In six years, Carmen Aguilar has built one of the most popular yoga studios in Chicago, and she did it by putting her passion before everything else.
“Everything is secondary to my yoga,” Aguilar said. “People see that level of seriousness and commitment and they want to come practice with me.”
But before she could provide yoga instruction to some 400 Chicagoans on a weekly basis, Aguilar had to let yoga save her.
Aguilar grew up in Zaragoza, Spain. She went to school to study computer science and moved to Madrid after graduation to work in the technology industry. By this time, Aguilar said she had been battling anorexia for the better part of eight years.
“I was a very troubled teenager and had a lot of mental things going on,” Aguilar said. “I used to eat and throw up several times a day.”
In 1999 Aguilar decided to move to Washington D.C. to be with her college boyfriend, whom she would eventually marry. It was there that she stumbled into her first yoga class, and it changed her life.
“It helped me connect with parts of my body I had no idea existed,” Aguilar said. “I found out more about myself from yoga than any therapist or shrink I had been to for my issues.”
She called it “therapy in action.”
The yoga empowered Aguilar to eat more and not worry about calories, and within two years of starting yoga Aguilar was no longer anorexic.
“Yoga gave me this great sense of peace, it was addictive,” she said.
Aguilar would continue to work in the technology industry, but yoga slowly became a larger part of her life.
In 2003 Aguilar moved to Chicago with her husband and began giving yoga lessons at different gyms and studios, as well as private lessons.
By 2009 she had built up such a loyal following that she and her husband decided to open The Lab; a combination yoga and dance studio.
“We call it The Lab because it is a place to experiment and find yourself,” Aguilar said
Eventually they dropped the dancing and just focused on yoga.
Now Aguilar manages 16 instructors and teaches 15 classes on a daily basis.
She said the studio’s “laid back and friendly atmosphere” helps draw new customers, but once she gets them into the class, she puts them to work.
“’Often times I see people who say they can’t do it and give up on themselves before I do,” Aguilar said. “I never accept that, I won’t let you indulge in self pity.”
“We can always find a way. We can find a pose that works for you, but I will never let you sit on the floor and do nothing.”
It is this commitment and dedication to her craft that has helped her achieve so much success, and she recommends that kind of focus for anybody trying to follow in her footsteps.
“Whatever you are doing at one particular moment try to do it at your best,” Aguilar said. “It will make you better at what you do and it will make you enjoy the moment and enjoy your life a lot more.”
“I try to make the best out of each moment.”
Read more about Carmen here.