The original Piedmont Yoga Studio was located about two blocks east of our current home on Piedmont Avenue. On the first story of an old two-story house that had long been used commercially, the classroom had about 900 square feet of floor space, a little more than a third the size of our current Studio 2. The Grand Opening was scheduled for Monday, March 16, 1987. "Come and enjoy the opening of your mind and body," the promotional flier read, "with the opening of The Piedmont Yoga Studio." To get the place warmed up we offered a Free Class on both the Saturday and Sunday prior to the Big Day. People turned out in droves, packing the room to the rafters, and the three co-directors, me, Rod Yee, and Clare Finn, each took turns as the lead teacher.
So it was with great excitement, not to mention anxiety, that I approached the first official public class that Monday night 25 years ago. Taking into account that it was a workday evening, and that the high attendance on the previous two days was at least partly due to the classes being on a weekend and free, I calculated that I could count on at least 12-15 students, not bad for the inaugural class. Imagine my bewilderment and surprise when the 7:30 pm starting time rolled around and there were only two students in the room. As the clock crept toward 8:00 pm, the mood in the room-my mood, that is-turned sullen and resentful, and by closing time at 9:00 pm I'm sure my two victims, who I never saw again, were relieved to escape my clutches.
That night in bed I tossed and turned, trying to figure out just what had gone awry with my calculations. In the end I decided it was an aberration, that the free classes over the weekend had sapped everyone's yoga juices, and thankfully everyone would be rarin' to go again on Tuesday. So I re-calculated the numbers, but this time wisely dialed back my expectations to 10-12 students, not as appealing as the first outcome the previous evening, but still acceptable. Come 7:30 pm that Tuesday, imagine my bewilderment and surprise, then shock, as the starting time ticked by and the room was empty. Except for me of course.
I slunk home, more sullen and resentful than the night before. I simply couldn't explain what had happened to all those smiling sweaty faces on Saturday and Sunday. But I realized that trying to calculate any class's attendance in advance was an act of total futility, and so on Wednesday and then Saturday morning I approached my classes with no expectations-save the expectation that the universe would automatically reward me for being so mature for having no expectations. Something however apparently was haywire with the universe and the way it handed out rewards, because in the three classes on those days I had exactly one student each time. What I believed to be an aberration on the first night had, after the first week at PYS, become a trend. And so it continued class after class for the next three months: my average for 12 classes that March was 1.4, for 21 classes in April 1.7, and for 21 classes in May 1.4 again. The opening night's pre-class excitement had turned to dread, especially at the prospect of having just one student, which to me was far worse than none.
Then on the first day of June I had my biggest class of the year, 9 students on a Monday night! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Could the long dark night of the soul be over? Had the universe at long last ... uh no, because the next two classes were zeroes, and my average for 21 June classes was 2.6. In July the numbers began creeping upward, finally peaking for the year in November, 26 classes with an average of 5.5, though I slumped again in December to 4.6. My overall average for 117 classes that first year as a full-time yoga teacher? 3.6.
I have no idea what that average might be today, 24 years and over 5600 classes later, but nowadays I never calculate before a class and have no expectations going in, for which I expect neither punishment nor reward, and while I admittedly prefer more bodies in the room than fewer, in the end it matters little how many show up, my job is to teach, not count heads. I look back on my time at PYS and I'm simply amazed. How did I do that? I wonder. And the answer comes back, Dumb luck and lots of help from lots of good people. Happy 25th Birthday, Piedmont Yoga.
Piedmont Yoga Studio Newsletter March 2012
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