Hookah Bars In Omaha *

August 1, 2015

*(NOTE: For those of you searching for an actual hookah bar in Omaha, please note that this is not the site you’re looking for. The title is purely a metaphor for the subject matter).

One of my favorite shows is Bar Rescue. This reality show features a guy named Jon Taffer who helps struggling bar/restaurants around the country. Mr. Taffer has years of experience as both an owner and a consultant in the bar/restaurant/club industries.

The show follows this format: 1) Struggling owner contacts Mr. Taffer; 2) Mr. Taffer observes the goings-on of the business while under surveillance; 3) Mr. Taffer subsequently meets with the staff, raises hell (sometimes) and gives advice; finally 4) attempts to fix the problems. Most of the time, Mr. Taffer leaves the businesses better off than he found them.

One show featured a struggling hookah bar in Omaha, Nebraska. The owner had been in a hookah bar somewhere in his past, loved the concept and opened one up in Omaha where he’d moved. Since there were no other hookah bars around, he thought he’d be successful as the only one in town.

However, loving the concept and being the only one in town are not enough to sustain a business. This was a hard pill for the owner to swallow.

Through Mr. Taffer’s research of the local demographic and his no-bull presentation of the facts, the owner began to see the light and was amenable to tweaking the concept of his bar to more fit the mold of what the community would support. I couldn’t decide whether this was actually a good thing or not. Financially, I get it but at a deeper level, I wasn’t so sure.

As someone who has been actively involved in the fitness industry since 1981, I have seen many trends come and go. I have seen that often-times the fitness industry does not necessarily walk hand-in-hand with wellness and health but rather hand-in-hand with commerce. It never really bothered me all that much until the fitness industry began to find its way to yoga.

In all the commercialization of yoga, true benefits of yoga practice have been lost for the most part. Freedom. Liberation. Freedom and liberation from pain whether that pain is physical, mental or spiritual.

But these concepts cannot be marketed. Clothing, lifestyles and a certain body image can. Sadly, there are enough yoga studios, organizations and instructors who help to perpetuate the commercial belief that yoga can be bought.

The community has come to accept this model. Certainly, it’s much more fun to wear a “Save The Planet” t-shirt or sport Om tattoos because you want to identify with the perfect image that is being sold to you. If you buy this, you will be that. And of course, you will get attention. Attention and approval from others are such drives in this country – just look at what gets posted on social media.

How do you teach real yoga is amidst a community that screams for attention that it is the very need for attention is at the root of mental anguish? That the need for approval from others rather than yourself is a thirst that will never be quenched?   (Sorry, married to a drama teacher).

In America, we believe if we just buy the right thing we will have peace inside and out. We pride ourselves on doing a difficult yoga posture even though we forced our way through it. We go on “yogic” juice cleanses without researching them just because some celebrity’s newsfeed told us cleanses were responsible for her size 4 butt. In fact, we’ll just about buy into anything…except one: the yogic concept of solitude.

We are afraid to be alone with ourselves in a quiet room. I think it’s because we are afraid of what we might find out about ourselves. Maybe we don’t like ourselves so much. Maybe our insides don’t match what we show on the outside.

The contradiction is that is what non-commercialized yoga specifically asks us to do – to sit quietly with ourselves so that we can learn to like what we find. We can change the things that hold us back. We can find our own song without copying someone else’s.

Better still, the practice is free. No special clothes, tats or juices needed.

The real you is greater than any image the mind can conjure up, yoga tells us, but first you have to find out who you really are.

So, I refuse to give into this commercialized form of yoga-fitness because it is like asking me to live on just bread and water after I’ve experienced fruit and spices and chocolate cake. Yoga is bigger than product purchases; I’ve seen firsthand what it can do as well as the joy and peace it has brought me. As a teacher, I am often challenged by students who want results in a fast and easy way, who want relief from pain without realizing that their negative thought patterns are holding them hostage or who simply just don’t want to work. But I still refuse to give into commercialized yoga-fitness regardless of what the community will or will not support.

I feel there must be others out there like me who feel the same way but since they have no need to post a tidbit every two minutes on social media sites I can’t be sure how many there are.

Maybe I am alone in my feelings. I am okay with that, too.

Maybe at the end of the day, I am just someone who believes you can open a hookah bar in Omaha.