What makes Tula Different?
Chicago is lucky enough to have many wonderful, highly-respected yoga studios and even more absolutely amazing yoga teachers as part of our larger yoga community. Over the past 4 years, Tula has been fortunate enough to be able to thrive in this highly competitive yoga city. People often comment that Tula is their favorite place to practice. I routinely get in students and teachers that had moved away to other cities and they comment that they cannot find a yoga home quite like Tula.
I want to be clear that the following things do not necessarily make us better than other yoga studios, these things just make us different. In business, as in life, people have different goals and they use different tools to achieve those goals - one way is not necessarily better than any other. I have great respect for the many studios in Chicago that have been able to thrive for decades in this often difficult industry and I hope to be among them one day.......
So, what makes Tula different? Here are 10 of the reasons why I think we might stand out from the crowd, even just a little bit:
1. We give new teachers a chance. Sure, I hire experienced teachers, but I also hire brand new teachers. Most of the teachers that are the most popular today started off 4 years ago with Tula with less than one year's experience. I look beyond a resume and number of jobs. My requirements for being a teacher here - you have to have potential, passion, a clear vision of what it is you want, the willingness and ability to work hard, a positive outlook, a desire to stay grounded and stay true to yourself. New teachers have many opportunities here above what many other studios may offer. I think that this not only helps the teachers grow and gain experience, but it exposes students to a different viewpoints, different styles, and not just teachers that are stuck in their ways. Our teachers are constantly learning and growing from our students, as well as teaching them.
2. We are inclusive in action, not just in words. Many, if not most, yoga studios say that they are inclusive, but I have personally experienced classes where if I was not 'serious' enough, or thin enough, or cute enough, I was clearly given the cold shoulder. We try our best everyday to practice what we preach, allowing people to explore the wonderful practice of yoga in a nonjudgemental, highly individual and non-intimidating way.
3. We pay our front desk staff. Front desk staff are employees of Tula. A lot of yoga studios use "work trade" people as front desk staff (working for yoga, not money). Often, this leads to front desk staff that is poorly trained and may lack a sense of duty and responsibility to the job. Our staff is well trained on our systems and policies and we know how to handle any customer service issues that arise. This often makes a huge difference in the way that you are treated when you come in.
4. Our yoga philosophy is one of body acceptance and not one of change. By this, I mean that we never promote detoxes, diets, losing weight, changing who you are or becoming a 'better' version of yourself. This is a consistently challenging premise, and I'll be the first to admit that we sometimes don't do as well as we should. In a society where we are bombarded with 'perfect body' images, 'inspirational' quotes about bettering ourselves, the 'in your face' marketing of fancy, tight-fitting yoga clothes, we often fall into this a bit. But at the heart, at our center, we view yoga as a great conduit to make finally make peace with yourself, not finally change yourself, and there's a big difference.
5. As a studio, we accept and embrace what we are. We are a small, neighborhood yoga studio with strong ties to (and pride in) our our neighborhood. We are not a gym, we are not a luxury spa. We are not a corporation with stakeholders that live in the suburbs. As the owner and operator, I work here, I live in the neighborhood, I practice yoga here and know the students here by name. There are no plans to make a Tula Yoga Studio chain. There are not even plans to make Tula a 'leader' in the yoga community. Tula will always cater towards the everyday yogi. I want to bring yoga to people that don't necessarily want to be yoga teachers or even make yoga the main focal point of their lives.
6. We made our own software for running the studio. This may seem like a small thing, but most studios use a big-box, publicly-owned software program for handling credits, online purchases and billing monthly memberships. We didn't like that one, so we created our own. We wanted something that was highly intuitive, simple, and above all something that would make for a pleasant, easy-buying experience for our students. My husband's software company was able to make a software that fit all my needs in running the studio and also reflect the philosophy and brand of the studio. We now have a iPhone App & an Apple Watch app and a really cool website that hopefully reflects our difference as well.
7. We have continued to say 'no thank you' deal sites (groupon, gilt city, etc), third party fitness finders (ie, classpass) and many other corporate marketing companies (yelp, google ads, etc). Again, we know who we are. We are a small neighborhood studio. Our marketing dollars do not extend beyond the confines of the Logan Square neighborhood. I knew from the day we opened that people go to yoga studios primarily based on location and convenience and I wasn't going to try and compete with the multitude of studios in all of Chicago. We wanted to make our studio an intimate, comfortable place, not just a place where nameless masses of people can flow through the doors without any connection to us as a community. We continue to grow organically, not artificially.
8. Our studio policies are different. When opening the studio, I didn't just do what others did or just blindly follow their lead. I asked myself, what did I want to do? Why is this a policy? So you'll see immediate difference in some of our studio policies: We don't have expirations on packages (regular packages), there are no minimum commitments for memberships, there are no 'admin' fees tacked onto memberships, no cancellation fees. We always let you in late to class, we allow the sharing and transferring of class credits, we don't require registrations, we don't charge for mats or towels, we allow anyone to store their mat at the studio, we don't single out certain groups of people to qualify for discounts (instead we level the playing field by allowing anyone to do community service in exchange for a discount with our YogiCitizen program). Finally, we don't make judgements or policies about what people should or should not put into their bodies outside of (or even inside) the studio.
9. Our focus is on serving our students, not serving teachers. Some studios are built to be yoga teacher's studios and that's great, but we are not. Again, we cater to the everyday person that wants to bring yoga into their life - whether that be everyday, twice a week or once a month.
10. Last but not least, our students are badass. Logan Square is diverse, artistic, open-minded neighborhood and it contains what I think are some of the best people in the world. It's no wonder that we are lucky enough to have these people as students. Demographic-wise we are made up of many young adults, stay-at-home parents, retirees and everything in between and they are all awesome and ultimately what really makes our studio so special.