Studio of the Future?

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When Paulette Dwyer opened a yoga studio 13 years ago in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, she called her offering "stretch management" so as not to spook locals wary of yoga. Today some of those same locals are among the 1,800 members of YogaWorks Westlake Village—a new breed of neighborhood yoga studio that follows the membership model used by gyms.

"Where all these people came from, I don't know; they never came to my studio," says Dwyer, who is now YogaWorks' regional general manager. "You see people who would not ordinarily come to yoga. It's amazing."

Membership is the cornerstone of the eco-friendly facility, which is the latest addition in YogaWorks' successful chain of studios. Students pay $70 to $85 a month to take unlimited classes in a variety of styles including Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Anusara yoga. In addition to these classes, the center offers tai chi, Pilates, and fusion classes, and features three studios, a locker room, showers, child care, and a tea lounge. One of the studios has a wall that can be fitted with straps and bars for prop-intensive Iyengar Yoga classes.

While other yoga studios have employed a membership model—Exhale Mind-Body Spa and Texas-based Sunstone Yoga among them—it's a first for YogaWorks, which has 16 other studios throughout Southern California and in New York. CEO Phil Swain says it's the right step in a new direction.

"I do believe this is the future of yoga studios," says Swain, who started practicing yoga in 2002 while he was president and COO of Sports Club LA. "This is a financially sustainable model that makes the beautiful practice of yoga more accessible to people."