into the distance and was quiet. The taillights were floating in a line to the distance. I stretched for the ceiling and waited to speak. I missed Vermont, but I didn’t see leaving Seattle. It was starting to feel like home.
Out of the blue Mike asked: “If you could start a business, what would it be?”
The question hung in the air for a few potent moments. Windshield wipers thrummed their slavish rhythm to beat off an onslaught of snow. White flakes sped towards us through the enormous windshield. My legs, in cozy sweatpants, were folded cross-legged in the seat. Ian MacKaye called out “1 2 3 Repeater.” Possibility swirled like the snow.
Then the answer popped out: “Open a yoga studio.”
This was the clear and definitive answer to a question I’d never been asked. It hadn’t been entertained concretely, but some part of my brain had clearly been chewing away at the possibility while I sat at a desk selling ads. In 1995 there were only a handful of places to take yoga. Other than Physical Culture, several dedicated studios and just one gym offered classes. If others were having the same experience of yoga as I was, it was only a matter of time––the masses would catch on. I knew I was on the forefront of something big, and I was ready to go all in.
At the time I was just over a year into my yoga practice, a novice, but Kathleen’s teaching was so physically rigorous I felt prematurely accomplished, and ready to teach yoga. Since I was thrown into my first aerobics class at age 16, I’d been unable to refrain from looking through the teacher lens when undertaking any physical practice. Each time I learned something new from Kathleen I immediately translated the information into teaching. In and out. Listen and repeat.
Mike drove on in silence. I told myself to take a few deep breaths, my legs twitching with a charge.
I did feel ready to share what I’d received; in fact it was growing into more of a compulsion, a need. I was still teaching aerobics, but yoga was where my brain was engaged. At the same time, I was somewhat embarrassed by my passion for the physical. It was a side gig, a folly, something I did to make extra cash. It wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. It wasn’t big enough, or successful enough.
Outside the van, the wind made itself known with a quick jolt and a haunting whine. I sat with my answer, adrenaline and excitement mounting. This was real. This could be my future. All the grown-ups I knew growing up in New Orleans worked in finance or law. In my college town in Vermont, super smart academics with multiple degrees worked in restaurants. Neither extreme appealed to me in the least. In high school I wanted to be a writer, but practicality and an English degree had neatly squashed that lark. There had to be other options. That’s why I’d moved here the first place, to see what people did for a living in a big city. Seattle, the destination of hundreds of young transplants in the ’80s and early ’90s, was my research.
After some time spent in silence, I turned to Mike, a smile spread across my face. It felt like a million pieces clicked into place in an instant. I immediately saw the rightness of it all. If I was the owner, the head honcho, I could finally admit that my passion was in movement, not necessarily in Chaucer, or ad sales, or corporate ladders. This side job was really what I wanted to do front and center, if I could be the mover and shaker, the entrepreneur.
For the rest of our drive my mind danced like the snow in our headlights. These were the things of dreams, for this Southern girl. Snow. Mountains. Starting a business. I drank it in. I drank it in.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer, Founder (and Writer)
8 Limbs Yoga Centers