Bethany Lyons had suited up for a long rehearsal day with a small ballet company she was dancing for in New York City.
Donned in ballet regalia, what she deemed as ‘plastic shorts that are essentially garbage bags to keep her hips warm,’ Lyons arrived at the studio to find out rehearsal had been cancelled. She was excited to get in the studio, and the disappointment over a cut practice showed all over her face. The receptionist suggested she give the yoga studio around the corner a try.
Unsure of the class schedule, what to bring or the style of yoga taught, Lyons and a fellow dancer made the block trek to the recommended yoga studio, plastic shorts and all.
“We were those girls — we walked in late, didn’t know there wasn’t a separation between practice space and the lobby, and we were like ‘Hey, we are here to take class,’ and people were like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s currently going on,’” said Lyons. “They eventually got us set up in the back of the room. It was dark, hot and there were no mirrors. I was served for 90 minutes straight.”
At the time, Lyons was dancing around 40 hours a week. Leaving the power yoga class exhausted, she knew this was the perfect cross training, especially for her psyche and soul.
“The dance world is a beautiful and tortured world — you are constantly analyzing yourself in a mirror, recognizing what you are doing wrong and fixing it,” said Lyons. “To be in a space where I was moving my body in a different experience was amazing for me. I ended up getting a lot more from that first class than I ever thought possible.”
Time passed and Lyons’ practice grew stronger. She taught at various locations, led a class for a top-selling yoga DVD, trained with Baron Baptiste — founder of Baptiste yoga — and any other form of teaching she could get her hands on. However, she eventually found herself dissatisfied with the lack of Baptiste studios in the city. From that dissatisfaction, Lyons Den Power Yoga, the only studio in Manhattan dedicated to Baptiste Yoga, was established.
“I had a lot of autonomy, creativity and flexibility at the job I was currently at,” said Lyons. “But I had gotten to the point where I could do that job with my hands tied behind my back. When I don’t have a challenge, I am usually ready for a change.”
As Lyons’ decision to open a studio was made, she enlisted help from her now business partner, John Murray. Murray was working in the hospitality and restaurant industry as the chief operations officer of the Craveable Hospitality Group.
Up to this point, Murray’s yoga practice was sporadic, but Lyons convinced him if they were to really follow through with opening a studio he needed to “drink the Kool-Aid” and understand what Baptiste yoga was all about.
Murray eventually found himself at a teacher training with Baron Baptiste, completely immersed in the practice.
“I was a workaholic who had played high school basketball and went out a ton,” said Murray. “But when I do something, I really commit to it, so I went and had amazing things open up in my life after. Immediately when I came home knowing I had that transformation — I knew it was something Bethany and I could share with other people.”
In 2013, the duo opened the doors of Lyons Den Power Yoga in Tribeca with the goal of creating a yoga community that was welcoming, classes that were as empowering as they were challenging, and a place full of vibrant people up to big things.
Like most owners in the beginning stages of their business, Lyons and Murray wore many hats — from teachers to janitorial staff, the pair did what was needed in order to help the business thrive.
“I remember coming to the studio after working all day at my other job at the time,” said Murray. “I was in a shirt, tie and dress pants on my knees wiping down mats from the day’s classes. It was our second day and I was so thankful there were mats to clean because it meant people were finding us. I wasn’t sure how, but at that moment I knew we were offering something people wanted and couldn’t find elsewhere.”
That something was found in the fact Lyons and Murray have followed their objective from the start: “Focus on what we do and do it the best.” With the ever-changing boutique-fitness scene, the duo strives to remain steadfast to their mission since inception.
“The pace of change and pace of new concepts in the fitness industry is very fast in New York City,” said Murray. “The tendency and seduction is to get caught up in the ‘Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses.’ What is this new, flashy thing? For us, we do Baptiste Yoga, we focus on investing in our teachers and our people, and we have chosen to grow at a measured, purposeful pace.”
And with the multiple styles of yoga practice, the new flashy toy is always in the eyes of your members. Lyons explained Lyons Den is consistently asked to offer different class styles or to hold a class that isn’t heated, but the business is Baptiste-centered, and that’s how they want it to stay.
“It’s like going to a French restaurant and being like, ‘Yeah, I just want a cheeseburger,’” said Lyons. “That’s not what they do at a French restaurant; you should go to a burger place. I get we aren’t the studio for everybody, but what we do is stay true to what we believe in and the community that comes in really wants to be doing what we are doing.”
Because Lyons Den is marketed and structured to a specific group of people, those wanting to practice Baptiste Yoga, the business tends to stay away from deals or specials focused on driving traffic.
“If you come in our door and our yoga speaks to you, we want to know you and support you,” said Murray. “We would prefer you choose us as a part of your life, as opposed to a choice that just happens to fit the hot deal of the moment. We don’t want to see you for 30 days and then never again.”
Because Lyons Den has found success through staying true to its ways since Day 1, the business was able to expand the Tribeca location and add a second studio in Chelsea. Lyons Den went from 36 to 123 mat spaces in the span of a year.
“While we were in talks with the second location, our landlord of the first location told us the tenant downstairs was breaking the lease and asked if we wanted it,” said Lyons. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime because we were busting at the seams in Tribeca. It was like a club the way the line would form for classes, which is a great problem to have. When the landlord asked, we looked at each other and asked if we wanted to eat Ramen noodles and make this happen, and we did.”
With that expansion came a reevaluation of operations. Because the studio was used to feeling busy with a small number of members in the lobby, the addition of square footage allowed more people to be in one space. Lyons Den had mastered getting 36 people in and out of a class as quickly as possible, and they wanted that same sense of mastery to be matched no matter the size.
“Our goal now is to make sure your experience in Chelsea and your experience in Tribeca are seamless in terms of the same level of customer service, friendliness, and all the touches and fixtures to make you feel like you are in the same space,” said Murray.
Now with the two studio locations up and running, both Lyons and Murray agreed more growth is on the horizon for Lyons Den Power Yoga.
“We are currently looking for location number three,” said Lyons. “The goal is to expand and be all over New York City. Because of last year’s immense growth, we hit pause for a moment to make sure everything was in sync, and now we are on the hunt.”