Yogapreneur: Rolf Gates Blends Savvy with Compassion to Create Successful Yoga Brand

The teacher and author shares how yoga brought him peace, love and happiness

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black man meditating yoga
Rolf Gates teaching in one of his popular classes

How has yoga changed your life?

Yoga has been a means for me to address a lifetime of trauma and addiction as it has manifested both in my body and in my relationship to my body. At 28 my blood pressure was 140/90 and at 48 my blood pressure was 116/70. This represents a dramatic shift in terms of my longevity and quality of life at a physical level and it and offers a quantitative look into how I feel on a daily basis.

At 28 with no responsibilities whatsoever I was extremely stressed out; at 48 with a wife, children, a mortgage, and a business, I am pretty much at peace. This is what yoga on the mat, on the meditation cushion and in your daily affairs can do for you. This all began with getting sober twenty-three years ago with twelve step programs. Between living sober and practicing yoga, I get a little happier each year.

Being that you are one of the few black entrepreneurs in the yoga industry, do you feel that you have inspired other people of color to practice Yoga?

I have no idea. Most of my focus has been to get better at a job which is extremely demanding. My growth curve so far has been over sixteen years long and I feel as though I have a long way to go before I can say that I have lived into my potential as a teacher. In the last few years I have seen a concerted effort at the grassroots level and at the leadership level to bring yoga into schools, prisons, the military, and into addictions treatment.

What are some ways you would suggest to get more people of color involved in yoga?

Choosing to practice yoga is a personal decision like choosing to start a vegetable garden, or learn another language. A person has to feel as though they have the time and effort to be able to do so. The reality is that Yoga is extremely accessible now online with free or nearly free classes being offered on multiple sites. This means that someone could begin a meaningful practice if they were willing to devote a half hour to it three or four days a week. Time and cost are becoming moot as barriers to entry.

My hope is that Yoga will be seen not as an alien religious practice but as a means for personal empowerment. A little yoga done regularly makes one largely independent from the ups and downs of their circumstances. My two brown children have spent their whole life with and mother and a father who are tapped into their own inner resources and into the guidance and support of their higher power. My children are growing into a world they do not feel they have to fear because their parents don’t. What better case can be made for yoga?

What are your plans for the future?

My aspiration is to grow in my capacity to love well. It is my experience that loving well is happiness. Whether I am loving my garden, my children, my wife, my dog, my students, my neighbor, my friends, my cab driver the experience of being kind, being compassionate, sharing a laugh, sharing a sadness, loving well in any capacity is a moment of happiness. Yoga on my mat and on my cushion nets out to more happiness.

Connect with Rolf Gates on Twitter and Facebook.

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