CHAI TALK: Becky Nickerson, ATL Yoga Teacher & Studio Owner

Me your favorite South Asian chick and yoga enthusiast over here. Did I mention I am a Yoga Teacher too? Well I am hesitant, because today I have the honor of having my guru, my teacher and yoga teacher training leader, Atlanta based Yoga Teacher and owner of Infinity Yoga: Becky Nickerson! Becky is a wealth of yoga knowledge, yogi extraordinaire and kick-ass yoga entrepreneur. Her husband Matt and her own four beautiful yoga studios, Infinity Yoga in Atlanta. Becky and Matt are currently expecting their first child! I may or may not have been researching the perfect little yogi onesie for this kid. SHHHHH…

A little back story. There were a couple people integral to my YTT journey. You guys met Jenny on the blog and Becky is another person that really encouraged me to complete the training. In the winter of 2015, I had just moved to Atlanta and hadn’t practiced yoga in six months. I was lonely and depressed and thought: “You’ve got to find your way to a studio.” I googled the nearest yoga center and took my first hot yoga class (with Jenny) at Infinity Yoga’s Brookhaven location. I was hooked yet again. Infinity Yoga offers vinyasa classes that cater to the athletic yogis who want to sweat and really make yoga their main practice/workout. It was different than the gentle yoga I practiced at my first studio in PA. I took a second class, Yoga Basics, taught by Becky (which till date always has a waitlist) and met with her after class. I immediately signed up to be a Karma student and spent every spare moment at the studio. My depression was getting better, my yoga practice was getting stronger and I was learning the ins and outs of life at a yoga studio.

 

Becky was a gentle boss, a hands on yoga teacher and an amazing yoga teacher training leader. Her handing me my 200 Hr certification is one of my top ten moments in life. I honestly didn’t think I would make it, but that’s a story for another day. It is my honor and priviledge to have my guru, Becky on the blog today!

Read below as she spill details on her journey with yoga, becoming a full time teacher and running a thriving yoga business.

Becky Nickerson, you’ve had quite the journey to becoming a full-time yoga studio entreprenuer. The C3 readers would love to know your story (details, please!)

My grandmother was a math teacher, my father is college professor, I think teaching is in my blood. It’s a drive to help people, share knowledge, and pass on information so the next generation is better than where we started. I began practicing yoga in college and was hooked after my first class. After college, I was working in the art gallery industry which took me to Miami, FL. Miami has an amazing yoga scene and I was fortunate to have access to four top notch studios within walking distance.

I did my first teacher training in Miami and began teaching immediately afterwards. I decided the art industry wasn’t for me and got a job waiting tables at a burger joint Monday-Friday from 11am-4pm which allowed me to teach yoga in the morning, evenings, and weekends. I lived in a crappy apartment on South Beach, did my laundry down the street, had to wash dishes by hand, and a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation. I was a new teacher, no one knew who I was, I had terrible time slots and attendance was low.

But this forced me to become a better teacher. It was easy to remember students names, likes/dislikes/injuries when there were only 3! I also had to look at my students; I couldn’t hide at the front of the room guiding an “all levels” class. The small classes gave me the opportunity to refine my teaching abilities. After diving into the Ashtanga practice, I took a training with world renowned, Tim Miller, and then my advance 500 Hour training at the Himalayan Institute with Rolf Sovik, Sandra Anderson, and Shari Friedrichsen. Life eventually lead me back to my home town of Atlanta, GA where I pursued teaching yoga full time.

This involved living in my best friend’s basement and driving from Marietta to downtown regularly. I took classes with every yoga studio manager or owner and gave them my business card and asked if they were hiring or looking for substitutes. I talked to anyone and everyone about yoga praying they might have a lead to a teaching gig. Surprisingly, a car salesman was able to hook me up with a teaching gig at a local gym.

Eventually, I was teaching a full schedule of 15–20 classes a week between 5 spaces and managed one. At this point I had finally moved out of my friends basement and met my future husband, Matt Shechtman. We both worked all the time, by hey we’re young and like to work hard! We bought a house in Brookhaven and I always knew I wanted to open my own space. I had strong opinions on how things should run; I had seen a lot of things that worked and a lot of things that didn’t work. But who was I to judge? They were the one who had the gumption to open a studio.

In 2014, Matt and I bought our first house in Brookhaven and I selfishly thought to myself, where am I going to practice? There was nothing in Brookhaven. At this point I had a little business plan in my back pocket and suddenly found the perfect spot less than a mile from our house. So we sold Matt’s car for the start up cash and I hired the best teachers in town!

You have four thriving yoga studios in Atlanta, tell us about your business, Infinity Yoga.

Brookhaven is our first location. At that time, my husband Matt was working long hours at a big law firm in Atlanta and I was at the studio day and night. Matt would come help out on the weekends and quickly learned that our clients are wonderful people. The yoga studio was such a bright ray of sunshine, it totally took him off guard and realized that the studio was a much more pleasant environment to work in. The whole time I was thinking, well of course! We had several student request for a location in Dunwoody, which is where I grew up. I also wanted to be able to give our current teachers more classes because it much easier to work with just one studio rather than trying to remember rates and policies of 5 different places and also to help create a space where they could make a sustainable career teaching yoga. So Matt quit the law firm and we dove in head first and opened the second location, Dunwoody.

The Old Fourth Ward location kind of fell in our lap when a former studio owner who I was friends with decided to move out of state for family reasons. Then we just opened Buckhead!

For so long in order to make it full time teaching yoga, teachers had to work at many places as Independent Contractors. Many have a full time job and teach on the side. I really want to change the paradigm to make it sustainable and stable for teachers without having to drive all over the city. One of my goals is to create a community where teachers can focus on teaching so we can elevate the quality of teaching and be professional yoga teachers. You wouldn’t want to go to a surgeon who only does surgery as a hobby or part-time would you? Then this just elevates the quality of classes and it’s more than just the teachers benefiting, it’s to the student benefit as well!

Every yoga teacher knows there is yoga, and then the business of yoga. Tell us your take on both. Any tips on how to balance between the two?

Oye! Tough question! Where to start!? Yoga and business seem like two polar opposites. Yoga is soo personal, spiritual, and a lifestyle. Business seems cold and calculated. I have worked from the bottom up as front desk staff, cleaning lady, teacher, manager, and now studio owner. In these roles, we cannot forget that this is our job and we are still in an industry run by customer service.

If an aspirant wants to become a professional yoga teacher, one must learn to marry yoga and business. The best tip I can give is two fold, first don’t forget this is now your job and when you teach yoga you are going to work, second is make time for your practice where you can be the student. I can honestly say I have the best job in the world, but there are still days when it feels like work because we have a boss to answer to, we screw up selling a membership, emails have to answered in a timely manner, and workshops have to planned in advance and promoted. Make sure you take time for your own practice, yoga is what brings us great joy! It’s why we want to share the practice and enable our students to find that same joy and peace, answer their questions via emails, make it easy to come to class, and offer workshops so they can dive deeper into the practice.

What is one lesson from yoga or your yoga training that you always fall back on?

My favorite Yoga Sutra from Patanjali is from Chapter 1 verse 33. Cultivate an attitude of friendliness and kindness towards those who are happy; compassion towards those sad; joy for those who have done something well; and uninvolved observation towards those who have done something bad. This will create a clear and tranquil mind.

We all screw up in life sometimes, I do and someone else does. Suffering comes from the universe, others, and even ourselves. How we react is in our control and being responsible for our actions is what can create freedom and liberate us from suffering. I love this sutra because it gives us some useful guidelines on how to reconcile those things. And plus when someone else does something great and you do something great, Patanjali says celebrate! You don’t have be so serious all the time!

What is ONE thing you want all new yoga teachers to know?

Can I give two? Please?! Have faith! If you work hard, truly examine yourself and your work, and trust in the universe and do your practice, then all is coming! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teachers, people you admire, your friends, and family. The universe wants you to succeed! Answer emails/voicemails quickly! That teaching gig that could be a break through moment could pass you by if you don’t respond quickly.

With that we have Becky! Isn’t she the best? Also guys, she is REALLY funny. Our teacher training was a blast because she kept us constantly laughing. One time she told me to straighten my arms in a plank and for some reason, I couldn’t and she just said to the class “She is trying and that’s yoga,” with her big Becky smile and everyone chuckled, including me.

That’s a wrap! -mic drop-

xoxo,
Pri