First and foremost, co-create a good reading vibe, click this link for some purposeful background music: https://open.spotify.com/track/2EqlS6tkEnglzr7tkKAAYD
Years ago, I envisioned a dramatic shift in the yoga industry; one that ended the unquestioned worshipping of gurus, instagram-mafied yoga, and the ever-evolving fusion yoga that exists without traditional roots or foundation in spirituality. I imagined a shift so large that it could help studios withstand undulating fitness trends and economic shifts- possibly even a pandemic.
Then 2020 caught us all off guard and yoga studios across the country took a devastating blow. Some of the most well-known, beloved studios resigned to bankruptcy within 90 days, and hundreds more closed their doors in the following 6 months. A notable amount of yoga studios have permanently become virtual studios. Many have chosen to accept that “the future of yoga is virtual.” It is tempting to accept that resignation, especially when major influencers such as lululemon aka The Mirror, and franchise giant, YogaWorks started vying for dominance in a virtual world.
In December of 2004, I was 16 years old. One night a girlfriend and I got invited to a party so we snuck out and attended. Within two hours of our grand escape, the police arrived at the party and we found ourselves scrambling to get home. When we got home, we found her mother furiously awaiting our arrival. My mother was called and had to come pick me up in the earliest hours of morning. She was disappointed, and she hoped one lesson would resonate. She employed the classic parental phrase and asked, “If your friends were going to jump off a bridge, would you follow them?” Props Mom, lesson learned.
Please allow me to share two thoughts; the first is that on-demand classes are NOT a new thing. In fact, home exercise videos have been around since “aerobics” became a thing in the early 80’s. Calling it “on-demand” is simply new packaging for an old concept. Secondly, virtual yoga is anything but revolutionary; in fact amidst a pandemic, this virtual movement is highly reactive and driven by commoditization. It is not much different than a young teenager chasing what is “cool” about going to a party.
Sure, there is a strong chance that prior to COVID, lululemon was planning to move into the realm of online fitness, but there is NO chance that they were going to do so at the expense of their bread and butter; apparel and retail. Furthermore, YogaWorks already had an online platform prior to COVID, and it didn’t help them from filing bankruptcy TWICE in 2020. YIKES!
Sadly, YogaWorks laid off some of America’s finest teachers; teachers that were FIGHTING to make being a yoga teacher a valued and recognized profession. YogaWorks’ decision to move to a virtual studio was a major setback for yoga teachers across the country. On behalf of all studios and all yoga teachers, I have but a few questions: Are they leaders or are they followers? Are they solving problems or are they creating them? Lastly but of equal importance, what exactly are they chasing? Is it similar to your dreams or your objectives? If it’s not, does it make sense to willingly jump off a metaphorical bridge with them?
It is impossible to predict the future, but in review of the last 8 months and upon reflection of historical recessions, it can be deduced that virtual yoga or on-demand yoga is NOT going to drive any part of our yoga industry forward. There is a strong chance that virtual yoga will eventually become an underwhelming part of the past. As a studio owner, I can appreciate how virtual classes can make movement more convenient and accessible. I can also appreciate that virtual yoga in large part, has kept brick and mortar studios alive in 2020. That being said, I don’t believe that the virtual studio has the sustainability that is needed to consistently address the chronic, underlying dissatisfaction that plagues humanity. That potency and passion, comes from real humans lookin’ out for other humans.
The shift that we are experiencing during this pandemic isn’t primarily driven to solve for a healthier and happier humanity; the primary motivation is fiscal survival. Studios across America are fighting to keep their doors open and I hope with all of my heart that they ALL make it through. I hope this because when we get to the other side of COVID-19, we are going to need each of those studios to come together to make the next, most potent shift of our time. A shift that will allow studios to become more recession-proof and less dispensable.
The shift that we DO so desperately need is one of yoga studios and teachers coming together to learn from each other and ensure that each other can THRIVE! Together we can work to inspire a cultural shift so large that people begin to consciously turn towards well-being and demand a yoga studio be opened in every town in America! Can you even begin to imagine what it would feel like if going to a yoga class was a normal part of an American lifestyle? At Thrive Yoga, we believe it is possible! We believe that yoga studios have the power to change the world; one community, one class, one teacher and one individual at a time. In order to do that, we know that we need each other. We need to educate and empower studio owners, yoga teachers and our beloved students.
The way to change a marketplace is by changing supply and demand. If you/we demand a better quality of life, happiness, and health, then the market must shift to meet our demands. Humans are the most resourceful, resilient beings that can tolerate the most grotesque of circumstances; but 2021 is not the time to tolerate the lower frequencies that constantly torment us. It is time to raise our standards, raise our vibration and start to align ourselves in such a way that permits for all beings to live out their highest potential.
If you want that for yourself, for your kids and for all future generations, then join us. Find a Thrive Yoga or a local yoga studio and start showing up, first for you, then for others. Regardless of the economic climate, that is what Thrive Yoga will be doing– always and forever showing up because we can, and so we shall.
With passion and purpose,
Brittany Phelps & the OM-azing Thrive Yoga Team