As a practitioner or teacher, you probably recognize that your own personality may be the single biggest predictor of whether or not you will succeed in the increasingly competitive yoga industry.
As Maty Ezraty, founder of 15-year-old Yoga Works in Los Angeles, explains, “You have to be made of steel. It’s really hard. You have to be patient, you have to be dedicated, and you have to love yoga. You also have to have thick skin because, believe me, you’ll never conduct your business in exactly the right manner, or in a way that pleases everyone.”
Passion has been the key to success for Cyndi Lee, founder of OM yoga center in New York. “I’m a look-before-you-leap type personality. I really, really wanted a yoga studio, and I believed I could have it even though I had no experience, and very little money, and almost no one would rent me a space in New York because I didn’t have any previous business experience.”
Perhaps most important is how willing you are to sacrifice valuable time with friends, family even yourself. Ezraty, Lee, and many other studio owners will recount stories of affected relationships if you ask them. Lee, whose husband is her studio’s meditation teacher, recalls that “when I started the business, my husband was still my boyfriend, and though he really encouraged me and gave me advice, I remember him stopping me to say, ‘I’m so proud of you and I so want to help you, but I’m sick of talking about business every night at dinner. We need to talk about something else.’”
Ezraty says friendships were compromised in her world, particularly because, as is common, she relied heavily on the help of friends for teaching help and support. “I had relationships that crossed boundaries that they shouldn’t have crossed. I ended up having to discipline friends. It was hard to erect these boundaries between business and your shared love of yoga and your friendship outside of the business.”
Clayton Horton, who founded Greenpath Yoga in San Francisco, intimates that only now, after more than two years of business, is he getting his life back. “I’ve never been married or had children, but I felt like both had happened to me when I opened the studio,” he says. “The fullness of the involvement required for the first year and a half was overwhelming. It’s challenging just being dedicated to your yoga practice waking early, going to bed early, taking care of your body. But being a studio owner and teacher really tests you.”
Thankfully, because this is going to be your business, you can design it around your personal lifestyle goals. Just be sure to figure out what those are early in the process. According to Lee, “You should feel happy. It should be fun. You don’t want to get in over your head.”
Constance Loizos is a San Francisco-based writer whose work has appeared in more than a dozen magazines, including Inc., Fast Company, and San Francisco Magazine. She is currently writing a book about businesswomen.