Introducing At Yoga studio based in Palmerston North, New Zealand. This tranquil yoga space, where flight yoga meets traditional yoga, is run by two fabulous women and we are thrilled to showcase them as our latest studio spotlight.
Tracy Jenkinson (sole owner) and Kari Highstead (part time staff member), have been on a mission to make yoga accessible to everyone and every ability. Their journey has led them to create a unique place where visitors can come and zen out on a mat with traditional floor yoga, or elevate their senses and spread their wings with flight yoga.
For those who don’t know, flight yoga, or better known as aerial fitness, was developed by Christopher Harrison in 1991 for Aerial Fitness and then developed into Aerial Yoga later in 1998 is a hybrid type of yoga.
We asked Tracy about her history with yoga, the challenges she has faced in building a thriving business, and if she has any advice for others looking to start their own studio.
We hope you enjoy her story!
“Yoga is needed now more than ever. The leading disability in the world is depression. Yoga is renowned for not only exercising the body but also de-stressing and mindfulness. Yoga is a wonderful tonic for a busy life, a stressed mind and a body out of sync.”Tracy, At Yoga
Romi: Hi Tracy! Can you tell us a bit about how you got into dance and how it led you to yoga?
Tracy: As a child, my mother put me into dance classes from the age of four. I continued through until I left school and then discovered Ballroom Dancing and Latin American. Wow those were the days!
For a while I taught dance for children on weekends, but eventually I stopped, had a family and got busy with family life. Some time later I got the urge to go back to dance, and that was when I discovered yoga. I have been hooked ever since.
Romi: It’s interesting to see that you did your 200 hour yoga teacher training right before Covid-19 hit. How did your business manage to stay afloat through those times?
Tracy: I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training in January 2018 and then started teaching part time. Since then I have slowly built up my classes and clientele. In March 2020 I did my Flight Yoga training and came straight back home and went into lockdown for Covid-19.
This meant my move to a new studio (and the launch of my flight classes) was delayed by 18 months. It has been a real struggle, but I finally got everything together.
Lockdown’s are not ideal because clients need routine. If they are prevented from coming into the studio, they tend to struggle with getting back into that pattern again.
I am not a fan of teaching online classes myself. Plus it is near impossible to run online flight classes because most homes do not have the minimum 3 meter stud height required to suspend a hammock.
Fortunately I have a great bunch of loyal clients! So while we have lost a few along the way with lockdowns, life happens! There will always be those that move on for various reasons.
Romi: When did you start using Bookamat? Has it helped your studio to operate more effectively and save some time?
Tracy: I started with Bookamat in February 2022, just before the launch of our flight yoga classes. Before committing to Bookamat I did a trial with another brand. However I found they did not have enough flexibility when it came to concession cards.
Bookamat has been great! I used to take bookings by text which was a big job. Now I spend less time dealing with bookings and it has also fixed our no show problem. It also shows me the number of active clients I have each month. This helps me see if I am on track at a glance.
Romi: What would you say are some of the things that make At Yoga stand out from other Palmerston North yoga studios?
Tracy: At Yoga’s point of difference is that we offer yoga for both adults as well as teens (9 years +) in a variety of styles. These range from Hatha (traditional) to Yin (stretching and meditative) to Flight (taking people out of their comfort zone and learning to trust).
Romi: Can you explain what Hatha yoga and Yin yoga is? And what would be a great starting point for any beginner to get into the yoga options that you offer?
Tracy: Hatha Yoga is the traditional yoga we all have heard of. It was the original yoga that is now over 4000 years old. It is a combination of poses. breath work and meditation done both seated and standing. Some studios offer a beginners class although there are thousands of poses to learn. So really, just get out there and give it a go, your teacher is there to guide you.
Yin Yoga was not developed until the late 1970’s, so relatively young in the yoga world. It is a very meditative form of yoga which some people refer to as moving meditation.
It is generally done seated and targets the lower limbs from the waist down. The practice of held poses and stretches target the connective tissues such as ligaments and fascia.
This class is popular for people recovering from illness or injury and can be modified to suit people’s abilities. If you love stretching then you will love this class.
Romi: How has your personal journey with yoga developed?
Tracy: Traditional floor yoga is what got me hooked. I love having the ability to switch off from the world and its fast pace. But then I tried an aerial fitness class and realised that this concept was available as a form of yoga.
So we still do the traditional poses like Tree Pose, Cat Cow and Downward Dog, but with the use of a hammock we can also teach inversions, handstands and poses that many may not have been able to master before.
It helps people to learn to trust, challenge their limits and build confidence while strengthen limbs and stretching. And believe me there is nothing more peaceful than a floating meditation. So my yoga journey has evolved from the floor into the air.
Romi: New Zealand is such a beautiful country. What are some of your favourite things to explore, see, eat and enjoy there?
Tracy: Since Covid-19 our travel has been restricted so we have become very fond of sneaking east to the Hawkes Bay and doing small trips to the wineries and eateries. This works well for me as I am committed to the studio all year so I can’t go far until I close the studio for Christmas break.
Romi: Are there any exciting things in the pipeline for At Yoga that we can look out for?
Tracy: We will be launching some additional flight yoga classes in May and June this year. This includes a restorative flight class which I am really looking forward to.
We are also resuming our monthly workshops now that the latest Omicron wave seems to have past. Our first will be at the end of May which is Aromatherapy Yoga Workshop. Aromatherapy and Hatha yoga are the most indulgent form of yoga.
Romi: What advice do you have for yogis?
Tracy: I think it is really important to be consistent with your practice. While people may say I have a biased opinion, because I own a studio, that is truly not the case.
Before I trained to be a yoga teacher I was just a regular yogi who attended class twice a week. If I was invited out, I would always say yes I am happy to go out. But after my yoga class I was truly committed to my regular practice just like you are committed to your daily job.
Romi: Do you have any advice for people who may be thinking of opening their own studio?
Tracy: Opening up a studio is a big financial commitment, especially in the current Covid-19 environment. Rent is the biggest expense for any business so I was very cautious about this cost.
I started by renting space from a dance studio, and paying for what I used, until I had built up my client base. This setup was ideal during lockdowns because, if I couldn’t use the space, then I paid nothing.
As my business grew I started to explore expanding into my own full-time space. I knew I wanted a ground floor space with easy access. But in the city where I live, most studios are upstairs.
I also knew the maximum rent I could pay and real estate agents cringed at my budget! I eventually found my space on a community web page (without the assistance of a real estate agent) and negotiated it down to my maximum rent that I had budgeted for.
So while it took me a long time to find what I wanted, my advice to people would be to not settle for anything less than a space which ticks all your boxes.
If you are in Palmerston North area of New Zealand and want to try flight yoga or traditional yoga, make sure you visit At Yoga studio.
Tracy and Kari are there to help guide you through your yoga journey, offering modifications to soften or deepen your practice.
Be sure to follow them on their Facebook page to keep up to date with their latest events, or have a look at their website to see which classes will be best suited to your needs.
Interested in being featured on our blog? Email us at [email protected] to find out more.
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