Victoria feature: The changing face of yoga

Business and lifestyle merging, as instructors realize industry’s ever-increasing potential

Instructor Linsay Hurd leads a yoga class at Studio 4 Athletics on Yates Street. The first Victoria Yoga Conference happens this weekend at the Victoria Conference Centre.

Take a deep breath, relax and let it slowly sink in.

The yoga business is booming.

This weekend, the modern yoga industry descends on Victoria as hundreds of yogis, fitness gurus and health experts roll out their mats for the first annual Victoria Yoga Conference.

While physical and mental wellness remain at its core, yoga has blossomed into a lifestyle brand that sells everything from clothing to condos, said Chris Brandt, a marketing expert and yoga instructor.

“Particularly in the yoga world, there’s a demonization of making money,” said Brandt, who will present a business workshop for studio owners and instructors on Saturday.

“When you’re talking to a band or a coffee shop, you talk about your brand. When you talk to a yoga person, they say they’re not a brand. It’s the resistance to those approaches and conversations that needs to change. Teach whatever you want to teach on the mat, but outside of that class, it’s a business.”

Success stories like Chip Wilson, the founder of the $8.3-billion apparel company Lululemon Athletica, as well as Terry McBride, the Nettwerk Music CEO-turned-yoga franchise owner, show the potential for marketing yoga, Brandt said.

McBride opened the Vancouver-based YYoga in 2007, and now operates eight studios that run more than 700 weekly yoga classes.

The former manager of Sarah McLachlan also has plans to open up to 80 studios across Canada in the coming years.

“You see the difference between the yogis who dabble in business versus the business people who get into yoga,” Brandt said.

Victoria is no exception to the explosion of yoga studios and classes being offered. If anything, it’s magnified by the active west coast lifestyle, said conference organizer Carolyne Taylor.

“There’s a lot of people doing yoga here, not only in big studios, but in little studios in back yards as well,” she said. “I think often there’s a perception that you can’t build a business out of a passion like this, but you truly can.”

Statistics Canada groups yoga instruction into an umbrella category of everything from lifeguard training to Bible schools, making it difficult to assess its economic impact.

But statistics compiled by U.S. research firm IBISWorld show that yoga studios alone – not including related merchandise – make up a $7-billion industry that has grown by almost eight per cent in the past five years.

Visit victoriayogaconference.com for a schedule of events this weekend.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Yoga this weekend

Among the highlights from the Victoria Yoga Conference, Feb. 1 to 3 at the Victoria Conference Centre:

• 60-plus classes and workshops available

• Keynote speeches Feb. 1 by authors Gabrielle Bernstein and Danielle Laporte

• Concert Feb. 2 by world music artist Will Blunderfield

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