Thursday, 27 June 2013

Dreamers Interview Series – Christine Guenette

Today I'm very happy to host Christine Guenette on ATUA for the first Dreamers Interview Series. Christine and I met in 2012 while taking swing lessons.  She's an amazing girl and I'm proud to have her as a friend.  I would like to thank her for agreeing to this interview and for her generous giveaway offer.

The details of the giveaway will follow the interview.

Tell us a bit more about what you do?

I am owner, director and Swedish Massage Therapist at The Nest, a massage space nestled within our host home HappyTree Yoga, in Westmount, Quebec. I am also a yoga teacher teaching at about 5 different yoga studios and a weekly outdoor class.

Was this a dream you had for a long time? If not, how did it come to be?

I knew since high school that I wanted to teach yoga and give massage. I discovered both through a book my mother had at home. It was a fun book that gave an intro to both things (as well as aromatherapy which I also wanted to get into until I learned that an actual career in it was pretty much nonexistent). I tried the massage techniques out on my mother while she lay on the living room floor on some blankets. I also practised all the yoga sequences on my own. 
I didn't know anyone who did those things for a living so I found myself pursuing a more traditional path. I went to school and found a full time office job. My first job was in a non-profit organisation where we helped people with cancer. Here there were support groups and information sessions, but also a calendar of activities for the members to participate in - including yoga! I started taking my first group yoga classes with a handful of different teachers.

Over the next 10 years my career blossomed and I found myself working at a bank, being paid some decent money and with 5 weeks of vacation. I continued to practise yoga at yoga studios and in my living room. I simply could not leave yoga behind. During those years I also went to school part time and became a certified massage therapist. I did some massaging on the side but never really pursued it further. In 2011 I began yoga teacher training and began to feel the pull ever more strongly to follow my dreams.

In November 2012 I did just that and I left the corporate world behind and finally dedicated myself to a fulltime pursuit of the work I love - teaching and massaging!

At first I ventured only to find work in those two fields at existing establishments. Meanwhile I had been giving massages part time at the Wellness Room at HappyTree Yoga. In January the owner decided she no longer wanted to manage that side of her business. So I took it over and The Nest was born!

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in its pursuit?

The biggest obstacle for me was learning to see my own worth and to believe that it was possible. I had for so long believed that it was impossible to be a yoga teacher and have a comfortable lifestyle. I believed that to do what I loved I would have to be poor. That I would have to give up on certain dreams in order to have another. Thankfully, I was exposed within my yoga and massage community to people who were living it. I don't know how much money they make, but they live wonderful lives! They have quality of life not only in their personal lives, as they are able to afford to live in the city, go on the occasional vacation and even drive a decent car. But they also LOVE what they do! They seem to always be on vacation as they come to class smiling and enjoy the class as much as the students do. They are often free during the days to enjoy the nicer weather, and they meet lots of wonderful people in their classes and in the community of other yoga teachers and health care providers. I began to see that the model which my life fit into would change, but it wasn't necessarily impossible or undesirable. In fact, more was possible that I could even imagine!

What is your next goal?

I'm still working on my initial goals! It's only been 8 months since I left my old life behind. I am currently working towards having The Nest become a thriving successful business that not only is profitable for me, but for my staff. My goal for The Nest is that it provide abundance for all who enters its doors - for me, for my staff and more importantly for my clients.

I also am still pursuing a more stable situation for teaching. I currently teach regular classes at two studios and I substitute teach at 3 others. I would like to teach many more regular classes to integrate more stability and routine into my life. I may no longer work a 9-5 grind, but having done it in the past I all too well understand the importance of having some consistency.

Long term, I hope to have enough of a following in my yoga students to be able to offer workshops and retreats. I see yoga taking me around the world!

What advice would you give to would be entrepreneurs?

I believe that the world is full of people with something absolutely unique to offer the world. If you know you want to start a business, please start it doing something you love. When you follow what you love, what you love follows you. Starting a business only to be profitable may leave you lacking the passion for the work involved to make it successful. Allow your drive to come from the passion you feel for the product or service you are offering. Your passion will become contagious and you will attract staff with the same drive, and a loyal clientele.

So start first with what you love. Then look into all the details on how to get it up and running. Starting a business and building it up is hard work. There is a lot to do even for the simplest of business models. If it doesn't come from that place of love, it will always be a struggle. When you love what you do, it becomes a labour of that love. Energetically you pump positivity into your business when you love it, when you believe in it. 

Author Erin Grace interviewed last week would like to know " How, and how long, did you prepare to leave your job; did you have any support from friends and family; and how ass-clenchingly scary was it to begin despite the preparation and support?"

I spent the last couple years at my job slowly declining. My job productivity was suffering and I simply couldn't wait to leave and hit my next yoga class. I thought it was my job, so I changed jobs. Then I thought it was my boss. I often thought it was because my personal life had gone through some major changes. When I sat down and meditated upon it though, I knew deep in my heart it was actually because there was something bigger calling to me. After a few very difficult conversations with my boss, we agreed I wasn't right for the role I was in, and I was given 3 months to find something else at the bank. I didn't find anything else. I knew what I had to do. Because I wasn't dismissed for any wrong doing I was able to collect Employment Insurance so the transition was at least financially a bit easier.

Friends were hyper supportive. I think we all have some big risk we a little too scared to take so when we see a friend standing on the precipice we get excited to watch them fly! As for my family it was very difficult for my parents to understand how exactly I was going to make ends meet. They couldn't understand leaving a successful job to willing accept unemployment and maybe get some work teaching yoga classes and giving massages. They were happy with the stability I had had and felt fear for me when I gave that up. As parents I think they did their jobs really well. They were genuinely concerned about how things would turn out. They just wanted me to be ok! They also never scolded me or judged me. They know I'm not a dumb girl that I have a good reasonable head on my shoulders (when it comes to reasonable things anyway LOL) so they also trusted me to make the right decision for myself.

This has been the scariest thing I have ever done. And I'm still very frequently quite frightened. My bank account isn't as comfy as it once was and I'm amazed at how much work I have to do OUTSIDE of the actual time to give the massages and teach the classes. Sometimes I wonder if I really have it in me to make this a success. I fear losing my condo, or having to get a full or part time job to make ends meet. I fear I'll never go on vacation again or that my wardrobe is forever destined to hand me downs. At the end of the day though all this fear has me LIVING more than I ever have. I'm super aware all the time and I no longer fear that life is just passing me by. THIS is life. Working hard for my money, meeting people, feeling and spreading love. Now more than ever I feel strong enough to take what life delivers!

Our next featured guest will be Jim Burke, an English playwright who now lives in Montreal and runs his own company, Funhouse Theater. What question would you like him to answer?

How challenging is it to be in English theater in a province where the English/French battles never die?


For a chance to win a gift certificate for a one hour massage, leave a question for Christine in the comment section.  The best question will determine the winner (Christine gets to choose.)  You can also earn brownie points by becoming a follower of ATUA or by following me on twitter.  For the latter, make sure to let me know by tweeting #CGGIVEAWAY.  You have until Tuesday July 2nd 11:59 ET to enter.  The name of the winner, along with the answers to all the questions, will be posted on Thursday July 4th.


  1. First off, a simple wow/congrats for having the wherewithal and drive to completely embrace your passion. For the vast majority of us, our dreams remain a personal rather than professional commitment ; the fact that you were able to transcend this societal construct speaks not only to your devotion to yoga and massage therapy but also self-actualization and real lasting happiness. Keep up the (incredibly satisfying) good work. While you might not quite have the financial security of a conventional 9-5 job, you can't underrate the value that your work brings to both you, your clients and friends...;)

    1. Having said all this, what's the next step/stage in your entrepreneurial evolution?

  2. Hi, this is a world about which I know very little, so it was an enjoyable reading. Now, for a question:
    Is there any way you can describe the feeling you get when you do yoga and/or provide massages for people? How does it affect you physically and mostly, spiritually?

  3. Here is my question for you: Can you describe in words how you feel when you do yoga and/or give a massage? How does it affect you physically but mostly, spiritually? This is a world about which I know very little, so it was an enjoyable read.