Build your classes and community
A guide to building two essential components in your yoga business: your yoga class and your community. By Jackie Heffer-Cooke
Be in love with your work
The first thing to understand when you are building a business or a yoga class is that you have to be crazy in love with it. In yoga we may call it Sankalpa, or even Dharma. It has to be your heartfelt desire, your full intention, your inner resolve. Starting, building and maintaining your own business is hard work, time consuming and sometimes all encompassing, so you must love doing it. It has to be your study, your hobby, your lifestyle, your interest, or you will get bored and it will become a chore rather than an inspiration. You may even burn-out.
To be a yoga teacher you really do have to be a yogi with daily practice; there is no other way. You need to be every single breath of your business; in the same way you are every single breath of your practice. You also need to teach a form of yoga that inspires and means something to you, which will give you purpose and meaning. As a pregnant woman 15 years ago, having had a very successful career as a TV executive and producer for ITV, BBC and Channel 4, I struggled with becoming a mum
and suffered postnatal ‘identity loss’ and loneliness.
I also knew there was something as a woman deeply instinctive in me during my birth that I didn’t know how to tap into, and I wanted to understand it, to know it and to personify it. My personal introduction to yoga and mindfulness came when my daughter was a baby; it really was like a light had been turned on deep inside my heart.
ZenMuma is all about that journey into motherhood: our highs, our lows, our wins, our losses and how to be kind to ourselves throughout. Now the business has naturally expanded into kids’ yoga as my own children have become tween and teens, so my interest has evolved there. My son is ASD, so I have a great interest in this area of yoga too; as my knowledge expands, so does my teaching, training, my offerings and my service to others. This way it is all a seamless journey of inspiration.
Let it grow naturally
Start small, teach a yoga class and build your community with care. Within time, if you’ve got it right, word-of-mouth will spread, and people will come looking for you. Make sure you have great sign posting so people can book with ease whether it is through a website or social media. Then, effortlessly, just increase your yoga class to a level that works for you, your lifestyle and your family.
In 2009, when my daughter was four years and my son was 10 months old I started with one yoga class a week. The following year I was teaching three; two years later when my son went to school I increased it to five classes… and two years after that I was running 12 classes a week! I realised for me that was too many and settled at around eight classes a week for a few years, working the classes around my family and my life. That way it was always doable, and most importantly enjoyable. If you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point?
Listen and follow your community’s needs
When I started teaching a yoga class 11 years ago, I was a new mum myself, so it felt right to teach new, pregnant and birthing mums. As my community’s children grew, so my children grew too. Naturally, I wanted to study more to continue supporting my own family, therefore I was able to support my community too. As I grew, they grew; as they grew, I grew. I have always been part of my tribe – not the controller of it – as they are me, and I am them, I understand what they need now, and what they will need next.
As my children grow and the ZenMuma family’s children grow, so we hold a yoga class in toddler yoga, kids’ yoga and teen yoga. Now, some of my community have been around for a decade or more, so they are looking for more from my offerings.
In 2017, I launched the ZenMuma Teacher Training School so I could train up women, to teach other women, pregnancy, baby and kids yoga class. Therefore, widening our service to the whole of the country, even to the international tribe of ZenMuma women.
Women supporting women through motherhood, one of the most important journeys of our life. In 2018, there was a new calling I responded to: women needing self-care yoga retreats, which I offered around the world from Thailand to Morocco, always being mindful to work with local businesswomen, who were also yogis themselves. This year our community asked for us to provide the 200-hour yoga teacher training course which we launched with our sister company Big Sky.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Like everyone else, in March 2020 we had a mild panic. What next? Our pregnancy yoga, baby yoga, hypnobirthing and kids’ yoga classes were full! Our training courses were all brimming with trainees ready to take the leap into becoming new yoga providers to their local community.
But now we couldn’t meet! What to do? the answer was actually very clear. Take it all online. It was natural and unforced, and it worked beautifully.
In fact, it opened a market to thousands of pregnant mums, new mums and home-schooling mums from around the country, and even the globe. Our Facebook group, The ZenMuma Tribe, is full of active and interested participants all desperate for a community of supportive mums and inspirational teachers. ZenMuma Teacher Training Courses go from strength to strength online as we teach in a live Zoom interactive manner – therefore our yoga class and trainings still feel human, relevant and important.
Our sharing circles are as meaningful as ever, and our yoga class and courses are still jam-packed with tools and techniques that are super-useful to mums in everyday life who are trying to stay, and keep, a little Zen in their lives in this weird time of lockdown.
In August/September 2020, in a little summer breather break from full lockdown, I found a retreat centre which was covid-safe, and, in our bubbles, I held three wonderful retreats.
Two women-centred retreats, and one retreat for mothers and daughters. All the retreats filled in 24 hours from just a single Facebook post. Wow. In yoga, in meditation, we are taught to channel Self. To open up Anahata and delve deeply into its messaging.
To tap into inner wisdom. To truly experience the energy of that around us, outside us, within us, So Hum.
As a yogi, as long as you keep practicing yourself, you will just know what you need to do. There is no other way. It just is what it is. This is the greatest practice of all; just keep tuning in and hearing the calling, and you will always know what to do next. Tat Tvam Asi.
Jackie Heffer-Cooke is founder of the ZenMuma pregnancy, baby and children’s yoga classes and international award-winning teacher training school ZenMuma – zenmuma.co.uk. She also leads the national team of ZenMuma Practitioners. She is also founder of Big Sky Retreats and the Big Sky 200-hour yoga teacher training bigskyretreats.co.uk. To enroll on trainings or retreats contact at email@example.com