Studio Spotlight: Citizen Yoga

With Yoga again a trending topic in the media, especially for health and beauty, I thought it was about time that I write about a studio that stands out.

Today we present the Studio Spotlight: Citizen Yoga, a yoga studio proudly owned, operated, and inspired by a man who has dedicated over six years of his life to the practice.

One of the most important aspects of yoga is the community behind it. Many of the people who practice yoga are not just passionate about the practice itself, but also about the people they meet, and we live in a world where that is rare. In November 2013, we had the pleasure of meeting Citizen Yoga at the first annual Downtown Yoga Festival in New York City, and the graduate of the Hatha Yoga program at the Aspen Institute in the Netherlands is working to build a community.. Read more about manduka blog and let us know what you think.In 2013, Casey founded Must Citizen Yoga in Detroit, Michigan. This company and its founder are active leaders in the mental health movement to fulfill their mission of providing opportunity for all. Achieving this mission includes yoga training, access to wellness experts and outreach programs, and a new on-demand platform. To listen to the full interview with Casey, visit the Home Practice channel with Halle: Yoga tools for every body on your favorite podcast platform. To learn more about Casey and the work of Citizen Yoga Studio, follow @iamcitizenyoga and @citizenyoga on IG, listen to the After Class by Citizen Yoga podcast, or check out the Citizen Yoga on-demand platform. Hall : Hey, guys. Today I was with Citizen Yoga founder Casey Muste. Casey, welcome. You launched Citizen Yoga in 2013 with just one office and since then your business has grown significantly. For the past nine months, you’ve been running your business in the middle of a global pandemic. Tell us about your trip. Casey: My path has been winding and I honestly never thought I would own my own yoga studio, let alone become a yoga teacher. It wasn’t on my agenda at all. I think when I started my own search, it seemed chaotic and probably made no sense from an outside perspective. It’s as if the Dharma took you by the shoulders and said: Come here! Let me take you! Teaching my first yoga class was like a breath of fresh air, like I was made for it. word-image-5686 Hall : What was your path to the practice of yoga? How did you find your practice? Casey: Many people I know come to yoga at this point in their lives: I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what I’m doing. My background was very different: when I was 10 years old, I had to go to school with my mother and three sisters. There were seven people in the class, the room was lined, we were that weird family from 26 years ago. We went as a family event. Little by little, over time, it became this little rectangle of therapy. It’s like lying on your own lily pad, looking out at the world and trying to deal with the ups and downs of teenage life, college life…. That’s how we got into yoga. Yoga has become a little home for me wherever I go. Hall : How did you start practicing yoga? What made you decide to turn this personal hobby into something bigger? Casey: You know, I think the worst reason to open a yoga studio is that you love teaching yoga [laughs]. These are two very different roles, very different hats. It’s not the same thing. The first reason I opened a yoga studio was because flow yoga was the only way to feel in Detroit. The spiritual philosophy of yoga is a measurement, a search for a higher objective ideal, a thinking beyond itself, an attunement to the mind, the body, the intellect. Think about how you fit into the whole, not how you fit into yourself and your preferences. So teaching yoga based on alignment was one part. Additionally, Citizen Yoga’s mission is suicide prevention and mental health. My sister died by suicide in 2007. I had been on a spiritual journey before, but this incident prompted me to explore the subject further: Why are we all suffering like this? What is this misery? Is there any way to get rid of it, and what does it look like, and how do I do it? We live so separately. I was going through a very dark period in my life. And someday, I don’t know. The thought came from the universe, and I thought: I need to open a studio. I had a vision of an authentic community where people feel seen, where I know your name, where you are not just a room number and I am not a yoga celebrity trying to make it in yoga land. I’m just a real person, I’ve studied a lot, I’m interested in this practice, and I’m really interested in you. word-image-5687 Hall : What I admire in your teaching is your ability to bring philosophical concepts down to earth and ground them, to move beyond spiritual jargon to spiritual practice. What else can you tell us about this? Casey: Get to know your most important tools. You have a body that moves, a mind that reacts, and an intellect that guides. You don’t just have a black box on your head. Many spiritual terms refer to the body, mind and soul and leave out the intellect, which in traditional philosophy is the vijnanamaya-kosha. It is the closest thing to the causal body, which is like the seed of the individual you. So if you are missing something and you think you are the mind, you are just a reaction and not a direction. So when we at Citizen Yoga talk about an alignment-based practice, we’re not just saying, here are your hips, here are your legs, and here are your arms, and everything has to be perfect….. it’s not like that. How well do you align your thoughts with your heart and body? Are you living your highest ideal? The asana practice will hopefully help you evaluate the self and adjust if necessary. word-image-5688 Hall : In your Yoga to Relieve Irritability on Demand class (which I’ve listened to about four dozen times, thank you), you said: Irritability is caused by a lack of vision. What tools do you use to refine your vision and mission? Casey: I’m very growth oriented, and 2020 really threw me off. My vision is blocked – what can I see? What can I create as a broader platform for Citizen Yoga to showcase what we do? 2020 was a deep dive into how to restore sight in a very stressful time. For me, this is the path of the spiritual seeker – remembering in the ebb and flow of deep tides to answer the question: Why are you doing this? It’s not just about how to improve your business. But: What is my place in this world? What is my purpose? How can I square this with something bigger than myself? Show yourself. The biggest lesson of entrepreneurship is the responsibility and power of being consistent. If you commit to taking actions that are in line with your highest ideal, you will feel like a breath of fresh air when those actions are completed, even if your mind is having a tantrum. I think that’s what I wanted this year. Come, be consistent, and the vision will become clear. (You will find a series of questions to help you define and reveal your personal mission starting at 33:55). word-image-5689 Hall : The yoga industry has seen many changes this year. What have been the most important developments at Citizen Yoga? Casey: Oooof. There were a lot of them. In a way, it’s hard for me to talk about it. What was profound was that this time we were with people who really believed in our mission. People continue to learn from us because of our values and what we stand for, not just our skills. Also, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement…. as inclusive as civic yoga is, there is work we really should have done and still need to do. It’s not about doing the right thing in the moment, because I think everyone does. It’s about doing the right thing now that the dust has settled. What else do you do? This is the revenge I always carry with me. How can we radically change the Citizen? I think the answers to these questions can be found with time and conscious effort. And finally, there is an end to all of this. We created the platform on demand at a time when we thought we couldn’t create anything. There’s a quote I use often: Faith is a bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. I think this quote best describes 2020. word-image-5690 Hall : Was your on-demand platform a direct response to COVID, or did you plan it earlier? Casey: This is a 100% response to COVID. I was against the on-demand platform [laughs]. I hate to admit it. A businessman who tried to work with us some time ago said: Hey, you should really make an on-demand platform. And I said: No, we’re a suicide prevention society. I need to see people in front of me so I can influence their hearts and remind them that they matter. We don’t do on-demand platforms, thanks for your bad idea, see you later sir. Okay, I wouldn’t hide it if we did! Yoga is a part of your journey to mental health, but not your entire journey to mental health. The platform offers asana classes, mindfulness tools, breathing exercises, life coaching, as well as sign-ups and discounts with BLND Health Group therapists. Let me be the bridge! For me, we’ve come full circle with our on-demand platform, which allows us to fulfill our mission and be a true source of mental health care in a way that we couldn’t before. I feel hope again. Hall : Casey, I really enjoyed talking to you about your mission and your business. We are very grateful to you for being an incredible partner for Manduka Studios. Is there anything you would like to share with us in closing? Casey: I want to thank you for what you did for us. At the beginning of the pandemic, Manduka sponsored one of our yoga classes. 500 people signed up – it was so much fun. We have developed regular students who take our classes and even teacher training. This was a great session for our studio at a time when we were stressed by so much uncertainty and anxiety. It’s amazing that someone reached out to us and believed in us at that time. word-image-5691 By: Miroglotta Hall

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