By Deana Morris (Editor of Spectrum) and Eva Kristlova
When I sat down with yoga studio owner Eva Kristlova, to interview her about the business of running a studio, life was very different.
We were sitting in a café. We were talking about community and how she’d had that principle as the primary driver for Yoga Life Studio in Eastbourne’s South Street.
BWY teachers who may dream of starting a yoga studio would be interested in Eva’s approach because Eva’s studio is big step away from the gleaming gym-culture model.
Our conversation had focused on how it’s possible to run a business that supports its community; not only by providing a space to practice and a place to teach, but also give to its communities in other ways.
Then along came the corona virus pandemic.
Right now teaching yoga is an online experience. Yoga teachers around the world are getting to grips with webcasting technology.
Before the UK’s lockdown rulings, Eva’s studio was one of the first in Eastbourne to act and close its doors, to shift online for the safety of its clients.
‘We’re a community yoga business,’ said Eva. ‘It was critical that we put our clients first and we were aware many of our community were in higher risk groups. We initially thought we would be closing our doors for 14 days, but that was before the lockdown was announced. Now, of course, no one can know how long this situation will be with of, or whether it will return in the future.’
Up until a few weeks ago, Eva’s studio worked like this:
Eva’s rented space to local yoga teachers and Eva taught classes at the studio herself. The studio also had one class a week which was ‘pay by donation’, all donations going to a charity of the teachers’ choice. This makes the studio experience available to everyone, regardless of income, and benefits charities needing financial support.
Her community focus has attracted yoga teachers such as David Sye, whose work in war zones and conflict-hit communities is well-known. David regularly teaches weekend workshops at Yoga Life Studios.
Training as a yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga, Eva joined the Yoga Life Studio that was within her town’s enterprise centre, run by Wenche Beard. ‘It was a great space but the location wasn’t ideal,’ admits Eva. ‘You could hear the noise of people around the studio. Distracting really. We were the only yoga people in town then though, which seems strange now. Eastbourne has a strong yoga community with around half a dozen studios now.
‘The reality for me is running a yoga studio as a way of life, not a profit pursuit. The money I make comes from my teaching, the studio income from teachers hiring space keeps the studio running.’
Life Yoga Studio’s current home is within converted stables. Bare-brick walls, cast iron radiators and wooden floors are all part of a welcoming, colourful cosiness. The only outside noise now is the chiming of the nearby town hall clock.
But as a community-focused studio, how do you keep communities thriving when you’re teaching online?
A pioneer of local yoga studio teaching online, here are three tips Eva passes on to you from her experience.
1.The Yoga Life Studio in Eastbourne had to close their doors overnight due to the Covid19 pandemic. After the initial shock and fear of uncertain future and the health, mental and financial impact on the studio, our clients, teachers and the whole population there was no time to waste. I knew that we in some way still need to provide service for our clients as so many people rely on their yoga, breathing and meditation practice and for so many people their regular visit of the yoga studio is the highlight of their week. A time when they can recharge, refuel and clear their mind, ready for the daily challenges of our lives. Me and my team found the prospect of teaching online quite daunting. But somehow overnight we managed to set up several online classes using Zoom, purchased a microphone and with the help of friends and family converted our studio into a recording space, complete with a big screen. So here is my Number 1 tip – Overcome your fears. We adapted so quickly because we knew that our community needs us. So even though the online teaching and setting everything up from the scratch was scary, we dived in and did it anyway despite of our limited knowledge and lack of experience and online teaching confidence. If you know you have to do something, go for it. Even if you throw yourself in deep end you will learn to swim. Try not to hold back because of fear or lack of confidence – remember we are all constantly learning. And there is lots of support available.
2.It was a steep learning curve for all of us! But with patience and determination we made it work. I set up a little support group for the teachers where we share our online teaching experiences, dos and don’ts, trial runs and any feedback. We started to deliver several daily online classes, some from the studio and some from our teachers’ living rooms. We learnt and still are learning so much! My second tip is – ask for help. There is help and support available if you look for it. We are not always good at asking.. we feel we should be able to know and do everything perfectly. In fact, reaching out will bring you and your community much closer. Nobody knows it all. So within the studio and Eastbourne yoga community I encourage the teachers to support each other, we practice in each others classes, we help each other with the test runs, and constant communication takes place amongst us all. It is like having one big happy yoga family.
Our clients were so grateful that they could still join us online and be part of our fabulous community. After all that’s what people are missing most.. Contact and true connection with others. Now we feel that through providing online classes people can still see each other, wave and chat and take part in a class together. It is really important to me as a teacher that I can still help someone and make them feel better, calmer and happier, knowing that they are still a part of this amazing community.
We had some amazing feedback and so much gratitude from regulars and from complete strangers for us adapting to the current situation and still looking after our community that is now growing internationally. We will carry on uniting the international yoga community even after all this is over.
And here is my extra tip that in fact runs throughout this article – community. That’s what matters most. Create it, be part of it, support it.
Looking for positives during this challenging time. Stay well