You have to be flexible if you want to move from the boardroom to the mat.
Kim Weeks (English ’94) was sitting in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., in 2000 when she had what she calls her “crystal moment.” The dot-com she’d been working for had just folded, and she was redoing her resume to give the business world another go. Her years on Wall Street and working for international finance companies had taken their toll, and she found that yoga was the best antidote to the stress.
“I was about to put yoga at the bottom, under ‘other interests,’ when I suddenly realized it belonged at the top,” she says. “It was like an out-of-body experience. I wasn’t who I had advertised myself as being.” She closed her laptop, went home and started brainstorming a name for a yoga studio.
Weeks grew up a “voracious learner” Louisville, Ky., and entered U.Va. as an Echols Scholar in 1990. She became a University Guide and analyzed poetry with Stephen Cushman, who became her mentor and thesis adviser. As graduation neared, the phone in her Lawn room began to ring with offers from major companies. One of these was from JP Morgan, who wanted her to be a management consultant.
“I thought, sure, that sounds interesting,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to live in New York, so I just decided to do it.” It was a heady time to be on Wall Street, with the Internet boom heating up. At the University Weeks had bypassed economics and math for the arts, but she found that didn’t matter. “I basically got to extend my undergraduate training with some of the most incredible professors from NYU and Columbia, who they brought in to teach us about accounting, economics, bond math.”
Meanwhile, her sister and a coworker noticed she seemed tense and suggested yoga. Weeks found a local studio in the yellow pages, and was hooked from her first class. “I was a total adrenaline junkie,” she says. “I spent the whole time thinking, ‘Pick up the pace!’ ”
During the relaxation period at the end of the session, though, something changed. “You’re in this contained environment, you can’t run. It forced me to relax. I left thinking, ‘This is the greatest thing ever.’ ”
Weeks spent the rest of the decade traveling to Europe and Asia with finance companies and law firms, teaching herself yoga bit by bit out of a book. When she returned to New York, she found her practice had deepened. “I could do all these things I couldn’t before. I remember thinking I might be onto something deeper than just a regular practice.”
After a month-long Integral Yoga teacher-training course at Yogaville in Buckingham County, Va., Weeks found herself in Washington D.C. teaching classes for friends and at gyms. Then her moment of revelation occurred over a cup of chamomile tea. “I realized I couldn’t do the corporate stuff and teach yoga both -- I had to go whole hog one way or the other.” With the encouragement of friends and savings from her time as an executive, she opened Boundless Yoga near Dupont Circle in 2002.
Weeks says her background has been both a help and a hindrance. Working for multi-million-dollar corporations gave her business acumen and confidence that many yoga studio owners don’t have. Being the owner of a small business has brought a host of new challenges, but also the flexibility to confront them head-on. “In any big company, changing directions is like trying to turn an ocean liner,” she says. “Now I have a schooner.”
“The biggest challenge is switching between the two personas: Kim the business owner and Kim the yoga teacher,” she says. “That which makes a good yoga teacher does not make a good businessperson — they’re two very different skill sets. And it’s usually the business that creeps into the yoga, not the other way around. It’s hard to stay balanced sometimes.”
The studio has flourished, and Weeks has continued her training with yoga luminaries such as J.J. Gormley, Erich Schiffmann and Rodney Yee. She’s writing a book about yoga and physics, and says she would like to open a retreat center in the next few years. “I want to share my practice with as many people as possible, with kids and people in different economic brackets.
“Yoga would definitely make the business world a better place,” she says. “I’m good at describing the benefits to doubting Thomases” — especially those she left behind in her former life.