Norma Colon is the owner of YogaNorma and has over 40 years experience studying, practicing, and teaching yoga. She specializes in Iyengar Yoga and has inspired and transformed the lives of countless people through her practice.
From passion to career
Born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, Norma is a proud, bilingual Latina and business owner. She teaches Iyengar Yoga in group classes–these days on Zoom, and gives private lessons over FaceTime. For over four decades yoga has been her great passion in life and she loves sharing it with anyone who is interested.
Norma first discovered her love for yoga in 1977 when she moved to Manhattan. After only 8 months practicing yoga, she decided to take a training course at Serenity Yoga.
“I took the short course only to learn more about yoga which I was falling in love with, having experienced many benefits in a short time. I had very little self esteem and didn’t think I had a good voice for teaching! I discovered I had a talent for teaching and loved it,” says Norma.
Soon after completing the course, Norma was given a class to teach at Serenity and then another at Marymount Manhattan College where she taught until 1998. She then continued teaching at Hunter’s College, adding a class for Deaf and Hard of hearing students with an ASL interpreter.
Specializing in Iyengar Yoga, Norma’s teaching style is a unique synthesis of nurturing support and strong encouragement along with the application of hands-on correction. She brings out the best in her beginning students as well as those with considerable experience. Students with specific needs including back and knee injuries, fibromyalgia, MS, and other debilitating conditions have found Norma’s classes particularly rewarding as have many expecting mothers. Norma also offers Gentle Yoga classes for those who need or want a less rigorous approach.
Having majored in Human Movement (kinesiology, anatomy and physiology) at Hunter College, and with many years of individual study, Norma has a strong understanding of the workings of the human body and instinctively knows how to help students’ bodies learn to work and feel better from the inside out.
Transforming lives through yoga
Norma’s drive and motivation comes from her love for yoga and her desire to share yoga with others. Over the years, she has pursued different avenues for her business before finally finding what works best for her.
“I was freelance from the start and liked being my own boss, even when teaching a health club and in exercise studios. I quickly got involved with women’s business groups and learned a lot about running my own business,” says Norma, reflecting on her journey.
“I tried to open my own studio on a couple of occasions over the years, going as far as finding space up until the late 90s. My obstacle was money. I never saved or made much money so I didn’t have much to invest besides my work and I didn’t work hard enough to line up investors, get them to believe in my business. I didn’t recruit a partner… I’m glad in the end; it’s a hard business to run and I would have lost so much with the pandemic, would have had to close like everyone else. I have profited from not having to pay studio rental with the pandemic! I’ve actually made and saved more money. I am extremely grateful for this,” Norma adds.
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Now, she runs YogaNorma, and is happy to share her knowledge and love for yoga with others. Her greatest joy is knowing she has helped and inspired someone through yoga.
“Two years ago, I went up to Menla retreat center in Phoenicia NY, for a New Years retreat. A woman came up to me and asked if I was Norma Colon, the yoga teacher. She then told me that I was her 1st teacher approximately 40 years ago and thanked me for giving her such a good start (even back then when I knew so little). She continues to take classes and feels I inspired her. I have had many similar experiences,” Norma shares.
“My favorite is a former student, a Latino who is studying to become an Iyengar Yoga Instructor. Osiris once said I had ‘single handedly transformed his yoga practice!’ I stay in touch with this wonderful man who will transform many others. Having taught at Revolutionary Fitness in El Barrio, I influenced quite a few young men and young women of color who have gone on to study further and even teach yoga. I was the only one with extensive experience, bilingual, and available at the time, from 2014–18.”
Defining success and going for your dreams
“We Latinas are double minority business owners—woman & ‘minority’,’’ says Norma. However, these criteria have never really informed or hindered Norma’s running of her business.
Norma luckily did not face many obstacles as a Latina business owner in her industry. “There were nearly no yoga teachers in my area way back in the early 80s and 90s so I got all the business/work,” she says. “My white skin and anglo appearance overrode my Spanish name so I didn’t experience racial discrimination in my white neighborhood of the Upper East side of Manhattan. I ‘fit in’,” Norma says.
However, she has never pretended to be anything other than what she is: a proud Puerto Rican. Now, as a long-time business owner and teacher, Norma considers herself to be successful.
“I am not overly ambitious and am content in my small, healthy, simple life,” she says. “My strength is in being organized, keeping good records, being a ‘self starter,’ being diligent about business matters and my passion for yoga. I continue to study and improve in yoga and am always fine-tuning/improving business practices. One can always improve and get more students and clients so I keep networking and putting myself out there.”
To all the young minority women out there who are thinking of starting their own business, Norma says “Go for it!”
Running a business is hard work, and is never a Monday to Friday 9-to-5, but if it is something you are passionate about then it will be well worth your time.
“Do your homework, learn all you can, get help, and go forward. This is a better time with many more resources available to women and minorities. There are so many experienced, successful women of color for inspiration and assistance, so many organizations to help,” says Norma.
And she is right. We are lucky to live in a time where we have access to so many resources instantly online. Additionally mentors and role models are all around you, so don’t hesitate to ask for help on your journey and build a support system.
“I recommend getting help and input from older entrepreneurs in similar businesses, friends, family then make your own informed decisions. My friends back in the day thought I was nuts with the yoga! One even asked when I would stop it! Today, they appreciate my perseverance and recognize the importance of my work.”
Like Norma, your passion can become a life-long business. Norma has inspired countless individuals with her yoga practice and helped others go on to become yoga instructors themselves. Your business venture could impact others too, so go for it and do what you love!