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Don’t Start a Yoga Business Like This

It’s almost 11:30 PM…..my dogs and husband are snoring away.

What it takes to run a yoga retreat

My first yoga retreat as a participant was….well…..let’s just say

Kapha Season is Upon Us

As I write this article it is bitterly cold here

Pose Tip – Anjaneyasana

This summer we took a family vacation to the coast

Don’t Start a Yoga Business Like This

It’s almost 11:30 PM…..my dogs and husband are snoring away. I’m working later than usual because I’m leaving for my 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training for a few weeks. I’m tired, exhausted, and it’s all okay because I’ll be living in yoga for 4 weeks. As I wrap up some loose ends so my businesses can operate, a follow up comment shows on a business Facebook group I’m a member of. Without cutting and pasting this poor soul’s actual comment, this sums it up:

“I quit my job and moved to another country because it was cheaper and I started my blog. I wrote about 1 post every 5 days and 1 video every two weeks. My blog didn’t make enough money after 4 months and then I had to move back to my country, except now I’m poorer. Starting the business thing is ridiculous…”

I try to practice ahimsa often. It’s been my goal this year to swear less often. I have discovering the root of emotions in myself rather than reacting. However, as soon as I read that comment….”You’ve got to be [email protected]!ng kidding me.” Really? Quitting your job with absolutely no experience in your new field with no calculated form of revenue wasn’t the ridiculous thing? So much for living my yoga, I may have projected some feelings on this poor unemployed guy who just made a few bad decisions.

This stirred the dark part in me that I hold back often because I try to be positive and uplifting but there’s also something to be said for being delusional. In 200 hour yoga teacher trainings, there’s the part of me that feels uplifted by the eagerness of new graduates and then the other part that has the same dialogue in my head. Making yoga a full time thing isn’t as simple as quitting a job and teaching some classes a few hours a week….it can’t create a sustainable living alone….yet somehow….somewhere….. people think this is a thing: mediocre effort with no experience and expecting to survive monetarily.

Talk to the people who’ve “made it”. Of course, making it means different things but the people who quit their old jobs to pursue yoga as a career and have succeeded. We all love what we do but it’s not something anyone started leisurely while expecting full financial bliss.

Most people who are successful with their business will have planned, struggled, re-evaluated, and worked their yoga butts off. Anyone who says it’s easy are either lying or forgetful…..or one of the very few outliers of the bell curve who just got lucky….those people are the exception not the rule. While it doesn’t need to miserable, it’s certainly not something we can gracefully fall into.

Now that I may have fully discouraged people, here are some tips to approach a yoga career with a realistic mindset.

Get experience

I don’t believe instructors need to be teaching for years and years to do anything in yoga. In fact, about half of the studios in my area were opened by people who were teaching less than a year and they are still standing. However, by getting some experience in some aspect of a new career path can really go far. It could mean helping a local yoga studio with their website or social media in exchange for some free classes so you can learn a new skill. Help a friend who has their own business and go to some networking events with him or her. Start a blog while you’re still trying to figure things out….but get experience doing something other than teaching yoga.

Why would I do that, I just want to teach? Some teachers make it by only teaching yoga classes. However, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of driving all over town, handcuffed to whatever time slot is available, and to whatever pay employers deem appropriate. If any of these places have you as a contractor, you are not an employee, which makes you a business owner. So while it is possible, it’s difficult and making sure you have enough money to live comfortably will usually require teaching yoga just one aspect of your day.

Have a plan

I’m not talking about a huge butt business plan but some sort of financial plan with some sort of guaranteed revenue. If you wish it, it will come……er……………It will come but saying mantras all over with no action and no plan doesn’t send the right energy to the universe. It’s like saying “I’m going to be healthy everyday” right before you hop in the car do McDonald’s for dinner.

Plans can be scary. Googling business plans pulls up 30 page templates. I did some of those, there’s value but at the same time even after all of the hours and hours of research….and planning only to find customers wanted something else from us. These days, for anything non brick and mortar related: yoga teachers, bloggers, retreat leaders, I’m a huge fan of the the 1 Page Business Plan from The $100 Startup. It’s non-threatening, we can all fill out a page right? However, it gets us thinking about critical points such as:

  • Who’s buying my products?
  • How will I actually make money?
  • How will I find people do buy my product?
  • How much money do I need to make?
  • Save money


Seriously save money, not just an extra thousand or two in your back pocket but as much money as you can while you’re planning. Starting a business typically takes more time to get the revenue they need and costs a lot more money. Cut expenses like a beast and not like missing a happy hour here and there….go down to the bare bones and start filling up the savings account. Have a garage sale, sell on eBay, or declutter and save that cash. Pay down credit card debt. If at all possible, start your yoga business while still employed. By wearing two hats it allows you to both get a feel of what to expect financially. It may be helpful to get in touch with a personal financial planner.

Study your butt off

We live in age where there’s a lot of information: books, internet, podcasts, local groups, etc. Start learning. While some courses are great and well worth their money there are also great free ones as well. Here’s a few of my favorite free resources.

Score: Local chapters have free mentorships, learning sessions.

Coursea: Free online business classes.

V-Wise: For female veterans and military spouses, this is an absolutely free 3 day conference with accommodations included for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Your local library: Look up your local library and there are tons of free courses paid for by taxpayers. Our county has courses in Adobe Photoshop, Premier, and hey even some meditation classes.

There’s also amazing bloggers and online courses to take. Some stuff is free while others are paid. If going for a paid program, check out their free online content before investing to make sure it’s a good fit. There’s a growing group of individuals creating courses about business without any real life business experience.

Plan for failure to be successful

If you’ve listened to the podcast or talked to anyone with their own business, we all failed. A lot……so much that it can almost feel embarrassing.

In my past life when I debated going into financial planning, I talked to a successful financial advisor about my fear of not being able to secure enough clients. He said, “You want to fail, in fact you want to fail as quickly as possible so you can get to the next person that says yes”. Success is a numbers game….learn to accept fail and fail as quickly as possible to get to your next victory. Failure is an experience, it doesn’t define any of us and more than getting a cup of coffee. It’s bound to happen and we’ll find our way to success by failing our way to success versus failing and quitting.

What it takes to run a yoga retreat

My first yoga retreat as a participant was….well…..let’s just say I was glad I’m a war veteran and felt totally comfortable stranded in a Costa Rica instead of Iraq. (For the full experience read our other retreat post). After that experience, I realized I could do it better simply because I was organized.

Leading yoga retreats is the highlight of my yoga career. Guests who come are crazy in the absolute best way, they are in good moods, and we get to interact and share some yoga teachings. However, it’s also pretty important to make sure the guests are having a good time especially since it tends to be a pretty high end service. In this post, I’ll outline the steps to have a successful yoga retreat.

Before the retreat

  • Plan the heck out of it.
    Yup, we’re basically trying to make sure a whole new yoga community of possibly strangers are not only having a good time but feel safe………. and doesn’t get into any sort of catastrophe. I highly recommend going in advance to do the planning (check out our post on that). Planning should little occur in advance down to the hour including buffer times since things don’t always run smoothly when dealing with groups of people. Back up plans should be in place, not only so we don’t become confused and frazzled, but so guests feel comfortable with us guiding them.
  • Clarity
    The website copy or flyer should include very clear information about the yoga retreat so there is no miscommunication. Our retreats include the following:
  • A description of the retreat
  • What’s included
  • What’s not included
  • Payment Plans
  • Cancellation policies

In particular, pay close attention to the payment plans and cancellation policies, these are the absolute worst ones to get wrong since there’s such a huge financial risk.

  • Partner with a travel agent.
    When planning a retreat that involves travel, people will have questions on how to get there. For my first few retreats, people acted like I was their personal travel agent: emailing me about flights and their prices, additional add-ons for their vacations, additional hotel stays. It became a completely separate job and while I’m great at planning my own travel, not so much for everyone else’s needs. Working with everyone else and their travel quirks was not fun or a productive use of my time.

Instead of being everyone’s inexperienced travel agent, I just found one to refer them to. Not only was she better equipped, but it didn’t cost any extra to the guests (they get paid by the hotels on commission) and the guests loved it. It was a value added and took a ton of work off of my plate.. The travel agent received a copy of our itinerary and helped them plan everything before and after us….saved me a huge amount of time.

  • Get an email sequence
    When people sign up for your retreat, there’s a series of information that they’ll need: additional payments, checklists, information, maybe even some affiliate links for travel and insurance.

Here’s a summary of what we send out

Thank you for joining our retreat: A thank you email outlining the remaining payment plans and an affiliate link to Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance.
Introduction to our travel agent: This goes out fairly quickly so they know to ask the travel agent and not me about travel plans. 🙂
Checklist: A checklist of things they should have covered way in advance such as passports and flights (including pick up time at the airport and drop off time). I typically include an affiliate link to my favorite flight booking sites.
Additional payment reminders with a direct link to pay online
Packing list: This is a list of what to wear, what to bring, etc… I include affiliate links for any super specific products I want them to bring
Know before you go: I include an attachment of our contact information while away and fillable areas for them to add additional information such as more hotels, passport information, etc so they have a copy for themselves and their loved ones at home. I also include some travel tips like what apps to download, how to turn on their credit cards for travel, and any other tidbits they need to know.

Promote the heck out of it


Get to the yoga retreat location early

Zika, Ebola, plane mechanics, missed flights….it happens…it’s probably happening to about thousands of people right this second. Stuff happens and it can be incredibly stressful when it happens from a business perspective. To ensure guests are received well and everything is planned appropriately for the retreat, get there at least one day ahead of time. The extra day, gives us a chance to prepare but it also give us a buffer should something happen to our travel arrangements.

Create a welcome kit for students

People like things in their hands. They may never reference it but the ease of knowing that they do have the option of checking helps ease questions like: “What’s next?”, “When’s dinner?”, “What time should I be ready by?”

  • Printed itinerary
  • Communal living expectations
  • On-site contact information
  • Waiver
  • Photo releases
  • Have a Welcome Meeting


People have questions. Lots of questions!

A welcome meeting is a chance to have guests learn what to expect as well as let them know of any house rules, especially in communal living. It’s also beneficial to have someone from the retreat center there as well in case participants have logistical questions about the physical location.

Make it fun. Have some snacks (we have champagne at hours) and let people have a chance to get to know each other. It could be cheesy but name tags can also help people get over the fact that they’ll probably forget everyone’s names the first day or two.

Verbally repeat the itinerary each day

I know, I know…they have an itinerary. However, some forget especially on vacation. Verbally repeating what’s happening next creates less confusion and less likelihood of someone missing the shuttle or holding everyone up. It also give you a chance to remind people of any house rules should issues begin to rise.

Check the temperature of retreat participants

So here’s a secret: When we go to Italy, most people lose the desire to do yoga within the first 24 hours of being there. We originally planned for 2 yoga classes a day but after checking in with everyone during the retreat, we found people only wanted to do yoga once a day…..and mostly the rolling on the floor kind of yoga.

Even with all of the planning, it was important to us that everyone had a great time so we adapted. We also checked in to make sure dietary needs were met and they were getting enough downtime.

Planning a retreat takes more than just teaching a few classes over the period of week. Do you have questions? Feel free to place them in the comments section!

Kapha Season is Upon Us

As I write this article it is bitterly cold here in New York. The Spring Equinox may feel as though it is eons away. But before we know it March 15th will come around, the snow will begin to melt, the air to warm and Kapha season will begin.

In Ayurveda, the science of life and sister science to yoga, Kapha season is the time ruled by earth and water. When Kapha is imbalanced it manifests in our body as congestion, lack of motivation and possibly depression. The goal of Ayurveda is to balance the inside environment with what we are experiencing on the outside. If you’re like the rest of us, you know that spring (Kapha season) brings along seasonal allergies and many rainy days where all you want to do is stay curled up in bed and watch the clouds roll by.

Not anymore.

To help you prepare yourself for the impending Kapha season we have put together a series of diet and lifestyle habits to keep you vibrant and thriving all the way through.

Diet:


• Eliminate Dairy: Yup, sorry. You know those seasonal allergies and congestion I mentioned earlier? Imagine all of those symptoms can be relieved, lessened, or better yet completely disappear. Give up dairy for two weeks and I guarantee you won’t turn back.

• Keep Sweets to a Bare Minimum: Unfortunately, sweets also increase kapha and only fuel blocked sinuses, allergies, colds and lethargy. There is one exception though and that’s raw honey. Enjoy a tablespoon in a cup of hot ginger tea (which will fuel your digestive fire when it is low this season) but don’t have much more than that or all benefits will be lost. Also decrease the consumption of sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squashes, tomatoes and zucchini. Increase your intake of vegetables with a bitter qualities like broccoli rabe, radishes, dandelion greens and arugula.

• Spice it Up: Our Agni, a.k.a. digestive fire, is located in the 3rd chakra which rules our inner drive and confidence. Fuel this fire with warming spices such as pepper, mustard seed, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger.

• Fast: Once a week try a liquid fast where you only consume fresh vegetable and fruit juices as well as puréed vegetable soup.

Lifestyle:

• Routine, routine, routine: As best as you can, follow the same routine every day. If it’s not, set a couple of things that you do the same every day. Like waking up at the same time, having a cup of ginger tea after every meal, going to bed at the same time…Kapha loves routine and the more of it you have, the more beneficial it will feel.

• Engage in vigorous exercise daily: Because energy always seems to be lacking at this time of year, it’s important to keep moving. Kapha in motion, stays in motion. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to an hour of exercise daily. It can be 15-20 min. Go outside for a brisk walk, start your day with Surya Namaskars (sun salutations), ride your bike, go running, etc. Movement prevents the stagnation that tends to build up at this time of year.

• Spring Cleaning: There’s a reason why spring cleaning takes place at this time of year. It is a way to physically remove congestion from our lives. Clean out the closets and under your bed. Donate what you no longer need (Lakshmi points!)

• Practice aromatherapy: Our sense of smell is a powerful thing. The olfactory nerves connect directly to the brain which can change our energy and mood in a nanosecond. Invest in a stash of aromatherapy oils such as eucalyptus (alleviates congestion) and cinnamon (invigorating). Stash them in your bag so that you always have them on hand.

Pose Tip – Anjaneyasana


This summer we took a family vacation to the coast of Oregon and I fell in love with Paddleboarding. Once I found my balance on the board, I attempted a couple of asanas. You don’t see my Tree Pose, because I ended up in the frigid water, but here I am in Anjanayasana, the Kneeling Lunge pose.

I adore how this pose stretches and strengthens the entire lower body, especially the psoas, and stretches the shoulders and abdominals. It can also be used as a gentle backbend, deepening awareness of the inhalation and stimulating the lungs. (Wendy Hagen)

STEP BY STEP

  1. From All 4’s, step Right foot forward between hands, aligning Right knee over Right heel.
  2. Stretch Left leg back.
  3. Lift torso upright and sweep arms to sides and up by ears
    Extend tailbone down to pull belly back