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February 17, 2011

7 Yoga Studio Faux Pasanas.

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?

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