For Samamkaya, our embracing of yoga therapy extends to more than just how we teach yoga but also to how we run our organization. Yoga Therapeutics means approaching yoga as a method, a tool, and a philosophy to heal. Running a therapeutics business encourages us to consider more than just yoga itself, but how we are going to survive economically while maintaining the integrity of an organization that prioritizes healing. Business entities are increasingly becoming the sole drivers of social progress, or social regression, depending upon the company in question. The decisions that they make can be as influential or more than government policies. Given this situation, it is imperative to our studio that we create an organization which makes a positive social impact and is legally committed to do so as a worker cooperative.
Many of our teachers have been involved with or observed similarly intended mind-body wellness businesses that struggle, either because they lose sight of their own healing identity when they adopt mainstream business principles, or they fail to find a way to adequately thrive in the current economy status quo. These options are unsatisfactory for us. We have been developing a yoga center that can sustain itself while also exemplifying an alternative to business as usual.
As yoga teachers we have experienced that change can happen externally by starting with changes that you want to make internally. Changing our external structure to become a worker owned cooperative established trust between our members that helps us make better decisions for the organization as a whole, because we are choosing to consider other people’s’ needs and not just our own individual ones. It allows us to maintain an internal cohesion necessary for an organization to collaborate democratically.
We have 20 worker/owner members who participate in our decision-making, management, and teaching. We created a mission statement that holds our business of Yoga Instruction accountable for being accessible to students of all ages and abilities. Our cooperative structure means that we are constantly practicing our ability to work together, to understand differing viewpoints than our own, to reach compromise, and to operate by consensus. Most importantly, the cooperative proves to be resilient, not only in terms of maintaining the mission but also to survive economically, with all of the worker owners sharing in the benefits from the success.
When our business is aligned with our values we are better able to actualize our work as healers. Our goal is not so much to compete with other similar businesses, but rather spread access and opportunity to healing services. We aim to prove, alongside many others in this movement, that healing, rather than profit, can be the mission of an economic endeavor.
The philosophical nature of healing the economy is an underlying theme for us as we work tirelessly to manage our business together. We are still in the infancy of knowing what this means to our cooperative and how we might be able to wield it more broadly. Our center is just beginning to reach a point of looking toward to our future goals instead of merely maintaining the current financial status. We are beginning to actively explore how we can better support the cooperative movement.
Our ideas are namely on strengthening the connections between co-ops, such as with a shared program for all worker-owner members amongst the network. We have already created a few exchange programs with 4th St Food Co-op, ABC Bookkeeping, and Radix Media in the past. We also want to explore how our studio and teachers can be of service to others in the co-op community. We have a committee focused on implementing plans in this direction and we welcome others who want to support this effort to work with us, or who want to learn more about yoga and our cooperative mission.
-Ashley Taylor & the Samamkaya Members