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Episode 85

Girl Gang Craft Podcast Episode #85 “My Journey in the Yoga Industry”

Phoebe Sherman:

Welcome to the Girl Gang Craft Podcast where we dive in deep to all things business, wellness, creativity, and activism for artists and entrepreneurs. We talk with impactful female driven companies and founders for an inside look at the entrepreneurial experience where you'll come away with tangible steps to elevate your business. Are you ready? I'm your host, Phoebe Sherman, founder of Girl Gang Craft artist and designer, and marketing obsessed. We're here to learn together how to expand our revenue, implement new organizational techniques, and cultivate best business practices as we work towards creating a life doing what we love. Let's get started.

Hello. Hello. Hey, creatives. Welcome back to Girl Gang Craft the podcast. Phoebe here we are gonna talk about my yoga journey today. I feel like this is a podcast and a story that I've like, hinted at and various times of. You saw my post a couple weeks ago. I kind of went into some details about why the yoga industry was toxic, and why it can still be toxic, but I'm going to just like, start from the beginning and we're just going to talk about my personal journey and then sects of the yoga industry that are maybe did not directly relate to me, but sort of were like two steps over, if you will. I feel like this is emotional episode. I feel like all my solo episodes, they take a little bit of this extra push for me to do because they are so personal. Sometimes there's trauma involved, and I was very sensitive about my yoga experience for a long time, and it's been about five years now since I quit the yoga industry, and I have since stepped back, steps my toes in, and I'm subbing yoga again. I have been still practicing in various forms, although very quite different than what I was doing before. For a variety of reasons like I moved. I have some injuries and it just looks and feels way different than it was when I was teaching yoga. On a personal level, as usual, or since we have started recording episodes every week, my solo episodes are not written down like before, like in previous years, and they are now me just talking. It might get a little bit more long winded than I would if I had perfectly written everything out, but I can't do that anymore. I know I can't write everything perfectly and then talk about it. I don't have the capacity for that. So we are talking straight from the heart. It is a little unedited, although it will be edited, but my stream of speaking is not edited in the moment. And as you can see, we're already all over the place.

But before we hop into my yoga journey, we have a question from our new Girl Gang Craft hotline. And yes, you can just call Girl Gang Craft up and that number I need to like get it tattooed on my body so I don't have to look it up. I will get you that phone number and you can just call Ggc up with any question. And you may have. We will answer them within reason. Don't do anything too wild. You can ask me personal questions too. And I just may not answer them. But our phone number is (413) 961-0855. And I think you can text us too at that phone number. And we will get that. But if you could just call us up and leave a little note too. Because then we'll just insert that into the episode like this with our first question. “Hi Girl Gang Craft This is Jenna Palermo. I'm the owner of Palermo Ceramics and my questions are about filing taxes. I'm currently a sole proprietor, and I'm curious your recommendations for the best ways to organize invoice, receipts, what things count as a write off, and when is it time to go to an LLC? Thank you so much.”

Filing taxes. I do have to say I am not a tax accountant. I am not a bookkeeper. I am just a girl with some years of experience, seven years of running my own business and filing taxes and working with various bookkeepers or accountants.
We do have a class that we team up with, with Jesse Suzanna of Money, which and this is on our site right now, and you can go ahead and sign up for this, and this might be really helpful for you. Jenna's program craft. Com slash classes. You should see the money, which class on that site. And she is a bookkeeper and tax accountant.
But I will answer this to the best of my ability. The first part what is the best recommendation for the best way to organize invoices, receipts. I'm a QuickBooks, girly. There are other programs that other people use that have various ways to organize your your revenue streams and your expenses. I like QuickBooks because my revenue streams are a lot, and I like to be super hyper organized in the fact I want to know what each revenue stream is bringing in and is profit.
So that's important for me and the QuickBooks that I pay for is pricey. It's like I think 65. I feel like they keep on raising it at 65. But there's also QuickBooks Self-employed. And if you have a relatively simple revenue model, QuickBooks Self-employed is a great option. We're not sponsored by QuickBooks. I don't even think we have a link for you, but I do like them.
There are also other apps for this, so I send my invoices through QuickBooks for the most part or sometimes square. But all of this is recorded in my QuickBooks. My bank is attached to QuickBooks like it's a stream of bank consciousness. I don't know what the word is for that, but it propagates itself and then say with my credit card and then I have to go in there and decide all of the money in and out, what category it goes underneath. This is easier said than done, and every time I hop onto QuickBooks, I want to have a little panic attack. But it has gotten easier for me. And I do schedule. Like Fridays are my day to look over my accounts. And then the second part of this too is a write off. And what is a write off? A write off is something that reduces your profit. Basically for tax purposes. And I feel like I'm going to get dinged for saying that. But office expenses are a write off. So if you get on a computer or a camera or shipping supplies, anything that it takes to run your business is a write off. You record that in your QuickBooks or other accounting software, and that's going to reduce your profit and thus reduce your taxes.
There are some other sort of categories in there, like costs of goods sold. I don't know how that's different or why that's different. I'm sorry, but it is different than some things. And so like for me, with apparel the cost of goods sold are my blanks. Even like the backings for my pens. And then you're going to keep track of your miles. If you're driving to a craft fair that needs to be taken into account. And then also you might have an office expense if it's in a home office deduction, and that is something your accountant would do. I do recommend getting an accountant. I'm actually not someone who necessarily is proponent of bookkeeping. I have sort of tried to get a bookkeeper for various times, and ultimately I find that I want to really know what's happening in my books at all times. So I'm just doing my bookkeeping. That means that I could change my mind about that in a second, because again, bookkeeping really stresses me out. But ultimately, your bookkeeper would have to really know your business pretty decently to know what is for each category. To me, it feels redundant if they hand me a list of like, okay, here's all your expenses.
And then I go in and categorize that to them and they do it. The other thing to keep in mind is, since probably a lot of us have different revenue systems or streams, like maybe we're getting stuff from Etsy, maybe we're getting stuff from our e-commerce, maybe we're also doing square. For me, it's important to know what that stuff is going to, but I also have some partnership invoices on square versus in-person sales for the apparel. So for me, it's really important to keep all that stuff separate and to know what, again, each stream is profiting. So I hope that helps. I can't go really further into that, again, I only know what I know, but you could take this class of taxes, an accounting class with Money Witch and it sort of helps you wrap your idea around these systems and gets you started with starting to know these things.
The other question that you had was about an LLC, and this is a controversial statement. I am not an LLC. Girl Gang Craft does not have an LLC. I am still running the business as a sole proprietorship, and to my knowledge, and to the advice of several people and accountants I have talked to and lawyers. It doesn’t make sense for me to LLC at this time. If I had a lot of personal assets, like let's say I owned a house and wanted to keep my personal investments and my portfolio or my assets, there we go. There's the word. It's out of my brain because we don't have many assets. But if I wanted to really make sure that that was separate and protected from the business if I were to get sued, then it would make sense for me to LLC.
I think people in the food industry, there might be more consequences to not be an LLC or like if you have small parts that maybe a baby could inhale, like, I don't know, thinking about your liability in terms of an LLC is really important. And then also keep in mind that there's things like business insurance. So those can sort of work interchangeably, not quite. Again, I would talk to a lawyer and an accountant about your business structure, but especially if you're just starting out, there is no need to rush into an LLC and you can be a sole proprietor. So that is just my opinion and the information that I have continued to collect throughout the years. You can take everything I say with a grain of salt. Do what works for you. But I do believe A you should talk to the experts, B each business is different and has different demands, and also all of our personal needs and assets and liabilities are different. So thank you so much, Jenna, for calling in again. You can just call Girl Gang Craft up at (413) 961-0855. Leave a message. No one will answer. You don't even have to talk to anyone. And yeah, definitely leave your name or your Instagram or both. So we can give you a little shout out too

On to my yoga experience. Maybe get yourself a cup of tea, maybe go outside for a walk, we’ll get nice and cozy here so I feel a little less detached from this at this point of time. And it was really rough. Various parts of this were really rough to get over. Let’s start at the very beginning. Very good place to start. I was in college at UC Santa Cruz and I was in the feminist studies department and learning lots and being really engaged there and learning all sorts of new lenses and discourse and deconstruction and really finding it all eye opening and fascinating and full of anger and all sorts of things. One of the things that was not quite a problem, but something that I was looking for, of course, in my privilege, I felt like there was a lot of deconstruction and a lot of anger and not a lot of solutions. What I am currently interested in, and I think was interested in then too, was not only how we were going to deconstruct what was wrong in the world, but like what sort of systems we were going to create to make them better.
And that still interests me. We can talk about how the world is so fucked up, and all the systems and racism and patriarchy and capitalism. All of these systems that are harmful. And we can talk about that, and we do. And also, I'm interested in this reimagining of the systems and this re enchantment. I like that word from The missing witches episode and what systems do work.
How can we join together? I mean I'm not going to dive super into this. This is not the point of the call or the point of the episode. But yeah, what was missing for me was a solution. And that's a very simplistic way to say it. But anyways, I at this time was also working on healing, eating disorder, eating disorder that hadn't been around since the eighth grade and various stages and was getting help with that eating disorder and was going to therapy, was going to help from family, whatever. But I discovered yoga in that time period. Also, the Art of Intuitive Eating really helped me in my healing state, my healing journey. I also had a great therapist at that time.

Anyways, yoga felt like the thing that was missing and both my desire for healing on personal level and a collective level. And I was going to a place in Santa Cruz and I was there water girl. I was kind of filling up their water jug in exchange for classes, and was really learning to move and breathe and be with my body and learn that my body could do things, and that my body was capable and was not just to be looked at, but to be celebrated and to be really capable of things that my mind initially didn't think it could do. So this really beautiful bridging of mind body connection. Endorphins are great. We love it. We love sweating, we love movement. And there was also this connection to the spiritual as well. I have very strong memory of a couple instructor hours at the studio called Divinity in Santa Cruz, and poetry was read. There was some chanting, but it didn't feel too much for me. It didn't feel like I was going to be indoctrinated, like it felt tangible and accessible. And it really helped my anxiety. I was really boy obsessed around that time, if you will, and there's a lot of anxiety around that. And yeah, and it really helped me not think of my body as the enemy and instead as part of me.
And I had been a dancer my whole life as well. So this idea of movement for joy and not performance was relatively new to me. And I also felt that this could be healing on a personal level in terms of feminism, in terms of challenging systems that were harmful on a community level, too. I wasn't all like, okay, everyone does yoga and everyone's happy.
That wasn't quite it. But I knew that yoga and movement could be healing on both an individual and community level. I knew that I wanted to teach yoga after school, and at this time I didn't really have any job ideas, if you will. Besides, I knew I was going to waitress to pay the bills. I loved working at restaurants and that was a skill I had and a valuable skill I had. And then I also knew that I was going to try and do a yoga teacher training at some point. When I was starting to look at yoga teacher training, and I decided I wanted to do the one at Yoga to the People, and the training sort of started right away. I had like graduated, moved home for sixish weeks, and before I was moving out, before I got a job away from my house in the Bay area. And then the yoga training was like September. So I was like, okay, I guess I'm doing this. And I pulled my savings and I paid for yoga teacher training at Yoga to People.

Yoga to the People's teacher training; It was a few months training with various modules and teaching classes, and you had to get 200 hours. That was sort of the basis that everyone in the Yoga Alliance group, I don't know if Yoga Alliance is still around. It probably is. for it to be a legit teaching program. Yoga to the People was a lovely, wonderful experience. I met some close, dear friends that I'm still friends with today. One of my first roommates in Oakland I found in the yoga teaching program and the program itself at the time, or looking back now, didn't have any huge red flags. One that I can remember though, is this workshop day that like didn't tell us about. It was like a secret. And basically what we did is we moved our hands above our head one time and back for the whole hour. So imagine like holding your hands out and then the teachers would come and like hold you for a second. And we were all sobbing. And I wish I could go deeper into that. But that act was meant to sort of tear you down and also make you think that you could do anything on a physical, mental, spiritual way. And looking back at it now, it's like similar to what some cults do to tear you down. Anyways. That's like the one red flag that stands out for me, but what was really a red flag was sort of the after effect of Yoga to the People. So Yoga to the People, if you're not familiar was a donation based company and Berkeley, San Francisco, New York and maybe a couple other locations, but it was Bay Area and New York based. They really made you want to teach there. It was like an honor to be able to teach there. And I remember I didn't get picked to teach and the thing was, you would send in your schedule every week, and then they would tell you when you were selected to teach each week. So each week, even if you had been teaching there for a while, they wouldn't tell you your schedule. It was not supposed to be consistent, and their whole thing is that they didn't put who the teachers were on the schedule because they didn't want it to be about the teacher, and they wanted it to be about the practice, which I think is an interesting thought, interesting way of doing it. Sure.
Then they would drop teachers. And so like this happened to my friends. They would teach for a bit for a chunk of time, like whatever, few months, and then they would get dropped from the schedule. They would be sad and upset, and they were encouraged not to ask why they were dropped from the schedule. And I remember I had a couple friends who I encouraged them to ask why they were dropped from the schedule. And I remember particularly for one person, they went to ask and they were like really poopoo’d on for having the chutzpah to ask about why they were dropped from the schedule. Can you imagine in any other employment situation, any other employment situation like you would be able to ask why you got fired. So it was a donation based, right? So there was like a cash tissue box that would go around and people would donate however much they could afford for the class. I think teachers got $30. And then at the beginning too, you also had to apprentice and you did not get paid for those classes. I remember also hearing about core power. I don't know if this is true still, but I know that you had to pay to be an apprentice there initially, which is wild.

At Yoga to the People I know that they would get $30. And I asked one of my friends I was like hey are you– because I was starting to dive into taxes as a business owner here too. And I was like, okay, I'll try and 1099 for them. And she was like, no, they encourage us not to. Which is tax fraud, which is what they later got in trouble for, and they got shut down.

So again, I didn't have any bad experiences specifically. I just sort of noticed what was happening to my friends when they started teaching there. And then we hear later that the owner in New York got arrested for or accused of sexual assault. We found out that he was like grooming some of the teachers in various ways, and also like encouraging them to drink alcohol before or after teaching. Just some really wild things. Again, I don't have firsthand information about all this, except for my experience in the teaching program and just the uncomfortableness about their selecting teachers. And then I knew something was off. When I found out that my friends were encouraged not to put in 1099’s. So that's my Yoga to the People story.

Fast forward, I'm officially a teacher. I have 200 hours. I have to start auditioning for teaching slots. And yes, you have to audition. It's very competitive. Yoga world is very competitive and I'm sure it still is today. I auditioned at smaller studios. I sent emails to bigger studios. I tried to teach at gyms. And so one of my first jobs was another donation based yoga studio called Tribe Yoga it is no longer around, and there are some percentage of the donations that I would get. And I remember going home with like $8 sometimes. So wild. But it was considered an honor to be able to teach, period. To have a class like it was really an exciting thing to be able to teach yoga, even if it was for $12, $30.
I was also teaching, I guess, after Tribe, I was also teaching a class at Berkeley, UC Berkeley teaching in their gym, and that was a decent experience, except for sometimes there are basketball players right next to our yoga studio or in the yoga studio with us, because I taught class on the basketball court. And then, let's see, I was also teaching in Marin at my parents gym. And where else? I mean, at the peak of my yoga career, I was teaching about ten classes a week, and I was making no money. I mean, I could look back at my tax statement, but I think I was like $14,000 at the peak of my yoga career. Wild. At this time, right, I was waitressing. GGC was started in 2017. My uterus design started 2016. So I'm like waitressing, teaching yoga, trying to teach yoga. Started teaching at Yoga Alameda and that was a great experience. I loved teaching there. And I started doing social media. So I was doing social media for a couple studios and I said I wasn't going to name studios. So then I started working with this other studio that became my most stable studio and really lovely, beautiful experience for a lot of it. If you're listening, you can probably put couple put two and two together and know what I'm talking about. And feel free to connect the dots and have your own opinions and thoughts. Or concerns. But I loved teaching at the studio for a lot of reasons. I got to connect with some amazing yoga teachers that I am still friends with today, and I really built my GGC community as well through teaching because when those events started, I would just tell my yoga students. I was also teaching at a few corporate classes and I taught at Uber. I taught at title nine, I taught some privates, and the wage discrepancy between teaching at a corporate class versus teaching at some of these studios. It's wild. I think I was making $100 to $125, and some of these bigger classes are in the corporate classes. And then, you know, making as little as 25 teaching some of these classes. And around this time I had also started to dive into Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is the basis of Vinyasa, if you will. It is set sequence that you don't learn all at once. So it is very different from a typical yoga class that you might have been into. Been in at a gym or a yoga studio. If you don't know what it is, you probably don't know what it is. That’s such a bad description. Literally, you go and you learn Sun A and Sun B and then maybe that's it the first day. Then you start building your standing sequence like maybe one pose at a time. So maybe the first times that you go into Ashtanga as an Ashtanga class that's also called Mysore and your practice might only be 15 minutes. And then you go home and you continue to build and it really builds strength. It detoxes the body. And this was invented by a guy named Pattabhi Jois. And this was a type of yoga developed for young boys initially. It is very strong. It is very powerful. You get a lot of strength. You really learn discipline. This is something that happens at like six in the morning. A lot of Mysore drop ins have like different times that you can come in like 6 to 9 or maybe 5 to 9 or something like that, and you have to be finished by nine. And then Fridays for our studio, like you would have to go in really early, like at six or something and you all practice together. You do the sequence together. But of course, if you weren't given the whole sequence, you would stop when your time where you were in the sequence. And if that's confusing to you, I apologize. But it's really beautiful type of yoga, and I think it's a really serious form of yoga. If you are wanting to dive deeper into your yoga practice, I do suggest finding Ashtanga. I do think there are some problems with Ashtanga. One of them is you do a lot of vinyasas in the whole sequence, and I developed some shoulder injuries and it is strength building and also it is dangerous if you're doing this vinyasas wrong the whole time or not 100% perfectly and no one's going to do that 100% perfectly. You have to be really strong, and maybe you have days where you're a little off or feeling a little weaker. And I think doing that many vinyasas at once can be dangerous. I took Ashtanga very seriously. I'm not an early riser anymore, but I was at one point, and I guess I would say I went to Ashtanga from, I don't know, 2016 to 2018, in various forms. I also went to Bali and studied Mysore for a month. Somewhere along this timeline too, I also did my 500 hours in India on a Ashtanga base program as well. Really jumping all over the place here. Pattabhi Jois was recently accused not semi recently accused of sexual assault as well. And same with Bikram of Bikram yoga. A lot of these yoga sects were head by men who were also problematic. Maybe they were good also, and maybe they had some good in them with this practice. And also they were not good. It is weird to be doing this practice that was created by these men who were accused of different forms of sexual assault, and grooming, and inappropriate behavior at the very least.
There was also when I went to my Indian program, the teachers were involved in another sort of tantra organization, and there were a lot of problems with that as well as being very heterosexual, you know, not made for the queer community, really heteronormative behavior. And also, that guy was accused of assault as well. I don't know his name off the top of my head.

Anyways, lots of problematic men in charge of yoga structures or yoga types, if you will. I want to go back to my studio experience that I was touching on too in Oakland where I was building community, and I got very hurt emotionally here as well. I was doing their social media and just getting paid $20 an hour, and at one point I asked for double of that, and the studio owner said no. And then like a year later, had said how hurt she was about me asking for a raise and as if it was part and seemingly losing opportunities because of that, the same studio owner also told me that I needed to stop teaching in a baby voice, and I was really hurt by that. And then the same studio owner, I gone into our friend's class and I had talked to the studio manager and they had said I had quit in 2019, but that I wanted to still sub. And the studio manager said that that would be okay. And then I was talking to the studio owner. I had just popped in, to sign in for a class. I've been going there for so long and getting free classes right. As someone who had been teaching there for four years and I said, yeah, so and so, the manager said I could still sub and be here. And she was just so rude about it. She said, absolutely not. And this is someone who I have been teaching with for a very long time, and I just started sobbing. There was just no compassion in the way that she spoke to me. And I had to go into this class afterwards, and I was just like crying in child's pose. I just still hold on to a lot of that pain from that studio and that relationship, because we were friends at some point, and I loved that studio, and really a lot of the things that happened there were toxic, not to mention hearing from other teachers there as well, that they had their own toxic experiences. And a lot of it is sort of hidden in this hyper spirituality that these studio owners or studio spaces give off that sort of sometimes like lack boundaries or lack communication because it's all good. And yeah, we all want everyone to succeed. It's sort of we're just like love and light. It's all sort of hidden in this veil of there's still this competitive aspect, there's still this aspect where teachers are not getting paid enough. Yoga is $1 billion industry, and the teachers are not getting paid that much. Over here in Salem. It's still really low, and I have high qualifications for teaching yoga. And the pay is so low and it's a problem. And not to mention these men in power doing bad stuff in power. We're not even talking about the injury aspect. I had a shoulder injury in Ashtanga. I would see a lot of teachers not teaching Asana properly. Asana means the movement and the poses. Again, this vinyasa thing so many teachers tell your students to move through vinyasa and aren't going through what a chaturanga is and should look like. Safety is so important in my mind, I think in everyone's mind, and we all want to be injury free and to have all these teachers teaching in different ways is complicated. To have them not getting paid enough is complicated, and to have them racing through these fundamental things, that takes quite a lot of strength to do. A chaturanga should not be a beginning pose. I believe that, I strongly believe that. And in the name of like fitness. It's weird because yoga Asana is more than just movement. There's a spiritual aspect to it, and it's been really commodified in the States and then, of course, appropriated. It's complicated as a white woman who has no Indian lineage, is it my place to continue this tradition? And is it my place to completely embody the tradition or to teach a lite version of it, if you will? I don't know, I don't have the answers, and for a while I thought it was a lot of responsibility to teach. And I still do, and that's why I moved away. But we can't be everything. I can hold space and talk to you about how your muscles should hold you up in certain places and shapes to work towards, and ways to breathe. But ultimately it's you on the mat, and I can only do so much, and it's a lot of responsibility. I want to make sure that people in my class aren't hurting themselves because I know it sucks, I hurt myself, I have a shallow hip socket, which is a new thing, and I've been exploring what that means, and my body doesn't move in the same way that it used to. And lost, flexibility. And I've lost strength and my body looks different and feels different. And yoga is a beautiful tool. I still think to be able to put down your phone and move for an hour, and that's the least of it. There's a rich deepness to the practice that involves more than just movement, that a lot of the general yoga public doesn't know about, not to mention these issues, again, of injury and of power and of toxicity.
I quit teaching in 2019 right before the pandemic. So like December of 2019, I stopped teaching and the pandemic happened. I had a couple classes online, and I don't love that. I didn't love that. So I stopped. And when going to a yoga studio over here in Salem and exploring what it means to start to teach again, and finally feeling comfortable enough to talk about it, it's one of those things. That feels like a deep pain for me, but it's gotten lighter, and it's one of those things like it doesn't feel bad enough that it's terrible or it's uncomfy, because I know a lot of listeners know exactly what studio I'm talking about and who I'm talking about, and that feels scary. But I have created boundaries for myself to block this person, block the studio from my internet life about life and my internet life at least.

And now I live across the country, so it's a little bit different now. This is a lot longer episode than I thought it would be. If anyone has questions or thoughts that they want to share about yoga in particular, I'd be interested to hear I don't have any answers. It's an ongoing exploration of how the yoga world is and what it could be and who's included in it.
But I do believe there are a lot of good teachers out there doing good work, and I do believe yoga can be really healing on a physical and spiritual level. If you have an opportunity to come to one of my classes, I'll continue to share that on the gram. Make sure you follow my personal account @ PhoebeSherman
Yeah call in. Tell us things. Ask us things. I really appreciate you. Thanks for listening.

Thank you so much for listening to the Girl Gang Craft Podcast. Head to for shownotes and more. See you next time.

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