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The Interview: Beth Kiely, Om on the Range

By Rachelle Bowden in Miscellaneous on Feb 17, 2006 4:55PM

We at Chicagoist have been trying to find a way to make money doing only what we love, but it seems that there isn’t a booming market demand in Chicago for one-woman bands that utilize the spoons and the triangle. After a series of rejection letters from singing telegram services and a fine for not having a street performer’s permit at the Washington station, we packed up our various pieces of percussive metal, poured ourselves a cup of ambition, and got ourselves a nine-to-five. However, we couldn’t sit here and wonder “what if” all day, so we set out to find those who had been able to follow their bliss in a Joseph Campbell sort of way.

2006_02_om_on_the_range.jpgBeth and Terry Kiely, owners of the cleverly named Om on the Range yoga studio, found their bliss in sunny Costa Rica when they realized that they didn’t have to wait until they retired in order to fulfill their dreams. They each left their established business careers, submerged themselves in Bikram yoga and opened up their studio space, which is currently located at 3759 N. Ravenswood.

Chicagoist spoke with Beth about exactly how she and her husband fell into Bikram and how they made the switch from the fast-paced, high-paying business world into the more relaxed, flowing lifestyle they enjoy today. We were hoping for some advice on the one-woman band thing as well, but we’re wise to take the advice of the 12 angry CTA customers who surrounded us in February 2004: “SHUT UP!”

What were you guys doing before you started the studio and before you were in your “yoga life?”

We’ve been in our “yoga life” officially with the studio four years ago this Valentine’s Day. In the fall prior to that, we had done a yoga training for 9 months with Bikram in L.A. Before that, I was a professional fundraiser – what was called a development professional. And I worked for about a decade and a half for a variety of nonprofits in Chicago such as Brookfield Zoo, Children’s Memorial, a children’s hospital in London, the Chicago Cultural Center, Depaul University, the School of the Art Institute, the Gene Siskel Film Center. I really loved being a fundraiser and working for these great institutions and helping them with their great missions. I really liked it, but what the Dean of Students at the School of the Art Institute taught me was how the art students kind of got into a state of flow. When people are in their optimum zone, they achieve this state of flow, and it’s sort of a physiological response where what they are doing feels really wonderful. And I was like, “Hmm … I really like what I do, but I want to achieve this state of flow.” And for me that was when I was practicing yoga.

Terry was working as a management consultant. He studied engineering at U of I and finance at University of Chicago. He did a lot of work in the IT area, and he really liked it because he’s a problem solver. And he really liked what he was doing.

We were on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, and we were sitting in a hammock visualizing our life in 25 years and what we wanted to do when we retired. We said we wanted to do yoga and open up a yoga studio. We would have class in the morning and a class in the afternoon, and we’ll each get to teach and take. And then as we thought about that, we thought, “Why do we have to wait until we’re 65 to do what we love?” And so we started thinking really long and hard and started exploring the Bikram training and talking with studio owners. I left my job at the Art Institute, and Terry took a sabbatical from his. And we opened the studio.

We got to a point where we were both able to teach full time. And it’s really been a gift that we have both been able to practice yoga, teach yoga and raise our kids. Now we do about 32 classes a week, and we probably teach about 10 of them a week. We just feel really lucky that we were able to articulate what we really like because I feel that that can be challenging for a lot of people … then sort of break down all of the steps to move toward that. We feel really fortunate that we’ve been able to find what we like and make it our life.

You said you started on this journey seeking a sense of “flow.” Do you feel you have embraced the flow?

I feel like we’ve found a place and something in our lives that we really love doing. And it constantly evolves. It’s not like this final place we’ve gotten to. We practice yoga, and things sort of reveal themselves or present themselves. In yoga, a lot of people talk about “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Do you believe that without your previous career as a fundraiser and experience in the professional world that you would be able to be this content with what you are doing?

I can’t separate the two. Being where I was helped me get to where I am now, so I can’t say that I wish I hadn’t been a fundraiser. It’s that experience that helped me get to this. It’s the only experience that I had. I did do that, and then I got to this place. I’m glad I did what I did. It afforded me some nice opportunities and relationships and helped me develop some skills. While I do enjoy being a yoga teacher, I also have to run a yoga studio and all of the aspects of that. So having my professional experience certainly helped me.

Have you ever encountered anyone who felt like they needed to change gears in their life and find the “flow”? Or if you did encounter someone like that, how would you advise them to try to find their life’s passion?

A lot of people I regularly run into or who come to the studio practice yoga. Part of yoga is connecting with your awareness and your perception, and it kind of comes naturally. What are the things that make you happy? What are the things that don’t? And you get this clarity and this time, and you kind of figure that out. And then there are people who know our situation and how we made a life shift are able to do that through practicing yoga.

We love yoga, and yoga helped us find what we love doing. In this case it is yoga, but for some people it’s other things.

Thanks, Sarah!!