7 Yoga Studio Faux Pasanas.

Via on Feb 16, 2011

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to practice (and work) at plenty of different yoga studios. And, over the years, while I have experienced a lot of great yoga classes, I have seen and experienced some not-so-great things at these various studios. Now, I’m fully aware that not all studios have unlimited resources.  In fact, I’m intimately aware that even the most successful yoga studios are often operating on a very limited budget.  So, here is a list of what I think are the seven biggest yoga studio faux pas and some easy, inexpensive, and quick fixes for any of you yoga studio owners and managers who find yourselves guilty of one or a few of them.

1. Don’t Shit Where You Savasana

PROBLEM:  There is nothing worse than a yoga studio whose bathroom — whose one and only bathroom – is located in the back of the practice area.  I have had the experience of practicing at more than a few studios arranged like this.  And the consequences are not pretty.  You probably already know that yogis are a stinky, gassy, bowel-y, bunch.  Blame it on the vegetarian diets high in fiber. Blame it on the frequent abdominal twists which target the ascending and descending colon.  Blame it on what you will, but if you’ve been in a class where a fellow yogi has nearly smoked everyone out of the studio, you are not alone. Stinking up the joint isn’t the only problem created by a bathroom in the practice area.  It can also be inconvenient for the volunteer yogis working the front desk, who have to hold it until the class is finished. Or the yogis patiently awaiting the next class who are forced to wait out an entire 10-minute savasana to use the facilities.

SOLUTION:  The ideal situation would be to configure your yoga studio so that the bathroom area (and in this ideal scenario, the bathroom would have multiple toilet stalls) is located in the lobby.  The alternative would be to make an agreement with a neighboring business: free classes for the owners/employees in exchange for an ability for yoga students and employees to use their facilities in case of emergency.

2. WWW or RIP

PROBLEM:  Much to the dismay and resistance of many yogis, ours is the digital age.  And while there are many yoga studios out there that have an easy-to-navigate, beautifully designed, fully functional website, there are still those out there with a terrible — sometimes even non-existent — web presence.  A web presence is so important, that some might argue the presence or absence of a simple website may make or break a yoga studio.

SOLUTION:  Websites can be incredibly expensive. And web design isn’t something that even a patient, intelligent yogi can figure out in a DIY weekend.  For many yoga studios, this makes a website a deal breaker. But there are so many free services that offer an easy-to-use programs to build free websites.  For instance, wordpress.com offers an ability to build a free website with multiple pages.  And you don’t have to know how to read code to figure it out.  In fact, it’s pretty easy!  Just make sure that your website includes a class schedule, teacher biographies (with information about training, specialty, etc.), descriptions of classes offered, contact information, parking information, and any other important information specific to your studio.  Oh yeah, and if you have a general studio e-mail address advertised on that website…make sure there is someone in charge of responding to those e-mails. And once you get a website, check out Facebook, Twitter, and other free social networking services.

3. The Carpet & The Drapes

PROBLEM: Let’s discuss the carpet first. I know I might take a lot of heat for this one, but I’m not a big fan of carpet in a yoga studio.  Apparently, this is pretty standard for most Bikram yoga studios — hey, they are following the direction of a man who claims to have balls like atom bombs, and two of them, so I give Bikram yoga studio owners a bit of a break on this one.  But for those of you yoga studios owners who don’t have to follow the rules of the Yoga Don, I won’t let you off so easy.  Yoga is a very physical practice, and if yours is a studio offering classes where people might sweat, they are likely sweating all over the carpet.  And, unless you are having the carpet steam cleaned on a very regular basis, then your carpet is probably pretty gross. How gross you ask?  Well, let me just say that fungus and other bacteria thrive in warm, moist areas.  Does that sound like your yoga class? Because if it does then it also describes the ideal habitat for a little thing called ringworm.  I’ll say that again, just for effect: ringworm.  Want to try to recover a business after a ringworm outbreak?  I thought not.

As for the drapes, invest in some.  If you’ve ever practiced at a yoga studio that has a wall of windows facing a busy street, you’ve probably noticed the passers-by gawking the class full of yogis in happy baby pose.  And while it might be good for business (or not?), it certainly doesn’t inspire the confidence of your students.  Bottom line: respect the privacy of your students.  Get some window coverings.

SOLUTION:  Quite simply, rip up the carpet.  Almost anything is a step up.  And if you can’t afford them or are morally opposed to wood floors, there are other, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly options such as bamboo, cork, reclaimed hardwood, and wood-like and other laminates.  By the way, Ikea sells all kinds of window treatments (and floor coverings) for very reasonable prices.

4. Low Down Dirty Props

PROBLEM:  Many yoga studios are well-equipped with mats, blocks, straps, blankets and all manner of yoga toys available for students to use at their disposal.  However, more often than not these props go for long periods of time without being washed.  Not only does that make for a pretty stinky experience, but remember our discussion about ringworm?  See #3.

SOLUTION: Keep the free prop policy, but just make sure that these items get washed.  Regularly.  If you’re a yoga studio owner/manager and you’re already overworked and underpaid, then you probably don’t have the time/money to be washing the mats and blanks and straps regularly. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t necessary.  Instead, try this approach: Where there’s a yoga studio, there’s a financially struggling yogi looking for something, anything that will drive down the costs of her regular yoga practice.  So offer free classes for students who take the studio props home and wash and dry them.  It works like a charm!

5. A Snobby Lobby

PROBLEM:  Let me set the scene.  You finally find street parking and are relieved you’re going to make it on time for your favorite yoga class. But you realize you forget quarters to feed the meters on the street.  No worries, you’ll just get change at the front desk before class.  It is 15 minutes before class is set to begin and the yoga studio lobby — which measures probably 25 square feet — is packed.  You wrestle your way to the front desk, but they don’t offer change.  Nope. No quarters. And the lovely yogi at the front desk certainly wasn’t kind about it.  Instead, she checks you in and barks, “Last class.”  Huh?  “Last class!”  Still confused.  “It is the last class on your package” (but with a whole lotta attitude).   You dig out 20 big ones to pay for a drop-in decide to forgo putting change in the meter (you’re going to chance it). Then you realize you forgot to fill your Nalgene bottle with water. You’re hoping to fill it up at the studio, but there is no water dispenser.  No bottles of water for sale.  No faucet (it is in the bathroom which is at the back of the studio, and you can’t get in because the last class is still in savasana).  In the ten minutes that are still remaining to wait in the hot, stuffy, packed lobby, you look around and realize there’s no where to rest your achin’ bones, so you’re going to cure yourself with a little retail therapy.  Hey, that money you saved on parking might go to the cool pair of yoga pants hanging on the sale rack.  You’d love to try them on, but….yep…no dressing room.

SOLUTION:  First, always be prepared with plenty of change, especially for you city studios where parking meters require quarters.  Second, make sure that your staff is friendly. Yoga studios can be intimidating and people want to feel welcome.  Third, get a service to deliver giant tanks of filtered water, or have a faucet in the lobby, or a pitcher of filtered water, or better yet…tea!  Fourth, make your lobby comfortable.  Have a place for people to sit and wait comfortably for class.  Fifth, if you want to sell retail…for the love of all things hatha, have a place to try it on.

6. Troublesome Teachers: Tardiness & Truancy

PROBLEM:  You own a yoga studio and your most popular class is the 7:30pm class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  However, the regular teacher for the class is, as of late, becoming quite a nuisance.  If only she would stop subbing out her class at the last minute.  And when she does show up, she’s usually a good 5-10 minutes late.

SOLUTION:  Chances are, you’re not the only one frustrated with this teacher.  Her regular students are probably getting pretty fed up with her, too.  I’m here to tell you that your students and the reputation of your studio are more important.  Find a teacher who is committed to the class to take over.   Yes, it’s that simple.  And while good teachers are hard to come by, a good teacher takes her teaching seriously enough to be early and reliable.

7. Variety is the Spice of Life*

PROBLEM:  You’re new in town and you’re checking out the yoga studio that is located 3 blocks from your new place.  You check out the website, and read the bios of all the teachers.  But you notice that they’ve all been through the same teacher training program offered by the studio.  You try a few classes but realize, the classes are almost exactly the same.  The only other class option is the prenatal class at noon, but that doesn’t really apply to you because…well, you’re a dude.

SOLUTION:  Make sure you have a wide range of class offerings:  from strictly pranayama and meditation classes, to restorative classes, to sweaty, physical, flowy, vinyasa classes.  Also make sure the teachers you hire have a variety of backgrounds, experience levels, and yoga styles.  And, make sure you offer yoga classes at times that regular working stiffs (i.e., people who work from 9am to 5pm) can get to class, too.

* This doesn’t apply to the yoga studios who offer a particular style of yoga — i.e., Bikram, Kundalini, etc.

That’s all I’ve got for now. But I’m sure you guys have some more…What am I missing?

About Birdie Greenberg

Birdie Greenberg has been a struggling yogi since the summer of 2004, when she was stressing herself out studying to pass the bar exam. In an effort to chill her out, her mom dragged her flapping and squawking into her first yoga class. She never looked back. Four years later, she became a Registered Yoga Teacher with Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. Birdie lives and works in Los Angeles, California. And when she's not yogaing or blogging, you'll probably find her hiking in the mountains with her handsome husband and her two beloved furballs. You can read more about her personal yoga journey at her blog, Yogi, interrupted.

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16 Responses to “7 Yoga Studio Faux Pasanas.”

  1. Great blog, Birdie.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Angela McWilliams and Bob Weisenberg, Red Fox. Red Fox said: 7 Yoga Studio Faux Pasanas http://bit.ly/fIV9MG [...]

  3. AMO says:

    Great list,

    Here's my contribution:

    CLEAN. CLEAN. CLEAN. Not just carpets and props. EVERYTHING MUST BE CLEANED DAILY ESPECIALLY THE BATHROOMS AND FLOORS. Yoga is done on the floor and I shouldn't be afraid to touch the floor accidentally or to walk on it barefoot. This means filthy disgusting hippies who live in large cities but want to act as if they live in the woods and not wear shoes should be asked to wash their gross dirty feet before walking around the studio – this is their version of taking off their shoes. I know it seems a lot to ask to clean the entire studio daily but this is a PUBLIC venue where potentially scores of people sweat, pee, poop and lay around on the floor multiple times per day. The only reason you're not required by law to clean multiple times daily is because you don't serve food. Just clean. I've taught in studios where each teacher is responsible for leaving the studio ready for the next teacher – run the vacuum, open the windows to air, wipe the sweat off the mirrors and in studios with carpet all those icky problems can be solved with an ozone machine run in an enclosed space whenever there's a break of an hour or more between classes.

    Create and encourage clear and defined protocols so that your students don't drive one another mad. I know, I know, you're a yoga teacher and you're not "comfortable" telling people what to do, but this is YOUR business and your students/clients need to know what is and isn't appropriate and no one else can tell them. I will stop going to any studio where students are allowed to keep phones, purses and other street stuff with them in class, someone always leaves the phone on in these studios and answers it during class thinking they're being quiet or that it's OK because they apologized and hurried. Tell your students to put their stuff in lockers. Tell your students what direction and in what order mats work best, it's really irritating to get to a class and find that no one will move for you when, if the mats were properly arranged there would be plenty of space for everyone, if you sell a spot in a studio YOU make sure that student gets a whole space to practice. TEACH the yoga, don't let everyone do their own thing, it's distracting and f%&k$ up the energy in the room ESPECIALLY during a flow class. Don't let students talk, interrupt, bother one another, instruct one another, etc. I will not go back to a studio where the other students make me feel like an interloper when I try to find a spot to practice or where students chatter through out the class or run around doing their own thing. These people are coming from a gym mentality, they need instruction on how to behave in a yogic environment, give it to them, for your own sake and for theirs.

    Do you touch students and show affection toward them DURING class? Remember that your new students are watching you give foot massages and specialized instructions to your "favorites" and it impacts them. If you touch or show any kind of loving gestures toward your students try to spread it around. This is a business and while loving gestures are fully appropriate for a yoga business they have to be given to all students equally.

    Finally, some of the fixes above would be made easier by blending them. If you have bathrooms that also serve as locker rooms where several people can pee, change, wash their hands and put their stuff away all the at the same time your "lobby" won't be crowded. Having a computerized payment and check in service also helps with this problem because your regular students have a key fob and can just check in electronically (class card? how 1900s) in only 1 second, only new students need linger at the desk. Also think through your feng shui. Filtered water spigots shouldn't be IN FRONT of the studio door so that anyone who stops to fill a bottle blocks the entrance and retail should be on the other side of the "lobby" from the front desk so people can browse without keeping others from checking in for class. If the space flows well and there is space for each activity available you won't have lingering clumps of people feeling frustrated as they try to get into yoga class.

    Going to yoga shouldn't be stressful…

  4. Wow! Did you read about the Ozzy swimmers getting the runs at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi because of the SWIMMING POOL WATER?! Claudia, you're giving me another thing to be paranoid about now! HAHA! I go in January next year. Can't wait! :)

  5. I totally relate to #1 on the #2 issue. My first teacher 15 years ago used to teach in apartment complex rec rooms and in one of our spaces there was a bathroom RIGHT there. There was one student who had an IBS issue and quite often had to excuse himself during class (thanks twisting!). The noise and the smell were a good test of our resolve shall we say. As fun as he was, we were glad when he didn't have an episode.

  6. BeAnne says:

    First of all, you rock … love your sense of humor! The one thing I might add is for studios to answer their phones at least 20 minutes before class. Even with GPS, sometimes studios are tricky to find. I’ve come close to being late to a class I was really looking forward to because I was visiting a new city and couldn’t find the studio … just sayin :)

  7. Birdie Greenberg yogabird says:

    Hi Nance!! Thanks!

  8. Sweet article Birdie! I think I have experienced all points above, which also cracks me up a little bit. :-) I typically bring my own yoga mat to class, but there have been times where I've been to classes, even workshops, where the mats are already laid out….some with night white spots (dead skin from other yogi feet)…..bleh. :-)

  9. Excellent. This is so right on in so many ways! Thanks for the laugh:-)

    And while I love hearing beautiful music while I practice, my biggest yoga pet peeve is when the teacher plays painfully outdated music (ehhhh…Celine Dion?! Really?) or when they think they are being funny or ironic with their tunes. (Who let the dogs out?! REALLY?) I can't help but fixate on it the entire class!

  10. Claire says:

    Sorry you had to hold that pee in sitting at that desk Birdie ;)
    Miss you!

  11. Exactly how can I learn out additional details on this particular subject?

  12. Birdie Greenberg Birdie says:

    Tobye,

    EW! The re-usable eye bags. Every time I see one, I can only think one thing: pink eye. And did I see you say free parking?…FREE PARKING! The last time I went to a yoga class and didn't worry about whether or not my meter was going to run out…well, I can't remember when that was.

    Thanks for your comment.
    ~B

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