When the three owners of Three Trees Yoga – Karen Schwisow, Suzy Green and Jeni Martinez – opened the studio they had intention for the studio to be a place where everyone could feel safe and have a sense of belonging.
They have cultivated that connection both inside and outside their studio walls, sharing why connecting with the surrounding community is vital for yoga studios.
In the past, Three Trees Yoga, located in Federal Way, Washington, has held a variety of donation-based yoga classes to raise funds for multiple causes. Some of them include: Yoga Behind Bars, a not-for-profit that offers yoga to inmates; Fusion, a not-for-profit connecting families with transitional housing; and Multi-Service Center, a not-for-profit connecting low income families and individuals with resources.
“Currently, we are collecting feminine hygiene products and packaging them in quart sized bags to be handed out by Multi-Service Center (MSC) to our homeless and underserved population,” said Schwisow. “When we reached out this year to work with MSC, they told us this is one of their most requested products, being they are not covered by basic assistance programs, and that they are also one of the least donated. We have had an overwhelming response from our community on this project and have been inspired to continue offering more projects in this vein.”
Truly Yoga, located in Newark, Delaware, is a small business in a small city, which can feel limiting when it comes to community outreach. However, this doesn’t stop them from giving back.
“We give a lot of giveaways to local charities,” said Sarah Wnenchak, the owner of the studio. “We give out a lot of raffles to get people in the studio to share mindfulness. We offer events at the studio and welcome the public and surrounding communities in.”
Truly Yoga also reaches out to the local schools. “We’re trying to do more of a kid outreach program,” said Wnenchak. “Getting more mindfulness programs inside of schools and hopefully in the future doing a little more of that, because mindfulness is very important for children.”
Being close to two military bases, Three Trees Yoga has an opportunity to serve veterans struggling with PTSD by offering them free classes. “We also offer our space to a group from our local veteran center that works with female soldiers who have been victims of sexual assault in the military,” said Schwisow. “Outside of the studio, we have worked with the Wounded Warrior Project to bring yoga and mindfulness classes to soldiers in need.”
Connecting to the community is impacting, but it doesn’t come without work. In order to pull off a successful event, you have to know how to market.
Three Trees Yoga uses a variety of platforms to reach their community.
“We use Facebook, Instagram, group emails and promotional flyers, and encourage our teachers to highlight upcoming events at the beginning or end of each class,” said Green. “We highlight stories about our teachers and students and post photos of every event on social media. We also have volunteers who share our promotional flyers in businesses where they have a clientele with similar interests, such as a health food grocery, chiropractor office or naturopath office. Our prenatal flyers are posted at the OB-GYN offices in the area.”
Prior to a new series, Three Trees Yoga often host a free demo class to encourage students to try a unique practice like kundalini yoga, meditation or Tai Chi. Trying a class and meeting the instructor in advance gives students the confidence to sign up for the upcoming series.
Truly Yoga has similar strategies for marketing to the community.
Wnenchak always post to social media, especially to Facebook and Instagram. She also sends out emails. Other ways she reaches out is by hanging up flyers, going around to local businesses that are in the related field, coffee shops and chiropractor offices. “We are also a college town, so we have a few colleges and a university that are around, so we also like to reach out to students,” she explained.
Another way both studios connect with the community is through corporate wellness programs. According to Truly Yoga’s website, corporate wellness programs improve the overall health of employees, increase energy, improve posture and concentration, reduces stress and improves their overall mood.
Truly Yoga has three different options for their corporate programs. The first is Mindful Breathing/Gentle Yoga, a four- or six-week session program that focuses on breathing techniques and meditation. Another option is Mindful Yoga, a four- or six-week session program, focusing on moving through poses, a more physical practice. Lastly, they have Introduction to Mindfulness and Yoga in the Workplace program. This is a one-time session to introduce the benefits of yoga and meditation into the workplace. It includes both instruction and interactive mindful activities.
Three Trees Yoga’s corporate wellness program was in such high demand they decided to launched a corporate wellness business, Work Well NW, to meet those needs. “We made this choice because we saw both the vast need for yoga in the workplace and the ability to provide the necessary expert teachers from our teacher training programs,” said Martinez.
They said they hear regularly how their participants experience less anxiety. They are more engaged with their families, sleep better, notice and change self-defeating behaviors, and take in more pleasant moments. Overall, participants in the program feel a greater sense of well-being and experience less tension in their body and more. “Hearing comments like these and witnessing how classes were positively impacting the lives of the participants were the greatest drivers for the birth of Work Well NW,” said Schwisow. “This work continues to bring us great joy and purpose.”
Fostering a relationship within your community is vital for studio success and overall will help spread more mindful thinking. Schwisow gave these three tips to other studio owners on building a relationship within their community:
1. Listen to your clients. Because we care about our clients as people, they share their lives with us. They tell us where the areas of need are in their work, schools and neighborhoods. They talk about the local causes they are passionate about, and we are ready and willing to offer our help. They also give us the most inspired ideas for workshops and series.
2. Offer free classes and information sessions so people can get to know your studio in a low-risk way. Include donation-based classes in your regular schedule so finances are removed as an obstacle to doing yoga.
3. Get involved in local causes. People care about supporting a business that supports others. For example, we’ve offered Global Mala Events where a team of our teachers leads 108 sun salutes, and 100% of the revenue we take in for the day goes to support a local women’s shelter or Yoga Behind Bars. This creates a sense of belonging and purpose in both the staff and the clients.