Blog: Katherine Austin

The principles of yoga shouldn't just be left for the 6 p.m. class; they should be followed throughout the business day, according to the teachings of Katherine Austin, founder of Karma Yoga. This week she opines on why and how businesses can answer a calling higher than egoism and the profit motive.

Why Karma Yoga is Flourishing in Detroit

Why not?

To say that Detroit is not a good place for business to thrive is giving up, throwing in the towel, quitting. And people who succeed aren't quitters. It doesn't matter where you live or work; if you are dedicated and you answer to a higher calling – if your business is guided by something greater than money or ego – you'll do well, plain and simple. This is the law of the universe.

We started with 24 classes a week when we opened eight years ago at the corner of Maple and Lahser Roads in Bloomfield Hills. Now, we have 50 classes a week with 3,000 students coming through my studio every month.

I had been teaching yoga locally for five years before I opened Karma. I was walking a more traditional path of yoga – not just as an exercise, but a spiritual practice, and so I didn't really fit into the format of other studios in town.

After helping Peter Nielsen set up his yoga programs at local health clubs, I took the plunge and started looking for commercial space. I was 43, looking for something small. When I found the 1,500-square-foot space we currently have, many people tried to talk me out of it. They said that space was in a very strict zoning order with the township and I'd never get approved to put a yoga studio there.

A 1960 zoning ordinance restricted my space, which faces residential Lahser, to not intrude on the neighborhood with a strong business presence. When I presented my case to the Bloomfield Township board at a hearing, I said, "I have the quietest business in the world," and they let me in.

I've kept the letter of admission as proof that when it's right, anything is possible. And it comes easily.

That's the thing with business: when it's right, when it's your calling, it just works. I never tried to be huge or different or expensive. I simply had good intentions for a business that helps people improve their lives. And that mission has guided my growth.

The other key to our success has been maintaining perspective. To open a yoga studio, you need an empty room and a lemonade box with cash. You don't need a computer even to start! Keep it simple. Keep it about what it's about.

My staff grew organically. When word got out that I opening a studio, many colleagues called, offering to teach. Every one of us had some students who followed us to this new venue. We never poached students from a competitor – it's not the integrity I wanted to steep my business in.

Location is important, too. I opened in a neighborhood, where we created our own student clientele.

I don't see being in Detroit as a detriment to succeeding in business. You can't operate from fear; banish any notion of "there's not enough" or lack or limitation.  There's no barrier to succeeding in Detroit – that's a figment of our collective imagination. The universe knows there's only abundance.

In fact, for my kind of business, this is a perfect place to be.

Our nation has been rapidly evolving for the past century, the speed of technology and innovation overtaking our ability to evolve as spiritual beings. That has created a disconnect; now it's time for us to alleviate the stress that comes with progress. Businesses that heal the disease that comes from overworking and not taking care of our selves will do well.

Detroiters are hungry for healing, resolution and evolution. That's yoga.