“This is it. I don’t think we can look anywhere else. Nothing else is going to beat it,” said Lauren Farina to her sister, Kelly Carter, as they walked past a George Strait calendar pinned on a door. The sisters had been searching about two weeks for a space to house their newly deemed Shakti Power Yoga business, and they found the perfect spot — a 110-year-old house on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee.
The house is spilling over with history. Farina and Carter bought it from its previous owners, the family of musician Roy Orbison. Orbison was known for his powerful voice and wide vocal range, using the space as a place to pursue his passion. The space eventually functioned as a publishing company for his work.
And for the sisters, it was the perfect home for their passion — yoga.
“We never wanted to be the studio in a strip mall — there’s too much history in Nashville for that,” said Farina. “Music Row is kind of the hub of Nashville. We are on a one-way street that goes into the heart of downtown. RCA Studio B, a space where Elvis and Johnny Cash recorded, is nearby — there is music everywhere. It’s such an amazing vibe.”
Before making the transition to owners of their own studio, Carter and Farina were teachers at other studios in the area. But they noticed a lack of a welcoming Power yoga studio in the city. A friend of the pair posed the question, “Why not open your own space?”
“We thought there was no way we could open our own studio,” said Carter. “We had customer-relations experience, but not necessarily business-owning experience. But being trained under Baptiste methodology, we are trained to be ‘yes’ people. So, we decided to say ‘yes’ to opening a business, even though we didn’t know how it would work out.”
The transition happened fast once they made their decision to go for it. Farina and Carter stopped teaching at the previous studio they worked at in March of 2012 and opened Shakti in October of that same year. Their goal was to create a space where people felt welcomed and were also able to have a consistent Power yoga practice.
“We really learned just how strong our work ethic is when we want something that bad,” said Farina. “We were able to offer a studio to the Nashville community that was Power, heated and grounded in Baptiste methodology. It is insane how quickly the business has grown.”
In those first days as owners, Farina explained they took it day by day. They lived and breathed Shakti and yoga, as the siblings physically lived in the top floor of the house for the entire first year in business. In that time of living in their studio, they learned exactly what did and didn’t work for their business structure.
“We never got stuck on it being one particular way,” said Farina. “When you own your own business, you have the opportunity to change things and shift what packages work, what class times work and what teachers work best where. It was really interesting learning each day and each month what worked and what didn’t for us. We are still learning, too.”
The community at Shakti Power Yoga, from the staff to the students, is what Farina and Carter attribute to the studio’s success. In fact, most of the teachers there are hired from within their community. Most have taken Shakti’s 200-hour teacher training program, or have been active participants in the Nashville yoga scene. After an instructor joins the Shakti team, Farina and Carter follow a series of steps to get them adapted to the family.
“First, we have them lead a tryout class where we give feedback, and then they do it again a couple weeks later if needed,” said Carter. “We have an assist team which we start teachers out on as Lauren and I figure out their commitment, seeing if they enjoy being a part of the community. If that all works out, we take it to the next step of having them teach a community class. Then we will give them their own class. These are steps to move them toward becoming an elite teacher or having a bigger role in the teacher community at Shakti.”
The student population is unique at Shakti. Being located in the heart of Nashville, the studio sees a lot of students from Vanderbilt University and Belmont University. Most come to their studio as freshman, and Farina explained it was a fun experience watching them grow during their time with them.
“It’s always funny being a studio near a university because you have these students for four years, you see them start their freshman year and then you watch them go off and leave to pursue their passions,” said Farina. “But they come back and visit us, and we get to watch them grow up.”
Another interesting attribute to the yoga students at Shakti is its male population. Yoga is predominately a female-dominated form of fitness, but Farina explained in one of her recent classes there were 15 men and 15 women, completely split down the center.
“The Power yoga practice is a bit more athletic, so that can be appealing to the male population,” said Carter. “But honestly, I think people of all genders, races, ages and body types come for our welcoming community. We make people feel comfortable, and the guys we do have who attend classes start to bring their friends and sons.”
One of the members of Shakti Power Yoga is Ruby Chandler, the first employee hired when the studio opened its doors in 2012. After working with the sisters, she fell in love with Shakti and the community.
Eventually, she relocated to Athens, Georgia — and Chandler knew something was missing from the city. The answer was Shakti.
After talking things over with the sisters, Chandler decided to open her own studio. But it wasn’t just any studio, it was a new Shakti Power Yoga location in Athens. The three worked out a license agreement, making Chandler the owner of the studio. Farina and Carter are still there to offer advice and will make trips to Athens throughout the year for guidance or trainings.
“We go down there a couple times a year,” said Farina. “We actually just led a 200-hour teacher training for them this summer. We are in contact with her all the time with support. She also supports us and the Nashville location a lot as well.”
After helping Chandler open her own Shakti, Farina and Carter saw new ventures begin to open up for their business they hadn’t thought of before.
“Our vision now is to open more Shaktis,” said Carter. “Lauren and I want to open another location we can have a bigger hand in soon. And moving forward, we are really open to having Shaktis all over the South. We like to joke and say we will take over the SEC college towns.”
Another area the studio plans to grow in for the future is the retreat area of their business. Years ago, the sisters set a goal of being consistent in leading international retreats. After learning of True Nature Travels, a yoga retreat company, from a fellow yoga instructor, they saw this goal come to life.
The studio partners with True Nature Travels on all of its yoga retreats. Each year Farina and Carter are given a list of potential locations to travel to for their retreat. After choosing the spot, True Nature Travels handles all the logistics, leaving marketing and student sign ups to Farina and Carter.
“We were so blessed to find them because we have gone to places where we would have never had connections with guides or spoken their language,” said Carter. “I have no way of knowing how we would have went on these retreats without them. We have done seven retreats with them and the experience is so rich and special each time.”
“The fundraising you do for the retreats is great for communities as well,” echoed Farina. “You have to be a team to raise the money and figure out unique strategies for everyone. We all come together to help one another and it makes you tighter knit as a unit before heading out.”
Through their community, retreats and an always-adapting operations system, Farina and Carter have proven to be a powerhouse duo in the yoga world.
“What I hear as feedback from a lot of people is that Shakti feels like home,” said Farina. “We treat people with kindness, and how you treat people is invaluable. The experience they have from the moment they walk in the door to when they leave is all a part of the class, and we work to make that experience flawless.”