Start the year with inspiration and practical tips from yoga therapist and teacher, Christine Badalamenti Smith! In her business, Yoga Oggi, Christine wears several hats: she is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga teacher, a Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide and a personal coach with a primary focus on yoga therapy. She admitted her preference for sitting in the interviewer seat, yet was so generous and authentic in sharing her personal journey – read on to learn more about Christine.
Please tell us about the journey that led you to being the proud owner of Yoga Oggi.
I moved to New England in 2011 to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Studies and live into my passion for the human-land connection. For several years, I was very happy living in NH working for nonprofits, but I wasn’t really making a living. One day, I made a bet with my husband, deciding that whomever could find a more suitable job first would take it and we would move wherever was needed. I won!
So in my early 30’s, I moved to Vermont, leaving a tight knit community, to a place where I didn’t have the same support network. At the time, I was also dealing with serious health issues that required me to make drastic lifestyle changes. I developed severe anxiety and had to change everything in my personal life to manage it. I realized I was not living fully, and not the life I wanted. One day a therapist recommended yoga, and slowly, the practice helped me come back to a more functioning life and I eventually became a teacher myself. But there was still something missing: I needed to do something to serve others. Discovering yoga therapy, I just felt that it was what I had been looking for, it touched me profoundly. It wasn’t something I planned for, it happened organically. I discovered a new calling.
Since you mention “callings,” how would you speak to approaching business from the head vs from the heart?
That’s what yoga therapy is all about: creating a relationship with other ways of knowing. It means listening to the heart, the gut, and the body. I feel most confident when I am aligned. When I don’t know, I pause, breathe, check-in until I’m compelled one way or another. I was very skeptical when I was getting reacquainted with yoga, not chanting om or not closing my eyes during practice. I took this path very carefully. I started listening and understanding that little voice that said “yes.”
What allowed that shift?
I’m curious by nature. For a long time, I was determined to get a PhD and I just saw a linear path to get there. My personal challenges helped shift my worldview completely. I had to open up to the concept of having an alternate career, of being an entrepreneur, and of not relying on someone else.
What advice do you have for those who want to experiment other ways, but in a safe way?
I had the personality and the perseverance to support this change – once I have a goal, I follow through, and I had the support of a partner. My advice to others? See a coach! See a yoga therapist! Open up and go for coffee with people who are doing something different: people around you are a major influence in how your life turns out. Trust that they are interested in you. People are more generous than you think. Check out a conference, something out of your comfort zone, and be curious, then follow what feels right, not necessarily what your head says.
What is your response to messages of “you need a business plan, a niche, a strategy, etc”?
People can be successful following different paths and there can be space for both. I’m a type A, scholarly, and I love checklists. A few years ago, I would have spent hours writing five drafts of a business plan. Today I roll out my yoga mat, move my body, get out of my head, be present, check my energy, meditate… then I sit at a coffee shop to write the business plan. It takes a fraction of the time and the result is more true to me.
What is the best business advice you got when transitioning to being a business owner?
Years ago, I encountered a coach who pointed out that it’s a very Western idea to go to school, study, then find what you love, instead of doing what you love, and doing it for so long that it becomes your work. Be the work! Embody it. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be passionate. Because you are never completely separated from it. So do what speaks to who you want to be in the world.
Also, I used to do everything myself, now I realize that it saves time and money to export a task (creating a website, writing a blog, social media…). Plus it uplifts other local businesses and creates relationships that often end up as a win-win. It’s a web, the more connections the better.
What are some main challenges you have faced and how do you manage the work/life balance?
My three challenges are:
1) Social media: I want to be present and yet I want to disconnect.
2) Education: not everyone knows what yoga therapy is or they have misconceptions about it.
3) Work/life balance: it’s a work in progress!
What helps me is that I’m a master at awareness, so I’m working on all these areas a little at a time. My main tools are self-compassion and patience. I skip yoga for a week sometimes! I also write lists, take care of myself, make time for my husband, dogs, and plants. I know that I’m still in the first few years of my business so that it’s a work in progress. I had to learn to prioritize, to say no, to accept that it’s more important to show up as my best self to less things rather than doing it all if I can’t be present.
Could you say a word about your involvement with WBON?
I wanted to meet other women in business, to create relationships. I like uplifting other women who are trying to do their own things. I was new in VT and always sequestered in work so didn’t have a lot of time to create a network or friends. WBON was a way to meet like-minded people. I highly recommend joining a committee to get involved in a meaningful way and create something. I was on the membership committee. In fact, I helped pilot this “Member Spotlight” initiative! I also facilitated WBON+, we met once a week for an hour and there was so much synergy, it helped me do so many things, including quitting my full-time job – it was life changing!
Where do you see yourself in 2 or 5 years? What are your big dreams?
I would like to have a thriving yoga therapy business and help many clients heal from trauma and go through personal transformation so the benefits can ripple out in the world. Healed people heal others. I’d like to run yoga therapy groups, create community, and teach yoga again as well – I’m actually interested in sharing a space!
Do you have a mantra, quote, or word of wisdom that keeps you going on hard days?
I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s words. In fact I have one of his quotes in my email signature: “Smile, breathe, and go slowly!” Another mantra is “I am enough.”
WBON members represent a diversity of industries, perspectives, and experiences. Be inspired by our Member Spotlight posts, an intimate look at one member, written by another WBON member. This month’s Member Spotlight was written by WBON member Alexandra Arnold of Alma Coaching.