Yoga Is My Business: An interview With Carolina Vivas
By Stephanie Santos
Carolina Vivas makes teaching look effortless, and she put in a lot of work to make it that way. Take her class sometime and you’ll agree; the structure is challenging, but somehow you’re having fun. When students come up to her after class and complement the complex flow, she shrugs and admits she didn’t plan it; the flow comes from complete presence in the moment.
SS: How did you get started?
CV: I started yoga while working on Wall Street in New York City. I got a job at Morgan Stanley right out of college with a Computer Science degree and I endured 16 hour days for two years. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all at my desk. It was unhealthy. You’re going out all the time and you’re making a lot of money. Due to the stress at work I developed an eating disorder I’d never had before. A friend suggested I try yoga, but I wasn't really interested. It was during this time that 911 happened. It made me realize that you can die at any time and I hated my job. I didn’t want to be any of my superiors, I wasn't inspired and it was just a job, not a passion. For some reason yoga came into my mind. I started looking for my teacher. I must have taken at least 20 classes and I tried many studios in Manhattan. I finally took a class with Jhon Tamayo and it changed my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I've been athletic all my life. I just kept thinking, these people are crazy, how in the world do they make it look so easy? I really connected to the dedication of the students in that power yoga class. The strength and focus that I saw was beyond impressive. After that first class I thought, this is it, this is what I want to do with my life. Within three months I signed up for their teacher training. I quit my job at Morgan Stanley, took a job with a non-profit organization, and moved out to Los Angeles a year later. There was no looking back, I committed myself to teaching yoga.
SS: Tell me a little bit about your classes.
CV: My classes are challenging, and they always have been because it’s what I have been drawn to. All of my favorite instructors expect a lot from you, and by savasana they make it so that you’ve given it all you've got. Many things have changed since my early days of teaching, my music choice for one. I used to only play “yoga music," like Krishna Das and Deva Premel as opposed to the dance and hip hop music I incorporate now. I would plan my classes and became so preoccupied with going back to my notes that I wasn’t as present as I wanted to be as a teacher. I felt obligated to stick to my plan, knowing there was that little note (crutch) in the back of the room. Pretty soon I dropped that and I noticed that when I was winging it I had to draw more on my experience and intuition. This led me to connect so much more with my students. Presence is everything.
SS: How has your website evolved?
CV: My friend Amanda McCarroll and I used to teach together at a studio in La Jolla and our students asked us to record our classes so they could practice when they went out of town. We started our website, www.YourBuddhi.com with audio downloads of classes we recorded with our iPhones strapped to our arms during our regular group classes. Two years later we hired new developers to update our site for video. We bought a second-hand camera, and figured, how hard could it be? We had no idea what we were doing! But we learned a lot along the way. Amanda or I would put down our mats and do a class while the other stood behind the camera cueing. We edited and uploaded all the content completely on our own and we've had so much fun. The site was recently relaunched with more videos, articles and features. To this day we still shoot and edit everything ourselves and we add new classes every month.
SS: Was owning a yoga studio a goal of yours?
CV: I never dreamed of owning a yoga studio, however, I have to admit that I'm really loving it. After teaching at so many studios, I knew how much work it was and I was afraid that operating a business would kill my passion for teaching, but luckily it's been quite the opposite. Amanda and I opened Buddhi Yoga in la Jolla out of necessity. The old studio we taught at for five years closed, so the options were to go back to teaching at multiple studios, or take the plunge and do our own thing. I think we made the right decision!
SS: What is next for you and Amanda?
CV: We will continue our 200-hour teacher training programs, our summer intensives and our mentorship programs. We will be starting our first 300-hour advanced teacher training program in May of 2017.
We also just started a new venture called Yoga Lyft, which is a yoga class that's done with light ankle weights and hand weights. We're having so much fun with the music, the sequencing and the challenge! You drip sweat, get a good workout, stretch and even meditate for a few minutes.
SS: You say you always want to get ‘better.’ What does that mean to an ex-executive who’s given everything to yoga?
CV: I have a fear of complacency. I've seen it too often in people. They master something and then they stop, like they've somehow "arrived." Even mastering a pose should not lead to a plateau. There are always ways to improve, but there's also this balance of not getting attached to the results and to experience contentment where you are in the moment. Complacency hinders growth, and if you’re not growing and improving, you’re slowly dying. This is why I always keep working on surpassing my teaching skills as well as trying new things. I work really hard at never teaching the same class twice, and that's partly because I would bore myself to death if I did. When you've been teaching for over 10 years it's really easy to just fall back on what you know and what works. It's a lot more challenging to get yourself out of the box do things differently.
Uncanny how the choosing the name of the studio, Buddhi, which Carolina admits was more of a lark than an exhaustive search, is a Vedic Sanskrit word that has no English equivalent, but can best be described as the process to form concepts and reason, to discern, to comprehend, and to understand.
Buddhi Yoga just celebrated their 2-year anniversary and they were voted best studio by the La Jolla Light Reader's Poll for both years. Their next teacher training begins January 2017. To learn more about the studio visit www.buddhiyogalj.com and for online yoga classes go to www.yourbuddhi.com.
Clothing featured in the photos is by alo yoga.