WAS I MAD TO QUIT MY STEADY JOB JUST BEFORE LOCKDOWN?
Vicki’s yoga business has survived and thrived and helped others do the same.
In 2017 I trained to be a yoga teacher. Becoming a big part of my life after it helped me recover from a serious accident, yoga is my big passion. At first my yoga classes were just something I did part time alongside my job in the print industry, running two classes a week in a local venue. Gradually I introduced new classes at different times, and doing annual retreats in Kalkan, Turkey. But it soon got to be too much. I was working full time, then teaching in the evenings and at weekends and hardly seeing my husband Mike at all. We couldn’t even have weekends away as that was a key time for my lessons.
It was becoming impossible. After a blissful week away in 2019 in a camper van in the Welsh mountains, at the end of the week Mike said “So are we going back to never seeing each other?” and I knew something had to change. I mulled it over and worked out the figures. Was it doable? Yoga is what I love and people in my classes were benefiting from it and I wanted to reach more people. But I also needed to get some balance back into my life. I realised I had to bite the bullet and make that transition to full time yoga.
I worked part time for the next six months so I could gradually add more classes and build up the business. When I left my job I was ready to make that change, to go all out for my business rather than squeezing it around the rest of my life. I wasn’t even worried. I knew what I needed to earn and that it was achievable. If anything it was exciting. I was starting to market my classes and also working with private clients one to one. Posting about the benefits of yoga on LinkedIn, I found more clients.
This was in the February of 2020. Then when reality hit about Covid 19 and lockdown was announced in late March I had a heart stopping moment of thinking “OMG, great timing Vicki”. How could my new business be over before I’d really got going?
I instinctively made a really quick decision. It was the Wednesday before lockdown and I’d just done my sunrise session. All the halls where I taught yoga were due to close that Monday, which meant I could have done another two or three classes, but overnight I thought “Why am I bringing people together in a hall, potentially risking their lives?”. I’d have to change tack.
But how could I do it? I knew yoga could be done online, but I’d have to learn fast. It was like I was a woman possessed, determined this change of circumstances wasn’t going to stop me doing what I needed to do. I was like a mummy bear, thinking how am I going to keep this baby bear alive?
“Lockdown hasn’t put the breaks on my business, if anything it’s fast-tracked me in terms of what I feel is possible”
I figured out how to use Zoom for my classes and did a little test for a couple of friends. Then I sent an email out to my 7pm class group with instructions how to access the classes. By 7pm I’d transitioned everything online and gave my first Zoom class. And my whole group attended, which was just a joy.
Of course it’s different from face to face and everyone had to work out where to position their camera and mat. Luckily most of my clients already knew me really well and knew the form of the class, so we could learn together.
With yoga it’s not just a business – you build a community and everyone’s so supportive of each other and I really wanted to keep that going. I didn’t charge for the first month, as I knew making it work on Zoom would be glitchy, so I said ‘No charge, just come’ – it was important I kept it going when everything else in our lives wasn’t normal. I think we all took some comfort from keeping the classes going and seeing each other while face to face contact with friends and family was impossible.
I was just determined to keep going. I did wonder if the timing was going to be a disaster for my business, but actually it turned out to be a good thing for me. I wouldn’t have taken my lessons online – or certainly not done it so fast – without lockdown. And I’ve discovered it does work really well as a means of teaching and you can still bring a lot of value and benefit for your students, who still get what they need out of it.
It also means people who don’t live near me can now have lessons, so I’ve broadened my client base. People who I’ve taught on retreats who don’t live near me can now join in. Even when we go back to doing classes in halls and gyms, I’ll still keep giving online lessons as well and keep that connection with people who aren’t local.
It’s lovely to have this community of people who are all rooting for each other and facing our yoga challenges together. People take great joy in seeing other students achieve.
I’m earning less that I would have been if giving classes in person. But let’s face it, there are very few people whose finances haven’t been affected by lockdown. Some have lost their income entirely. I wanted to keep my pricing accessible to as many as possible. And also at the start of the March lockdown I started a free Tuesday evening beginners class to encourage new people to start yoga – and those whose finances had been badly hit – to be able to continue. So all in all it’s gone pretty well. I’m doing what I love, I’ve kept things going and continued to grow the business.
Lockdown hasn’t put the breaks on my business, if anything it’s fast-tracked me in terms of what I feel is possible. I’ve co-run an early morning online yoga and wellness retreat with my holistic therapist friend Jo Tocher and found new clients that way. In a way, lockdown has made me more resourceful and daring. It’s been a very interesting experience, not at all how I pictured my start as a yoga teacher, but I have absolutely no regrets!
Words: Marina Gask