reWorking Michigan: The Expanding Business of Yoga

Mar 4, 2012

More people in Michigan are using yoga to keep their bodies toned and their stress level in check. For others, it's a growing business opportunity. reWorking Michigan looks at the growth potential of yoga studios. 

It's Wednesday night at the Tina Brookhouse Fitness Studio in downtown Williamston.  Victoria Fabbo is teaching a yoga class, accompanied by Drew Machak.  He’s here to play guitar.  Tina Brookhouse offers lots of different fitness classes at her studio.  She says yoga is her favorite. 

“I love the mind-body connection with yoga,” says Brookhouse.  “Yoga is a discipline where you can work hard at the poses, but you’re always in a peaceful state.  So, it’s just that great connection.  With some of the other things, we don’t stress that.  It’s just work, work, work.”

Brookhouse says when she first opened there were just a couple of places in the Lansing area offering yoga classes.  Now, there are several and most of the local gyms have yoga classes as well.

Over the past several years, yoga has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.  Caitlin Moldvay is an analyst with the market research firm IBIS World.  She says right now, a lot of yoga studios are concentrated in the mid-Atlantic, the west and the southeast regions of the country.  But there’s a lot of growth in the Great Lakes region, partly because it’s an untapped market, and that growth is expected to continue.

MILLICH:  If someone called you now and asked if they should open a yoga studio in the Midwest, what would you tell them?

MOLDVAY:  I would say yes.  I think it’s definitely a growing geographic market for the industry.

MILLICH:  And can you make a living at it?

MOLDVAY:  I don’t have any statistics on that right now on the average revenue per company, but yes, you can.

It’s mostly women who practice yoga these days, but more men are getting into it, especially power yoga because there’s an emphasis on physical fitness.  And more aging baby boomers are expected to take up yoga, because it’s a low-impact exercise. It can provide relief from arthritis and other ailments.  Plus, baby boomers have the time and the disposable income.

"I went through a separation from a beloved book selling job, and yoga is really what got me through that,” says Wendy Schaft. 

Wendy Schaft is a baby boomer.  She practiced yoga years ago, and took it up again last fall.  She says it’s more than just a class for her.  It’s a way to cope with stress.

“It is about breathing,” says Schaft.  “I have found myself holding my breath less when I feel anxiety, and that was something that was important to remember to just take a deep breath and keep breathing, don’t hold it.  It works for me.”

Tina Brookhouse is in her fourth year of operation.  She’s surprised that she hasn’t had to invest her personal savings in the business.  She’s also surprised at the growing number of people who sign up for classes.  She has a website and often posts on Facebook, but she hasn’t had to pay for advertising.

“And many physicians will tell patients they need to find a yoga studio,” says Brookhouse.  “So that’s on my side, too.  I hear that every day.  People call and say their doctor said they need to come to yoga.” 

Unlike many small businesses, a yoga studio generally has low operating costs for space, utilities and part time teachers.

“As I’ve grown, I’ve hired more instructors,” says Brookhouse. “That’s probably my biggest thing besides my rent.  This was the first year that I actually made a little profit.  Finally, I’m starting to make a little for my effort.”

As more yoga studios pop up on around the state, more yoga instructors will be needed to teach classes.  Some of these studios are already offering teacher training for the next generation of yoga instructors.

reWorking Michigan examines our evolving economy, as the people of the Great Lake State explore new ways to make a living and build a future.