We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Baghaei and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liz, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Being messy. In order to be the best version of myself, I had to surrender to being messy first. To navigate and get to the most authentic and best parts of who I truly am, I had to be ok with being vulnerable and not having it always look or feel polished. I teach yoga, and there’s no way I can ask people to look inward if I’m not willing to lay it all out for my students first. I share where I have struggles in my own life and teach what specific techniques and skills I apply to bring more ease and less anxiety for myself. It’s not enough to tell people to ‘have self love’….. what does that actually look like on the day-to-day and how does one truly begin to respect themselves? For me it comes from having a strong sense of self and trusting my body and instincts. By creating consistent habits and patterns that make me feel safe and seen. Patterns are vital, as long as they are serving you and not you serving them. By sharing all of this, even at the expense that some people won’t hear me or aren’t ready to hear me, I notice my students begin to give themselves permission to do the same in their own lives. Humans are most drawn to other deep human qualities and someone has to crack wide open first in order to create a connection. Or else we’re all keeping things on the surface and never being truthful about what brings us joy, fear or pain. Our instincts are a quiet voice because there’s so much noise in the media about what we need to model ourselves to be. Or how we need to look. Or what brings success. We don’t need to model ourselves at all though. We can just keep feeding that quiet voice by saying yes to the risks that feel scary or uncomfortable. Every time I have done that—saying yes to my instincts—they’ve become louder. It’s easy to think that the louder voice that’s telling you what to do is who you are… but it’s really our ego. It’s our fear that manifests itself from what other people have told us we can achieve or how high we can reach. People tell me no or that it won’t happen in business discussions and every time it’s driven me to listen to my instincts instead and to push further and be more creative with a solution. I’ve also learned to only ask advice from people who have mastered that area themselves. I don’t ask people who are struggling in relationships how to find love, and I also don’t ask people who have never taken a risk to lead a group of people or create a community how to be successful at running a yoga studio. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and your vision. Who trust you even when things are uncertain. Everyone has a very vital role to a business being successful, and once each person steps up to be messy and grow in their specific role, that’s when things catapult into a higher atmosphere.
What should our readers know about your business?
As an owner of a hot yoga studio called stretch in Burbank, it was never my intention to be different or to be trendy. It was to allow the studio to really be a representation of who I am and what is stand for. Those with similar values are just naturally drawn to stretch. A very clear goal I had before I opened was to create an environment where anybody could walk into- regardless of if they had ever done yoga or not- and feel included and know that they are being seen. I myself have gone to studios or gyms and felt the air of judgement and exclusivity that maybe I wasn’t privy to. It’s a shitty feeling and so far from the feeling that my yoga practice brings. Often I think people forget that the reason behind having a yoga practice is not just about being able to do dope amazing postures- it’s about healing yourself. Both physically and mentally. I feel that there’s a huge void in our society for people to truly be a part of a community of like minded individuals. To walk into a place and feel like they belong and are being encouraged to feel all of their feelings especially if they’re uncomfortable and painful feelings. Mental health is overlooked and often times we focus just on the physical ability of students in my line of work- but I’m most fascinated by what drives a person and what holds them back. I teach very energetically and when I can sense who someone might be, it’s then about finding the right way to connect to them on a deeper level that will improve their life yet still feels safe enough for them. Stretch is a *feeling* for me and for so many people who call it home. Within that space there’s a lot of healing going on that everyone feels and I am honoured to hear it from people consistently. To hear they’ve never been to a yoga studio where they feel at home yet can also transcend to a more meaningful place during their challenging physical practice. Having a studio and leading a group of teachers is extremely challenging. Not just the daily grind of running the studio, juggling being a single mom, and still making time for myself …. in small moments. In teaching other people, you’re asking them to look at their strengths and dig through their weaknesses. Sometimes people aren’t quite ready. Or it feels triggering for them. So there has to be a level of sensitivity and a whole lot of boundaries on my end. Finding the balance between sharing myself but not taking on other people’s imbalances personally has definitely been hard. I’m only now feeling clear in how to be vulnerable but still take care of myself, and like everything else in life… it’s a process. I’ve done a lot of work on myself especially the last 10 years. I apply everything I’ve learned to all aspects of my business. In a world that is all about how to only level yourself up, or be personally successful, I’m grateful to be able to have a role where I am able to lift other people to go higher. I take my work serving others, their bodies, and their personal stories, very consciously. I believe in integrity and make a daily effort to always show up as much as I ask my students and teachers to. That equity between all of us creates a harmony and an energy that’s very much like a dance. I’m so very proud to know my community and as we watch the world change and endure, I feel so proud and full of faith in what we have built and how it can withstand anything that comes at it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love LA because it has so much personality. It can come off a little bit unkept but it has soooo many little gems to discover and get to know. Sushi is my jam. And I always take people to my favourite spot in Toluca Lake called Yuzu. Delicious. I’m also big on being outdoors and the beach was a huge motivator for my move to Southern California. My fave: Leo Carrillo Beach. Just the right mix of relaxation and still a great crowd. There’s so many patios and rooftops I love for summer evening hangs. And if dancing is on the agenda as it often is for me- the absolute best place is The Room in Santa Monica. It’s small, intimate, not fancy and has a great vibe- everyone is moving all night long.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My studio wouldn’t be what it is without the energy of the students and community who make it shine. My team of dedicated teachers who are committed to growing as people and learning not just how to be better as teachers but to be better as humans. I have to thank my family for teaching me that in order to get anywhere successful, failure is absolutely necessary and well deserved. And of course so grateful to my little boy Logan- he’s taught me everything I always wanted to learn. He shows me everyday how much better I can be and how to strip away the bullshit.
Photos by Sadao Turner & Brandon Peters