Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”
I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story” — who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door — the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.
HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.
To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.
Name: Adriana Rizzolo
Location: Los Angeles, California
Profession: Yoga Teacher, Kirtan singer, Hairstylist, Healer
After moving to New York in your early 20s, you completely reinvented your life. You went from non-stop partying to doing yoga and meditating three times a day. Today, you teach yoga professionally among many other things. Take us back to the very beginning of your yoga journey. Can you remember your very first yoga class? Where was it? What happened? Were you nervous to walk in the door? How did it feel?
My first yoga class was in a tiny basement gym, somewhere in New Jersey, close to where I was living at the time. I remember it being really dank and there were a couple guys lifting weights on the way into the yoga room that was a separate little room in the back. It was a hot yoga class. I would go with my best friend and my boyfriend at the time. At that time I was still doing a lot of drugs, and so it was very challenging in a lot of ways to do it. But I really loved it.
I love the image of that dank little room. How did your yoga practice grow from there? And how did you use yoga to break from your addictions and to grow your practice?
I feel like it found me. I just started practicing way back then, and then it just kind of continued. At the time, it didn’t even really make any sense. It was just something that I knew resonated with me. When I moved to New York, I began practicing a lot, and eventually just decided that I wanted to do a yoga teacher training. I had started to get more into the philosophy, and wanted to learn more.
Right after my dad passed, was when I really started doing yoga hardcore. I wasn’t totally sober yet, but I stopped doing hard drugs. Instead of partying at night, I would go to a yoga class. After class I would be hungry and tired and go to bed because I wanted to wake up for an early class. Over time, doing drugs naturally phased out of my life.
When I did my teacher training, I met a meditation teacher, and that’s when I went to India, and got totally sober. I learned to use the inner aspects of yoga to help me with deep healing and working with my trauma. I began to pay attention to and listen to the fire that was inside my body, and how to use it as an empowerment tool as opposed to something that just was painful. Instead of needing to numb myself, I began to wake up
I think the yoga practice instilled a deep devotion towards service. That’s what my practice has evolved into: helping others learn how to teach, and to deepen their own awareness to their bodies, to their breath, and to their heart.
I noticed on your website that you offer a service called a “voice empowerment session.” You work with clients who want to feel more confident using their voice, and you do this through primarily through chanting, singing, and conversations about your client’s insecurities, dreams, goals, and what’s been hindering their voice… it’s so fascinating! I’m so curious to hear more. Why inspired you to offer this kind of service?
A big part of my journey with yoga has been learning how to use my voice. For a very long time I was really unable to make myself heard. When I was in college, I would never be able to speak in front of a room full of people, or just really speak honestly. I was very quiet, and contracted, and checked out. Over the years of doing my meditation and yoga practice, I learned about a chanting practice that is called kirtan. Kirtan has really helped give me a very concrete way to uncover what I call my soul voice. I am a bit of an authenticity junkie, so it is important for me to speak from a true place. The ways that we connect and heal and transform is through experiencing one another’s true and authentic selves. That is what lies at the heart of my teaching and lies at the heart of all of my work.
In addition to teaching yoga you’ve worked as a hairstylist for almost 20 years, and you’ve been called a magical hair witch. You offer a service called “healing haircuts”. What happens during a healing haircut, and how is it different from a regular haircut?
I’ve been cutting hair since I was a kid. What happens during a healing haircut is that we focus more intention on healing. I still give a haircut like I normally would but the intention is one of healing and of holding a space where a woman can really share where they’re at on a deeper level. Sometimes I ask questions or inquire if there’s something that they’re ready to really let go of at this point in their life. Sometimes it’ll be a meditation. It just depends on the timing and how long it takes me to cut the hair. I cut the hair dry, and throughout the cut, do a Reiki energy healing, or an energy clearing with some sage. I really prefer to set the tone of a higher vibration for people to fit inside.
Recently, you got profiled in the New York Times. What an amazing coup. A journalist wrote about your hairstyling work and wrote a review about her experience with you. I’m really curious. Everybody always says, “Oh, I wish I’d get an article,” at least I often say to myself, “I wish I’d get an article in the New York Times, that would be amazing.” Was it exciting? Or did it feel odd to be thrust into the public spotlight in such a big way? What was the experience like for you?
I had this insight about the concept of a Hair Witch, and I said to my best friend, “We should do something with Hair Witch some day,” because both of us do all this energy healing work and yoga, and we cut hair. I put it on my Instagram and wrote “Yoga Teacher, Meditation Teacher, Hair Witch.”
The reporter somehow found that and made an appointment. She might’ve mentioned she worked for the New York Times, but I did not think much about it and I certainly did not think she was writing an article about me. We just had a great time together and that was that.
Months and months and months later, maybe even a year, the Times emailed me saying, “We need to take a photo of you for the article.” And I asked, “What article?” And they didn’t really respond to me. They vaguely said, “Well, maybe it’s for the style section so maybe you did an interview on products or something that you use”. I didn’t remember doing an interview for New York Times, but I wasn’t about to turn them away, so I said “Well I’m in LA,” and they said, “We’ll send someone there.” They sent this really nice photographer, and she also said, “Yeah, it’s for the style section. You must’ve done an interview.” And I still had no idea what it was.
Not that long after, about a week later, I woke up and had tons of emails from people that wanted sessions. I went on Instagram and Facebook and saw that the reporter had tagged me in the story. And there I was, on the front page of the Style section of the NY Times! It was a great article that really was very authentic to who I am.
I was very grateful and also was very scared. I was literally hiding under my covers. I wasn’t immediately saying, “Oh, this is so great.”
It’s been this process for me on an inner level to allow myself to feel really amazing things like that. It’s about allowing myself to feel the love and to feel safe in it. For whatever reason, it’s part of my soul’s journey.
There are so many self-employed people that I’m sure you see—yoga teachers, hair stylists, consultants—who really struggle to find clients. And it can feel so scary to look at a schedule and realize, “Gosh, I don’t have anything lined up. How am I gonna pay my bills?” Was there ever a point in your career when you really struggled to find clients? And how did that feel, and what helped you start getting booked more consistently? And after the New York Times article came out, did you have a huge boom in client inquiries? Did that last? Or did it die down after a while?
I think as an entrepreneur, there is always a struggle with consistency around the earning of money. There are months when things are really slow and other months when there seems to be an abundance of money. After the article was published, there was definitely been a huge uptick in my flow of clients, and I’m much busier now. There were more emails than I could respond to, and I probably even forgot to respond to some. And then it definitely slowed down. But I think it did open the doorway to an energetic abundance.
And yes, I think it’s a struggle for a lot of people. In those moments of struggle, there’s an opportunity to take care of ourselves in different ways or to seek out the other deeper things that are important to us. It’s not always easy to see the upside in those moments because in my experience, I feel disempowered in some way. Instead of saying “Oh I get this month off, I could write my book now.” I feel “Oh my God! I’m not making any money.” At my core root, safety and security disappear, so I don’t feel super abundant and creative. It’s a journey for all of us in terms of the ebb and flow of it all.
Speaking of when it flows, you’ve created such an unconventional career that blends so many of your passions together: Yoga, meditation, Reiki, kirtan chanting, hairstyling and you somehow managed to take these very diverse things and put them under an umbrella that holds them all. Do you ever feel like, “Whoa, I’ve got way too many things going on”? Or not? Or how do you make space for everything on your calendar and find the balance that you need?
I tend to lose track of time because part of my job is to bring people beyond time and space. So being present in the day-to-day realities is a really big growth edge for me. Something that helped me is just writing out my weekly schedule and leaving spaces. It helps me to track my clients and also leave time for myself.
If someone wants to run a multifaceted business like yours, what are the three pieces of advice you would give them?
1. Get support from people you trust and like.
2. Follow the thing that really brings you the most connection and joy, and just stay with it. Stay really committed to your own inner compass and what lights you up.
3. Having fun is a really important thing because part of why we do this as opposed to maybe working a job that has a lot of security and knowingness, is because we have this freedom. Use that freedom as a way to evolve, and expand, and express, and to be an artist in your life.
ONE MORE THING…
Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Adriana? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)
YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED
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