Jo Lockhart is the owner of Yoga Jo’s, a yoga studio located in the old changing pavilion at Lennox Park in Milngavie. This popular yoga studio has something for everyone, from the very young to the very old, children and adults, and those with special needs, the absolute beginner to the more seasoned yogi, for those looking for a spiritual practice, to those who want to get fit, or just fancy a stretch once a week.
Milngavie Online recently caught up with Jo for an interview:
Q1. Jo, tell us a little bit about your background and what made you decide to open a yoga studio in Milngavie? How long has it been in existence?
I have always been a very active person, and have tried out lots of different sports and fitness classes, but I had never tried yoga. I stumbled into a class purely when it was offered as a free taster session at the gym and I happened to be passing the room and got persuaded to try it out. I often think now how different my life might be if I hadn’t gone into the room that day! I didn’t know it at the time, but it was an ashtanga yoga class, that was in 2005. I absolutely loved the taster session and was keen to do more. At that time in my life things were very difficult. My son, who has profound learning difficulties was very difficult to handle and I had been hospitalised twice after collapsing with stress, was on anti-depressants and was generally struggling to cope. I started doing the astanga class 3/4 times a week and the impact it had on my life was quite phenomenal.
Within 3 months I was off the anti-depressants, was sleeping better, could cope better and was generally feeling much happier. I had been exercising 3 to 4 times a week before I started the yoga, so I knew that the transformation that was occurring within me was down to the yoga. I needed to find out more. I started practising yoga daily and just fell in love with it. My love for the practice, a need to explore the philosophy of yoga and its origins, and to understand the practice better, combined with the desire to share the benefits that I was experiencing, are what led to me beginning a yoga teacher training qualification in 2006. I haven’t stopped learning or practising since!
I have been teaching in East Dunbartonshire, mainly in Bearsden and Milngavie since 2007. My classes were popular and I loved teaching. The space where yoga takes place is very important, as you are breathing so deeply it should be clean, and as lots of concentration is required it should be quiet. After teaching out of cold, noisy and sometimes dirty halls for 3 years (not fun in winter) and as my client base expanded and I had to turn people away as there was no space, I started to think that there was a need for a dedicated space for yoga in the area. So, the search for YogaJo’s began
Q2. How big is your studio (how many students, classes, teachers?)
The studio can take 25 students. It has folding doors that allows us to open the space up and accommodate more students for the busier classes. We run around 25 classes per week and have 8 fantastic teachers, all different and all bringing their own unique take on yoga to the studio.
Q3. How did you find your premises for your yoga studio? Does it have everything you wanted, and where can people find your classes?
I looked for an appropriate space for a long time, but just couldn’t find the right space, parking was often an issue. Then, on a snowy November day in 2010, the very same day the old changing pavilion at Lennox Park came on the market, I arranged to go and see it. I was the first person to see it. As soon as I walked in I knew it was the right space for my yoga studio, the catch was it was a derelict building! The guy from the council showing me the space kept saying, ‘really, you can see this as a yoga studio’? (it was hideous).
So my dream of finding a space for my yoga studio turned into a much bigger project, one which required a complete rebuild of the building and for which we would have to raise the funds. The whole process of finding funding, architect, builders, planning permission etc etc took until June 2012 which is when work on the building eventually began. The best thing about doing the building from scratch was that I was able to plan the space the way I wanted. As a result, the building was planned around our needs, we have not had to change our needs to accommodate the building.
The building work finished and the Studio opened in October 2012 and it truly is a beautiful space to practice yoga. Far better than I had ever even imagined on that first day in snowy November!
Yoga Jo’s is located at Lennox Park, Main St, Milngavie, G62 6JN. See our website www.yogajos.co.uk for more info.
Q4. What, in your mind, has been the best way to bring in new students?
Without a doubt, word of mouth.
Q5. How did you get into teaching yoga? How many years have you been teaching?
As I mentioned above I did my first teacher training in 2006. I qualified with the Yoga Alliance Registered Chi Yoga School as a Hatha Raja Yoga Teacher. Since then, I have pretty much done a teacher training every year. I have completed two additional teacher trainings specialising in astanga yoga. I have trained as a children’s yoga teacher and also as a special needs yoga teacher and I am also a qualified meditation teacher.
Q6. What are some of the biggest challenges/rewards for a yoga studio owner?
Biggest reward; YogaJo’s has a thriving yoga community. We are a very sociable bunch and I feel very blessed to have so many lovely people come through the doors. Many of my students have become very friendly and it’s very rewarding for me to see the studio bringing so many people together to share their energy, especially at a time when a sense of community seems to be declining. Starting class can be challenging sometimes as my students are chatting so animatedly I could do with a loudspeaker to get them to be quiet!!
Biggest challenge, my job is very physical and I give a lot of my energy out, I have to be careful not to overdo it!
Q7. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
Quite simply watching people reap the benefits of yoga. When practised regularly yoga opens the body up physically, mentally and spiritually. The transformation in people can be very profound, I feel very privileged to be a part of helping that happen. When you have been practising yoga for a long time you become very in tune with energy. Sometimes at the end of class the beautiful energy in the room almost overwhelms me. I love to sit and just absorb it, those moments are very special.
Q8. Tell us what type of classes you offer.
At YogaJo’s we pretty much have something for everyone. absolute beginners to the more advanced yogi. We have new born babies coming to class with their mum in our mother and baby class to people in their seventies. YogaJo’s is for everyone, including those with special needs and that was the ethos of YogaJo’s Ltd when I set it up. It is very gratifying to see that coming to fruition and the studio being used by all those in the community. We have astanga, a powerful and dynamic form of yoga, flow yoga which is done to music, the more gentle hatha yoga classes, pre and post natal yoga, in the post-natal classes, mum brings baby along with. We have children’s yoga 5-8 years and 9-12 years and we have a class for teenagers. There is Tai Chi, yoga for core strength and even Funk Soul Yoga which is a yoga class set to a fun soundtrack. Very soon we will be starting meditation classes.
Q9. What are the benefits of doing yoga?
There are so many it’s hard to know where to begin. To summarise:
The mind and physical body are inherently linked. If our body is in a state of unhealth, then the chances are the mind is too. By practising yoga asana (postures) we bring our body into a state of health. A healthy body combined with the deep breathing required for the practice of yoga leads to a clearer and more focused mind. You will sleep better, have clarity of thought and feel physically and mentally better. Essentially yoga is a spiritual practice. The Sanskrit word yoga means to unite. We are uniting the body and mind, and in the process finding the true self. By this I mean we are finding happiness and contentment within and not from external factors.
Q10. What is Ashtanga yoga and how is it different from other yoga styles?
Ashtanga Vinyasa style yoga is the most dynamic style of yoga. Developed by Sri T. Krishnamacharya and passed to his pupil the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the practice focuses on posture (asana), breathing (vinyasa) and focus (dristhi or gaze point). The practice moves through a systematic sequence of postures, co-ordinating breath with movement and forming a moving meditation that helps to purify the body, nervous system and mind. Regular practice builds up strength, especially core and upper body, builds stamina, improves posture, cleanses the body of toxins, improves circulation, and lets the energy (prana) run efficiently throughout the body. The regular deep breathing required for the practice, calms the mind and the nervous system. The focus required lets us forget the mental chatter we all suffer from, leaving the practitioner feeling relaxed, focused, energised and quite simply, great.
The practice is suitable for everyone who is healthy and fancies a bit of a challenge and postures can be modified to suit all levels of flexibility. Ashtanga Yoga is the style of yoga I personally practice 6 days per week. I have and continue to study regularly with some of the worlds best astanga teachers. I am travelling again to India in December 2013 to further my studies.
For more information on Ashtanga visit: http://kpjayi.org
Q11. Describe your typical day with Yoga Jo’s
I get up to practice myself somewhere between 5.30 and 6 am. I usually practice for around 90 minutes and I try to do this 5 times per week. Sometimes I get on my mat and I feel like a full practice, other days I may only practice for half an hour, I do whatever feels right for my body on that day, but generally its around 90 minutes. I then teach my first class at 9.30 until 11, sometimes followed by a second class at lunch time. After class I socialise with my students, (we have a great coffee machine and biscuit tin here) then it’s time for admin and cleaning the studio, which I do myself. I’m a maniac when it comes to the cleanliness of the studio, so I do spend a lot of time cleaning!!! Then it’s off home to be at home for my kids when they come out of school. Twice a week I also teach two classes in the evening. So sometimes my days start at 5.30 and I’m still at the studio cleaning at 10pm.
I won’t say running a studio is easy, it’s a lot of hard work, especially with a family and home to run and a child with special needs, but for me it’s been worth it. I love teaching and doing it from a clean, warm and beautiful space makes it so much more pleasurable.
Q12. What would you do to help local businesses in Milngavie?
I have a notice board at the studio which has lots of adverts for small businesses and sole traders on it.
Q13. How much do you enjoy owning your business and why?
Mostly I love it, I suspect because I love yoga so much and being able to work at something I am so passionate about is a blessing. I truly feel that my business brings something worthwhile to the the local community and it makes all the hard work worth it.
Q14. If somebody wants to try one of your yoga classes what should they do?
All the information a person needs is on my website www.yogajos.co.uk
Yoga is for everyone, not just flexible people. In fact if you are inflexible there is more of a need for you to do yoga. You just have to start at the right level. We have detailed class descriptions on the website but if people are not sure which class to try, then I encourage them to contact me for more details. We operate a great, easy to use online booking system, clients can pay for and book classes online up to 4 weeks in advance. It’s also ok just to turn up for the first time if you’re not sure what to do online, and we can sort it all out at the studio for you.
We have yoga mats at the studio, changing facilities, showers, and a car park, really you just need to turn up in clothing you can move freely in. As a summary, If you are new to yoga want something more dynamic and fast paced , then choose a beginners Astanga or flow class. if you are looking for something slower and gentler choose one of the Hatha yoga classes.
Q15. What are your future plans?
I would really like to see more men doing yoga and I’m delighted that we now have an increasing number coming to the studio. I’d like to see more though. Men tend to think yoga is for old ladies, not true! I’ve had grown men leave my classes trembling!! Yoga is much more challenging than people think in the beginning, but with practice watching your body open up and become stronger, and your mind with it, is an amazing feeling and can change your life. I have plans to start meditation group sessions and am hoping to bring some exciting teachers from abroad to run workshops. We even have a Buddhist monk coming to run a Mindfulness courses this winter.
If you want to find out more about Jo Lockhart and her yoga classes in Milngavie, then visit her website: www.yogajos.co.uk
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