Can you run a yoga business and still be a true yogi?
If you’ve been contemplating opening your own yoga studio, where do you start and what should you expect? First and foremost, know that you’ll be running a business, and a yoga business has all of the mundane responsibilities of any other business: infrastructure, payroll, taxes, human resources and the like.
If you’re determined that owning a yoga studio is for you, here is the second set of five tips that may help you prepare. Review the first five tips here.
6. Train Your Own Instructors
If you have a vision for what your studio will deliver in terms of style, customer service and quality, establish yourself as an RYS with Yoga Alliance and train your own instructors. There are thousands of teacher training programs in the United States and around the world, but not all training programs are created equal—many of them are not recognized by any certification body, including Yoga Alliance. In addition, many programs lack experienced staff or professionals in specific areas of expertise, creating knowledge gaps and misinformation about important aspects of instruction and lifestyle. Design your own training program diligently with the best faculty and highest quality research and resources.
Know what you want, build it accordingly, and don’t sacrifice rigor—it will pay off in the end.
7. Do Not Put up with Yoga Divas
If I had a dollar for every yoga diva who has walked into my studio, I would be a very wealthy woman. A yoga diva is someone who may think they know everything about yoga practice and lifestyle, and makes a point of telling you how to teach and live. In reality, most yoga divas are insecure people who feel they must prove to you how good they are, rather than humbly living the yogic life about which they profess to know so much. Most of these folks don’t know the first thing about living the Eight Limbed Path, and even less about living the Yamas and Niyamas in particular.
Unfortunately, many yoga divas are yoga instructors themselves! The most graceful way to handle any yoga diva is to do your research, build your expertise, and kindly escort them out of your studio doors.
They are a disturbance to your business, and most importantly, to the students and the staff you serve. Be aware that a yoga diva may develop on your staff. If so, handle the situation swiftly and professionally.
Create a safe learning environment free of diva energy.
8. Observe & Evaluate Your Staff for Life-Long Learning
After you have trained your teachers and have chosen those who would make the best fit for your studio, work tirelessly to ensure your staff members grow in excellence and perfect their craft. Many training programs certify instructors and then leave them with little guidance. Not advised. Continue to mentor with high expectations and communicate your commitment to it. Some teachers may feel that regular observation is tedious, stressful, or a challenge to their creativity and growth as an instructor. Address these fears by keeping a regular dialogue open with them about their teaching and include them as an essential part of the conversation. This will only benefit their growth, your students’ growth, and the growth of your studio.
Most professional organizations have regular observation and evaluation periods; evaluation isn’t any less relevant in the yoga business. The point is not to be punitive or critical, but to assist your staff in evolving into the best they can be so, in turn, they can deliver the best to your students. This is often one of the most difficult parts of owning a yoga business, but arguably the most important.
The conversation that happens between you and your staff is worth its weight in gold, even during tough times.
9. Establish Policies & Procedures to Protect Staff & Students
Your studio needs to have consistent policies and procedures to ensure that all members—including staff—are treated equally and favoritism is not an issue. Consider having an employee handbook, operations manuals for instructors, managers, and supervisors, as well as clear guidelines for your marketing efforts and membership services.
Protect yourself, your people and your brand. Publish necessary information consistent with your studio policies to your website so that prospective students may become clear on policies even before they walk in the door. Consider utilizing a human resources consultant, a marketing/PR company, an accountant and a lawyer.
These are not only good ideas, but also smart business practices.
10. Hold Yourself & Others Accountable to the Yogic Path
If you truly believe in living a yogic lifestyle (as opposed to just making a buck on yoga as a fitness craze) you need to hold yourself and others—especially staff—accountable to yogic principles. Any time I have had to make a decision, whether professional or personal, I turn to the Eight Limbs —specifically the Yamas and Niyamas—for insight and guidance to help me make the best decision with the resources available.
These yogic principles are the core of the business. Understand and know that these principles will constantly get questioned—many will disagree with your decisions because they don’t interpret the principles the same way you do. Practice humility, including accepting when you are wrong and taking right action to correct the mistake. Know that you may be unpopular because you stick to these principles, and, as a result, may not make friends with all of the yogis in your local community. As a studio owner, that is a risk you need to be willing to take and it requires courage.
Use these principles as a path in life, embrace their teachings, and understand they will offer all the wisdom you need to succeed in business and in life.
Editor: Brianna Bemel