Finally, it seems that the floors are ready. The 3 week saga has seen unexpected decisions, delays and costs, but ultimately has led to us having beautiful natural floorboards, throughout almost the whole building. During this period the property has not felt like ours at all, as there has been limited access to the rooms, and so many different workmen coming and going. There has been so much equipment everywhere, and sawdust, and piles of wood and rubbish and the most enormous pieces of sandpaper I have ever seen. Last week I had to take another trip out to Solopark in Pampisford to buy yet more reclaimed floorboards (some of the newly placed ones had been wrecked when we had the radiators replaced...). What a fantastic place! If you're ever looking for any kind of reclaimed period building materials, then Solopark is definitely worth a visit. Warehouses full of chandeliers and magnificent fireplaces and a massive yard filled with ornate statues, roofing tiles and paving. Quite surreal!
With the floor completed this means we can now get on with the painting and decorating. Paul and I have been busy priming 70 metres of floorboards - we are two coats of primer down and have one coat of paint to go. Delicious decaf cappucinos with almond milk from Stir have been getting us through.
For the past 3 days I have been at home with a very poorly child, so I have not been able to get over to the centre to get on with things, and have instead been doing purely computer based work from home. My 9 year old Noah had a very high temperature for about 48 hours, which subsided into a sore throat and copious amounts of mucus. Luckily he already knew the practice of 'jala neti' which is one of the original hatha yoga cleansing practices, whereby you use saline water in a small pot with a spout, to cleanse the nostrils. It is a fantastic practice - easy, safe, effective - and I am beginning to think a lot of children, who spend their childhoods with dribbly noses, would benefit from this. 3 full days of total rest for Noah and he is back now to his normal shenanigans.
What with parenting, shopping, household stuff, a full-time job (in Paul's case), visiting elderly parents in care homes, going to view potential pet puppies out in Gamlingay (don't ask...), organising an event night at the Junction (again, Paul), dealing with burst pipes, broken floorboards, scheduling all the different tradesmen to come in and do their part of the work at the necessary time, learning how to use and setting up the booking system, updating the website, setting up the accounting software, buying telephones, acquiring furniture, ordering equipment, liaising with teachers and therapists, responding to emails, and all of the hundreds of other ongoing jobs and tasks related to the yoga centre, we are literally working round the clock.
But with the floor done (well, almost - one more layer of oil to put on the groundfloor boards) and the lighting in the main studio finally coming together, it feels as if we are moving into the next phase of the renovation work. Which is quite lucky really as we are opening our doors in 2 weeks!
Our flyers and posters have been designed and printed. 10,000 flyers, which we shall be delivering mostly door-to-door throughout the Chesterton area (and beyond if we have the time, energy, will to live, etc...). Also look out for our posters which will be going up all around town on Friday!
We took the day off yesterday. Me, Paul and the kids drove over to the Suffolk coast to spend a day by the ocean. We walked on the beach, swam in the sea, ate fish and chips and drank bitter shandy. It was bliss. Very elemental. Clean, fresh air; soft, crisp sea; sand, grass and stone; and the warmth of the sun when it broke through the clouds. We made a deal that no-one was allowed to talk about the yoga centre...which was hard! But a necessary breather from all of the busy-ness of this new family venture.
Meanwhile at the centre, our focus has now moved into the downstairs spaces. We cleared what will be the 'lounge' area - which we have been using as a storage space for building material, tools, spare wood, insulation, the sofa and the enormous pile of carpet tiles, which we have now found a home for.
Once the room was cleared we could take up the vinyl flooring and the hardwood boards underneath, to reveal more original floorboards. With help from my wonderful mum and a couple of crowbars, we managed to get all of the tiny nails up and get the wood ready for sanding this week.
We donated the carpet tiles to the Family Intervention Partnership. FIP is a Cambridgeshire County Council team whom I formerly worked for. They support families in a long-term and comprehensive way where there are multiple and complex issues relating to drug or alcohol abuse, mental health problems, unemployment, social isolation, anti-social behaviour, truancy, a history or risk of criminal behaviour and risk of eviction from their homes. A lot of these families have a lack of basic furnishings such as carpets or dining room tables, so I knew the carpet tiles would be put to good use.
My work with FIP was incredibly challenging and rewarding. Labelled unhelpfully by the government as the 'Troubled Families Programme', a lot of attention was given to these teams a few years ago when a large injection of money was given to various Local Authorities to help 'turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country' (this was following the riots of 2011). Families 'would be assigned a single, co-ordinating key-worker who adopts a "persistent, assertive and challenging" approach and can "get to grips" with the whole family and look at the family "from inside out rather than outside in". There has been a mixed response surrounding both the remit and the results of FIP, but from my experience, on the ground, it is brilliant work. Having the time to build trusting relationships with and advocate for families who are often totally overwhelmed by the various pressures they are faced with, can go a long way in supporting the possibility of sustainable change.
I have been in discussions with FIP for a while now, in the hope of trialling The Satyam Programme with a selection of their families. This is a programme I am developing as a way of introducing yoga and mindfulness to individuals and groups who are disadvantged in some way. My feelings are that the self-regulating techniques of yoga could play a crucial role in enabling people to make different choices and manage their daily lives in a more positive and conscious way. A few years ago we did almost get a programme up and running, however due to the chaotic and unpredictable nature of their lives, not a single person turned up for the first session! So there is some necessary preparatory work that will need to be done to increase their chances of engagement and success. And with funding in the public sector dwindling, these kinds of incentives are looking more and more challenging.
For the time being our focus is on making the centre a success. New radiators have now been installed in both studios, further progress has been made with the design of the lighting, the Osmo Oil has arrived for the floors, the flyers and posters have been designed and are on their way to us. And we have just had another tutorial in the MindBodyOnline software which we will be using for our bookings. Time is ticking away and we are on a bit of a countdown now. Will we have everything ready on time? Of course!! ...
It has been a week since we collected the keys for our new premises and began the necessary renovations. Just on the first day our builder (supported by me, Paul and the kids) managed to take down 4 of the partition walls in the upstairs, a job which I had foreseen would take possibly weeks, so it was a joy indeed to see how quickly things were happening. As an old language centre, there were 5 classrooms in the upstairs space which we have knocked into 2 new studio spaces. There's loads of light and a gentle breeze through the windows which run along the front and back walls of the property. Which is a good thing as we are not installing any air con...
Once we finally got a chance to take a peak under one of the carpet tiles, we found to our surprise and delight that the whole of the upstairs has the original wooden floorboards underneath. So we set to work taking up the carpet tiles, which were securely glued down to large sheets of hardwood board, which in turn were securely nailed down to the floorboards with hundreds of tiny little nails. Hence the title of this blog post. We had to peel the carpet tiles up and then we spent days wrenching, yanking, pulling and sometimes gently and satisfactorily sliding the nails out, in order to remove the hardwood boards, revealing the floorboards beneath. It has been back-breaking work. I have blisters on my blisters. But it was so worth it. It feels like a deep cleansing of the floor space - that wood has been covered up for years and it is now being given a chance to breathe...
There are many different paths of yoga. As many of you will know yoga is not only physical practices that you do on a mat (although for anyone in doubt, this WILL be the predominent form of yoga being taught at our centre ;0 )
Karma Yoga is the yoga of action. When you practice karma yoga you carry out your normal tasks and activities, but you do so with your full attention and awareness. There is no sense of doing things for the fruits of the action. It is the task itself that you put your mind to and you do so fully, watching whatever comes up along the way, whether that be mental activity, feelings, memories, etc. It is about being fully present, moment by moment, and in doing so it creates the space for our 'samskaras' to come up. Samskaras are all the 'stuff' that we have stored within us over the years/ lifetimes - all the mental impressions, experiences - all the karma. Allowing this stuff to come up to the surface, without responding to it, but continually coming back to the task in front of us, means it is able to be released, freeing us to live a little more fully, more authentically, not constantly held back by the weight of past experiences that we so often drag around with us.
Anyway, back to the task of pulling up the nails. This truly was an opportunity to practice karma yoga. And I took it.
More to follow soon...
Unfortunately, although I had hoped the floor would be ready to do some small classes next week, at my usual Monday and Wednesday morning times, things have been turned a little upside down at the centre this week. Floor decisions that we had thought we were happy about, it turned out we were not, so there has been a big job this week to amend that (basically we decided to take up all of the new floorboards and replace them with reclaimed floorboards - something we had been advised to do before the sanding work began. We realised the error of our decision to not do this, but luckily it was not too late to do something about it.
As well as having to rip up lots of freshly placed boards, this has also meant digging out two long concrete slabs, one from each studio. Hard work for our guys at Floor Sand Solutions and a lot more expense for us. But well worth it in the long run. The floor is looking far more unified now.
Other big and unexpected decisions included being told that the studios were under-heated and that we will need to replace most of the radiators in both studios. This cost had definitely not been in the original start-up budget! But there is no way we are risking people being cold come the winter time, so that job is happening this week coming.
The third big and off-budget decision is to have all of the lighting wiring placed above the ceiling and to not have trunking all over the place. This had never even occured to me whilst calculating the budget for the electrics all those months ago!
So this all means that there will be no classes this coming week. My apologies to those wanting to get back into their practice after the summer. I promise it will be worth the wait. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I can start runing at least a couple of classes...
On the plus side, all of the walls have now been fully erected, and with a few more electrical bits to do, we are almost ready for the plastering. Following this it will be time for painting and decorating.
I have been working really hard on the timetable and I am very pleased to announce that it is now available for viewing on the updated website. There are still more classes to add, so don't panic if you don't see a class at the time you had hoped, or if you don't see a style you had wanted to try. There is more to come. The Teachers page has also been updated, so do have a read about some of our fantastic teachers. You can also have a glimpse of our timetable for the opening weekend - free taster classes for the whole weekend!
Free herbal tea too :)
It is really rather special to see this idea manifesting into reality. What started as a sankalpa - a seed, a desire, a resolve - is unfolding into something I can touch and feel, something I can now share with others. From putting together the timetable, to project managing the builders, electricians, plumbers, sanders and plasterers, I am struck daily by how special this all this.
I feel very lucky.
Me, sitting on our new sofa, in the middle of a building site (my husband acquired it off ebay for £140 - it is a John Lewis vintage. The kids think it's hideous but Paul and I think we can make it work. And it is sooooooo comfy).
We have mostly stayed away from the yoga centre this week as the floor sanders have been in and have been undergoing a momentous sanding process. It turns out that these boards are really hard to sand. Over the years there have been different layers of paint on them, parts of which are proving difficult to remove and there has also been many floorboards needing replacing. It is taking longer then the sanding team thought it would and as a result will be costing us more. However, it will be worth it and already the lighter boards are giving a lovely sense of space and light to the studios, cloakroom and lobby. We have also had the electrician in and have had some issues with the lighting, which also will result in more expense. However, flooring and lighting are, in our opinion, really important in creating the right feel, ambience and level of comfort in the studios.
This whole project is running on a very tight budget. We were very fortunate (actually, it took A LOT of hard work), to receive a business start-up loan from the Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES). As part of this process I have had a Business Mentor who has supported me to write my busines plan and to understand and put together the financial spreadsheets. I have learnt so much. They have arranged a loan of £35,000 for us at a good interest rate, payable over the next 5 years. Without that funding (plus some funding from certain very kind and wonderful family members), none of this would be happening. We are very lucky and very grateful. But still, the budget is extremely tight. We had considered doing a crowdfunding campaign and then had decided against it, preferring to just get on with it, with what we have, working within our means. However having seen how successfully other crowdfunding campaigns are currently going, I reserve the right to change my mind about that!
I took a little trip out to Emmaus earlier in the week to see what I could source in terms of furniture. Emmaus is an amazing international charity, originally founded in Paris in the 1940's. They create communities where homeless people can come and live, work and be part of a constructive process of rehabilitation. The Cambridge Emmaus community is up the A10 in Landbeach. I was really touched by what a nice space it was and I did find some nice teacups there for the centre.
So much else has gone on this week. I looked after my 9 month old goddaughter for 4 days and nights - a real joy yet a real reminder of how hard it can be to function on very little sleep and with a little tiddler crawling about everywhere. My life - and work connected to the centre - has literally been on hold. My son went back to school last Friday to begin Year 5 and my daughter begins secondary school tomorrow. It's a real time of change and growth as we negotiate new boundaries with our children in terms of their independence. Although sad to be spending less time with the children now that they are going back to school, I also look forward to having a bit more structure at home and more working hours during the day as I have SO MUCH TO DO!
Yesterday we made an appearance at the Mitchams and More festival to hand out flyers and connect with the local community. I bumped into various lovely people that I know, including Rachel Snape, the head teacher of the Spinney Primary School with whom I used to work, and Lou Foster who will be one of our children's yoga teachers at the centre. I also chatted with Louise from Camyoga who is also moving into the area with another new yoga studio. We had a hug and acknowledged our new neighbourly status. The residents of CB4 are going to be truly spoilt for choice in yoga!
And I am functioning today again on very little sleep, as I was out dancing to deep disco until 4am this morning as part of my good friend's Pink Festival celebrations (Pink Picnic is a fantastic organisation in Cambridge creating community events to promote inclusion)
It can't be all work work work ;)
A friend last night reminded me that if I am guided by my heart and the business unfolds from that place, then it will be a success. I was reassured by that as it is certainly true - this project really is a labour of love. And on October 14th it will be time for its birth.
It's been a busy week at the yoga centre. Most of the electrics have gone in upstairs, new doors and walls have gone up, more flooring has been pulled up and a second skip has been filled. The second studio is shaping up nicely...
The former occupiers were a Language centre and they had named each of their classrooms after famous Cambridge scientists. So at the moment Studio 1 is called Crick, after Francis Crick, who's work led to the identification of DNA. Studio 2 is currently called Newton, and the Community Studio is called Darwin. We have Hawking lying about somewhere too.
As great as this is, we won't be keeping these names, and will hopefully be coming up with something better than 'Studio 1' and 'Studio 2'. We have a few more fire doors which we will be putting on Ebay (including Hawking), so if anyone needs any please let us know.
We have also taken up all of the carpet tiles in the cloakroom and on the stairs, as well as ripping up the rather ugly yet brilliantly practical matting in the reception area. There has been a few husband and wife conversations based around practicality versus aesthetics. Aesthetics won.
The Therapy Room is also in the process of being built as I write. It is situated on the ground floor next to the Community Studio. We are going to be offering a whole range of different kinds of therapies, from Therapeutic Massage to Wellbeing Coaching.
I hope that we will also be able to offer Counselling, CBT and Psychotherapy, including in the longer term, Child Psychotherapy.
And finally, we have been busy trying to finalise the colours of our logo and are now working with a wonderful artist and designer who has really helped us to add in the depth of colour that had been missing. Once this is done we can get a move on with the shop front and the marketing, which will be really key to getting the business successfully up and running. We are now going to have 2 symbols which will represent the different elements: fire, air, water, earth and ether. The elements appear universally in spiritual traditions across the world, from Native American traditions, Shamanasim, Wicca and Paganism to Chinese Philosophical traditions. In Indian Philisophical traditions, including Yoga, Buddhism and Tantra, the five elements are known as theTattvasand are said to constitute the whole of creation. We like the idea of our logo being all-embracing. Although, not quite finished, the symbols are going to look something like this:
So unfortunately our builder was ill yesterday, which was the day we were due to do the next step of serious renovation work at the centre. However, Paul and I pressed ahead with taking down one of the groundfloor walls and between us, we managed to get it down in a couple of days...
It won't be quite as big as this as we are going to build a small wall and place the Therapy Room at one end, however it will be big enough for the space to be used for classes, workshops, meetings and other community activities.
For us, having part of the centre available as a facility for community use is really important, not just from the income that it will bring to the centre but because of the variety of different people that will (hopefully) benefit from its use. But when we say 'community', what do we mean?
By being a 'community' yoga centre, which community are we referring to, who are we representing? The yoga centre is situated in a really interesting position in that it sits on the boundary between East and West Chesterton. West Chesterton is a very affluent area with just 4.5% of families being on low incomes. East Chesterton is one of the wards in Cambridge with the highest rate of child poverty, with 21% living on low incomes. Many years ago as a young Youth Worker, I did outreach work on the streets of East Chesterton, connecting with the children and young people of the area and supporting them to get involved in positive activities. To this day it still has a very different feel to that of West Chesterton. But within both of these areas there will be hundreds of different communities, and I want people from all of these diverse communities to feel that they can access activities at the centre, whether that be yoga and meditation, or groups that they themselves run from the Community Studio.
How we make this work in practice might be much harder. 20 years on and I can see some more outreach work coming on...
My daughter on Wednesday, doing a handstand at Jesus Green Lido.
I almost can't believe it has only been 2 weeks since we moved into our premises and began work. In that time the upstairs space has gone from this...
We are now working out how to lay out the ground floor space. In the process of creating the Community Studio, we will sadly be losing our lovely kitchen area, so I have been wracking my brain to work out where to put it! Finally we have a solution and it will be relocated to a cupboard in the lounge. Not a perfect solution, but one that we think will work.
Meanwhile we have had lots of visitors to the
centre. Friends, family and yoga teachers have all dropped in for tours and for tea. My dear friend Ana Silvera spent the day with us last Saturday and gave some much needed advice and guidance on the website and on our use of social media. Getting my head around the whole Twitter and Instagram phenomenon is a bit of a thing . My Twitter posts are so far, quite frankly, crap. And I really need to get to grips with hastags. I have been driving my kids crazy this week by repeatedly saying: "Hashtag YOLO" (for those not in the know this means You Only Live Once, which then evolved into my saying: "Hashtag YOLTOT" (a more yogic perspective: You Only Live Thousands Of Times". *Titter*
I am also trying to persuade Ana, who is a gifted songwriter, singer and musician, to come and sing at our opening event. It means her coming all the way over from Copenhagen, where she is now settled, preferably hauling her new harmonium with her. So it is a big ask. But, you know, YOLO.
The timetable is coming along beautifully and it looks like we are going to have some fabulous teachers and classes happening at the centre. I am truly heart-warmed by the response I have had from so many teachers about this project, people who are genuinely excited by the idea of teaching in a community-focused yoga space. My students are all very excited too. I am already teaching an intimate Monday morning class with a few students, in the downstairs back room (what will be the Community Studio). We are enjoying the calm, quiet space, away from the hustle and bustle of the next door cafe (the excellent award-winning Stir Cafe), where the class was previously held. But of course they get to pop next door for coffee after class, so they get the best of both worlds.
This week will see more walls coming down, the beginning of the floor sanding process, deciding on lighting and painting and decoration the office/reception. This, alongside teaching group and 1:1 yoga and meditation sessions in Cambridge and beyond, meeting up with more potential yoga teachers and trying to give my children a fun and enjoyable summer holiday. Oh and posting up some good Twitter and Instagram posts, with relevant hashtags. Watch this space.