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embracing competition in yoga businesses

embracing competition in yoga businesses

by Alón Sagee alón sagee
The Business of Yoga | Corp Culture


choosing abundance versus fear
Yoga is growing fast. It’s already more than a three-billion-dollar industry in the US alone. As a community, everything we’ve worked toward for years is now bearing fruit. We can now celebrate that yoga has arrived on the landscape of a culture that so desperately needs what it offers. Yoga is changing lives everywhere and its popularity is primarily due to the focused, ongoing efforts of people like you.

However, it is also because of yoga’s popularity that we can expect strong competitive pressure from our peers, as well as from potentially less-than-yogic businesses that are more concerned about the bottom line than with the spirit of yoga. In certain dense markets, we can forecast a shakeout, as the number of new yoga studios exceeds current local demand. But which ones will remain? The truth is that not all will survive—just as in every other industry on the planet. Yoga is no different.

In our competitive Western culture, economic thinking is based on a flawed vision of reality. There is a mathematics theory called the “zero-sum game,” which explains it well. Basically, the idea is that life is limited by the availability of resources, which in our case would mean capital, students, teachers, rentable space, etc. Therefore if resources are limited, one person’s gain is another person’s loss (there’s only so much pie, and if you take a big piece, there’s less for me; the richer you get, the poorer I get). Chess is a good example of a zero-sum game, since it is impossible for both players to win.

Through the ages, this theory has led to countless wars and struggles between those who had something and those who wanted it. As yogis, we can’t buy into this. We must continually remind ourselves that we live in an abundant universe and that there is limitless supply. We don’t need to take anything away from anyone in order to prosper.

So, what should you do about those yoga studios that are multiplying like bunnies on every street corner of your town? Resent them? Scream, “Hey, we were here first!” Compete with them on price of classes? Give up?

First, don’t panic; there is no need for you to do anything about “them.” All you need to be concerned with is you and your yoga business. Let competition be a catalyst that turns your attention inward, and ask some important questions: Am I living in fear? Has my fear convinced me that “they” will drive me out of business? Am I giving this fear my power? What can I do to be more authentically yogic about my business? How can I serve my yoga community of students in way that will speak to their hearts and make them feel at home in my studio?

The good thing about noticing your fear of competition is that it can be a wake-up call to see that you’re not focused enough on what your students need. That is its gift. You can’t shrink your way to greatness; we all need to expand into each challenge, very much like in our personal yoga practice. So open your arms wide, take fear out of your heart and embrace the idea that competition can make you and your business better.

If other studios or gyms are drawing away your students, ask yourself why and then talk to your students. Find out from them what is missing in your offering; they will tell you. Stay in constant dialog with your students about what they like, then give it to them, then ask if they liked it and if the answer is “yes,” do it again and again.

Competition is a frame of mind. If you think you’re in competition with someone or something, you are. If, on the other hand, you believe that being your best and offering up your unique gift to the world will bring you loyal students that resonate with your studio and its warm sense of community, that will be your reality.

All of us need to make a conscious decision about how we will run our yoga businesses. Will it be focused on love or fear? Fear is pernicious in its ability to use our vital energy to create the kind of negative fantasies that keep us awake at night. You might have heard the acronym for it: False Evidence Appearing Real. Except in emergency situations, Fear (and its counterpart Worry), don’t serve us well.

In my work with yoga entrepreneurs all over the world, I’ve coached yoga teachers and owners who have been so consumed with worry about competition and the students that “they” have lured away, that they forget about being fully present for the ones who showed up for class! This of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since your students are counting on you to be your best, and their experience of yoga fully satisfying. Otherwise yes, they may go looking elsewhere.

When anything threatens your yoga business, worrying about it is rarely a viable strategy. Fear, resentment and worry dull your presence and undermines your ability to function as the clear, inspired, magnetic person you need to be in such situations.

When these thoughts enter your mind, when you find yourself thinking about what the other studios are doing, take a deep breath and let the negative thoughts float by without attaching to them. Then steady yourself in the truth that when you are truly living your gift of yoga, the right students will find you and stay with you, regardless of what anyone else is offering.

Don’t waste your precious prana worrying about competition. Think abundantly and focus all the energy you’ve got on serving your students in a way that touches their lives. Show them how much you care in everything you do.

When you cultivate an attitude of abundance (a daily practice of meditation and visualization really helps), you will find it is much easier to be your best. When you are grounded in your mission to deliver excellent yoga, to build community, to change the world one yogi at a time, thoughts about competition will not disturb your equanimity.

All of this is really about putting your best out in the world and being remarkable. Remarkable studios can weather the storms and retain their students because they have created a place that feels like home, or for some, better than home! Don’t laugh; many people need a sanctuary from their stressful home life, and a yoga studio in which they feel warm and celebrated will not be easily replaced in their hearts.

Always strive to do something extra for your students; it will get noticed. Make the effort. If you don’t, someone else eventually will. And if you are doing your absolute best and things still aren’t working, you’ll need to reassess your situation. Maybe you are being called elsewhere, or maybe you just need to reach out for help, which can mean the difference between staying afloat or not.

Lastly, when it comes to dealing with another studio, choose to treat them as a neighbor in your community. Be generous and courageous in all your business endeavors. Be remarkable. It is usually the remarkable businesses that thrive.

So shine brightly, choose abundance, live your life fearlessly and enjoy the difference it will make in your yoga business!


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