New Om World – Yoga; Marin Style
April 30, 2017
Breathless and drenched in sweat, I quickly slid out of the 100-degree yoga studio in order to escape the oncoming army of 50+ other attendees funneling out of the studio. Normally after completing an hour-long power-yoga fitness class, I barely have enough motivation left to do anything but curl into child’s pose on my mat and close my eyes to meditate. However, the bumping EDM beat that blasted from the studio speakers was keeping my post-workout energy high. As I weaved through the crowd of equally-sweaty Marin moms putting on their Ugg boots, the instructor of the class, Susan Hauser, spotted me with her infamously laser-sharp vision: “Hey dude! So glad you came in today, your form looked great! I gotta see you come to my 6 am class sometime; you’ll love it! I think some other kids from MA might be there too, like how rad would that be?”
It had only been a week since I started taking classes at New Om World, but I was already a part of the growing yoga community. I had made friends with all the employees, taken classes with five different instructors, and even exchanged workout playlists on Spotify with the owner. The inclusive and high-energy atmosphere of New Om World was apparent from the very start.
More commonly referred to as “NOW,” New Om World is a fairly recent but well-established yoga and fitness studio in the heart of Larkspur. Led by the infamous yoga-icon Susan Hauser, NOW combines high-powered workouts, a trendy image, and a highly-social vibe to create a place where Marin residents can escape their busy schedule for an hour and find their inner fitness guru.
Susan Hauser is by far not the stereotypical, incense-burning, puka-shell wearing yoga hippie. She is known to blast the newest Drake songs into her glossy-floored studio during class, and possibly owns enough Lululemon pants to make any high school girl jealous. The mom-turned-workout-icon has made quite the name for herself in the fitness industry. Before starting her personal business, Hauser was the most popular teacher at Yoga Tree, a studio that was eventually closed and replaced by New Om World.
“Fitness has always been important to me since I was young. I have been practicing [yoga] for about 10 years. I began teaching after moving to California, and it just sort of took off from there!” Hauser explained to me as we sat down together for the interview. “When the old owner of Yoga Tree left, they offered me the lease because I was the biggest teacher there. I just went for it but had no experience running a business. I’m all new at this”
Regardless of the “endless headaches” and “constant obstacles” that come with building a small business, Hauser juggles the equally difficult job of raising two teenage boys.
“The business is kind of my main focus right now… well, that and my kids. My second son, he’s 14, just got into his boarding school right now like his older brother,” Hauser sighed. After pausing for a moment to laugh and roll her eyes, she continued: “They are legit having huge parties at my house right now, it’s just so crazy. Once the younger one goes to school, then I can really focus on the business and the future of where it’s going. It’s so difficult to be a single mom and business owner, but doing yoga definitely helps with all that stress.”
Nearly everyone I encountered at New Om World preached the holistic benefits that doing yoga had on their social and emotional wellbeing. From the young age of seven up until past college, Hauser swam competitively on the USA team. The super-athlete admittedly “never lost that competitive streak” since her swimming days, but has found that practicing yoga was able to benefit her life beyond what any structured sport could have.
“I found [yoga] just different than any other exercise I had been doing; it cleared my head more. When you exercise, you release endorphins, but with this, I felt something different,” She said, increasingly getting more emotional with each word. Hauser paused again to think for a moment, then cautiously continued: “I don’t know if I told you but… I’m a widow. When my kids were super young, my husband passed away from cancer. So it was kind of, just me and the kids. It was a stressful time. Yoga helped me get through that, and… yeah, that’s when I recognized it’s true value.”
New Om World seeks to foster and support the unseen benefits yoga, exercise, and mindfulness has on the more personal level for individuals. For every employee, the stresses that come with their job are greatly outweighed by the benefits of being able to include Yoga in their daily lives. Working at NOW gives them the irreplaceable ability to take classes at any time, teach their own sessions, and work in the calming studio atmosphere.
Neomie Von Kaenel, a bubbly and energetic college student, currently teaches the children’s yoga classes along with helping run the day-by-day demands of the studio. She adamantly gushed about the benefits of working for a yoga studio on both her mental and physical health.
“Being an employee here I can make yoga a part of me. There is something about the community here that brings it all together. It is a workout, it is hot, it is sweaty, but I feel like even in the class, if we are shoulder to shoulder, there is still time and space to breathe.”
Cameron Cressman, the bubbly and bright-eyed manager of the studio, repeatedly addressed how taking time in the studio is an integral part of her mental well-being.
“Yoga puts me back in my body,” Cressman explained. “I’ll be working at the front and get in my head all day, so I’ll walk in for a class and it just thaws me out. Like, let’s be real, everyone wants a little break. For me, I’m high-strung and find myself in stressful situations quite a bit, so this class is the best meditation and detox for me.
Cressman has been working at New Om Yoga since its beginning, and currently is the head manager of the studio. According to Hauser, the “hardcore” Cressman is “always on top of it” with her work, handling both direct customer service and behind-the-scenes management of the business. The Mill Valley native brings her A-game each day, making her an extremely lucrative asset to NOW Yoga’s day-by-day success. Don’t let her feathery eyelashes and Instagram-ready smile fool you, Cressman will make sure that nothing in the studio goes wrong. Under her watch, there is never a customer who walks by the front desk unchecked, a stray yoga mat left forgotten, or a studio remaining uncleaned. Cressman admitted that although she “loves working hard and can get pretty intense”, she ultimately finds value in the interpersonal relationships that come from working at the studio.
“The other [employees] and I form a strong friend group. As manager, I didn’t want to be that scary intense person, so I connected with the girls early on. Yes, I need a hard worker who is dedicated to the job, but also someone who is real with me and communicates. That’s what’s cool to work for yoga; at the end, you are building close friends, being healthier, and helping other people do the same!”
Nearly all of the employees, from the full-time instructors to high-school part-timers, juggle a multitude of outside responsibilities. Neomie Von Kaenel is currently studying for a masters degree in pre-occupational therapy at Dominican University in hopes to pursue pediatrics. Although admittedly it has been “super stressful” to balance her studies and teaching at NOW, Von Kaenel adamantly stressed how working at for the studio has actually been an invaluable augmentation to her education “Pre-occupational therapy focuses on building skills and promoting independent living for all people; adults, children and people with disabilities. What I want to implement are the benefits of doing yoga into their treatment at some point. If the patients know how to do yoga early, then they can use it throughout their life.”
Again, the far-reaching impacts of yoga on the lives of the individuals working at NOW become apparent. Yoga gives both employees and students an opportunity to reach beyond their everyday routine, and take the time to explore physical strenuosity and mental relaxation. New Om World is so unique because unlike many other yoga studios, the classes are specifically designed to address the bodily and emotional health of an individual with equal weight. During the more difficult workout classes, such as Power-Vinyasa Flow and TRX, instructors always take the time to implement mindfulness activities into their ending routine. In turn, a calm and more spiritual class will still have the customer leave the studio sweating from some secretly-placed core exercises. Mind and body are equally weighted with importance at NOW, which has made the business much more than just a Yoga studio. New Om World is a sanctuary, a workplace, a community, and a mindset.