It goes without saying that yoga’s popularity is on the rise — and as a result, yoga studios across the U.S. are welcoming an increasing number of new students.

Many of these students are trying yoga for the first time. How can your studio ensure they feel welcomed with open arms?

According to Jessica Mishu, the owner of Blue Ridge Yoga & Wellness Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, creating a welcoming experience for new students begins at the front desk.

“Having front desk staff who are very friendly and approachable is extremely important,” explained Mishu. “It’s just as important to me as the teachers, maybe even more important. The front desk staff are the ones who are going to make you feel comfortable and help you sign up for classes.”

In fact, Mishu encourages both front desk staff and teachers to ensure students receive their full attention upon walking into the studio, further emphasizing a welcoming environment.

“This is extremely important for me, because it sets the tone,” said Mishu. “You can say that you’re about community or are welcoming all you want, but when someone comes in the door, they need to feel that. It’s really important to me that when someone comes in the door, they get our full attention.”

Blue Ridge Yoga empowers its new students in a variety of ways. For example, the club’s site has a page dedicated to new students that provides an overview of how they can sign up for classes, what to bring, and what to expect upon arrival.

Prior to their first class, a Blue Ridge Yoga staff member conducts a confirmation call with the new student, ensuring they know where the studio is located and what to bring.

Mishu explained they also provide free mats for new students, to lower the barrier to entry. “We do provide a mat for free, just because we don’t expect someone to have a mat on their first time, and we don’t want to have that extra charge — it’s not as friendly,” she explained.

Once the new student arrives at Blue Ridge Yoga for their first class, Mishu then personally greets them, takes them on a tour of the studio, provides them with an information packet, and introduces them to the teacher.

“If I can, I’ll also introduce them to two people next to them,” continued Mishu. “I’ll say, ‘Hey Sally — this is Jane, she just started practicing too.’ I think in the U.S. especially, all of us are lacking community. It’s just really important to make them feel comfortable and build that community where they feel appreciated.”

After a new student has completed their first class, Mishu then follows up with a phone call to hear about their experience and get feedback.

Ultimately, Mishu explained the key to welcoming new students is making your studio as intimidation-free as possible.

“It’s important to just acknowledge that it can be really scary for people to come into a place that’s new, especially if they have negative thoughts about their body or acceptance,” added Mishu. “Make sure they know that they’ll be accepted.”

BONUS INSIGHT: Puppy Love

Theodore, Blue Ridge Yoga’s resident puppy.

“I highly recommend studio owners have a dog,” said Mishu. “I think it’s something that really, really adds to this space and makes people feel more comfortable. It creates an extra comfort, and makes the studio feel like more of a home.”