Tying the Knot
Kate Heffernan

It was nearly five years ago that I first met with the owner of Down Under School of Yoga, Justine Cohen. I had been teaching yoga for just over two years and up until that point, I had been cobbling together a living by teaching across six different gyms/studios. I was running all over the city via foot, trains, and car because I was hungry for the opportunity to teach, to connect with students, and (honestly) to make a buck. I wanted to grab a toehold in the yoga teaching community, so I said yes to pretty much anything. I was making it work. I was doing what I loved, but I was definitely hustling, and all that hustling was catching up to me. How long would this harried lifestyle be sustainable?

When I met with Justine in 2012 to discuss joining Down Under Yoga, I remember being asked something that up until that point no studio owner or manager had ever asked me: “Where do you want to be in five years?” Even though no one had ever asked, and even though I knew exactly what I hoped my five year goal was, I was nervous to not scare off my potential new employer.

“…I want to create a sustainable career teaching yoga full-time…”

I paused, heart in my belly, trying to register how my deepest most secret hope had landed. Justine didn’t skip a beat

“Okay, what does that look like, do you think?”

I knew then that this was the start of something different and important. Soon after that first meeting, I chose to leave teaching at other studios to join Down Under exclusively, which Justine and I have since referred to jokingly as our marrying one another. Just like any healthy partnership, there has been giving and taking on both ends. Most importantly there has been growth.

Last summer, Justine, our amazing management team, and I started talking about my next deepest most secret big picture goal—to become a full-time employee of Down Under. Most all yoga studios hire yoga instructors as independent contractors, and almost no studios offer any teacher enough classes to be classified as full-time. I explained that, to me, being a full-time teacher would be analogous to the studio “putting a ring on it,” thus making our marriage official.

As of this January 1st, Down Under shifted all teachers over to employee status. This change offers every teacher at our School many benefits I never thought I would have teaching yoga: the option of sick pay, a 401K with matching contributions, and the possibility of studio sponsored health care for full-time employees.

Today, by adding one more weekly class to my Down Under schedule, I am officially a full-time employee of Down Under School of Yoga (!!!) and I am so happy to announce that for the first time in eight years I will be back on an employer-sponsored health care plan!

I am so excited for this tangible step forward towards sustainability for me and my fellow teachers. I am also so grateful that I took the risk to marry Down Under in the first place. I couldn’t have made a better decision five years ago to tie the knot with a studio that has given me the space to teach how and what I want, that has risen to the occasion every time my over-ambitious self has asked for something more, and has encouraged me to rise to the occasion and become the best teacher I can be.

I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring!