Redefining a yoga business

I know, I know. I can hear you through the interwebs right here in Miami as I write this. Yoga isn’t a business. I agree, yoga is not a business. Yoga is about awakening to who you really are.

However, you running a studio, website, doing privates, etc… That is a business. The yoga itself isn’t the business. OK, perhaps you could argue that yoga is the product from a business perspective. As products go, it’s one I support fully!

The thing to remember is that the relationship between business and yoga is controlled by you. That comes back to being really clear about what your motivation and intentions are. I doubt that you’re wanting to take over the world with a multinational yoga business.

Your business is also a practice

Personally, I think the most important part of connecting business and yoga is to remember that every aspect of your life can be seen through the lens of practice. In other words, how you run your business of sharing yoga is a practice. You could even say that running a business can be as much of a yoga practice (possibly even more of a practice) as jumping around on a mat.

Your habitual patterns of thinking, seeing, and being (mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.) that show up on the mat, will also show up in how you run and perceive your business too. What, you think you’re going to convince me that your scattered mind during practice (I know, we’re all working on it) is the pattern that shows up when it comes to “work”?

Those same patterns of thinking and believing that we work on in our “yoga” practice are potentially the very patterns and beliefs that get in our way of running a successful business. Your fears, judgements, and insecurities, all show up, regardless of what you’re doing.

In the same way that we work on our yoga practice, we need to work on our relationship to our business. We all have teachers and guides to help us along the way. Having the perspective of working on my own practice/business over the years has clearly pointed out that I’ve got more work to do.

It’s also why we created the courses here at Authentic Yoga Marketing. To continue to share what I believe to be valuable information that I wish someone had shared with me when I was ready. Of course, it also had to fit in with my larger mission of sharing yoga and related practices with a larger audience. Helping others more clearly understand their business, website, marketing, and how it fits in with more people doing yoga is the point!

Running a yoga business doesn’t come naturally

I realize that for many of you, the doing of the business part isn’t really what you got into this for. It’s the same for me. I didn’t go out thinking I want to run a business. To be honest, I thought, how the hell am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to pay off my credit cards? The start of yoganatomy was about keeping my head above the water.

I had skills, knowledge, and passion to share both anatomy and yoga. The reality was, I needed business skills and principles so that I could let others know about what I had to offer. I needed to reveal my why to the world and see if anyone else was interested. I wasn’t sure they would be. Thankfully, I was wrong.

To be fair, I do have a degree in business management and that definitely helped. But the business part itself wasn’t my passion. It was just a base of knowledge that helped me understand the basics. None of that prepared me for building a website that would eventually attract a few thousand people a day. The learning curve was steep when it came to an internet business.

Step 1. Setting goals

I’m not talking about taking over the world. I’m talking about a smaller, more attainable goal. For instance, in the beginning of my journey, I recognized that teaching anatomy to yogis was something that I wanted to do, and it was something that would help me pay my bills. My goal was to organize a few workshops. I should say, be hosted by a few studios. In those days, the internet was just getting under way and there wasn’t a yoga studio on almost every corner.

I literally sent a paper flyer to yoga studios around the country and took out an ad in Yoga International (black and white). Remember those days? The good news is, I actually got a few bookings from that first round of mailers and advert. This was essentially my first lesson in conversion rates! That is, measuring how successful both the mailers and the advertisement were.

For you, it might be to fill a particular class or workshop that you’re hosting at your studio. It may be getting more private clients or generating more traffic on a website so that you can travel and teach. Either way, step one is deciding what that goal is. The next part is the harder part which is figuring out all of the steps that lead you to achieve that goal.

It’s really common to continually try to fix problems that seem to show up. But often, the problems are a symptom of a lack of setting clear goals and working backward from them. The result of this is a never ending feeling of not moving forward or getting things done.

For instance, my goal was to get a couple of workshops on my calendar. In order to do that I figured out the steps. Get the name and address of studios, create a flyer, work on the content of that flyer, mail it out, and then see how many people responded to that flyer. How many responded divided by how many I sent out was my conversion rate. I have no idea what that number is now.

These days, there may be many more steps. There is so much busy-ness going on already in our lives and we may always be putting out perceived fires. So much so, that we don’t stop to think about things from at least a slightly higher level, set a simple attainable goal, and then get the pieces done in order to achieve that goal. That often comes back to how organized we are.

Step 2. Getting organized

Along with setting goals, you need to be organized enough so that when you figure out the steps that will lead you to that goal, you can remember and keep track of them. If they worked, then you want to use them again but applied to a different goal.

If you’re like me, lists seem like a good idea. I used to use paper, and would end up with lists and notes that I would have a hard time referencing or even finding when I needed them again. I’ve been through a number of digital note apps and supposed organizing programs. Well, I’ve settled on just one now. It’s called Trello. It’s free and I love it because it’s both visual and goal oriented in itself. Don’t worry list people, you can put lists in it.

Between Trello and Google documents and email, I am more organized than I’ve ever been. All of these tools allow you to easily collaborate with others and everyone sees the same up-to-date information all the time. This leads me to the next and final part of this article: Asking for help.

Step 3. Asking for help

If there is one thing about me you probably don’t know, it’s that I’m a “Do It Yourself” (DIY) kind of person. I’m not just talking about teaching yoga or running my yoga business. I mean, I fix toilets too!

Yoganatomy.com was launched under yoganatomy.net originally back in 2002. That was me being DIY David and getting stuff done. From that first iteration until 2013, I did it all myself. After so many years of working on my own, I finally broke down and asked for help. It wasn’t easy for me. I never felt like I had enough money to spend on someone building a website for me, much less marketing, promotion, etc.

Little did I know that paying someone to do these things had a few benefits I didn’t consider. First, it freed me up to do the parts I really enjoyed doing and were the main reason I got into this in the first place. I now had more time to focus on my practice, teaching, traveling, and writing. Second, they did a better job of the technical stuff than I ever could and as a result, the website performed better, both technically and practically. Traffic increased, and that led to more workshops, sales of DVDs at the time, and students showing up at those workshops I was doing around the world.

Conclusion

All of this to say that the most impactful business related thing I did was a workshop with Guy in Brighton, UK many years ago. Thankfully, you don’t have to go to Brighton. We packaged it up in our course about Running a Modern Yoga Business. We’ll take you through a few high level activities that will help you wrap your head around your yoga business.

So, now what?

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