Rumor has it that members of the Modo Yoga Community enjoyed Part 1 of the Team Palyniak interview. In Part 2, we get to know Andrew and Frenny a little better, learn about their mentors and what inspires them, what challenges they face, as well as which poses they love and the ones they don’t love so much.
Q: What were your jobs/careers before opening this studio?
Frenny: I graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc in Electrical Engineering in 2000. I worked for a local software company that soon became international. For the first 5 years I got to work and travel to locations all over Northern Alberta, USA and even Bermuda. In 2005 I had the opportunity to move to the Newcastle, Australia office and that was amazing. For 2 years we changed our lifestyles, diets, activities and made new friends. Initially the change of living in Australia was hard to cope with – driving on the other side of the road, different customs, different language (seriously!!) but after 6 months we settled in and started to enjoy this new lifestyle. After Australia we made our way back to Edmonton in December 2007.
Andrew: I was working as a Journeyman Scaffolder and Journeyman Carpenter for most of my career but as I delve more into yoga and teaching part time while working full time, things started to shift. Once we thought that a studio could be a possibility, we started to turn our attention in that direction. There was a job opening at the studio and I was shifted into a more yoga centered life.
(Interviewer’s note: I always find it fascinating to hear folks’ backgrounds. Carpentry and engineering seem like very practical skills to have when you build out and own your own studio but those backgrounds also must give you a broader life perspective. I appreciate that you both spent a lot of time teaching and working in another successful studio so you had an opportunity to gain lots of knowledge and experience. Andrew’s woodworking featured in the studio is stunning, by the way!)
Q: We know you are Canadians since you are so polite and kind hearted… can you share a little about where you come from?
Frenny: I was actually born in London, England and when I was 2 years old my parents decided to move to Canada.
Andrew: I was born in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at a very young age. My family would travel back to Chicago once a year or so to visit family that remained in the US so I felt lucky to experience a little taste of something different. That being said, I am culturally more Canadian. Canada is an easy place to live. It is a beautiful country and has a lot of diversity in its four seasons and population. Canadians are generally easy going and easy to get along. I find it similar here in San Diego, and I think there are many similarities in the kindness of Americans.
(Interviewer’s note: Ok, I think Andrew is giving some Americans a lot more credit than we deserve. As the parent of a 10 ½ year old, I hope that I’m raising someone who says as many pleases and thank yous as Canadians… that and a lower sense of entitlement than her American cohorts.)
Q: From previous discussions, I understand you moved to San Diego without a specific location in mind, what attracted you to this spot?
Frenny: Clairemont was a hidden gem. We had other neighborhoods in mind but our searches turned up empty. Our agent came across the location and as soon as we came up the hill and saw the building, we were on board. The space was really important to us as we wanted a larger room and shower/locker room facilities.
Andrew: The climate and coastal location attracted us. And Clairemont has a bit more of a laid back vibe and unpretentiousness.
(Interviewer’s note: Your studio has one of the best views in San Diego and I so appreciate your space has shower and locker room facilities as it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable!)
Q: The studio has a great vibe – can you share with us a little bit about your vision?
Frenny: Our vision was to create a relaxed space where everyone can practice, drink tea and enjoy meeting new faces. For some people, practicing yoga is the only “break” they get in their day and we didn’t want people to feel rushed in/out of our space. Stay. Drink tea. Laugh. Relax. My favorite part of the day is when we come out of class and start laughing about the funny words/expressions used in class or the bonus double set of dancer’s pose.
Andrew: All are welcome to practice here. We want to be inclusive and friendly to everyone to share our positive experience of yoga. Yoga can be intimidating for some to get started that is why we emphasize the pillar of “Be Accessible” within our studio. There are 7 Pillars that our studio and our greater Modo Community work with to stay connected and in tune. The pillars are: 1) Be Community 2) Be Healthy, 3) Live to Learn, 4) Be Accessible, 5) Be Green, 6) Be Peace.
All are important and interrelated within our studio framework.
(Interviewer’s Note: First, the inclusivity is palpable here as I’ve mentioned previously. Moreover, I feel as if the sense of community grows each day. There is a certain intimacy and respect you gain for other folks in class even though the focus is on ourselves. While any yoga can be physically demanding, doing yoga in the heat requires a certain hutzpah that makes it easier to connect with others outside of class, in my opinion. Frenny and Andrew add to this by being super knowledgeable but not egotistical in their approach to teaching and running the studio. I also love how they hang out after class and answer questions.)
Q: Who have been your most important heroes, mentors and/or teachers?
Frenny: Personally my first teacher, Angela in Edmonton was a huge mentor and inspiration for me to start the journey of becoming a teacher. She spent a lot of time training us and guiding us and still checks in with us once in a while! I’m also inspired by our larger Modo/Moksha community – there are a lot of strong leaders in the community.
Andrew: To answer first in generality, every teacher that I have taken a class with has had an influence in some way. Particularly, I’d say that Angela Zawada, the studio owner of the two Modo studios in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has had the most influence on me. She is a strong teacher, very knowledgeable and really knows how to deliver a great class. She is also a talented studio owner who knows how to effectively embody the delicate dynamics of ownership and creating a thriving community feel.
(Interviewer’s Note: Hmmm, I feel like I need to interview Angela for a future blog post. Also, I’m crossing my fingers she might be a guest teacher in the future!)
Q: What are your favorite books or authors?
Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
Born with a Question Mark in your Heart by Osho
Mindfulness Yoga by Frank Boccio
When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis with Larry Stoman
All for a Few Perfect Waves by David Rensen
The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope
Hell Bent: The Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga by Benjamin Lorr
(Interviewer’s Note: At the risk of sounding unintelligent, I’m admitting that I’ve only read one book from this entire list – the Kushner book. However, I’m going to add these to my constantly growing list of books to read. I don’t know about the rest of y’all but the Hell Bent book Andrew mentioned is jumping out at me as I’ve wondered what competitive yoga is about.)
Q: Can you share your favorite quote or quotes?
Frenny: Oh there are so many! Right now one of my favorite quotes is by Rumi “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.”
Andrew: “Do not speak – unless it improves on silence” Buddhist Saying.
“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your own path.” Buddhist Saying.
“We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” Lao Tzu
(Interviewer’s Note: I love all 4 of these quotes though I have to say I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Rumi quote. I get it… sort of. I don’t do this exercise daily but I think it’s fun pick a quote in the morning, think about it for a few minutes, maybe even meditate on it, let it marinate in your brain all day and then revisit it the next morning to see if your perspective has changed, or if it hasn’t. I think I’m going to pick one of these and do that fun exercise tomorrow.)
Q: Tell me more about Karma Classes – how do you choose what organizations you would like to support?
Frenny: We like to pick local charities that focus on humanitarian and environmental initiatives.
Andrew: We like to choose Charities that are local so that our presence in the community is most effective. For 2 months out of the year, we support a charity that is selected through the greater Modo community during the community’s “Grow Your Yoga” campaign in an effort to be more effective in the greater world community.
(Interviewer’s Note: I think it’s hard for any business, especially one in its infancy to want to focus any monetary benefit outside of the business. I admire your individual and Modo’s collective desire to make the world a better place through yoga AND donations of money.)
Q: What gets you leaping out of bed in the morning (besides teaching the 6 am class)?
Frenny: The sound of my dog throwing up! Nothing gets me up faster, lol.
Andrew: My dog Ozzy.
(Interviewer’s Note: Been there, lol.)
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher and owner?
Frenny: The biggest challenges I’ve experienced as a yoga teacher is to ensure that I’m staying well hydrated and nourished to teach multiple classes a day! As an owner the challenges are different – I’ve found it difficult to do community outreach and participate in community events. Being part of the local community is so important to us. We want to work with other small businesses and create a positive impact in our city!
Andrew: One of the biggest challenges as a yoga teacher is to set time for myself to recharge mentally and physically, stay informed (make time to read books, meditate, practice yoga alone) and stay out of my head – meaning to refresh myself with the reason I teach and practice yoga.
As an owner some of the biggest challenges is to stay ahead in order to plan the schedule so that we can offer the most we can to all of our practitioners.
(Interviewer’s Note: Just throwing this out there to other Modo Yoga practitioners – let’s make a concerted effort to join Andrew and Frenny for their next community event! I’ll make sure the event is well publicized and then perhaps we can help create more positive momentum for this amazing studio. In all seriousness, though, I think it must be difficult to switch between a yogi and a business mindset. The two are not mutually exclusive concepts, but running a small business requires 24/7/365 attention and doesn’t leave much room for self-care.)
Q: What advice would you give a well-practiced yogi to take their practice to the next level?
Frenny: There are so many angles to this question. It really depends on the person but my advice to challenge the practice is to take a step back from the physical practice and focus more on pranayama, meditation and work from within to create inner peace and calmness. These are all qualities that need to be present during a physical practice and take a lot of discipline, practice and concentration.
Andrew: Practice with a beginner’s mind, never stop learning and never think that you know it all.
(Interviewer’s Note: Cultivating a beginner’s mindset and inner peace and calmness seem like qualities we should take to everything we do, not just our yoga practice.)
Q: Do you have a favorite posture? What about a least favorite? Why?
Frenny: This also changes from time to time! Right now, I’m enjoying Warrior 2 because of the challenge of sustaining strength and keeping a calm and strong mental focus. My least favorite pose at this time is Awkward Pose – my arches are tender and this pose has always been a huge challenge for me!
Andrew: Favorite pose – Savasana. Ha! I also really like Dancer’s Pose, I feel that there is a lot of untapped potential in that pose for me.
Least favorite pose could be Eagle Pose. For some reason, I just never really warmed up to it, but I feel I have improved a lot since I first started.
(Interviewer’s Note: My favorite and least favorite poses change daily. I also struggle with Awkward Pose and Eagle Pose – both require a lot of strength, balance and mobility. Some days they are easier, other days harder but I have definitely improved over the years.)
Q: What are your favorite hobbies when you aren’t busy running or teaching at Modo?
Frenny: I love to bake. Maybe we’ll open a bakery next door!
Andrew: I enjoy surfing and motorcycling. Other things like going for long walks or hikes are definitely fun too.
(Interviewer’s Note: Frenny, I saw those profiteroles coated in dark chocolate on Instagram the other day. They looked amazing! Andrew, I knew you love to surf but didn’t know that you also enjoy motorcycles. In summary, this interview has been a fun exercise and I hope that folks in the broader Modo Community have also enjoyed the process.)