When yoga aficionado and newly certified teacher, Justine Bacon visited the Black Swan Studios in Austin, Texas last summer, she found budding business style that lacked a presence in Philadelphia. Black Swan, like several other studios around the nation, offered pay as you go, donation based classes for various different yoga collectives. Bacon partnered with Bikram Yoga studio in Center City, Philadelphia to bring this type of business model to life in the form of Philly Yoga Factory.
“PYF is not a business because we do not strive to compete with other studios. Instead, we complement our amazing yoga community by having teachers from varying studios and traditions teaching for us,” Bacon said. “We do not charge people money for our classes, rather we request students to give what they can, nothing more, nothing less. We encourage them to ask themselves what their practice is worth and what the possibility of this project is worth to them. When a donation is made, the goal is to pass it forward again and do great things in the world; so the ‘transaction’ doesn’t stop there.”
The root of the business idea grew out of Bacon’s teaching certification process. What started off as a simple practice requirement quickly blossomed into a structured business model, offering several pay as you go classes from all different styles of yoga. Although still relatively new to the business, and still a new instructor, Bacon set her sights on a goal of creating this donation based yoga collective to encourage more individuals to fall in love with the practice as she did.
“Being a new teacher of almost one year and this project being almost just as old, I hit the ground running with my heels on fire,” Bacon said. “That is what happens when you know what you want and what you want to give.”
The classes are offered to anybody eager and willing to participate. Every class, with the exception of the Advanced Bikram Yoga, is open to athletes of all skill levels, and instructors cater lessons to the individual students. The Advanced Bikram is the only class offered solely for more experienced students, and tends to be the most popular and most attended. Class sizes are relatively small, which allows the instructor to truly personalize the lessons for each student involved. The class types are also varied, and can range from hooping classes to black light Vinyasa sessions. In addition, Philly Yoga Factory has also partnered with well-known fitness apparel company Lululemon for their Community Yoga program. This business wide initiative offers Lululemon customers complimentary yoga at local studios. Due to the variety of classes offered, and the nature of pay as you go classes, Bacon says that there is no specific ‘type’ of person attending classes.
“One of the most beautiful things about yoga is that people from all walks of life practice,” Bacon said. “That is what we, as teachers, get to experience in a class setting – variety!”
Bacon and her partners offer their services without expectation of making money. Instead, the goal is to spread the love of yoga into the Philadelphia community by eliminating potential deterrents, such as fees and ‘lock in’ memberships. The slogan, “yoga is for everyone,” certainly reflects this goal. In the future, Bacon hopes to become a nonprofit organization. She and her fellow instructors hope to one day be able to take the donated funds and make contributions to charities of their choice.
“We are working to grow the project so that it can pay the teachers the average wage that a city teacher makes per class, and offset costs of the project.” Bacon explained. “Then, the excess per class would be pooled over the course of a few months to a year and then would be donated. We all have many things that we are passionate about and other work that we do. We want to continually rotate the donations between organizations that we are all passionate about. For example, Katelynn loves cows and wants to contribute to their health and well-being. I love our oceans, with an affinity for whales and dolphins. This is our dream and this is what we work for.”
Although the project is Bacon’s brainchild, she wants to grow the program to be a community wide effort.
“We want this to be a project for the city of Philadelphia, by the city of Philadelphia,” Bacon dais. “We are always open to new exciting possibilities so if you have the desire to join us, please feel free to contact me.”
The Bikram Yoga studio is located at 1518 Sansom Street in Center City. The Philly Yoga Factory’s official website can be found here.
– Text, video and images by Breland Moore