Meet Shannon Phelan, business owner, yoga instructor and mother of two. Phelan teaches yoga independently in Gaithersburg at Opus Yoga, Flying Buddha Studio and Great Seneca Yoga—the last of which she opened herself in March 2020.
“I started Great Seneca Yoga as a way for people to access yoga at home because we all really needed it—I needed it,” she says.
The timing, of course, was at the start of global pandemic, and for yoga-goers like Phelan, attending class in person was suddenly not that easy. Virtual classes made yoga more accessible—and people really showed up.
“I had people from all over the country come to classes,” Phelan says. “In one class, I had people from five different states.”
Now, Great Seneca does not just exist in a virtual setting. In June, Phelan converted her family’s garage into a studio space where she holds classes every day. She lives in Gaithersburg with her husband, Paul, and her daughters McKenzie (16) and Anna (14).
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I think that we are always falling in and out of balance. I don’t think balance is something truly attainable in the way that we as a society want it to be… Rather than trying to reach for perfection all the time, be in the moment as it is and accept it for what it is. The idea that we’re ever going to have perfect harmony among stress, and work, and life and kids isn’t really realistic.
One thing I’ve had to learn to do is learn the word “No.” “No” is a complete sentence. Because of the flexibility (pun intended) that my work allows me to have, I have the opportunity to say yes to a lot of things.
Journaling helps a lot, too, because you get [thoughts down] on paper and can see what similar threads are. Getting [something] down on paper, looking at it— then I can start to move things around. Just because it’s always been this way doesn’t mean it always has to be this way.
What kinds of challenges did you face starting your own business during the pandemic?
I did continue to teach with the studio I was teaching with [before opening Great Seneca], but it was on Zoom as well. The challenges have really been… convincing people that if you can breathe, you can do yoga. So many people say, ‘I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible, and I can’t sit still.’ They need to first believe that they can do it. My yoga is very accessible. It’s down to earth. I meet people where they are, with what they need. I do hybrid classes now that I have [an] in-person space.
What do you enjoy most about being a parent?
It’s a shock to the system to go from being a person to having these human beings who now rely on you for everything. I love being a mom, and I love watching my kids grow. The part that I love most is seeing them where they are now. A lot of people are woeful when kids get bigger because, ‘Oh, they aren’t little anymore.’ For the most part, I’m in awe that there are these human beings and I got to be part of their journey in this world.
I can’t wait to see them grow and become the adults that they’re going to be. We’re getting close, and we can really see this development of what they’re going to look like. They’re human beings in their own right, and I get to facilitate. (‘You’re going to go out into this world, and you’re going to be a person and do great things.’ ) That I got to be a part of that is my favorite part.
What’s one thing you hope your kids learn from you?
That you can always pause, take a breath and say something different than what you feel. Sometimes in the moment, you might be upset and angry and say something you don’t mean, but if they can take away anything, I want them to take a pause and just act better than [they] feel. I think if we did that more as a society, people would be a lot kinder to each other.
Meal: Burgers and Tots or Mom pasta (olive oil sautéed bell pepper, smoked sausage, sun-dried tomatoes over penne pasta with fresh parmesan)
Vacation spot: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Way to Spend a Weekend: Taking our dog Luna for walks, going to Anna’s basketball games or McKenzie’s performances (but usually there’s lots of laundry on weekends, too!)
Dessert: Anna’s homemade cupcakes (blueberry lemon!)