Book Review: The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga by Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith

Yoga is the process of skillfully turning challenges, failures, hurts, and mistakes into opportunities. – Amy Ippoliti + Taro Smith

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga: The Yoga Professional’s Guide to a Fulfilling Career (New World Library, June 8, 2016) by Amy Ippolitti with Taro Smith is a comprehensive guide to marketing yoga teaching as a sustainable business, while upholding the integrity that the practice demands. The book is part guide, part exercises and part memoir of Ippolitti’s and Smith’s already-achieved success as yoga business professionals. In fact, the second I received the offer to review this book in my email inbox, I immediately knew I wanted to write it…because I’ve admired Ippoliti’s work for years.
62ea9d1f-4979-4049-8a51-032bdb818944.jpgI was obsessed with the name and concept of her e-course, 90 Minutes to Change the World, even though I could not afford to take it when it was live. This book, however, takes that course and mass produces its most vital content because guess what? There’s room at the top for a whole lot of successful yoga teachers (and Ippoliti and Smith even take the reader through creating their own definition of success at the beginning of the book!).

There’s an irony in how, during the one time in my life I was making a living solely by teaching yoga, I could not afford to take that e-course. This irony is a problem, and one that Ippoliti aims to solve in her book. Here are my key take-aways for how to solve that problem, that I gleaned from reading this phenomenal book:

  • We need to make sure that our yoga business embodies the ethics that our yoga practice is about.
  • Yoga teaching is both an art and a profession.
  • Schedule everything in! Including self-care!
  • As teachers, we are responsible for being skillful, which means teaching to who is in the room and managing time well. 

With chapters like “Yoga Business Basics,” “Class Planning and Preparation,” “Presenting Yourself as a Teacher,” and “Social Media,” The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga speaks to yoga teachers at all levels, from the newly trained to the once-a-week teacher to those with their eye on national, multimedia reach.

“To be a yoga teacher is to embody what it means to have well-being in life, and in turn to impart that understanding to others,” writes Amy. “Trust yourself and your own authentic seat as the teacher. Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself, do your practice, and kindle your own fire. Then watch how your enthusiasm and energy can light up another’s fire. This is how we help wake up the world.”

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga is an amazing and comprehensive take on all a yoga teacher needs to know to run their own business successfully, with savvy, and while keeping their integrity intact. Everything is full of the intention of usefulness behind it all. It has templates for creating your own yoga binder, marketing plans, and more. From a full guide for how to sequence a yoga class to how to gain control of your finances, Ippoliti doesn’t hold back. And, while being about business, it is not a book without heart.

When I finished reading this book, as I sat on my grandmother’s dining room table (this was most definitely my vacation read), lounging around in new Spiritual Gangster sweats and my “Hoosier Valentine” t-shirt (thanks, N!), I felt a jolt of inspiration flow through me. The first Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is “Atha Yogash Nushasanam:” “NOW, the practice begins.” I now feel able to apply that wisdom to my yoga teaching practice, as well as to my own practice on the mat. I feel inspired to create marketing plans for all that I am offering this summer, when yoga becomes my main business, versus my side job like it is during the school year. My computer has shared screens; one for the PDF of Ippoliti’s book, and the other for GoogleDocs: my own marketing plan buzzing with the excitement of being a container to help me teach and make a greater impact. I will not be letting go of this book anytime soon.

To order the book, click here.

For more information, check out Ippoliti’s website.

What Yoga Teachers Can Learn About Marketing from SoulCycle

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Happy Souliversary!

Okay, I am going to be honest. I cannot believe I am saying those words. I cannot believe that I woke up at 5:20am this morning to make it to a 6am SoulCycle class. I cannot believe that I am excited to do that again on Thursday. My coworkers love SoulCycle and, through lunchtime conversations and a general attitude of realizing that my life is always improved upon trying something new, I went to my first class in October.  I did not go to my second class until February. Since then, I’ve been going fairly regularly (about once a week). It has been a joy to go to class on Monday night before graduate school…it feels like going to a dance club in the middle of the day.

What impresses me most about SoulCycle and, to be honest, consistently blows my mind is their marketing. They do it with soul, with heart, and with a business and technological acumen that screams professionalism and effectiveness.

As a yoga teacher, I am constantly looking for ways to upgrade my marketing practices. It is also something that I struggle with, and know many other yoga teachers who struggle to find a marketing protocol consistent with what they want to offer the world with their practice. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, I want to offer up what I’ve noticed through doing my “fieldwork” (tapping it back while taking some serious mental notes in my yoga teacher brain). All – literally, all – of these can be applied in a yoga teaching practice as well.* SoulCycle is just another type of asana. Same intention, different forms.

* Please note that while these steps are related to SoulCycle, they are by no means products of SoulCycle, just their process. Be mindful when adopting any of these that it’s all authentically you and not the content of anywhere or anyone else.

  1. Hold students accountable through consistent e-mail communication.
    • I receive multiple emails from SoulCycle. The following are the types of emails (and they work for every yoga business as well).
      • Weekly Updates: discounts, various themed classes, a small note
      • Special Occasions / Celebratory: announcements of big events, workshops, + more
      • Reservations: Every time I book a class, I receive an email that has a calendar attachment inside to make my life that much easier.
      • Social Media Campaigns: where to find the business using various hashtags related to different themes
      • Event Alerts + Reminders: what gets sent out ahead of time to make new events known
  2. Offer a free class once they’re hooked.
    • My free class was not my first class; it was my second…and it was a lovely surprise that made me appreciate the customer service that much more.
  3. Maintain a gorgeous and light-hearted website.
    • Their website has unbelievably awesome content, with mini simple interviews with instructors that share light-hearted facts such as guilty pleasures + fave karaoke songs (*Again, do not copy these actual prompts; make your own!).
  4. Be extremely beginner-friendly.
    • I can always count on there being someone (or four people) to make me feel welcomed when I get on a bike. At first glance, the studio seemed over-staffed. But then I realized that it is hugely important to have people there who can make modifications for the beginners. And, when the instructor asks if anyone is new, it is always to cheer them on. At the workshops I teach this summer, I would love to pull in a friend wearing a Harlem Yoga Studio t-shirt to help welcome in the beginners.
  5. Welcome everyone.
    • Have a smile on, and a warm voice, and be prepared to answer questions. It’s really that simple.
  6. Offer amenities.
    • The gum, towels, toiletries, pins, and hair ties – fully on display – are such a nice touch. In yoga, handouts and mini Lara bars have done the trick for me in the past.
  7. Publicize what’s happening behind-the-scenes.
    • As you can tell, I love learning about the business aspect of the studio, and seeing what’s going on behind the scenes through social media posts and interviews on their great blog is a huge part of that!
  8. Create specials, keep up with trends, and cultivate themed classes.
  9. Make signing up a ritual.
    • If it’s 12pm on the dot on a Monday, the faculty lounge at my workplace is abuzz with people signing up on the very nicely-interfaced app for all their classes for the week. Then, their schedule is built around it and everyone walks around with the satisfaction of booking the reservations / bikes they wanted. I try to do this with my Laughing Lotus app too. Oh, the simply pleasures.
  10. After doing Steps 1-9, charge what you deserve and round up.
    • SoulCycle prices are no joke. They are steep. Yet they also offer a robust scholarship program and, I’m assuming, pay their instructors well so I don’t complain and I don’t hear other cyclers complaining either. As professionals that deal with the body, what we do is no joke. It’s important for us to value ourselves, by truly gauging the population we can serve, so that we can provide for other populations we’d like to serve. Often, this involves rounding up.

What are you waiting for? Tap it back, write up a blog post, or update that website!