Koren Stewart has been practicing yoga since 2007. Image via Yoga of Koren
Written by Frank Lopez
Editor’s note: For our annual Women in Business issue Feb 14, The Business Journal highlighted three women with interesting side hustles in addition to their day jobs, to see what motivates them and their entrepreneurial spirit. Here is one of those stories.
When Koren Stewart isn’t helping small business owners and entrepreneurs build their businesses, she is helping people sharpen their bodies and minds.
Stewart works for the Small Business Administration office in Fresno, servicing and liquidating commercial loans. She also works as a mobile yoga instructor with her own small business, Yoga of Koren.
Stewart offers pop-up yoga classes for athletes, corporate health classes, senior centers, private events, birthday parties, church groups, those suffering from post-traumatic stress or those that simply want to practice yoga.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, she moved as a young child to Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her family. Her family moved to be closer to Stewart’s aunt, who was in the military. It’s in Albuquerque where Stewart got her start in lending as well as in yoga.
Right after high school, Stewart had a decision to make: go to college or straight into the work world. She chose to work, getting a job at a local credit union.
“I did real estate lending, consumer lending, vehicle loans, you name it. I did that at the credit union for 15 years. I worked my way up from teller to manager. Got robbed a couple times, but that’s part of the job,” Stewart said.
She then went to work for the state of New Mexico in the Office of African American Affairs — one of her favorite jobs. Stewart worked with seniors and students, having the creative freedom to create life-skills training programs. The local FBI office looked to her programs as a recruiting pool to increase its own diversity.
Just as she got back into the financial world, taking over the budget analyst position her boss vacated, her husband accepted a job in Fresno.
It was 2012, and though she was enjoying her time off from working, she heard of a job opening at the SBA and applied and got hired. Stewart was once again working in lending.
Stewart started taking a yoga class in college around 2007, where she first fell in love with the therapeutic practice. She would later go on to graduate from Fresno State.
Seeing her passion for yoga, Stewart’s husband encouraged her to do some teacher training, which took 200 hours to complete. In 2018 she became certified. She is fully licensed and insured.
“The blessing that I have is that yoga is something I can do on the side. I have my day job, I go to work, and I work hard, but I can still do Saturday classes and classes in the evenings,” she said. “Every now and then, if I need to take leave and do a class in the middle of the day, I have that flexibility.”
Because Stewart is a mobile yoga instructor, she can make her own schedule and reach out to people she thinks need exposure to yoga.
Stewart said that she could drive to someone who might not feel comfortable going into a yoga studio, and that through exposure to yoga, people can be more mindful of their eating habits and make better choices.
Stewart said the practices and habits of yoga can benefit employees in the work place by reducing stress, back and neck strains, improving posture and helping with conditions such as carpal tunnel.
She is also raising a family, with a son just starting college and two girls in high school.
“When I’m working with high school girls, or young girls, I want them to see that you may not be in the position that you want to be in the rest of your life, but you can still do stuff on the side that really just feeds your heart and makes you feel good about doing something you love,” Stewart said. “You may not be able to do it 40 hours a week, but I’m doing it on the side, and you never know what it will grow into.”