Harnessing “Too Much”
By Tracy Wise
Photography by Leslie Hodge
“Attention friends, yogis, movers, shakers, mamas, papas, newbies, rebels, wild spirits, bright glittery love bombs, and the deepest of souls.” Thus beckons Sukha Yoga, the brainchild of yogi and entrepreneur Erinn Lewis. Erinn refers to yoga as her ‘heart path’, one she has been walking for seventeen years. Inspired by what she’s learned through teaching classes and leading retreats, she decided to take a leap, in partnership with husband Mark Herron, to pursue a long-standing dream of opening her own yoga studio, a community center for healing and connecting. The dream is now manifest and thriving in the form of Sukha Yoga Austin.
“Life has an interesting way of taking you on lots of little side trips before arriving to those places that you dream of.” So much the better, she believes, because you grow in wisdom, and you grow into who you want to be in the world. Erinn grew up in California with parents who were entrepreneurs as well, modeling a self-employed lifestyle, which allowed them to make their own hours and enjoy a flexible schedule. Always having a little bit of a wild, rebellious streak, she wasn’t drawn to getting a job and working for someone else. She admits she might have lost jobs for being “too wild and too much.” Looking back, she’s grateful for being told she was too much or too driven. “There's nothing wrong with being too much. I hope to inspire my own daughters to remember that it's okay to be intense and wild and clear and passionate. Ultimately it comes down to being able to channel whatever is your “too much”; to utilize for good, in your own life, your kids' lives, your family, your community, for the whole planet; harnessing your “too much” to create some sort of channel to project it out and be of service.”
Erinn and Mark met through yoga and instantly connected. They were both divorced parents. They began excitedly brainstorming a life together. They talked about creating a yoga space, reigniting her dream and focusing her vision. Mark was very enthusiastic and kept nudging, “Erinn, you need to open up a yoga studio…this needs to happen already.”
Four years ago they decided to take that plunge.
Mark gave up his branding and web design business, and, with no outside investors, they embarked upon their dream. Scouting for the right location in Austin was challenging. Commercial properties were few and far between, but they knew instantly when they had found the right spot on South Lamar. Erinn felt excitement, but also anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the process. They experienced normal parental concerns about whether they would be able to provide for their children. But Erinn says they had a clear vision of what they wanted to create. “I think that makes a big difference in opening up a business, is being clear around who you are…and trust.” She also recommends courage of conviction, “You have to be willing to be all-in. 100%, hold nothing back, and have no plan B.”
They discovered they make a great business team, with complimenting skill sets. Mark handles the branding, studio design, layout, and colors, while Erinn continues teaching, manages the studio and researches retreat locales. “Once we knew that we were doing, it just all fell into place.” They created Sukha, (Sanskrit meaning ‘an authentic state of lasting happiness’), a studio encompassing yoga classes, yoga teacher training, meditation training, international retreats and a community center.
After months of careful planning, they were ready to open the doors of their new studio. When opening day arrived, the turnout was incredible. So many people came that there was not enough space for everyone in the studio and Erinn recalls that guest, undeterred by the crowd, rolled out their mats in the lounge to partake in the class. Erinn felt the impact of this profoundly, “it felt like that dream that I'd planted 17 years ago was here. I had no idea how important it was to me until that moment. Seeing the Austin yoga community rise as they did, and come through the doors of Sukha with such warmth and support and celebration, just blew me away.”
Erinn remembers the process of building the business as happening in the “blink of an eye.” With a clear vision and trust in what they wanted to create, she says, “it flowed, it absolutely flowed.” She minimizes the obstacles they faced as being “really just little stuff in the big picture,” like learning to navigate different personalities on the staff, scheduling, and tweaking things in continuous evolution to see what works best.
Erinn doesn’t fret when things get out of balance, believing there's no such thing as being in balance genuinely. She sees living as more of a ‘flow state,’ tipping back and forth between, too much and not enough. “I don't often land, and I don't know anyone who does truly land, in a balanced state because we're always in a state of movement and shift and change, and so it's relaxing with that, which is the most powerful thing we can do.” She says that having children helps her to stay malleable and clear in her priorities. She saw that putting pressure on herself, trying to be perfect and to “get it all done” only created a lot of anxiety and suffering. Her approach now is to “create, allow and let go.” She will set an intention for her day and then attempt to stay flexible and open to change. Time management is always a factor in the process; how to best use energy and resources. “I think that staying in the flow requires us to be really clear and actually to have what you might call boundaries.” She is comfortable with saying ‘no’ to feel fresh and inspired for her students, clients, and teachers.
Erinn credits a great team of teachers, hand-picked for their passion, creativity, and dedication to their craft, with helping to realize the vision. She encourages the instructors, when preparing for a class, to imagine they are welcoming friends, people they love and care about, into their beautiful space. Erinn believes that makes all the difference for Sukha; “Although she's our baby, she's taken on her own voice in the world and her own vibe.”
Erinn and Mark stay directly involved in all aspects of the business; sweeping floors, taking out the trash. They don’t believe in micro-managing, but prefer a heart-centered approach, aspiring to stay teachable, humble; “real human beings that struggle, get anxious, have a normal family life, and who are not perfect but willing to learn and to grow.” They take great satisfaction from tending the community and watching it flourish on its own.
Sukha is now celebrating three years in business and Erinn is still in awe. “Every day I walk through the studio doors, I feel this depth of appreciation and gratitude for what we've created.”
“I never feel like I'm working, I always feel like I'm playing and getting to hang out with the most amazing people.”
Daily she hears students expressing gratitude, who credit Sukha with contributing to their health and well-being in ways that affect their work and families. “They're more grounded, more clear, able to use their voice in a different way because of the practices that we offer at Sukha. I feel like that's what makes Sukha so special, is that we're mind, body, heart, and we're about keeping it really real.
As for the future, the possibilities are abundant; community building being a focus. They are looking into opening another studio and continuing to grow Sukha Retreats, experiential travel bringing like-minded people together. Erinn says, “it's cool to travel with a group of people that share similar energy and intentions,” cultivating the power of abundance, limitless possibilities, pooled energy, and resources. She asserts that the retreats are not about escape but rather enrichment and evoking an appreciation life. They hope that when you participate in a retreat, you feel a sense of, "Wow, how blessed am I? What an incredible life I have…. it's about celebrating and feeling really grateful.”
Gratitude and generosity of spirit are central to the business model Erinn and Mark have created at Sukha. Erinn’s “too much” along with Mark’s “let’s do this!” have brought a vibrant business to fruition in Austin. “Sukha was born from our hearts; we're a mom-and-pop owned small business.” She believes it’s important to consider the value of small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people that put their hearts, their time and all of their resources into creating something that will benefit the entire community. She hopes that everyone who comes to the space feels that they're taking a piece of Sukha with them into their lives, that something landed in them, planting a seed for their future happiness.