As published in the latest edition of Yoga Australia’s business magazine, YC Founder + Director Amy Leonard-King offers her insights gathered over the last 5+ years as she has carefully navigated the marriage of the ancient wisdom practices of Yoga with the ‘business’ of running a studio.
When I first decided I wanted to take a teacher training course, it wasn’t necessarily in order to be a ‘Yoga Teacher’ – I had a lot of fear and limiting self-belief around that – but I did have a background in business (BCom, University of Melbourne) and I had a dream of running a Yoga studio. This was by no means inspiration around making money in the traditional sense of ‘business’, but was rather coming from somewhere deep in my heart. I wanted to move out of the Finance industry where I had found myself working after completing tertiary education, and into a field of work that I felt gave something incredible to people, something I had been feeling as a student of the practice since attending my ‘home’ studio in London back in 2010.
So I took the leap, did the teacher training, and of course, fell in love with the notion of teaching. As many the world over are finding, I dove deeper than I ever thought was possible into both studying Yoga and in my own practice of continuous self-study. I now find myself running a successful studio right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD for the past 5 years, and having experienced the biggest journey of my life thus far in the process, both in business, and with Yoga.
MIXING BUSINESS WITH YOGA
Although two seemingly opposing ideas to look at on paper, Yoga and business are now very much a requirement to masterfully manage together, whether you are a student navigating where to start your practice, a Yoga teacher finding ways to balance both your own energy + your own books, or heading down the line of creating a bricks + mortar business – ‘studio’ or otherwise.
If we look back in time, traditionally the wisdom tradition of Yoga was passed down from teacher or ‘Guru’ to student in a one-on-one relationship, without financial exchange. Over the last 100 years or so, and through the desire of teachers from direct lineage in India, the teachings of Yoga have made it to the Western world and are being shared now through many different channels and mediums, way beyond that of the tradition. Is this a problem, or an amazing opportunity? I believe mostly the latter, and that we are living in the most exciting times, spiritually. There is a big awakening happening, and the popularity of Yoga in the West is a sign that people are looking beyond the immediate + ordinary for something more.
In cities all over the world you’ll find a new Yoga studio popping up on every main corner, marrying these ideas of Yoga and business into a seamless, natural progression. Is this a good thing? It depends who you ask (and who’s asking).
HONOURING THE YOGIC PRACTICES
The ‘business’ of Yoga I believe has allowed these teachings to go from being accessible only in limited places and with limited teachers, to being much more readily and easily experienced. I myself may never have ‘found’ Yoga had it not been for the video that my sister had at home in our teenage years, and later at the local gym through basic classes. Yoga coming to the West could never have avoided mixing with business, and I believe that within this wisdom tradition are the teachings that can indeed help us to run our Yoga businesses in a true + meaningful way. The teachings are sacred, our relationship with our students is sacred, and the way we interact with both should always be with the highest intention present.
The way most students are coming across Yoga these days is either online through classes and tutorials, or in a group class setting in a gym or yoga studio. To me one of the most amazing aspects of having a dedicated space through which students are experiencing the teachings and practices of Yoga as a collective is the sense of community and collective energy, something that otherwise seems to be greatly lacking in these times. It is also about creating a safe and welcoming space for anyone to come along and start their journey with Yoga, making the tradition and all it has to offer us available and accessible, and meeting people where they are at.
There is also great care to be taken in sharing via these methods. The needs of the individual can be lost amongst the crowds; teaching can become more generalised in order to share what’s best for most; injuries may even arise through misplaced alignment in asana; and classes may not always be inclusive of ‘all’ levels of experience/capabilities, thus catering to a certain demographic and leaving out those who have an interest in the teachings and benefits of the practice but feel intimidated by physical or other limitations.
SO MY ADVICE…
To students: Do your research, and find the style, teacher and environment that feels best for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and there IS a yoga practice for everybody.
To teachers: Continue to practice what you teach. Don’t let your own practice fall away as teaching takes up more of your time and energy. If we are not practicing, both on and off the mat (keep studying + deepening your understanding too), our teaching will suffer and we will not be serving our students with the highest integrity.
To business owners: Check in with your intention on every decision that you make. Is it in line with the teachings and practices of Yoga? Does it serve the highest good? Will this best serve in keeping this wisdom tradition alive?
When we are conducting business in a way that aligns with the practice itself, it will be felt by all, and form this place, we will continue to serve the wishes of all great teachers of the past, to be a vehicle for these incredible teachings to pass through, such that more people can benefit from them, and begin to experience life as a collective, at it’s fullest potential, both on and off the Yoga mat.
Love Amy xxx