The link above takes you to a summary of Wellness Arts Network for 2017. The Directory is in production and Our Women’s Day out is April 22nd. A strong wellness community promotes a strong community in general. The link below will take you to the interview about Doris Farmer. I hope you are sharing these with your circle of influence.
Doris Farmer has been teaching movement for 30 years in various locations such as JET (Joint Education and Training), Arnot Ogden Health Services, and St. Joseph’s Hospitals. After a while she decided there were things she wanted to provide for her clients that could not be provided in these locations. An evolution occurred over the years that resulted in Heart to Heart Yoga and Healing at 315 W. Water St., Elmira, NY. This is a centralized location where Doris continues her passion for teaching yoga as well as providing a space for other practitioners to offer their services. Doris may be reached at (607) 742-9682 or by email at doris@YogaHearttoHeart.com. You are invited to view a full array of classes on the website at www.YogaHearttoHeart.com.
What has been the evolution of your business?
In 1982 I began with Southport Body Conditioning Studio. It was back in the Jane Fonda days when we were doing a lot of aerobics and toning (very similar to what Pilates is now). It was a small space and I quickly outgrew it. This was all women. To expand, I wanted to include men. There was not much offered then in the way of a fitness center/gym space. About 1983, I purchased used equipment and offered machines and free weights along with aerobic classes.
I always realized that at the end of class it was important to get centered and relax your body. People had a difficult time doing that. I knew how good it felt to me and I wanted to help others feel the same way. I innately had that idea that YOGA was something I wanted to do.
You knew about YOGA back then?
I did. I took a few classes back in the ‘70’s. (I received my certification from Kripalu in 1996).
There were others doing it but I said. “No, this is something I am going to do”. It wasn’t all that accepted back then, either. In fact, I named it something else for a while before changing it to Yoga.
Along the way it was very important to me to learn how to create a business plan. I met Bonnie Gestwicki at the Small Business Development Center. I became part of the Women’s Roundtable group there. I gained a lot of information there. I researched how to do a business plan with projections. I found the process exhilarating to realize that I had that ability.
I added Tanning, as a business within the fitness center. I discovered that in the Fitness Industry things change rapidly. You need to be on the cutting edge as much as possible to keep your clients interested in coming back. One of the first things I did was to join an organization called Dance Masters (I believe). It is now called ACE. They wanted to offer accreditation for instructors. I was constantly taking new courses, new routines. keeping up on what was new.
I went to a convention in NYC and they introduced STEP. I did it, I loved it, I ordered the equipment. I was the third in the nation to do that and I brought it back to Elmira! People did not accept it at first. It meant change. It took a little bit as people started to see it crop up in other places. People were exposed to it. Pretty soon it was “Reservation Only”. However, like everything else, it was left behind for the next big thing. I moved on to what was Progressive Aerobics Circuit Exercise (PACE). That used machines in a circuit. It transformed into what we now call CURVES. (Same equipment).
I was a single parent at the time and making ends meet was very challenging for me. In that time frame I ran up against a new regulation that forced anyone who had a fitness center to be bonded if you have memberships. I did not have the financial resources to do that. I thought about what I really wanted to do with my life. I struggled a lot. I just was not bringing in enough money. There were a lot of expenditures – rent, employees, etc.. Eventually the business was sold to Dave Sherman who reopened it as Elmira Fitness Center.
I went back to college. It was about 1993/4 when I started at Corning Community College. I thought I wanted to study Physical Therapy. I got nervous about my math abilities (which they were not very encouraging about). I transferred to Keuka College and received my Bachelor degree in Occupational Therapy. I still had to do the math but not as intense. It was a commute to Keuka College but I still taught my Yoga classes at Arnot. We transitioned from a small space at the Women’s Health Center to the old nurses’ lounge (since converted to the ER space). It was a sunken floor with windows. We enjoyed it very much there. I did 3 classes a night, 2 evenings a week. I went to St. Joseph’s facility when they tore this down in their Wellness room for quite a few years. I was displaced again and went to Grace Episcopal Church.
For about 12 years I settled in to working in Occupational Therapy pediatrics, all the while teaching yoga classes. Teaching YOGA was always my constant. I worked for Pediatric PT Services in Horseheads traveling to multiple counties working in their homes and schools (Pre-K) doing early intervention. I was often requested by families and teachers. The owner of that business knew changes were coming and closed down. I stayed on with Chemung County as an independent contractor. The first year was great. However, changes were coming. When that happened, it became very difficult. It changed from a county program to a state program. We were not paid for three months. I had to take loans out to cover my bills. Working for the state, the second year as an independent contractor, I was audited by the state. I passed with flying colors. I was prepared. I was attentive to what I was doing and keeping up on all the rules and regulations. We had a lovely group of people who networked and supported one another. We were all audited at the same time. For me, it was absolutely overwhelming. I thought, “Do I want to do this anymore”? Enough is enough. If I were 40, 50 – maybe. At this time in my life, I should be thinking about simplifying. As an independent contractor working with New York State, I had none of the benefits of an employee. So I thought about my passion and it was Yoga. This has always been my passion.
When I opened Heart To Heart Yoga and Learning Center, I was still working in Occupational therapy. That was in 2013. I decided at the time I wanted to work with adults. I enjoy working with people. I enjoy helping people. However, we as women tend to be very hard on ourselves. It is so important to create nice community with each other to the best of our ability. Granted we will have challenges along the way. Within my classes I incorporate affirmations. The more we say those things to ourselves the more they imprint and the better we are going to be.
What have been your greatest achievements?
Personally, going back to school at 50 and getting my Bachelor’s degree. That was a tremendous accomplishment. I enjoyed very much when I worked for an agency. It was a wonderful experience that gave me a chance to develop an inner strength and confidence that I don’t think I had as much before. I also developed that wonderful sense of community with other folks that we ARE here to help each other. How beautiful is that?
What have been your greatest stumbling blocks, either personally or in business?
I think I already named a lot of them. There were quite a lot of stumbling blocks – a divorce, raising children by yourself, borrowing money (robbing Peter to pay Paul). I am still catching up.
Do people have any misconceptions about you or your business?
I think that often some people have this idea that I am not going to go to the gym until I am in shape. They have the same idea about being flexible. How can I do Yoga until I am more flexible? I tell them Yoga is about gaining those things along the way – together. This is for health and wellness. This is preventative care. All the things we are doing here are evidence-based practices. Evidence-based practice? Yoga for backs. Tai Chi for balance. Therapeutic Massage for neck.
If you could have a Do-Over, what would you do differently?
We always think that we would do something differently, don’t we? The other night we had a Reiki session here where the idea was brought up that each chakra has a gift and a challenge. If we carry that over in to life we need challenges just as much as we need the gifts.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I don’t believe I will ever stop doing this. It makes me feel good.
I would like to have some younger folks coming up along the way that are going to offer different kind of programs for physical well-being. I would want to still be here but have a little more time to travel or go to a conference.