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Creating Your Niche

For many teachers, the path from generalist to specialist is as natural as interweaving yoga with life passions. Here’s how to create and market your own niche yoga classes.

By Tevis Gale

East Meets West

Even when driven by passion, the niche offering might not always be universally well received. Such has been the experience of David Romanelli. Eight years ago, while he was working for an agent representing Shaquille O'Neal, a friend urged him to try yoga. He did, and fell in love. "From that first class, I felt driven to get yoga to as many people as I possibly could," he muses. He left his job, abandoned L.A., and started At One Yoga, now a leading studio in Phoenix.

Beyond his contribution to Arizona's yoga landscape, Romanelli has drawn attention for his workshop topics, including Yoga and Chocolate, and Yoga and Wine. Fascinated by trends within pop culture, he explains, "I honor people where they are by wrapping yoga in different sensibilities and language so people can relate to it. My passion is how relevant and integrated yoga can be with peoples' lives."

The pop-culture allure of Romanelli's workshops has won him the spot as mind/body expert on Yahoo! Health. In addition, he has appeared in The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, in O Magazine, and on CBS News. Not surprisingly, controversy has followed. "Despite great press coverage and attracting newcomers to yoga, the criticism can be vicious," he says.

Romanelli feels critics overlook the fact that he integrates popular cultural elements with yoga to reveal the sacred. Yoga and Chocolate emphasizes the ancient symbolism of the cocoa bean, examines the chemical and sensate impact upon the body, and pays respect to the modern-day mystique. In Yoga and Wine, "we support deeper meaning in celebration, including raising the glass in a sacred, ritualistic way. We also explore wine as a metaphor for how to view aging." With Yoga and Country Music next on his agenda, Romanelli will emphasize the mystical aspects of Christianity in country music and underscore yoga’s traditional values to integrate and reveal the philosophical consistencies between the two. To him, this work is yoga. "I want to show people that yoga is completely accessible and makes sense no matter who you are," he explains.

Profiting and Proliferating

You don't have to have an MBA to be smart about your business. In both her teaching and her business management, Ann Dyer draws from her 20-year career as a vocalist. She integrated music into her classes from the moment she started teaching yoga, eight years ago. Now a national presenter in nada yoga, her work has flourished and includes retreats, workshops, classes, and conventions. Next she will launch a "workshop-in-a-box—something to take home to keep the practice alive."

A savvy businesswoman, her advice is clear. "Think of yourself as content. What are the avenues through which you can distribute yourself? DVDs, conferences, retreats, recordings, essays, journalistic publishing, workshops, classes, public speaking, posters—what are the many forms? Each has strengths and weaknesses. Construct a life in which one supports the other. Take a look to ensure that the pieces make sense in terms of your life as a teacher and in terms of the experience of the students."

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