We had the good fortune of connecting with Pauline Schloesser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pauline, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When I first opened Alcove Yoga, the work / life balance was a real challenge. I tried to do everything myself, and it got to be too much. Gradually I learned to engage vendor services so that I could spend more time on teaching and less on administration and marketing. The most important thing I do for my business is teach.
I teach Iyengar Yoga, which is a rigorous method coming from the late Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar and his family. You have to study and practice regularly to get certified and to maintain your certification. Nobody goes into Iyengar yoga with a casual attitude. My life is the life of a “yogini” (female yoga practitioner) and “householder” (as distinct from a renunciate in the forest). Many yoga teachers do not have families, and this allows them to go deep into their practices. I balance my free time between family and yoga practice, which includes asanas (postures), meditation, study of yogic texts, chanting, and Sanskrit language.
The first help I enlisted for the business was with a client management software company. I use Wellness Living to provide online registration for classes and keep client data, so I don’t have to be burdened with that. This was an investment that paid for itself because the software makes provides an easy way for people to sign up, pay, and keep track of their own class schedule and accounts.. They are always updating, and when Covid-19 came along, Wellness Living was quick to integrate their services with zoom video conferencing, and FitVid video hosting, for example.
The second major service I got, years ago, was bookkeeping. My books were a mess and I didn’t have software. I got a local professional from Bookkeeping and Beyond who helped me go through several years of bank statements and get everything on Quickbooks. So that’s another software that I use. Many people go into business not knowing what a business plan is, or how it relates to bookkeeping. If you are going to own a studio, you have to know these things and be prepared to work on them on a regular basis. At about the same time, I decided to stay on the forefront of technology. My bookkeeper was frustrated at the slow speed of my computer. It started like that. And she was being paid by the hour, so I got the hint. More importantly, I wanted to make sure that my computer, internet, network, and website were never down. I also needed a help desk to call when issues would arise with computing. I contract with a local IT company called Lotus TechPros. They provide excellent support for small businesses. Lotus was there for me in March of 2020 when I needed to transition from in-studio classes to online classes. They came up with technical solutions for providing streaming classes and helped me implement them.
Running a small business also means that I have to cut down on my own labor in the household. We have a great housekeeper who comes once or twice a week and even does the laundry. Also, I no longer do the cooking. I used to love to cook and post pictures and recipes on Facebook. But I got burned out from cooking and asked my husband to take it on, and thankfully, he has. We collaborate on meal planning, but he does all the shopping and most of the cooking. Not having to think about what to cook makes me feel happy and relaxed. And somehow my husband benefits from this arrangement!
We have two boys, in college, one in high school. Our younger son needs supervision but the older one largely self-sufficient. I try to be available for the younger one to help him with homework or watch him do tricks. He likes to climb things (like walls, fences, and trees) and swing on ropes, or do karate kicks, gymnastics, or dance. He wants an audience. My older son occasionally wants to let off stress by playing ping pong, so when he asks, I try to make the time.
From the beginning I had to make a rule that no one disturb me when I’m teaching or working—because the studio is part of the house. In the early days the boys would pitter-patter upstairs, talk loudly near, or knock on, the studio door; and then it became tumbling and rough-housing and yelling. I demanded quiet in the entire household while I was teaching. Then a funny thing happened: the kids started demanding I respect their quiet time, their privacy, their schedules. It’s a two-way street. When you establish expectations for your kids’ behavior, you can bet that they will want mutual respect from you. Now, because of Covid-19, we’re all doing work and school from home, so the rules apply to everyone, and it works. You can’t have work/life balance if your family life is miserable. Our family life is calm and harmonious, and I couldn’t do what I do in my business if this was not the case.
Finally, I should add that I depend on the help of family and friends with my business. For example, I never write anything substantial for publication without first consulting my husband. He has really good judgment about what is and isn’t okay to share. He’s also got a good legal mind, so I consult with him on contracts and business negotiations as well. My younger son is good on the computer, and he will sometimes edit a video. I also have friends who have their own small businesses and they do favors with things as varied as photography, lighting design, importing, freight and trucking, and even catering. The bottom line here is that work / life balance implies harmony in work and harmony in life. Achieving harmony in work means that I get help for doing things that I can’t do, or shouldn’t take the time to do, myself. In life it means delegating household tasks to others, respecting others’ time, and accommodating others’ needs as I can. Then the business runs better, and I have some time in my personal life for family, friends, and personal practice.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Teaching yoga is the primary offering, and to teach well requires constant learning. I do a lot of professional development, to keep up with changing times. And that involves learning and teaching through streaming video, and maintaining a video library for my students.
Just a week ago I attended an international yoga therapy intensive. I’ve attended this intensive at the Iyengar Institute in Champaign-Urbana for many years. This year we all learned how to do it through video conferencing. We had about 45 teachers broken up into 12 teams, each dealing with a student subject who had some sort of medical ailment, ranging from a knee injury to motor neuron diseases. At the Iyengar Institute every kind of prop is available, so you can give the student subject the optimal set up for a posture. Additionally, we learn manual adjustments from our master teacher—how to use our hands on the student to adjust skin, flesh, and bone. But this time the student subjects had to use the props they had at home; and we could not do any manual adjustments. Our observations skills, camera skills, language skills had to sharpen. My team’s student subject was in Israel, and English was not his first language. But we managed just fine. I am learning it is possible to do things we never would have dared do had not Covid forced us into this situation.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First of all, with respect to food, my kitchen is the best place to eat in town. But if we’re tired of cooking and we need to eat out, here are the places we hit: Alladin’s on Monstrose and Westheimer; Mod Pizza; Thai Spice on 19th; Zoe’s Kitchen; Local Foods on 7th and Yale; True foods near the Galleria; Down House on Yale (hardty bar food with veg options); Waldo’s Coffee Shop on Heights Blvd (converted craftsman style home with porches and comfy furniture as wells as tables for working); El Meson Cuban restaurant in Rice Village.
Places I like to visit: Memorial Park and Arboretum, Hike and Bike Trails all over Houston; Winter Street Studios, Momentum Climbing Gym, Houston Botanic Garden https://hbg.org. Rice University James Turrell Exhibit: https://moody.rice.edu/james-turrell-twilight-epiphany-skyspace,
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
With love and appreciation for Lois Steinberg, my mentor. She has always accepted me for who I am, believed in me, encouraged me, and given me opportunities for learning and teaching. She has been more than generous in sharing her knowledge both of yoga and running a business.