Our webinar on the key lessons that we learned from this period of Covid as yoga teachers, entrepreneurs, and business partners was held on July 26. This day marked approximately five weeks of Phase 2, of a staggered re-opening of the economy, following approximately 10 weeks of stricter measures. Although 10 weeks seems like a short time in the grander scheme of things, for small businesses and the self-employed, it’s an eternity that can lead to irreparable outcomes. Even before lockdowns and border closures, like many others, we saw the downturn of a business that took years to build. In our Key Covid Lessons for Yoga Businesses Webinar, we shared our experiences and our observations. This is a short summary.
Experimentation, Reaction and Response
One of the biggest lessons we learned while running our business during the Covid pandemic was differentiating between reaction and thoughtful response. Both have their place in a survival environment. Don’t forget that as humans, we are endowed with our animal instincts that automatically kick in when we perceive that our lives, or in this case, our livelihoods are at stake. For us, reaction emerged as intense experimentation. Prior to Covid, our business relied heavily on revenue streams that came in from running our 15 to 20 yoga retreats a year. Needless to say, with global border closures, this is being put on hold for now. Secondly, we relied on income from in-person workshops and our outdoor yoga classes, both which were made redundant during the period of stricter restrictions. To maintain a small revenue stream, we reacted and did what everyone else was doing, and that was to put out live stream classes. Unlike everyone else, we ran our classes through our website rather than through zoom, which proved to be incredibly challenging due to the limited interaction with the students. We launched Instagram challenges to stay relevant.
After several weeks of learning what was working and what wasn’t working, it was finally time to sit down and come up with a much more thoughtful response to how we would proceed. A lot of people have asked us why we didn’t turn to zoom in the end for our regular classes. The truth is, 60-minute flow classes online didn’t fit our model. Urban Yogis’ core content is based on a holistic experience, which requires more than what a 60-minute class can offer, and when we do hold short classes, they are held in outdoor environments where the surroundings themselves are a big part of the experience. Ultimately, after much experimentation, we decided to set aside our financial worries and focus entirely on the content that we wanted to deliver, in a way that truly reflected who we are. That’s how our free webinars were developed. The experimentation hasn’t stopped. We are still experimenting, but in a less frantic way, and making decisions to do only what is authentic to ourselves. Our view is towards a much more long-term development rather than a short-term strategy.
Do What You Love; Love What You Do
Doing what you love and loving what you do is very much tied to the spirit of authenticity. Many people, and particular those that choose yoga as a living and a trade do so because of their passion for the practice. When times are tough, going back to your passions and your inspirations reignites purpose and hope. A well-rooted sense of purpose gives you more resilience than passion alone, and that purpose is likely to help you succeed over the long haul. So we looked into the “whys” of our decision making and engaged in efforts that fulfilled our sense of purpose. While passion is critical in the survival of your business and your work, purpose is a much more important career compass, so aligning yourself to your purpose, with passion, is a stronger combination for survival.
Importance of Trust and Non-Violent Communication
This is a trying time for everyone. Each and every one of us is going through changes and dealing with it in our own ways. The people around you may be on edge with their own personal worries. This means that it is even more important than ever to be careful in the words that we use to communicate. Our defense mechanisms are on much higher alert at the moment. What we say and mean could be construed differently by someone on the receiving end. Using open-ended questions rather than closed (yes/no answer) questions can lead to more positive outcomes in communication. Acknowledge appreciation for what the other person has done and offer help if needed. Seek valuable input rather than make assumptions. Our sense of security has generally been shaken, so it’s important to create a safe space and build trust when communicating with one another.
Letting Go of the Ego
No matter how well you think you’ve built your business, no matter how clever you think you are, no matter how proud you might be of the life you built, Covid would have certainly put these into question. One of the hardest challenges is starting all over again in a place where no one knows your name. That’s where many of us found ourselves, having made the difficult decision of where to hunker down as events unfold. For some, the decision was intentional. For others, they simply got stuck where they were when borders closed. Letting go of the ego and going back to the beginning is not the simplest of tasks. The biggest obstacle in allowing us to make necessary decisions in challenging times is the ego. It prevents us from allowing ourselves to be beginners again. It often prevents us from doing the right thing. Once we can let go of the ego, decision-making becomes a lot clearer. We saw yoga teachers who took jobs at airports, airline stewardesses that became supermarket attendants, studio owners that asked for donations, and off course, business owners in all industries that shut down. There is no shame in any of it. Admitting that previous decisions are no longer working is not a negative reflection of yourself. Different circumstances call for different courses of action. We need to drop the ego to see that clearly.
The Learning Curve is Steep
Over the course of the last few months, we saw how steep the learning curve was. Overnight, yoga teachers became videographers, sound technicians, movie producers, customer tech support, internet connectivity analysts, and the list goes on. We saw how a 15-minute clip could take several hours to create. Even teachers who ran classes on zoom figured out that there was much more to creating a better viewing experience. Better microphone, better camera, better lighting. Beyond this, the lesson was not to be afraid of learning. In life, we must continuously learn and expand our knowledge. Persistent learning, we saw in our previous webinar, contributes to greater creativity, and allows us to not only survive, but to thrive.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Community
The importance of building strong community ties is even more evident in times of challenge. For yoga businesses, it’s important to realize that community encompasses not only your students and teachers, but also the restaurants around you, other small business owners, and anyone that you work with. The challenges you face may be the same challenges that others face, and that solidarity may be essential in getting you through. For us, having a strong global community enabled us to collaborate. We reached out to local and international teachers to build courses, to engage in conversations, to support each other. This support should not be underestimated. We can walk the walk together, or we can do it alone. But having someone there to pick you up when you fall, and to be able to do that for someone else in return makes this journey a lot more powerful.
We would love to hear some of the lessons that you learned during these months of Covid. Drop a comment below. Thank you for sharing.
Don’t forget to check out WEBINARS by Urban Yogis for more engaging conversations.
About the Author
Julie Moksim is co-founder of Urban Yogis. She is Singaporean by birth but a global citizen by lifestyle. Julie began her yoga journey in Boston in 2003. Today she runs Urban Yogis and a Yoga Cooperative in Laos called Luang Prabang Yoga.