What is the most challenging thing about running a yoga studio?
The most challenging thing in the first ten years was educating the public about yoga. The public perception in Orange 20 years ago didn’t match the reality of what happened in an Iyengar class.
Another challenge was staying afloat and keeping the doors open until a core student body was built. I had a great mentor and teacher in Alan Goode who gave me sound advice in the early days: ‘Don’t give up your day job’.
He was right; I kept my day job until the school was established and known in the community.
Apart from the common challenge most women face of running a business - having children and keeping everyone happy - the other challenge is teaching staff. As we all know in the Iyengar community, teacher training is a path that requires a commitment in terms of time, resources and as is the case with us here in Orange, travelling and being away from family for periods of time.
I have three amazing teachers who have trained and worked alongside me over the past 16 years. I am very grateful for their devotion and support, and I hope to see more students undertake teacher training and join our staff.
What is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding things are firstly, the opportunity to create a yoga community and educate people about the many benefits of yoga.
To watch students grow as yoga practitioners, and become healthier and more accepting and content as individuals makes my heart happy.
Many strong and long-standing friendships have been formed over the years in the student body. I have had the pleasure to observe the most amazing support for those who are grieving and in need of help. I have observed food cooked and delivered in times of need; birthdays celebrated, babies born, difficult times made a little easier over a coffee and lots more.
The second most rewarding aspect for me has been the connections I have made with people, both students and other teachers who share a passion for yoga. I am particularly grateful for the guidance of Alan Goode over the years, and Lulu Bull when I started teacher training. I am so lucky to have the friendship and support of Steph, Fiona and Sharon who teach alongside me at The Yoga Room.
Describe your demographic.
Mostly females over 35 years but we also have consistent yet small groups of 16 and 17-year-olds who are looking to try yoga for the first time, and there are always a few HSC students each year. Unfortunately, male students are a small proportion of our demographic and retired females would make up around one-third of our student body.
How do you market your business?
I market the business through the website, flyers, Instagram and Facebook. At least half our business is word of mouth.
How do you feel Iyengar Yoga sits in the wider yoga community?
I feel Iyengar yoga is well respected in the wider yoga community for its consistency. This is sometimes a double-edged sword as young, aspiring yoga practitioners can see it as a little rigid.
What is your one (or most important) piece of advice for someone wanting to start a yoga school?
I think it is so important to have a purpose in life. To anyone wanting to start a yoga studio, if they feel yoga is their purpose and their heart tells them yoga is their path, I would say GO FOR IT! The most important piece of advice I can give is to realise that you need to wear a few hats. You need to be the teacher of yoga, the practitioner of yoga, the business manager, the marketing manager and the financial controller. These hats all require different skills. Be prepared to pay a professional for help or spend money to learn these skills.
Anything you would do differently if you started from scratch tomorrow.
I would do lots of things differently if I started from scratch tomorrow. Firstly, I would acquire the skills needed to run the school as a matter of priority. It took me a long time to get the school to where it is now, and I wasted a lot of time. There’s still so much to do, but I feel better equipped to move into the next 20 years. I have now set some short and long-term goals, have some systems in place and can measure outcomes.
What did you do before you became a yoga teacher/started a school?
I’ve had many incarnations before becoming a yoga teacher. I worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and spent two years in Beijing on a posting; I went to art school for a year, I worked as an events coordinator and a Public Relations Consultant, I worked in bars, I’ve been a student and have travelled. Through most of my adult life, I have practised yoga on and off. Training to become an Iyengar Yoga Teacher is one of the best decisions I have ever made.