I had the privilege of speaking to yoga teacher + entrepreneur Anita Cheung about her business The Social Yoga, a “nomadic” yoga studio that brings yoga classes, journaling, and sometimes tasty snacks to spaces around Vancouver. She told me how she ensures students know where to find each class, what she does differently in her classes (they’re typically 2 hours long!), and why she invested in developing a unique, bold brand.
What’s a nomadic yoga studio?
We consider ourselves the original Nomadic Yoga Studio offering an alternative to a typical yoga class experience. Instead of having a fixed brick and mortar space, we run our classes in other settings (like coffee shops, juice bars, retail shops, galleries, etc.) either before or after hours. We do our best to still maintain a studio community vibe in class as well as continue to foster relationships with our community online after class (via socialyogaonline.com as well as social media).
How do your students know where to find your classes?
Most people hear about us through social media — Instagram, usually. Our fave Vancouver guide website, Scout Magazine also does an update each month about what’s on tap for us.
What makes your classes different from the typical Vancouver yoga class?
The biggest difference is that we rarely do drop-ins. Students know to sign up for a “series”- aka a course of classes that runs once a week and spans four weeks. This is so that the same people can hang out and get to know one another.
Secondly, we take it slow. Instead of rushing in, getting your sweat on for an hour, and booking it right afterwards, we romance the yoga class a little bit more. In our signature Straight Social Series, classes are two hours long and we spend some time at the beginning warming people up to one another (through ice breakers and conversation). We also take some time after the practice to do some journalling, reflection, and more conversation.
Finally, in our Social Yoga Plus classes, we partner with other businesses to host fun novelty series. For example, we are doing a boxing & yoga combo next month as well as an acupuncture & yoga series. In the past, we’ve done bookclubs and cookbook clubs, speaker/storytelling series, as well as brunch & yoga. If it’s unconventional, we dig it.
You have such a punchy website – why was it important for you to invest in branding yourself so boldly?
I have a passion for good design and knew that in order to stand out amongst a saturated yoga scene, a strong brand was needed.
What is your relationship like with the businesses that lend you space for your classes?
It’s super important for me that everyone leaves feeling good — including the students who take the class and the businesses we partner with. The spaces don’t come for free. I make sure that the businesses are fairly compensated.
Your concept is so unique! Weren’t you nervous to get started?
Thanks! To be honest, I wasn’t too nervous as I literally had nothing to lose. I can imagine it being difficult for those who are comfortable with a regular paycheque to take the leap but I never had the luxury. I went from starving student to starving yoga teacher to starving business owner. I was also naive and didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into. I don’t think I realized when I started the business that I would be married to it the way that I am now and that I could kiss “early 20s YOLO-style six week backpacking vacations” goodbye. Would I change a thing? Nope. At the end of the day, the drive to create The Social Yoga was like a fire under my butt — it just had to happen. And I’m the kind of person that when I set my mind on something I want, I make it happen.
I would love to see something like this in Toronto – do you have any plans to run a series here?
As a matter of fact, I do! I am in the works of planning a stint in Toronto this fall. We are partnering with a local company to host one of our “Cheapest Yoga Retreats Ever”. Think: yoga, paddleboard, camping. Before that weekend, we’re on the lookout for some sweet spots to host pop up 3-week series. If you know any, holla!
Also, if you are a Toronto-based yoga teacher wanting to bring The Social Yoga to the six, let us know! Our goal is to have The Social Yoga running in multiple cities around North America (and eventually the world). Consider this a callout!
Keep up with The Social Yoga at thesocialyoga.com
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