A movement of kindness has spread through the state of Colorado and has no plans of stopping.
Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you experience compassion? Like when someone remembers your favorite food and brings it to you on a rough day, or you get a text saying “be safe.”
Scientists have coined this feeling with the term “moral elevation.” It’s basically a way to define the rare feeling you get when experiencing an act of kindness, and a yoga studio in Colorado is working to make this feeling more actionable each day.
Kindness Yoga was founded in 2011 with a mission embedded in the name itself. Now, with seven locations across Colorado it has organized a community around the concept of kindness — sharing practices and ways of being that promote wellness and mindfulness.
At the head of this organization are Ellen Kaye, CEO, and Jack Cuneo, COO, of Kindness Yoga. Kaye, a balanced combination of vulnerability and strength, leads her team by example, always first to put herself on the line. Cuneo, strategic and cerebral, always has the big-picture in the back of his mind. Together, the pair work to balance out their strengths and weaknesses, creating the successful business that is Kindness Yoga.
“One of the coolest things about working for or practicing in a studio called Kindness is you are instantly held accountable to something much larger than yourself, and even much larger than a company,” said Cuneo. “We make everything we do an opportunity to practice kindness. We don’t always get it right — who does? But we are wholeheartedly raising the flag of kindness, compassion, tolerance and diversity. And as we keep growing as a business, our ability to have an impact on our communities grows too.”
The flag of kindness is being raised currently in seven different neighborhoods across the state of Colorado. Each building has its own unique layout, forcing the company’s branding to be more than just furniture and set up.
“What we found over time, especially in a metropolitan area like Denver [for example], you have different demographics and sorts of people who want to practice in different locations. In many ways and cases people choose where they work and live, and if we are going to be in that neighborhood, they appreciate our location taking on the unique flavor of the neighborhood. So we have really come to embrace that and make it something we strive for.”
However, there are specific design elements consistent throughout each studio to maintain the overall feel from the first location. For instance, a wooden lotus can be found behind the desk at each studio.
“As we evolve, we start to land on things that really work for us,” said Kaye. “The last four locations all have the same high-quality sound system. We are investing in a new level of flooring for our upcoming location, with hopes that specific flooring will become [part of our identity]. It’s still an iterative process — we are handling it one piece at a time.”
A group of people or things having similar characteristics.
Some people are more polished in life. You know them when you see them. Every strand of hair is in place, their jewelry matches their clothing exactly, and you know they are never straying from their daily planner’s schedule.
That’s not Kindness Yoga.
“Kindness is more like bed head,” said Kaye. “You walk in and it’s casual and comforting. It’s very relaxed. It’s not perfect, and that’s intentional. By virtue of our not-manicured look, we immediately invoke a welcome — the opposite of intimidation.”
The intentionality behind this non-manicured look goes back to the branding and marketing efforts of the studios. When someone looks at a photo from Kindness Yoga they will see people of varying ages, skin colors and body types. The diversity shown in the images and the conversational style of text they use in their social media posts sets people up to be comfortable with the studios before they even step foot inside.
When someone does make the choice to walk into a Kindness Yoga studio, the team strives to start forming a relationship immediately. However, systematizing a relationship isn’t the easiest thing to do, as everyone forms bonds differently.
“As a studio chain grows we have to say to ourselves, ‘OK here we are — we are getting bigger. How do we ensure that students, teachers and people manning the front desk all feel seen by one another as if they are part of something larger than themselves?’” asked Cuneo. “What we have come up with and the way we approach that is by trying to find ways to develop and invest in communication with staff, so that we are laying the foundation for really positive relationships from the beginning.”
The communication between the staff is vital to the success of Kindness Yoga. Now that the studio has established a presence in the yoga industry, it would be easy for them to look for outside hires. However, they have found the best success with those who have grown along with the community.
“As we grow, we have the ability to look beyond our community and start to hire for more specific skill sets,” said Kaye. “But because we have hired from inside the community, we have put a lot of time and energy into cultivating people and that generates a connectivity of culture, a feeling of camaraderie and loyalty that you don’t necessarily find when you hire just for the position.”
In some businesses with multiple locations, miscommunication runs rampant. However, Kaye and Cuneo have placed an importance on centralized management. But with locations across Colorado, face-to-face time is limited, so technology has aided in keeping the team on the same page.
“Our managers all meet together on a weekly basis and we’re in constant communication using technology tools,” said Cuneo. “We use Asana, a task management system. We are constantly sharing information and sharing tasks. Even though the locations all feel a little different, the team is always working as one unit behind the scenes. It’s really all about the people and then getting the tools in their hands in order to collaborate with one another.”
Gentle on a part of the body.
Because each neighborhood a Kindness Yoga location is found in has unique populations of students attending classes, there is no cookie-cutter approach to structuring classes. Barre, hot yoga, vinyasa flow, meditation classes and more are all found at the varying studios.
Choosing what classes to hold at what locations comes from a lot of trial and error. Sometimes the choice is determined by hard statistics based on efforts in the past, sometimes it’s related to availability, and sometimes feedback from current students is taken into consideration.
“We always take feedback with a grain of salt because it can be hard to know before trying something if it’s truly a majority of people who will benefit from it, or if there are a few people who are just adamant it’s what they want,” said Cuneo. “Part of our job is to listen really closely to what people believe they want and then part of our job is to discern what will work best and balance the needs of a large group of people.”
More often than not, Kindness Yoga finds its goal is to help students build a consistent practice, rather than continually introducing new classes for them to try out. Students are prone to developing habits — wanting to attend class at a certain time with a particular instructor. This is the groove that helps them stay accountable to what they want to accomplish, according to Cuneo.
For the classes that Kindness Yoga does decide to add to the schedule, staff are consistently watching them to evaluate if it will become a success at that location.
“Sometimes we have classes that take a very long time to get off the ground, but once they do, their lifetime value is incredibly high,” said Cuneo. “Sometimes we do a test run and sometimes we pull the plug quickly if it isn’t running, but sometimes we have to tell ourselves to be patient with it. Give it time to develop into what it is, give it time to grow.”
A kind act.
With location number eight opening shop in the near future, growth is on the horizon for Kindness Yoga. Each location is within the state of Colorado, but Cuneo and Kaye said this doesn’t sway them from looking into the possibility of bringing Kindness Yoga to other metropolitan areas.
“There are so many people who hear the idea of Kindness Yoga and they go, ‘Yeah, wow, that’s something I’m really passionate about and feel a kinship towards,’” said Cuneo. “They might want to be a part of that, but they don’t necessarily feel there is an outlet, community or organizational structure that lets them make that the center of their world. We aren’t sure exactly where we might go or how that might be structured yet, but it is definitely something we are striving to build and working on.”
Kaye explained an inward reflection is required before making the jump to national growth. Ensuring each system of their business is tweaked and perfected is vital to a smooth transition into a bigger market.
“I see the next short-term goal for Kindness to turn inwards and improve what we have already created — to clarify, refine and document,” said Kaye. “From that place of stability, anything is possible. We are preparing so that if we decide to go national, we can do that with integrity.”
Going national means impacting a larger population, ultimately bringing their mission of Kindness to thousands. “We all look at the future of the world, and we aren’t sure how it’s going,” said Kaye. “The more human beings are practicing yoga anywhere, and potentially at a place called Kindness, the better.”