Yoga studio owners: the unsung heroes of your life
With all due respect to Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, and Veterans, there needs to be a Yoga Studio Owner Appreciation Day. I’m serious. Have you ever stopped and thought about exactly what goes into opening, and then running one’s own yoga studio? Did you ever stop to think of what they get out of owning a studio? The next time you take a class anywhere, ask the person behind the desk if they are the owner. Really consider looking into their eyes. Do you see a glimmer of love staring back at you? Probably. Do you see a well-rested individual who is certain that everything is going to be okay? Hopefully. Do you see someone who has truly put it all on the line so you could come and enjoy a great class? You’re damn right you do.
I had the privilege of meeting a studio owner over the phone yesterday. Nikki Watts of Ohm Yoga in Lake Stevens. She was so passionate about her community, and together we collaborated about upcoming trainings and events. Very cool lady. She and I discussed the the joy and challenges of owning a studio and managing our time so we could practice our yoga too. And then she said the coolest thing. I asked her what she was going to do for herself today, and she explained, “Well, I have a lot of computer work to do, because it’s Techie Tuesday.” Huh? I wanted to know more. She said, “Yep.” Monday is Marketing Monday and Tuesday is Techie Tuesday. That’s how I get it all in.” Pure genius!
Earlier in the weekend, I got to visit one of my teacher training alumni, Shay Camp, in Black Diamond. Shay and her husband are opening a new facility next month called “Studio Barre and Lounge.” We toured this grand, ginormous, amazing space with her husband as they pointed out where the hot yoga room will be, where the full kitchen is, where the Barre classes will go, and where people will gather and enjoy wine and beer. (Yessssss!) It was endearing to see the crazy look in her eyes, filled with sleep exhaustion and her very high level of excitement over the preparations for their grand opening on October 3. I was so happy seeing her very close to the end of the longest and most complicated project she’s no doubt ever taken on, apart from parenthood. I know the road ahead for her will be rewarding and challenging, and I know she is super excited. For, as Kahil Gibran says in The Prophet : “Work is love made visible.”
Just recently, I got off the phone with Angela Papini, my best friend who just opened up Elev8 in Federal Way, Washington. This palatial studio is decked out in artisanal craftsman touches, and it offers aerial yoga, barre and hot yoga classes, along with the grandest panoramic view of Mount Rainier. It looks like the fanciest spa you ever saw, but Angela’s journey to build it was anything but pretty, and filled with heart wrenching ups and downs. It was quite a process to get from there to here. Angela and her partner Kristine Borden truly have happily put it all on the line for their beloved students. These days, she is loving life caring for her community, but she is of course dealing with the usual issues of staffing, marketing, cleaning and maintaining a work-life balance. It’s no picnic. It’s truly a labor of love.
When I did two years in the trenches as a studio owner, like all my friends, I worked tirelessly and happily too. It’s long days that start at 4 a.m. and it’s long nights worrying about marketplace competition, diva teachers, crazy landlords, and trying to please all the students all the time. Owning a yoga studio is often times all about going broke…and getting your heart broken too. But you do it. You do it happily because it’s something that touches people’s lives. We get paid in sweaty hugs and we take that love happily to the bank (while praying to make payroll!).
While I cannot speak for all my friends who own studios, I can say from my own perspective that we do it because you, the students, need this. You need yoga. You need what my favorite boss Stewart Meyer used to call: “Genuine Human Connection.” We do it because you need the face behind the desk checking you into class to really look deeply into your eyes and say, “I’m so happy to see you. How are you feeling, from head to toe? What would you like to work on today?” We really are this happy to see you. Not because we are trying to make ends meet, but because we are trying to make the world a better place.
Consider this. The next time you practice at your studio, at least write a nice online review of the place. At least tell friends about the place. Do not take it for granted like a natural resource. Independently owned yoga studios face fierce market forces from corporate chains and a barrage of new apps that are driving down revenues as rents go up, all while attendance fluctuates. Seriously. Do not take your studio for granted. Help out. Do your part to grow the community. Studio owners need the love!
And above all, the next time you see the owner of your studio, thank them!
For to the whole world, you are just one person.
But to your yoga studio owner, you most definitely are the whole world.