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Business of Yoga

The Business of Yoga: Why I Run A Donation-Based Yoga Studio

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How I make it happen so you can figure out if you can do something similar, too.

Wondering if you could ever afford to run a donation-only yoga studio? Here’s how one yoga and meditation teacher in Colorado does it so you can consider if it’s an option for you, too.

I recently met with a student who was out of work after having a major surgery. She had limited motion, and she was recovering from a hysterectomy—a procedure she was upset she had to go through in her mid-30s. She faced a Catch 22: She wanted to commit to her yoga practice, something she needed to help center her as she dealt with immense sadness after this life change. But the financial stress of being out of work made it impractical to keep yoga in her budget. I was able to create a deeply discounted membership package for her so that she could practice in our studio.

Anecdotes like this reaffirm for me why I wanted to open a donation-based yoga studio in the first place. Since opening my Louisville, Colo.-based studio Yoga Hive in Sept. 2017, I’ve been navigating what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to the donation-based model. I’ve adapted along the way.

See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

It’s my mission to disrupt the pervasive stereotype that yoga is just for wealthy and fit people, toting yoga mats and green drinks as they saunter to and from classes. All the while, I am running a business and need to keep the doors open, so it’s important for me to home in on a donation approach that works in the health and wellness marketplace.

How I use a sliding-scale membership program

My studio does have drop-in classes, punch cards, and packages. But critical to operating as a donation-based studio is having a “Pay it Forward” membership program, to bring in a steady stream of revenue each month.

Under this program, roughly 75 percent of my members pay the full $99 per month, which gives them unlimited studio access to a wide range of classes, like aerial, Kundalini, cycle yoga, vinyasa flow, and more. The remaining 25 percent of my clients pay a monthly membership that’s tailored to fit their budget; this typically ranges from $30 to $50 a month. Just like full-paying members, they have access to all the same classes and studio amenities. To enroll in this, clients meet with me one-on-one and we develop a membership rate that works best for them, and they commit to at least three months of the practice. During this dialogue, we discuss what yoga means to them, how many times they can come to class each week, and what price points can work with their budgets.

Here’s the thing that’s important: There’s a level of discreteness. When it comes to which members are paying in full and which ones are receiving discounts, the studio’s teachers and other students don’t know. It’s not something that’s advertised when they check in, either.

See also 7 Best Yoga Mats, According to 7 Top Teachers Around the World

Was I afraid when I opened the studio that people would take advantage of this model? Absolutely. But I can honestly say that hasn’t been the case even once.

As of now, my studio is breaking even. We have some months when we’re turning a profit, and others when we’re not. When you average them together, we’re coming out just about even and able to cover overhead costs.

It’s tight, yes.

But the Pay it Forward model works best when it operates almost like a scholarship: You have enough members paying full-price, which helps subsidize lower-cost memberships for others, which may be college students from the nearby university, service workers in the community, or a member’s friend who, until now, viewed yoga as too expensive.

The donation-based business model must be clearly laid out to avoid confusion among clients.

The challenges of running a donation-only studio

A major lesson I learned in the first year of business is that running a donation-based studio can cause a lot of confusion among your clients. To help remedy that, we have information at our front desk about the Pay it Forward membership program available to hand out.

See also How to Create a Solid Yoga Practice At Any Age

While I will certainly work with people to help them afford drop-in classes, I’ve taken an emphasis off of donation-based, drop-in classes and now charge $17 for a single, drop-in class. Frankly, having a “suggested donation” was a tricky business model that confused people who did want to pay full price.

One risk we face is the misperception that our studio is only for low-income yoga students, and we do need full-paying members to help offset costs. Even though we accept credit and debit cards, people also tend to associate this donation model with dropping cash in a bucket. Also, you need to be careful that just because you have a donation-based model, your high-quality programming and yoga classes aren’t mistakenly perceived as cheap.

Before opening the studio, I was working in corporate health care for 20 years, with a jam-packed travel schedule. I cared about maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, and I competed in races and triathlons. But, I felt as though I was becoming more disconnected from my authentic self. There was that “mean voice” telling me to get up even earlier and work even harder. After some significant soul searching and meditation, I decided to leave the high-paying corporate world and build a space that went beyond a fancy yoga studio. There’s no lack of those.

See also This 5-Minute Meditation for Parents Will Save Your Sanity

As a registered yoga teacher and meditation coach, I built Yoga Hive as a space my community could gather to work on physical, mental, and emotional growth in a safe and supportive environment. The “thank you” notes and testaments I hear from students we’ve been able to reach definitely feel great.



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Balance

One Yoga Teacher's 3 Lessons We Could All Learn About Making Money

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Yoga and abundance don’t always feel like they belong together. One yoga teacher shares the lessons she learned about accepting wealth and tearing down financial barriers that weren’t serving her.

As I watched the snow fall into the hot tub at the retreat center I was visiting, nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I found myself thinking, How did I get this luxury?! Taking four days off to indulge at a hot springs in the mountains while learning from my yoga mentor seemed like a far cry from my start as a yoga teacher. Being underpaid was a regular occurrence when I first started teaching. Struggling to buy groceries, trips to the gas station hoping that I didn’t go over the twenty dollars I had in my wallet, and not being able to afford health care (gulp) were discomforts I grew strangely accustomed to.

I was extremely passionate about teaching yoga and I loved doing it, but my bank account did not match my passion as an instructor. As much as I would like to blame corporations, point my finger at capitalism, and gnash my teeth at the unfair nature of my soulful work being so undervalued, the truth is that my value as a teacher was already at a deficit before I even stepped foot into a yoga studio.

See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

When I followed the thread that led me to being a “poor yoga teacher,” I could trace it all the way back to the old sayings that were instilled in my absorbent young brain as a child: “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “You have to work hard for money.” Or the most insidious, “Good people don’t need money.”

These seeds grew in my subconscious at a slow and steady rate. Over time, they became my reality, and as my yoga career developed, so did my belief that money meant struggle.

See also A 5-Minute Meditation To Relieve Financial Stress

I said “yes” to unpaid yoga gigs. I constantly bustled across town from one teaching job to the next. And I watched as my own practice fell to the wayside because teaching at a high volume was siphoning all my time and energy.

Finally I hit a bottom. I was fed up with scraping by, and I knew something had to change. I realized that if I wanted abundance, I needed to make a choice. That choice was to start shifting my perspective around money so that that I could not only heal my relationship with money, but also welcome prosperity into my life.

See also A Katonah Yoga Sequence To Live A More Abundant Life

There were three critical things that shifted the tide for me, and I know they can help any teacher looking to give themselves a raise.

1. Realize that spirituality means abundance

When you go into class and speak the word “abundance,” can you honestly say that you are feeling it in all areas of your life? Chaining yourself to the idea that being spiritual means financially struggling can disrupt the abundance that is waiting for you. When you accept that financial abundance and spirituality can have a thriving working relationship, it will reflect in your spirit—and your bank account! Take it from visionary Maya Angelou, who said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive”.

See also The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances

2. Get crystal clear on your teaching intention

For some people, teaching a full load of 15 classes a week can strain your health and your capacity to serve. As in any other business, it can take time to build a network and establish a presence in the yoga space. Figure out a teaching strategy that will fulfill you and help maintain your sanity—not detract from it. Do you see yourself teaching full time? Does having a full-time job while teaching two to three classes sound fulfilling? Get clear on what is right for YOU. The way I figured this out was by getting support from a business coach and community I trusted so that I could navigate how to market myself and speak effectively about my services.

See also Live + Practice From the Heart: Identify True Intention

3. Seek great mentorship

One of the most pivotal steps you can take to open to financial abundance is to seek guidance from other successful yogis. Learning from others who gained wisdom and experience from walking a path before me allowed me to understand the paths available to me. Just like your daily local teacher, learning from someone who knows the ropes is so much easier than trying to figure it out yourself. I also sought guidance from business mentors and like minded women who were committed to living on purpose that could teach me how to offer my gifts, live my purpose, and get the structure I needed to financially sustain myself. Look for local clubs, meetups, and other networking opportunities in which you’ll be able to make valuable connections in the community.

See also A Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Social Networking

Just like yoga, stretching your financial container can cause some discomfort. Just like the journey of yoga, the path to feeling ease and grace with our money values starts from within. With a clear vision and the right tools and support, knowing and claiming your worth as a yoga teacher is totally possible!



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Business of Yoga

The Business of Yoga: How to Name a Yoga Class

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The right name can mean the difference between a small turnout and a well-attended class. Here’s how to choose the best name for the yoga class you’re offering.

Here are some insider tips on how to name a yoga class.

When planning a yoga class, the location, teacher, and music (or lack thereof) can make or break the success of the class. What you might not realize is that the name of your class can make just as much of an impact. After all, the name is the first point of contact for your students—the formal invitation to the experience.

Consider this: There is a big difference between “Vinyasa Level 2,” and “Yoga Warrior.” The first indicates a general idea of what the class will be—sequences that an intermediate student would be familiar with. However, these days, saying “level 2” is kind of like saying “blue.” There are so many shades and variations that you might mean electric blue or navy blue. On the flip side, a name like “Yoga Warrior” gives you an idea of the feeling or tone of the class.

See also The Business of Yoga: How One Yogi Started a Meditation Group—on Her Front Stoop

How to Name a Yoga Class

When crafting a name for your yoga class, one of the first steps you should take is to consider your audience. If you are teaching a restorative yoga class to people at the end of the day, adding in the time of day with an image from nature can make the class sound more inviting. (For example, you might name that class “Sunset Restorative Yoga.”)

Descriptive adjectives and verbs that evoke a particular feeling can create a name that jumps off of a screen and reaches more people. If you need a little more direction, try writing down the three words that you would like people to feel at the end of your class. Do you want to invite feelings of warmth, radiance, and strength—or do you want your students to leave class feeling chill, nourished, and receptive?

See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

At the other end of the spectrum, names that are too flowery can be a deterrent. For example, “Sun Celebration” sounds more like a song title than a descriptive yoga class name that lets students know what they should expect. It’s important to find a balance between the concrete (for example: yoga, prenatal, restorative, yin, or Ashtanga) and the descriptors (such as powerful, peaceful, or energized). As you brainstorm how to name a yoga class, play with names on paper or on your computer and be aware of the length of the name. Names that are too long can be hard to remember.

A name with alliteration can intrigue students. Names like “Buti,” “Budokon,” and “Yogafit” have all been a hit because they are short and memorable—kind of like singers and actors with just one name. Longer names with alliteration or even rhyming can also work because they are fun to say. “Fitness Flow” and “More Core” are clear indicators of what students can expect.

See also I Moved to Bali to Start a Yoga Business—Here’s How I Pulled it Off

If you are a traditional teacher and want to pay homage to your lineage, make sure your Sanskrit is on point. We have all seen or heard teachers use or say Sanskrit terminology that was not correct. Also, keep in mind some names, both in English Sanskrit, may have been trademarked. Some trademarks cover the right to use a name for videos, books, and products, while other trademarks cover in-person classes. If you want to check if a name carries a current trademark, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and enter the name you’re considering. You can also apply for a trademark on a name you really love to protect it.

Follow this simple checklist before you name your yoga class.

The next time you’re asked to name a yoga class, here’s a quick checklist to help you come up with a winner:

  1. Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center: On the right side, write down the feelings that you hope your class will evoke. On the left side, write down what the class will entail.
  2. Use a thesaurus to find additional words that can help you with alliteration and rhyming.
  3. Check your Sanskrit, or any language that is not your first language, to make sure the terminology you’re using is correct.
  4. Check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.com) to make sure the name you’d like to use isn’t trademarked.
  5. If you have a name that you love, register it on the USPTO to protect your idea.

Remember, your class name is a reflection of your style. Students will get an idea of what your vibe is simply by reading the name of your class.

See also The Business of Yoga: 5 Pro Hacks That’ll Get Your Yoga Studio Cleaner Than Ever 

If you work in a studio where the names are already selected, ask your studio manager if she is open to using a new name. If she says no, consider using the name online and in your branding. I teach “Prenatal Yoga,” and the name of my brand is Mothers into Living Fit. On social media, I post my classes as “Prenatal Yoga with Mothers into Living Fit.” Remember, your class names are your signature, and you can be creative with the names as well as where and how you use them. 

About the Author

Desi Bartlett works as the Head of Yoga Programming for Manduka Yoga and is the creator of Mothers Into Living Fit. She has appeared in 10 yoga and fitness DVDs and is the prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher for Beachbody. Her new book, “Your Strong, Sexy Pregnancy,” comes out this April with Human Kinetics. Learn more at mothersintolivingfit.com.



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Business of Yoga

The Business of Yoga: How One Yogi Started a Meditation Group—on Her Front Stoop

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Plus, what you need to know if you’re interested in doing something similar.

Looking to start a meditation group? Here’s how one Brooklyn meditation teacher formed a community group that takes place on her brownstone’s stoop.

The sun was rising as I headed up Washington Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, to Danielle Fazzolari’s Brooklyn Brownstone recently. I was set to participate in the last of her weekly, 7:30 a.m. Stoop Meditation sessions, which she began organizing in 2016 and now run from April through October.

A simple, hand-written sign hung from the front iron gate of her building that read, “Stoop Meditation: All Are Welcome.” As a handful of class regulars strolled in, they chatted as they sat on the stoop’s steps and nearby benches. Folded blankets were scattered, too.

Seventeen people ultimately made up our group, and Fazzolari sat on a vintage suitcase to open class. She spoke about her gratitude for these gatherings, which would be ending for the winter season, urging everyone to continue to love themselves and one another until sessions resumed next spring.

Next, Fazzolari led us through a 20-minute guided meditation, encouraged us to turn our energy inward, and to connect with our breath. Easier said than done, I thought to myself, as every possible street noise imaginable sounded off in midst of our mindfulness—from school buses and ambulances to high-heeled pedestrians and kids scurrying on the sidewalks. Fazzolari embraced it all, inviting us to do the same: “Listen to every sound, she said, and find the meaning behind it.”

See also Get Your Sit Together: 7 Best Meditation Cushions to Support Your Practice

Danielle Fazzolari, the founder of Stoop Meditation.

Pause and effect

For Fazzolari, the ability to tune out the non-stop commotion in order to pause, turn inward, and just bewas a skill she’d honed after leaving her decade-long career in global sales for Saks Fifth Avenue. She’d wanted to give back, she says, so began volunteering.

“I quit my job with no money, wanting instead to spread love and peace. I knew I’d figure it out,” she says. After traveling to India, where she says everyone spoke of meditation as “the secret” to her goal, “I tried basic breathing meditation at home and an app called, Oh My God I Can Meditate,” she says. “It was the first time I’d gone inside. I stopped asking everyone else for advice and answers and began to get to know my own heart. Feeling my body and breath in silence—I had such relief sitting still and paying attention.”

To further her meditation practice, Fazzolari worked the front desk at MNDFL, a popular New York City-based meditation studio. Inspired by the practice, she went through their teacher training, completed a Mindful Schools Online Training, and began teaching meditation to children at New York City schools. Then, at age 30, she thought: What if all kids grew up loving themselves so much and looking at others, knowing they are enough as well?

When Donald Trump won the Presidential election, the seed for Fazzolari’s Stoop sessions was planted.

“I woke up the next morning so confused and a bit worried,” she says. “Whether you voted for him or not, I felt we shouldn’t be alone right now. I thought, Let’s explore our feelings together,” she says.

To help herself and her community, Fazzolari contacted her neighborhood block association for permission to host a free Stoop Meditation session. With their approval, she emailed 70 members and held the first event a couple of days after the election.

See also This Simple Meditation Will Help You Get in Touch with Your True Self

Fazzolari hosts her meditation group every week on her front stoop.

“Just seven people showed up,” she says. “It was freezing. I guided us through a meditation to connect us to our bodies and breath, and to have compassion. There were no rules; just an encouragement to feel whatever it is we were feeling, to turn to each other, and be there for one another.”

What was meant to be a one-time gathering was so well received, Fazzolari was encouraged to continue regularly. She credits her choice to congregate on her stoop instead of an indoor space or yoga studio in large part for her success.

“The stoop is not intimidating,” says Fazzolari. “Personally, I get nervous coming in to a new studio—it stirs something inside of me. This is why I stand outside early on the stoop before class. I try to break down those barriers.” The stoop is also great because it’s accessible to everyone in the community, she says.

Now, Fazzolari has plans to develop her platform and curriculum for meditation teachers to follow, and says that continuing classes outside is key.

“People passing by see what’s happening and can choose to come and be a part of a community or not,” she says. “Meditation should be accessible to everyone—whether you live in a million-dollar apartment or you’re homeless. Anyone can join.”

For Fazzolari, the impact of her work on others is deeply rewarding.

“The political situation in our world is influencing the lives of so many people. Sometimes we feel powerless. Sometimes we need compassion. One way we can help to make a change is to begin to see the interconnectedness of this life, and to appreciate ourselves and our neighbors more.

“The simple joy in getting to know the people we share this corner of the universe with—that’s the real impact. The strongest power of all is human connection.”

See also 10 Best Yoga and Meditation Books, According to 10 Top Yoga and Meditation Teachers

Learn how to start a Stoop Meditation session in your community.

3 Tips for Leading a Meditation Group

Interested in started something like Fazzolari’s Stoop Meditation sessions? Here’s how:

Follow a format. Decide if you want to bring in a meditation teacher to guide the sessions, or simply sit in silence together. Then discuss your practice, share a reading, or simply chat with each other.

Spread the word. Reach out to your neighbors and friends in simple ways. Post flyers in your local coffee shop, library branch, or laundromat. Write about what you’re doing on social media, and on online community sites like NextDoor.com.

Start small. Remember, a group of two is a group—so start small and let your gatherings grow organically. If you want to join an existing group, you can research local sanghas online. Check out Thich Nhat Hanh’s sangha directory to start.

See also The Practical Guide to Mindfulness We Need this Holiday Season

About the Author
Erika Prafder is a veteran writer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A longtime yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits kidsyogadaily.com, a news source for young yogis. 



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