When I first started practicing in the late 80’s, yoga wasn’t being offered on the same industrial scale as today. Teachers taught classes in community halls and back bedrooms and teacher training was usually conducted informally in small groups or one-on-one.
By the time I started teaching yoga in 2002, the landscape had changed dramatically. Yoga schools and teacher trainings were proliferating across the country and new multi-room professional studios were being built. As the owner of a new and rather small yoga studio, I wondered how I should develop and sustain my little business. I looked around at the growth in the yoga industry and thought that my studio had to keep growing and getting more ‘professional’ in order to survive.
While I resisted the temptation to stack my classes with dozens of students, I started to offer more and more small-group classes in more locations, increasing student numbers – and the complexity of the business. I amped up our retreats, booking more and more people into our programs. I invested in business management software and ramped up the advertising budget. And you know what? I didn’t like it.
I told myself I was being silly. There's nothing wrong with aiming for business success as a yoga studio owner. And that's absolutely true. But I still didn’t like it. So when my family moved to a house with a large rumpus room, I decided to experiment with making things a little more personal. I converted that rumpus room into a yoga studio and started to run professional development trainings for yoga teachers there. I liked it. It felt much more natural to invite people to my home to practice and learn together than to try to personalise a rented space.
Over the past five years, I’ve continued offering professional yoga therapy training in the ‘home-school’ style – the way yoga was originally taught. The Adore Yoga Graduate Certificate in Yoga Therapy is now run exclusively from my home studio, with a maximum of 14 students enrolled at any point during the course. It makes for a connected, productive and personalised environment in which students and teacher trainers develop mutually supportive relationships. Everybody gets to know my kids and my cats, and the fringe benefits include having a spacious kitchen upstairs for Ayurvedic cooking demonstrations and a pool to cool off on hot days.
I’ve spoken to many yoga teachers in recent months, including some who’ve walked away from their own studios because of the pressures of running the business. Burn out is common. But that’s not something we talk about a lot in the yoga community. It’s a guilty secret that many teachers feel ashamed of. If you’re such a good yogi, how come you can’t manage your own stress? Well, whether you’re running a yoga school or an internet start up, the pressure to perform is the same. The bills come in just as regularly. Your BAS still needs doing. And the irony is that many yoga teachers don’t have time for their own practice thanks to the demands of running their yoga business. It’s nuts.
So here I am in my home studio. I’ve consciously nurtured a smaller and more personalised approach to teaching and practicing yoga. That fits perfectly with the fundamental principles of Yoga Therapy, a modality that asks practitioners to individualise every practice to meet the precise needs of individual students. I’ve stepped back from the industrialised approach to yoga and doubled down on the commitment to steer clear of retail products and commercial partnerships. And it feels good. My life is less complicated, the yoga school continues to run with its values intact, students and teachers benefit from the more intimate environment. It just works. I’d recommend home school yoga to anyone.
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.