BUSINESS

QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL RETREAT VENUE

QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL RETREAT VENUE

 

So, you’ve gauged your ideal audience’s interest, decided on a killer retreat theme, and selected the perfect destination. Now, it’s time to choose the venue that will compliment your retreat theme and meet your needs to ensure an unbelievable retreat experience.

Personally reaching out to your prospective venues is the best way to determine which will be the best fit for you and your guests. But, what questions are important to ask during the decision making process?

In this post, we’ve compiled the questions that will help you make the most educated decision when choosing your venue. Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask each venue before settling on an official retreat location:

Before you get started, download our Venue Tracking Spreadsheet to keep everything organized in one place! 


1. What does the accommodation set-up look like?

How many people can they accommodate and how is the sleeping accommodation set-up? Will each guest have a private room? Shared rooms? Single beds, bunk beds or double/queen beds? Do they offer private baths or community restrooms? What additional amenities will each room include such as AC, mosquito nets, fridge, TV, etc.? You'll have to determine which of these elements is important to you. 

 

2. How does transportation to and from the venue typically work?

How far is the nearest airport? What’s the best way to get to and from the airport to the venue? Will getting to the specific region require a domestic flight, train or transport in addition to an international flight? Is any transport provided by the venue? If not, are they able to recommend a reliable service? How much is it or is it included in the price? 

 

3. What types of meals will be available at the venue?

Can they cater to specific diets and allergies? i.e. peanut allergies, dairy intolerances, vegan diets, vegetarian diets? What meals and snacks are typically included in accommodation packages? Do they provided filtered water and is it free?

 

4. What kind of housekeeping and linen services are available?

Are all linens provided? How often are rooms cleaned and towels changed out? What about soaps and basic toiletries, if any? What do they provide vs. what do guests need to bring?

 

5. Are private group spaces be available?

Indoor and outdoor? How many people can each space accommodate? If you're hosting a yoga or fitness retreat, are there dedicated spaces for what you need? If you have some other kind of specialty offering do they have space for you? Will you have to improvise? What about dining, workshops, and meeting spaces? How do settings vary?

 

6. Do they offer any excursions?

Can excursions be added as part of your package or are any included? What’s the cost? What types of excursions, local tours, events, or adventures? Do any compliment your retreat theme well?

 

7. What are the financial policies?

How much is the deposit to secure the space? What are the refund and cancellations guidelines? Are they flexible as your group size changes? What’s the timeline regarding payments? Price per person? Opportunity for deals or group discount rates? What about retreat leader discounts? How do they accept payments? Paypal, bank transfer, etc?

 

8. What have their past retreat-hosting experiences looked like?

Have they hosted group retreats before? Do they have any testimonials? Will any other groups be utilizing the venue at the same time? Will this cause any scheduling conflicts?

 

9. Is there anything else I should know before making a final decision?

If you can think of any other questions that pertain specifically to your retreat, this is the time to ask! Once you’ve asked all your questions, double check if the venue can offer any further useful information. And remember, you can always call back or reach back out if anything else comes to mind.

 

BONUS

Don't forget that the venue is offering you a service as a customer. Pay attention to how well they address your questions, respond to emails in a timely manner, provide personalized information (instead of form emails), and generally make you feel confident about booking with them. 

If they aren't responsive, seem extremely disorganized, and lack quality customer service you should assume that it will be the same experience on the ground. That's why talking to references and others who have hosted an event in that space is extremely important. In your Venue Tracker (download below), give them a rating 1-10 (10 being awesome) on their general customer service. 

 

Now that you have a guideline for getting to know potential venues better, download our FREE retreat venue tracker spreadsheet and get to work! Good luck, rock stars!

RETREAT VENUE TRACKER

Venue_blog_post_pinterest

Use this spreadsheet to stay organized when deciding which venue is best for your retreat!

Powered by ConvertKit

HOW TO CREATE & PREPARE YOUR FIRST RETREAT - #myretreatbiz

HOW TO CREATE & PREPARE YOUR FIRST RETREAT - #myretreatbiz

Back in the fall of 2014, as I was adding hundreds of retreats to the Yoga Travel Tree directory, a very harsh and sudden realization came over me.

I didn’t want to go on ANY of the retreats I was seeing.

It wasn’t because they weren’t great experiences. They seemed amazing! I just simply wasn’t their target market. I'm someone who loves to travel and explore above all else, who loves to weave within the local culture, who gets her hands dirty in local projects and issues, and who loves yoga, too.

These retreats just weren’t for travel-loving yogis like me. I wanted travel with a side of yoga. Everything I saw was yoga with a side of travel.

First Bali Adventure May 2015

First Bali Adventure May 2015

I wondered if there were more yogis out there like me - who wanted an incredible travel adventure that incorporated yoga into the daily experience.

And with that thought, my first Bali Yoga Adventure was born. Over the next several months, I worked with local travel companies, transport providers, hotels, tour operators, guides, restaurants, and more to put together the ultimate Bali experience. My goal was to give my participants a once in a lifetime experience - assuming that my ideal participants would potentially only visit Bali once in their lifetime.

I was able to sell out that first retreat within 3 months from the launch date-- and I didn't even start with a solid audience already wanting to travel with me or YTT! I went on to create 12 more Yoga Travel Tree Adventures (and one destination teacher training) over the course of 18 months. 

Not all of those retreats were successful. (It reinforced what I already knew - but needed reminding - about knowing your audience and what they want before going all in on an idea.)

After leading retreats to five countries and three continents over the past 18 months, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to successfully create, launch, and sell out a retreat that not only earns a profit for your business but also provides an amazing - even transformational - experience for participants.

Combining my retreat experience with over a decade of experience in study abroad and adventure travel management (my pre-Yoga Travel Tree career), I’ve created a 4-part series all about designing, marketing, and delivering an incredible retreat.

I’ve made some mistakes and had some huge successes with my retreats. And, I want to help you find fast success too--unless you want to go the trial-and-error route yourself, then by all means ;).

In this 4-part series, #myretreatbiz, I’ll show you the step-by-step process I’d take to launch a retreat if I were to do it all again.

Here’s what to expect from this series:

  • How to Create and Prepare for Your First Retreat (This blog post, right here!)

  • How to Prime and Grow Your Audience for Your Retreat - coming soon!

  • How to Create a Sales Page and Start Selling Your Retreat - coming soon!

  • How to Launch and Market Your First Retreat - coming soon!

So, before we dive into the “how,” let’s talk about the “what.” What exactly is a retreat? In this series, I’m defining a retreat as 6-25 participants, spending at least 1-10 consecutive nights away from home. These can take place locally, within a couple hours drive of your home, or an 18-hour international flight away. The "where" is completely up to you!

The big distinction we need to clarify is between a retreat and a festival/conference. Once you start working with more than 25 people (which is already pretty big), we’re getting into festival territory which is an entirely different planning, promotion, and delivery experience. Retreats tend to be smaller and have more opportunities for time with you as the teacher and building a cohesive community among all participants. Think of a small, cute clothing boutique vs. a huge department store. We’re going for the boutique experiences here.

Here are some retreat examples:

  • 3-Day Silent Mountain Meditation Retreat in Colorado

  • 7-Day Surf & Yoga Adventure to Costa Rica

  • 6-Day Intuitive Eating Journey to Paris

  • 5-Day Amateur Photography Tour of Alaska

  • 10-Day Heart of Yoga Tour of India

Related: Check out the Heartland Yoga Festival in Kansas City! I’m one of the co-founders! 

Before we get started, download the Retreat Planning Workbook that we've created to help you work through this blog post and start taking some serious action planning your next retreat.

Okay, now that we know what a retreat is (or at least how we are defining it here), let’s dive into the key steps you need to take to create and prepare for a retreat.

 

STEP 1 - WHO DO YOU SERVE?

As wanderlust seekers ourselves, it can get easy to think of a retreat as our own personal vacation planning experience.

Often times, retreat leaders will think about where they want to go, what they want to do, when they want to go, etc. without really considering if that matches up with the where, what, and when is desired by their community.

Before you dive head first into planning that 5 day hiking, camping, and meditation adventure to Mongolia, let’s make sure that it’s an experience your audience really wants (and not just a bucket-list item of your own).

Here are a few questions to think about before you begin planning:

  • What’s my typical client/student demographic? Younger, older? Financially established or just getting by?

  • Are they beginners or more advanced? Well traveled or not so much?

  • What’s happening in our community/world and how will this experience serve my students and help them face what the world is throwing at them?

  • What do my students tend to look for in terms of retreats and workshops?

  • What am I known for in my community; what’s my secret-sauce, my zone of genius?

  • What kind of training/growth/transformation do I want my participants to have during this experience?

I highly recommend you put together a simple survey using free tools like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or TypeForm to send out to your community and better gauge what they're looking for. Five major questions to ask would include: what kind of retreat they’d be interested in, where they want to go, what’s the best time of year, what are they hoping to get from a retreat, and most importantly, what would stop them from going on a retreat with you.

This will majorly help guide your planning, position, and promotion of your retreat.

 

STEP 2: THEME IT OUT!

At Yoga Travel Tree, we see a lot of retreats come across our website and most of them lack a critical piece to help them attract the perfect travelers and sell out their events.

That critical piece is a niched-out theme. Announcing you’re leading a 6 day yoga retreat to Greece isn’t enough in this crowded market. 

The easiest way to tease out your retreat theme is think about who the retreat serves, how it serves them, and some kind of quantifiable element. Here’s some examples:

  • Le Femme Restore and Renew 6-Day Retreat to Greece for Female Corporate Hustlers

  • Bust Out to Bliss Out: 5 Day Meditation Adventure to Belize for Bliss Seeking Entrepreneurs

  • 7-Day Yogalicious Bootcamp in Tulum for Yogis Ready to Master the Practice

  • 7-Day Ultimate Adventure to Bali for Travel-loving Yogis

Why do you need a theme? Because, when you read any of the titles above, you immediately know if this is the right retreat for you. Are you a corporate hustler who needs some downtime? Are you an entrepreneur who needs to find some zen? Are you a serious yogi who wants to take her asana practice to the next level? Are you a traveler who likes to adventure and could use a little yoga, too?

Each of the examples above speaks to a specific audience and promises a specific experience or outcome: restoration, bliss, bootcamp, adventure with a side of yoga.

Who does your retreat serve, how does it serve them, and what is the transformation?

 

STEP 3 - MAP IT OUT

Now that you know what your audience wants and you’ve figured out a theme for your experience, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics. Where, when, how much, and what will go into this retreat?

Based on your community feedback and your own desires and schedule, you should be able to narrow down your 'where' and 'when.' From here, you can start finding possible retreat centers, hotels, resorts, etc. that would be a good fit for your retreat theme and style. Remember: you want to match the destination and location with the theme of your retreat. If you’re promising bliss and renewal, then central Beijing may not be the best location choice.

Also, consider market saturation. In other words, think about how competitive your chosen destination might be, especially in the yoga industry. For instance, Costa Rica and Mexico are the top two destinations searched in the U.S. While there’s a lot of demand, there’s still a lot of competition. Consider a destination that is in a similar region or climate, but maybe not quite as popular.

Once you've zeroed in on a destination, begin reaching out to possible hotels, etc. and asking about group rates, facility options, etc. (We have an upcoming post all about how to reach out to venues and what to ask. Stay tuned!)

While you wait for venues to respond to your inquiries, start mapping out your day-to-day retreat itinerary. We recommend using a spreadsheet and organizing the cells by hour. Be sure to account for transition time (driving to excursions, walking across a large resort, etc.), meals, group activities, personal time, SLEEP, and welcome/farewell elements. Ask yourself, is there a good balance between scheduled group activities/time and personal free time? 

How you design the itinerary will largely depend on the theme and type of retreat you’ve created. If this is a restoration and relaxation retreat, scheduling a daily ashtanga practice, followed by an intense volcano hike, followed by a spirituality group discussion and reflection might be too much for the body and the brain.

But, if you’ve designed a yoga body bootcamp experience, your participant might be disappointed if each day only involves a 60 minute practice followed by 10 hours of free time.

Make sure your schedule matches the vision and theme of the experience.

 

STEP 4 - CREATE YOUR EMAIL INTEREST LIST

Okay. It’s time to make sure your gathering all your retreat interest into one dedicated email list. 

Now, if you’re one of those people who hasn’t started an email list yet (even in a spreadsheet somewhere), this is where I give you a little “tsk tsk” and wag my finger at you (with love of course). 

Having an email list for your business is crucial!

I know some of you will tell me: “But Brooke, I have 1 billion followers on [insert social media platform here]! Why do I need an email list?” or you’ll say: “I don’t need an email list. 50 bazillion people show up to my yoga in the park events every single day.” 😜

Hey...if that’s you, then good job! You’ve done amazing work building your community...but sadly, you’ve built that community on someone else’s property. You’re basically renting that community from Instagram, Facebook, your local yoga studio, etc. And I don’t want you building your business on borrowed platforms. I want you to have your own.

You should absolutely be using social media to grow your brand and business! But, you should be leveraging it to bring people into YOUR virtual house via your website and email list.

Remember the good ‘ole days when someone liking your Facebook page actually meant that they would see your content...or when Instagram feeds were chronological and people actually saw your beautiful images? Sigh. Those were the days. But in the blink of an eye, those companies changed the algorithm and now THEY decide what people see.

This is why you need an email list - to protect yourself from platform changes that you cannot control.

So if you don’t have an email service provider (ESP), it’s time to pony up and get one. I recommend starting with ConvertKit* or Mailchimp. While Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 emails, the features you’ll need for the larger retreat marketing campaign are limited. I strongly encourage you to invest in ConvertKit from the start to make sure you’re optimizing your email reach and engagement from the beginning. (That’s an affiliate link, by the way. I love and use ConvertKit, but just want to keep it real here).

If you already have an ESP, well done YOU! You need to create a separate list (like in Mailchimp) or a tag (like in ConvertKit) to help you identify and separate those in your community who are interested in traveling with you.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just a simple “Retreat Interest” list or tag will do. If you see yourself doing a lot of retreats in the future, you might create tags/lists based on possible destinations and/or retreat themes.

So, go make that happen. Sign up for your chosen ESP and create a separate list/tags for your retreat.

Bonus: If you already have email collected from people who are interested in traveling with you, make sure you add them to your system and add them to the correct tags/lists.

 

Step 5 - Create and promote a killer teaser/lead magnet

Now that you have your email system setup, it’s time to fill that baby with eager potential retreat participants. The key here is to tease out the benefits of retreat with a lead magnet.

Basically, a lead magnet (also known as a opt-in bribe, content upgrade, bonus opt-in, etc) is a simple download that people will get when they sign up with their email. They are paying with their email address to get your amazingly useful piece of content, PDF, discount code, cheatsheet, etc.

A great example of this that we’ve used at Yoga Travel Tree is our “Ultimate Guide to Paying for A Yoga Retreat.” In the guide, we outline dozens of ways to come up with the funds for a yoga retreat or teacher training. We created this particular lead magnet because in a previous survey with our community, they said that cost was the biggest factor preventing them from going on a yoga retreat. So we created a solution that could help them round up some or all of the funds to go on a yoga adventure or get their training certificate.

The key to a lead magnet is to address a problem or need of your audience and it must relate to the retreat you plan to launch. Think about a quick and simple thing that would entice your community to give you your email in exchange for this piece of content.

Here are a few lead magnet ideas for you:

  • 7 Minute Meditation for Super Crazy Busy People (access to an audio download)

  • Limited time retreat discount code (email with the discount code)

  • 5 Small Daily Shifts to Find Relaxation in Your Busy Life

  • 10 Minutes to Handstand Challenge (series of videos to help students nail a handstand)

  • Quiz - What kind of yoga traveler are you (provide email to get results)

  • Checklists, cheat sheets, templates - anything that helps people get from point A to B quicker and more easily.

Whatever you create, it has to be a no-brainer. You want your community to think: “Well, of course I want to download this!” Easy button! 😁

It should also relate to the theme of your retreat. Meditation audio is a great lead magnet for a meditation retreat. A handstand challenge would work for a yoga-bootcamp style retreat. You get the deal. Remember...our goal with the lead magnet is to grow our retreat interest list. If they like the lead magnet then they should be interested in your retreat theme because it aligns with their interests, needs, and desires.

Try to avoid epic lead magnets like a 12 month yoga plan or 100 page ebooks. You want quick wins that seem manageable and actionable for people with a busy schedule and full inboxes. You need the offer to be simple and irresistible.

Inside your lead magnet, this is where you want to also talk about how you’re planning an upcoming retreat (or tell them about your planned retreat) that takes what they just experienced to the next level.

Think about this process like dating...first, you flirt a little with your website and social content...then you go on a date with the lead magnet...then you get really serious be talking about traveling together. You’d never walk up to a stranger and say “Hey, let’s travel to exotic destination together!...by the way, what’s your name?” 😉

Speaking of lead magnets...you can download our retreat planning workbook right here!

RETREAT PLANNING WORKBOOK

_workbook__how_to_create___prepare_retreat_image

Use this workbook to brainstorm and plan your next retreat!

Powered by ConvertKit

You can use Google Drive or Dropbox to host your downloads and share a link once someone has opted into your ESP. Both Mailchimp and ConvertKit can automate this for you. [We share more trainings and info about this inside our epic upcoming training: Retreat Rockstar]

 

Step 6 - Create opt-in forms and landing pages for your lead magnet

Now that we have an email list and an irresistible lead magnet, it’s time to make sure your optimizing your web presence to start growing that list of interested travelers.

You need to put yourself in a retreat lead generation mindset! This means your website, social profiles, and your in-person interactions need to highlight your upcoming retreat.

And I know that this can be hard for people...especially yogis. We want our work and teachings to speak for themselves. We don’t want to “sell” or “market” our offerings and talents.

But here’s the hard truth: If you don’t share your gifts, talents, and offerings with the world, you are robbing them of an experience, a teaching, a gift that may change their life. Don’t be scared to share who you are and how you can help. The world NEEDS you!

So, now that I’ve got you pumped up to share your goodness with your community, what does that actually look like.

First things first, let’s put your website in “Retreat Mode”. This basically means that you want to be promoting your lead magnet (that irresistible freebie) all over your website. It might seem like overkill, but remember that most people only see a fraction of the things you post and share. And a lot of people need to see something 7-12 times before they take action on it.

It’s up to you to give your audience every opportunity to find what you’re sharing.

On your website, you want to create a call to action/opt-in form (CTA) in the following places:

  • announcement bar area
  • navigation
  • header
  • sidebar
  • footer

You should also create a dedicated blog post about why your lead magnet is so freakin’ amazing with an opt-in form there as well.

After that, you want to update all of your social media profiles to direct people to your lead magnet. When you’re posting all that great content on social media and people click your name to learn more...you want to direct them to your best work, that also happens to be super valuable for them! So, whether you have a meditation download, a quick start guide, a quiz, or whatever, you want to put that front and center.

Entice people to come into your home and get to know you better!

Step 7 - Get to work planning the details of your retreat

Boom! You’ve officially started laying the foundation for a badass retreat specifically tailored to your community and audience.

And now your website and social media platforms are lead generating machines, building your retreat interest list even while you sleep! Now, we're talkin'. 

While that’s working on autopilot, you want to be busy planning out all the logistics of your retreat from creating the sales page, payment systems, liability waivers, refund policies, onsite logistics, gathering testimonials, etc. [We’ll be covering all of this in Retreat Rockstar...opening again soon!....get on the list below.]

Whew! You guys. I’m getting excited just thinking about all the awesome retreats you’re going to create. Seriously. SO EXCITED. In the next part of this series, I’m going to be explaining a step that most people miss when describing how to launch a retreat: how to build a community. I've seen first hand that growing an authentic, engaged audience that trusts you is absolutely vital to creating retreats that sell out. 

In the mean time, start taking actions on the steps in this post. I’m rooting for you, friend! Leave a comment below to let us know which step you’re on or if you have any questions. If you share this series (and your progress!) on social media, then use the #myretreatbiz hashtag so that we can all follow along. Yeehaw!

Keep learning! >> Check out the next post in this series: How to Prime and Grow Your Audience for Your Retreat (coming soon!)

RETREAT PLANNING WORKBOOK

_workbook__how_to_create___prepare_retreat_image

Use this workbook to brainstorm and plan your next retreat!

Powered by ConvertKit

Learn What Makes Our Global Yoga Teacher Trainings Awesome

Sifting through and choosing between the multitude of yoga teacher training programs can be daunting. How do you know if you connect with the teachers?

How do you know if you'll enjoy the curriculum and really walk away with a quality foundation in the physical, philosophical, and historical elements of yoga?

There are a lot of questions when you're making this kind of investment in yourself and your future.

That's why we're hosting an online open house - LIVE on Google Hangouts next Thursday at 9pm EST.

We want you to get to know us, our personalities, what our training programs involve, and get a better sense if our training is right for you. We will answer the most frequently asked questions and any questions you ask us live on the call.

Join us, your teacher training instructors - Kate, Kim, and Brooke.  We'll answer all your burning questions about our teacher training programs, what to expect, why we're awesome (if we do say so ourselves), and what you'll learn.

And, of course, we'll have a little fun too. ;)

We hope you'll join us!

Thursday, February 12th 9PM EST/6PM PST

***UPDATE*** Get instant access to the online open house recording!

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out and let us know if you have any questions about the training (and we'll answer those and more during the open house).

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Lots of love and light,

*Brooke, Kate, and Kim

Yoga Travel Tree - Teacher Training Team

We're Growing Our Team! Apply Within!

**UPDATE** We are no longer accepting application for this position. Thanks so much for your interest! Be sure to sign-up for our newsletter to be the first to know when we start growing our team again! ##

Greetings, Yoga Lovers! With the departure of our beloved Michelle and Giulia, we're on the prowl for a few new yoga-loving, wanderlust-seeking volunteers to help us grow Yoga Travel Tree and spread the yoga love.

So here’s the question: Are you a yoga-loving badass?

Do you love yoga and meaningful travel? Do you want some real-world experience working with an experienced yogapreneur and travel industry veteran?

Are you smart, creative, can work independently without a lot of handholding? Do you love craft beer, cheesy jokes, and the occasional+well-placed swear word? If so, you may be perfect for this!

THE POSITION

This is a volunteer position and does not receive monetary compensation. In this experience, you'll focus on marketing and outreach activities. You'll also receive direct mentorship and training from me, the founder and CEO of Yoga Travel Tree, and real-world training and experience working in a fast paced start-up environment on projects that will make your resume pop.

You'll be interacting with people from across the yoga industry - from studio managers/owners, retreat leaders, event organizers, celebrity yogis, and our amazing Yoga Travel Tree community. You will do a lot of writing, strategizing, emailing, and calling. If this scares you, please don’t apply.

I push everyone on our team to achieve more and perform at a higher standard than they ever knew they could. If encouragement and constructive feedback to help you achieve excellence scares you, please don’t apply.

Our mission is to offer yogis everywhere meaningful, quality yoga experiences anywhere.

I’m looking for people who find ways to say “yes” and can get shit done and figure things out.

If you don’t find things like this funny, you probably won’t enjoy this position. ;)

Basically, I’m looking for some badass yoga-loving rock stars who not only meet expectations but they blow them out of the water.

REQUIREMENTS

  • Practicing yogi and experienced traveler
  • Comfortable working on a remote team
  • Awesome computer skills (bonus points for graphic design savvy)
  • Social media and online marketing knowledge
  • Eagerness to do lots of outreach
  • Professional with a dash of audacity
  • Minimum of 15 hours per week and a three month commitment
  • Available to attend a weekly team meeting on Google Hangouts (Mondays at 10am CST)

HOW TO APPLY

Email your LinkedIn profile to me at info@yogatraveltree dot com using the subject line “YTT Application.” Make sure you share the public link to your profile. Don’t make me work for it.

(HINT: You should make sure your LinkedIn profile is just as badass as you are.)

In your email, give me 3-5 sentences about why you’ll be a badass for Yoga Travel Tree. No fluff. Just straight awesomeness.

DEADLINE

February 11th – You’ll be contacted if I’d like to interview you (I’ll do these via Skype). I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to respond to all applications.

So, are you ready to be a #yogabadass? Join the team!

How to Attract Beginner Yogis to Your Yoga Studio

When I started my first yoga studio in New York City, my goal was to create the perfect yoga sanctuary- a place that I was never able to find for myself. It didn't take me long to realize the idea was flawed. The easy part was getting past the attachment to perfection: a little mouse removed that issue the day he scurried across the floor during a kid's meditation class (thank God everyone's eyes were closed)! The hard part was realizing that I was not the typical yoga student- particularly for a new studio.

Who is the Typical Student at a New Yoga Studio?

Unless you're able to attract a core following from other places (which can lead to a number of ethical and legal problems if studio owners perceive you to be "poaching customers"- more on that in another post), your new students will most likely be beginners. This is because established yogis, no matter how enlightened, tend to attach to specific styles, studios and instructors. Thus new schools, in particular, need to make sure they are providing a comfortable, non-intimidating gateway to yoga.

Why Established Studios Need to Focus on Beginners

Even if your school is established, you always need new customers to maintain a solid financial base. Yogis relocate, have children, or simply lose their practice for external reasons. A constant stream of new students will keep your studio financially healthy, and continue to infuse your community with new energy and ideas. New students also benefit you as an instructor. I have become a good teacher not by teaching advanced students, but by teaching beginners and children. Think of it this way: the less someone knows walking in the door, the more they need you to fill them with knowledge and experience.

The Top 5 Things to Remember About New Students

1. The perceptions surrounding yoga are very different now than they were when you started practicing yoga.

Most people who start their own yoga studios are aware that they need to be empathic. I certainly tried to be when I first opened my school. What I didn't realize is that yoga is a completely different animal than it was when I began practicing almost twenty years ago. Many, many people want to try yoga but are afraid they'll be "fat" or "not flexible enough." A shocking number of women are afraid to try yoga because, "they're afraid they don't have a cute Lululemon outfit." It's your job, as a studio owner, to put these people at ease. Having classes specifically for beginners, featuring photos of people doing basic poses in your marketing materials, and telling first time students that it's ok to wear sweatpants to class all help new students feel less intimidated.

Yoga in the 90sYoga Now

 

2. Making yoga accessible and welcoming doesn't mean you're watering it down.

When I started my first studio, I felt every class needed to begin by chanting om, all poses should be called in Sanskirt, and blocks were the enemy. I felt that it was my mission to provide real, traditional yoga. Now I realize that my goal is to make students feel safe and comfortable so they continue practicing.  As long as they keep doing physical asana, the full yoga practice will be revealed to them by their inner self in a pace and manner that they can digest. I have come to view yoga as a gateway to a deeper spiritual practice. Our job is to introduce students to new concepts, and support them on their journey. If you give them too much too soon, they tend to overload and shut down.

3. Beginner yogis don't want a two hour Mysore practice.

Most people simply cannot handle a class longer than an hour. Especially in today's world, with electronics shortening the average attention span to a few seconds. I have found that the ideal class for beginners is forty five minutes, with a 2-3 minute savasana. An alternative, if you simply can't bring yourself to shorten the practice that much, is to provide a forty five minute physical practice with the option for people to quietly leave while others prepare for a 10 minute savasana. Additionally, they need direction. Do not assume that everyone knows what savasana is, or feels comfortable doing things you consider obvious, such as closing their eyes or asking for a blanket if they get cold.

4. Let new students influence your teaching style. 

Listen to your beginners, and respond. The best teaching advice I ever received was from a beginner, after class. I had spent an entire hour being very attentive, adjusting almost every move. Afterwards, she was speaking to me and started crying for no obvious reason. I asked what was wrong and she said, very simply, "Those poses made me feel so vulnerable and even though I know you were trying to help, I felt like you were criticizing me for doing it wrong." Lightening bolt! It's taken me years to realize that the way I was taught isn't the only way, or even the best way. Every teacher has to find their own path, and it will be shaped and molded by their students. I believe you should be just as open and receptive when you teach yoga as when you practice- maybe even more. If you're doing it right, your style will shift and change through the years like a beautiful vinyasa.

5. Doing yoga opens people up, which makes them more vulnerable.

This is certainly true in the classroom, but also extends to business items. I make it a policy to discuss all business matters before the practice. Simple things like telling someone their credit card has expired can trigger strong emotional reactions when they've just opened their first chakra. I also find it helpful to make sure instructors know how to handle it when customers have a strong emotional release in class. A couple months ago I was sitting in the waiting area of a well known studio in NYC, cooling off after class. Most of the students had left, and I heard the instructors all making fun of a student that had started crying hysterically during an earlier class. One of the instructors even suggested to their friend that they, "checkout the footage from the security camera for a good laugh." I only hope they were more supportive of this person during the actual experience.

 

[wp_ad_camp_2]

Image via 

How To Transform From Skeptical Athlete To Yoga Travel Aficionado

We've all be there (or know someone who has). We've sat in a yoga class of some kind - perhaps uber physical or uber bhakti - and we've thought, "Whoa, this is ridiculous!" We were way out of our comfort zones and what felt right and natural to us. But over time and with an open mind, we came to understand the benefits of that once strange and foreign style and approach to yoga.

That's exactly how Rima Jomaa transformed from an athlete skeptical about the value of yoga into a yoga travel aficionado and teacher.

I sat down with her recently to talk about how yoga entered her life, why she fell in love with it, and her passion for yoga and travel experiences. Hint: She's also our yoga teacher for our upcoming Costa Rica Yoga Adventure in April 2015!

*Brooke

P.S. The Soulful Business Bootcamp is coming. Are you ready?

 

Yoga Travel Tree - Costa Rica Yoga Adventure 2015

How to Choose a Yoga Teacher Training Program

Yoga Teacher Training Video GuideScreenshot 2014-11-20 21.56.01

The Yoga Travel Tree team walks you through the key elements to consider when choosing a yoga teacher training program that's right for you - for your life, your obligations, your intention, your personality, and your overall yoga focus. We cover everything from immersion programs to low-residency, to what to look for in credentials, deciding on a yoga style to focus on, and even the overall community you're joining when you pick a yoga school.

Meet Your Presenters

Brooke Roberts, Yoga Travel Tree Founder, 200Hr RYT

Kate Towell, Infinite You Wellness Founder, 300Hr E-YRT

Kim (Ganga) Taylor, Peace Tree Yoga Studio Founder, 500Hr E-YRT

Learn more about the YTT Instructors here.

 

 Download "How to Choose a Teacher Training Ranking" sheet

 

Learn more about the Yoga Travel Tree teacher training programs here!

Ready to Register? Click below!

Register

AdSize3TT

The 5 Most Important Things You'll Learn During Yoga Teacher Training

I had been practicing yoga for more than ten years when I decided to go to yoga teacher training. I wasn't necessarily interested in becoming a full-time teacher but had a desire to deepen my personal practice, learn more about yoga philosophy and maybe teach a few classes.

A few days before I left for the training, I was offered a teaching job at a new gym that was opening right next door to my office. Sweet. I took this as a sign I was on the right path. When I chose to embark on my teacher training adventure, I was at a point in my life of change and I knew yoga was part of the shift but I had no idea what a powerful transformation would unfold over the next year. For me, the yoga teacher trainings I have taken changed every aspect of my life including my career.

Yoga Travel Tree Teacher Trainings Discover

Build a Foundation

Any well planned and executed yoga teacher training should absolutely give you a strong foundation in the basics of teaching yoga.

You should walk away with a functional and embodied understanding of anatomy and physiology; yoga history and philosophy; the energy body; teaching methodology; safe alignment, cueing and sequencing; in depth understanding of asana, pranayama, mediation; a survey of yoga styles; teaching to all levels and special populations; ethics of teaching yoga; the business of teaching yoga; developing your voice and taking your seat as a teacher; living as a yogi; and Ayurveda.

You should leave feeling set up for success and confident to teach a safe and effective class. Did I feel totally ready to teach my first class four days after finished my training? Not totally, but I had a solid foundation and the confidence to get started.

Learn to Relate

One of my teachers often says “one of the greatest gifts you can give a person is the gift of your full attention.”

Yoga teacher training demands your full attention. It requires you show up fully for yourself and for the yogis with you on the journey. Deep connections are made by giving and receiving feedback in a way that is keeping with both ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness); supporting and witnessing the evolution of the person on the mat next to you; laughing; crying; sweating and celebrating.

Teacher training gives you an opportunity to allow someone to see who you really are and to witness your transformation. It is my experience that relationships forged on the mat in teacher training result in authentic life-long friendships.

Reset Old Patterns

Both of my 200hr teacher trainings were immersion-style trainings. There is something powerful in taking a break from your daily routine and diving into yoga full on for several weeks. Imagine what can transform when you wake up each day with mediation and asana then study yoga principles and philosophy all day with a group of like-minded folks having the same intention—not to mention eating amazing food in a beautiful place.

You can’t help but to change. You will not be the same person at the end of your teacher training as when you began. That’s the point, right? Teacher trainings provide a rich and powerful setting to shift habits and let go of patterns and old stories that no longer serve you (your Samskaras).

Deepen Your Practice

Yoga teacher training will support you to deepen your personal practice on many levels. You can’t help but build a stronger commitment to your asana practice over the course of your training but what about your mediation practice and living your yoga off the mat?

You will learn that to be an effective and authentic teacher you have to practice what you teach. A great teacher training will inspire you to commit not only to a daily asana practice but to create space for daily meditation and to continue to study and incorporate yoga philosophies into your life.

Discover the Teacher Within

You are your greatest teacher. Yes having a mentor, studying with Master teachers, continuing to take trainings, building an authentic yoga community and taking your yoga practice off the mat are all important.

But on and off the mat you know what is best for your body, heart and mind. Connect deeply to Sat Guru, the teacher within. Let this be your guide as you move forward with your desire to teach and bring the practice of yoga deeper into your life.

##

Ready to launch your yoga career and discover the teacher within? Join Kate and Team Yoga Travel Tree in Mexico for our 3-week 200hr yoga teacher training next May!

AdSize3MexicoTT

The Two Most Important Tips for Landing Your Dream Job

OK, so I work part-time for a yoga mat company, have interned with other yoga businesses, and am now an ambassador/writer for this awesome company. And what’s the number one question I get? “How did you fall into all of this?”  This question is followed by my response with a casual shrug of my shoulders. But when I tell people that I find jobs on Craigslist or via random Googling, only to stumble upon amazing opportunities, they usually don’t believe me. They think Craigslist is creepy and don’t take the time to delve into Google’s vast web space searching for jobs.

 Yet here I stand, an example of two very important concepts to help you achieve your dreams: Reach Out, Branch Out.

1. Reach Out

You have to be willing to reach out to random people, even strangers. No fear! No holding back! I landed this very blogger position simply by…asking. Groundbreaking, right? It seems so easy, and yet time and time again people are surprised when I tell them about how I got into this or that. They think jobs only happen when a job posting goes up. They’re afraid of rejection. But the truth is, you’ll never know what could have been unless you ask.

There is no harm done by sending an email inquiry, sending a tweet, making a phone call, etc. Just do it! If you think a company looks amazing, contact them! It shows initiative (and let me tell you, it’s worked wonders for me many times)!

2. Branch Out

You have to think outside the box.  OK, so we went over the simple task of asking, but how do you even find the jobs to inquire about? This tip is similar to Reach Out, but it specifically involves thinking of creative ways to actually find the job. 

Another personal example; I got my job with the yoga mat company by responding to a Chicago Craigslist ad…and I live in Pittsburgh, PA!* When I spoke on the phone with the owner, he asked me where I was from, and when I told him he was so confused. He asked me how I stumbled upon this listing.  Well I found it because I was purposely looking at all different cities because I was searching for a virtual social media job; hence, if it was virtual, why did it matter what city I searched in? He laughed at this and simply said, “How smart!” I got the job out of about 100 applicants.

 

Jobs are tough to come by, and finding a dream job is even harder, so you have to get creative and look everywhere! Look on Craigslist, social media, check company blogs, hit up LinkedIn, do cold calls, send emails, talk to people in the biz, etc.**

In the end, you have to be willing to accept rejection, no callbacks, and emails left unanswered. But I promise you, it you’re willing to ask the questions from all different angles then you are going to see a door standing wide open. Just don’t be afraid to walk in…

 

*I did the same thing for my Yoga Recipe internship, which was based in Austin, TX.

**The last three listed are firmly rooted in tip one, Reach Out and ask.

[wp_ad_camp_2]

Image via

Tim Cook Coming Out: A Fortune 500 CEO's Courageous Step

Tim Cook To Become the First Openly Gay Fortune 500 CEO

“So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me” – Tim Cook, October 30th

The Chief executive of the most valuable and scrutinized company in the world just came out as openly gay. At the age of 53, Tim Cook has taken a huge step forward for LGBT rights everywhere. As the CEO of Apple, he has become the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO. In a short and to the point article in Bloomberg Businessweek published on October 30th, Tim Cook laid down his own brick in “the sunlit path toward justice”.

With 29 states still having the right to legally fire someone who is openly gay, Cook’s announcement could not be more important. Although Apple is know for its advocacy for human rights, equality, and celebration of differences as assets, millions of other companies are not, with over 53% of LGBT employees having no choice but to hide their sexual identity at work. A 2011 Harvard study found that in some states, there was significant discrimination against openly gay applicants, with gay job applicants approximately 40% less likely to be offered a job interview than their heterosexual counterparts.

These facts are at the core of  Tim Cook’s motivation to come out. In the Bloomberg Businessweek article he states: “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy”.

He continues on to say “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life”

 

Cook’s courage must be celebrated and supported, not only by praise and gratitude, but also by action. As practitioners of yoga, we must take the opportunity to observe our own ways in which our community and our practice affect minorities or those struggling with their own identity. Yoga aims to be inclusive, loving, and accepting of differences and we must live up to these ideals. For example, utilizing gendered language in your yoga class is automatically exclusive and marginalizing. Instead of saying “hey guys” or “good job ladies” or “this is a great stretching exercise to do with your boyfriend!” utilize gender neutral language such as “hey yogis!” or “great job everyone” and “this is a great stretching exercise to do with your partner!” Think about how your language effects others, and let us strive to become that inclusive yoga community that truly is aligned with what yoga stands for: union.

[wp_ad_camp_2]

Image via