An Interview with Bernard Slede

The North American Studio Alliance (NAMASTA) was co-founded by Bernard (who serves as president) and Lisa Slede in late 2002 as a response to the lack of a trade organization for independent Yoga and mind-body professionals. It provides support for these professionals in the form of access to affordable liability insurance, health benefits and many resources with which to successfully operate their businesses. In this interview, Bernard shares his experiences, vision and ideas with the aim to help keep your students coming back.

Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): Can you share some suggestions for how to be a successful Yoga teacher?

Bernard Slede (BS): Sure. Look at pricing. Many Yoga teachers are uncomfortable dealing with pricing their classes and other aspects of their business. As a business, a Yoga studio is an economic entity. There’s rent to be paid, and perhaps Yoga teachers who are independent contractors who have to be paid and other expenses. I recommend studios set a fair price for classes, and a good business practice is to allow some kind of introductory period. Some places like in New York or Los Angeles have classes that go for $20 but I think offering an introductory formula allows for people to get to know you before making that stronger commitment. It also allows you to attract people who would have been deterred by the price or the fact they are entering a place that maybe completely foreign.

It’s good for students to be able to buy a class and get a second class free, or try five classes at a low set price or unlimited classes in a limited period time. The idea is that you are offering a special value for new students. I think that’s an ethical way to enable a person unfamiliar with you or your teachers, to become familiar with and get a feel for you and your studio. It makes it less threatening for the new student. Whatever you can do to make it easier for people to open the door and give Yoga or your studio a try is a good business practice.

There are also many ways Yoga studios can contribute to their communities, which is, in essence, being respectful of the Yoga tradition as well as being good business sense. You can offer classes for special populations, such as offering free classes for children from underprivileged areas or to the homeless or veterans on certain days. That’s a nice gesture and it also helps show that Yoga and the studio are committed to serving people and the community. Another idea to serve the community and bring visibility to your studio is to create special occasions during which you offer classes. For example, whether it’s Yoga Day USA or United Nations Health Day, you can find a date to hold a series of introductory classes maybe even for free, so those who haven’t done Yoga can try it. You can connect with a senior center, offer a class at the center as a gift to get people exposed to Yoga. From that there can be a lot of rewards: personal satisfaction as well as successful word of mouth, as those who tried Yoga tell their friends and families about their experiences.

IYM: Any secrets you can share to keep students coming back?

BS: This involves more common sense than any secrets: for instance, paying attention to the students in class and providing individual advice and assists during asana classes. This helps students realize that coming to a class is better than watching a DVD. So, if you can, correct or, at least offer verbal suggestions, that’s something to pay attention to. There are some teachers who learn a script. Scripts are good because they provide structure, but you need to see that that doesn’t detract from adding the personal touch to the individuals in the room. It’s not a public performance, it’s guidance to a number of students.

Other things you can try include …


Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2011 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.