I've practiced at a lot of studios — probably hundreds. For all the painted Ganesh images on the wall, a great studio is built on a foundation of excellent people and attention to detail, particularly when it comes to the basics.
- The Teachers. First thing’s first. There is no class without a teacher. Even in Bikram Yoga – where the postures and even the words are the same – the teacher can be the difference thing between a poor class and an excellent one. This does not necessarily mean an experienced teacher. Everyone starts out somewhere (teachers and students). Often it is just the teacher's attitude that it comes down to.
- Cleanliness. A good studio should be cleaned daily — sometimes even more regularly. Clean bathrooms. Clean towels. Clean yoga room. Sure, sometimes a cleaner may miss a shift or the studio is out of something but if the studio is not being cleaned, you can tell.
- Lighting. I’ve practiced under bright lights and, if the class was engaging, I was working hard, the lights were something in the background. But staring up at the ceiling in sevasana, a bright fluorescent can really harsh the vibe.
- Air flow. For me, this is a must. In order to create physical health, the space in which you are practicing must be a healthy aerobic environment. A space with sealed windows, doors and no ventilation means you are breathing other people’s CO2 all class. Anything they got, you’re gonna get if the space is anaerobic.
- Welcome. This one may seem a bit intangible. But think about it. When you step into the space. Does it feel like a space that is full of love, warmth and positivity? How are you treated? How do the students treat you? The teachers? The owners?
What is imperative for you that makes a studio great?
I recently started receiving a magazine called Mindful Studio. On the cover are a handsome couple of Californians, who casually discuss their empire of yoga studios as though their studios' successes were as sure as the California sunrise. The article made it seem like cash grew on the limbs of the trees that adorned their studio's walls and earning it was a cakewalk.
The reality of owning a yoga studio is far from this sun-dappled story.
Here is the reality of owning a yoga studio:
Low Pay. If you think teaching is a poor paying job, try owning a studio! Some teachers are paid hourly, others by the class and some by the number of students attending. As a teacher, if you can lock in a gig or several gigs with a steady pay rate, you have it made in the shade.
Weird hours. 6 am class not staffed? Wake up at 4:45 am! Can’t find anyone to teach Friday night? That’s you! Christmas morning? On it!
High Stress. This job – like all jobs – comes with its stresses. Managing people. Customer service. Overseeing vendors and contractors. Making payroll.
Competition. You're not the only one who wants to quit their day job and move to the beach.
For 4 years I taught yoga part time and spent the remainder of mine time pursuing my interests – reading, surfing, cooking. You know, relaxing! For the past two years as a studio owner I've made less and worked waaaaaayyyyyy more.
Sure, there are some perks (discount coconut water, Tuesday afternoons off, etc) but any studio owner who is really going after it to try to make a studio work knows it means working hard – like any other small business owner.
What advice would you give to someone seeking to become a yoga studio owner?
I just dreamt I met my hero, Jon Stewart. I made a good impression and we ended up going for a short walk. He was wearing a funny T-Shirt and said something self deprecating about how everyone was wearing these shirts and how they had ostensibly become the new ‘life is good.' I started talking about myself and, although he liked me, he unexpectedly hopped in a cab and headed home to NJ before we exchanged contact information. I woke up and immediately regretted not asking more about himself and asking him a good question or two about his life.
Who is your hero and what would you ask your hero?
As a departure from my normal serious spiel about yoga and mediation, this week I am writing about free bok choi. Yes, that leafy, leafy green associated commonly with asian stir fry. Bok Choi.
I love Craigslist. It’s the best.
I recently posted this ad:
Hello Bok Choi Enthusiasts!
We have some fresh Bok Choi here and cannot possible eat all of it.
This Bok Choi just came out of the soil this week, freshly grown.
In less than 24 hours I’ve had 5 responses of people wanting to swing buy and scoop up our extra ‘choi.
Have you posted anything funny to craigslist lately?
Here is a funny bit from Jessi Klein about missed connections.
How can I be a hot yoga studio owner and an environmentally minded person? How can I reconcile burning fossil fuels to heat the room with my passion for combating climate change?
After 5 years teaching and a decade of practice, hot yoga may very well end up being my life’s work. And to think that my life’s work is/was a net contributor to the wrong side of things (contributing to climate change)…. that’s a tough pill to swallow. So for the most part I choose not to speak about the dissonance I feel.
When I started hot yoga 10 years ago, climate change was irrefutable. But the interceding 10 years of news media and science has added to it’s immediacy.
I noticed one studio bought carbon credits to offset their usage. But even this act does not offset the fact that the hot room requires — demands — the burning of carbon. And so often this means coal, oil or frickin’ fracked gas.
It’s ironic that yoga studio owners — the leaders of communities supposedly striving towards a higher consciousness — could also silently partake in the hot practice without considering the effect of heating the room on the environment. For me, the pleasant feeling (and perhaps the good I can do in the world from myself and others feeling good) potentially offsets the fossil fuels it took burning in order to practice hot yoga.
For me, the path of the yogi bends towards enlightenment or at least elucidation of that which is true and important.
For me, it’s true and important that climate change is THE NUMBER ONE THREAT TO EVERYONE AND IS THE PROBLEM OF OUR LIFETIME. And, to be working day-In and day-out in an environment that doesn’t acknowledge that (let alone do anything about that and actually worsens the problem) feels bad and wrong.
If all students felt this way, then we would be out of business (or we’d just need to turn the heat down.)
I think that someone passionate enough about combating climate change would probably simply stop coming to hot yoga.
But (virtually) everyone drives everywhere here on Cape Cod. Almost everyone flies everywhere to travel. Certainly all these activities contribute to climate change in a major way.
So, here I am running this small town shop and what am I supposed to do in the face of this climate crisis?
How do you reconcile being a hot yoga practitioner and an environmentally minded person?