creating a loyal following
The New Year is well under way. Chances are, your classes have swelled with students you might have not seen in while, or have never seen before. These are the New Year’s Resolutionists, and if you don’t do something, they will soon quit. And yes, I did make up the word resolutionists.
On the heels of my last article on building your yoga business by helping students set and fulfill sankalpa (intention in Sanskrit), in this article we will explore one of the most powerful tools available to studio owners: the Yoga Challenge.
A Yoga Challenge is a voluntary program over a set time period in which students commit to practicing a certain number of times per week.
This potent community-building method works to instill the yoga habit in individuals, while helping them feel a true sense of accomplishment. It also encourages a more regular practice, making yoga a bigger part of their lives. This, in turn, increases your studio’s energy, attendance and ultimately moves your yoga business toward prosperity. Everybody’s happy-just the way it is supposed to be.
You’ve likely heard the thought that it takes 21 to 30 days of doing any one thing before it becomes a bona fide habit. The Yoga Challenge is meant to give people a structure for making that happen, holding them gently accountable for achieving what they set out to achieve. The results can be dramatic.
This program is so powerful because it’s a way to directly celebrate your students. Most people are in need of this and might not even be aware of it. At work, in school, in many relationships and even at home, life can be full of judgment. Individuals need to feel celebrated for who they are and have a safe place where they are seen and heard.
In contrast to your students’ typically fast-paced lives, you and your yoga community have an opportunity to be that rare place of nonjudgmental support and trust. Combine that with a Yoga Challenge that can help them feel better about themselves than they ever have, and you’re creating the most important component of a successful yoga business: a loyal following.
When you implement a Yoga Challenge at your studio, it will foster individual achievement by helping people realize their goals, but it does so much more. Students participate in this exciting event while enveloped in a “team” feeling-experiencing individual achievement within the context of a supportive group of like-minded, open-hearted souls. If you’ve ever been on any team, you know how good this can feel!
Once students associate your studio with their new sense of empowerment, they will keep coming-refueling at their sanctuary, their refuge, their antidote to the stress of the everyday world.
People who feel this way are prone to tell others about their experience at your studio. This will cause a word-of-mouth chain reaction that builds your business with the best kind of advertising while putting a smile on your face when you see how your efforts have helped so many.
I have guided many studios in creating the format for their Challenge, and each one is different depending on the personality and vibe of the studio and its community. Some have opted for a 30-day program, some 60, some longer. Some require students to practice every day, some five days a week and some allow yogis to set their own goals. Some studios do one Challenge a year, some two, some every season.
Certain studios position it not only as a challenge against oneself, but also award prizes to all participants, highlighting the yogi who practices the most number of times. Some use a big board on the wall for all to see, some have discreet cards for each student in a file at the registration desk. There is a way that is right for each studio, including yours.
So if you want to build your business in a fun, exciting, community-driven way, here’s how to start:
First, decide to do this in a big way. Commit that you’ll put the full weight of your sankalpa behind this-and hold as your primary goal to help your students reach higher than they ever have-safely and sustainably.
Next, decide a time frame and format for participation. Decide also if you want to price this Challenge separately or to have students use their existing class passes. Pick the time frame that will stretch your students’ thinking of what is possible for them to achieve, without intimidating them too much.
One of the most powerful elements for a successful program is to have each student write down their commitment and sign it. Ask them to make a commitment to do something a bit beyond what they have accomplished before or choose an objective they would need support to accomplish. Suggest that they challenge themselves to a personal goal that is outside of their “comfort zone,” and have them write it down. Offering them a simple form to use would make it this much easier.
Even more powerful is creating an opportunity for them to read their commitment aloud, in public! I don’t mean on the street corner – although that might make it interesting – but in front of other yogis and teachers in the studio, people they know who will be able to support them on their journey.
It’s vital to get all your teachers involved in promoting the Challenge. This should be fun for everyone. Even better would be if all the teachers participated themselves! Wouldn’t that be a clear example for everyone to follow?
As the challenge progresses, gradually raise the level of excitement. During each week, take photos, create a buzz and make it clear that something is happening. Yogis are sensitive to energy – everyone will notice, especially those not currently participating.
Make sure your teachers talk to students before, during and after the Challenge. Be there for them. Support individuals directly, encouraging them to come forward for help if they’re having difficulty. Consider creating a network of more experienced students that first-time participants can call or e-mail during the Challenge for additional support. This, of course, will foster friendship, cooperation and a deeper feeling of belonging.
Interview everyone, get testimonials and show them how proud you are of them. Make announcements in all classes with status reports to keep the energy high throughout the Challenge. This will ensure that at the next Challenge, your numbers will grow as more yogis decide they also want to be celebrated. Build your community by helping people grow, achieve and feel empowered. They will never forget it.
At the end of the Challenge, I strongly recommend having a community party or potluck event to gather all the yogis in recognition of their participation and success. Every individual effort that is celebrated will plant a seed in the student that can blossom into a lifelong yoga practice. Don’t miss this opportunity. Keep educating everyone on why participating in the Challenge is important to their lives and it’ll help keep your students on their mats all year.
Ultimately, the Yoga Challenge is like all the other tools I champion. It is about building a yoga business by building a yoga community, supporting individuals in creating life-changing habits and making this world a safer, happier, more peaceful place to live.
Give a Yoga Challenge your best effort, celebrate your students and watch your yoga studio light up!