Loti Yoga Oakwood: How the couple behind this Leeds yoga studio transformed their business during the pandemic
Loti Yoga was open for just two weeks before the nation plunged into lockdown.
The boutique yoga studio in Oakwood, owned by Leeds couple Rosie Tobin and Jack Harnby, had "opened with a bang" in March 2020 before it was suddenly forced to close its doors.
Undeterred, Rosie and Jack quickly launched online classes, which became a lifeline for their clients over the pandemic.
“It was very unexpected," Rosie told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"The first two weeks were incredibly busy - it was much more successful than we initially thought as we expected it to be a slow-burner. We hit the ground running, but then the brakes were slammed on instantly with lockdown.”
After getting to grips with teaching yoga online, Rosie and Jack were stunned by the commitment of their yogis; some attended up to three demanding classes a day.
As well as keeping people active, the mental benefits of a regular yoga practice were what kept people coming back, Rosie said.
"A lot of people find it hard to exercise in their own homes," the 30-year-old added.
"They try to make their home a relaxed space and yoga can be incorporated into your daily life very easily.
"In the West, we often forget that yoga is more than just a physical practice. Even just sitting and doing a breathing exercise, or practicing mindfulness, that’s all part of yoga and really easy to implement from home.
"As the pandemic went on, people realised it’s an all-round exercise; for mental discipline, stress management, and also the physical effects for the body.”
When exercise classes got the green light in May following the third national lockdown, Rosie and Jack welcomed yogis back to the studio - but the demand for online yoga didn't fizzle out as they had expected.
Loti Yoga now offers a mix of online and studio classes, as well as a members-only Facebook group where Rosie and Jack share daily meditations, workouts, yoga alignment tutorials and more.
The pair also share the highs and lows of their own lives and yoga practices, hoping to break the stereotypes of '"glossy Instagram yoga".
Rosie said: “When we reopened the studio in May, we were undecided whether to continue the online classes; we assumed people would want to get back to the studio and we would gradually transition back to in-studio classes.
“But it hasn’t worked that way. Even when we’ve had small numbers of people in the studio, especially with people having to isolate, we’ve still had good numbers online.
“People are seeking out doing yoga at home, so we wanted to create a space which went beyond those hour-long classes - where people can chat to each other and have that community accessible any time of the day.“
Now Covid restrictions have been lifted, Rosie and Jack are continuing to adapt their brand.
Their Oakwood studio will close in January, but they are on the hunt for a new location to continue their in-person classes.
“We’re offering something different," Rosie added.
"It's the chance for people to not only learn yoga, but implement it into their lifestyles, learning more body awareness and how to adjust and modify the practice for themselves.”
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