From my computer to yours – Namaste: Tahoe yoga studios shift to online practice
Special to the Sierra Sun
A large part of the Lake Tahoe community includes active health and wellness aficionados who care about maintaining their quality of life and a balance of mind, body, and soul.
Therefore, COVID-19 has proven a real test of endurance, strength and resilience for people trying to get through this pandemic, and some of the businesses hit the hardest are yoga studios and gyms. Deemed nonessential, Tahoe fitness centers closed and many quickly shifted their classes online to try to stay afloat and keep instructors employed.
Over in Tahoe Vista, progress that Tahoe Flow Arts Studio made this past winter — merging two businesses and promoting the aerial arts, yoga, and fitness center as one entity — is changing once again to navigate the coronavirus crisis.
“The shutdown was on March 19, a little over a month ago. And it was extremely hard for us because we’re a pretty small business conglomerate,” says Tahoe Flow Arts Studio Manager Tailor Pollak. In October 2019, Tahoe Flow Arts Studio owner Kelly Smiley merged her business with Stay Gold gym owner Christine Bettera, and they’ve been working to grow the two businesses as one.
“Kelly is an amazing yoga instructor and it was always her dream to merge fitness and yoga into one,” Pollak says. The new studio got to work hiring a whole new crew of fitness and yoga instructors last fall and started offering discounted introductory memberships.
“This closure was really sudden; it grew so fast and so quickly and I don’t think anyone in Tahoe saw this coming. Since then we jumped online and became a virtual gym and yoga studio,” Pollak says.
Now conducting classes online, Tahoe Flow Arts Studio offers four morning yoga classes and five morning fitness classes per week; three yoga classes are live and one is recorded. In the early days of the stay-at-home order, Bettera built a structure allowing people to easily join live classes online through Zoom when people message them on Facebook for the password or sign up through http://www.tahoeflow.com. The classes are all donation based, and people are encouraged to support the instructors with whatever they can by paying them directly through Venmo accounts.
“The world is changing so rapidly that we don’t know what to ask for, so we are just offering what we can in hopes that people can offer what they can in return. We’ve worked so hard in getting our members to the studio, and it’s the instructors that are out there selling themselves, creating that connection with their participants. We are hoping that people will support us until we can get back to normal,” Pollak says.
She adds the owners are applying for SBA grants, but are furiously pinching pennies to stay in business. There have been some silver linings, though.
“I’ve seen moms, grandmas, friends who’ve moved away, people from all over the place who have had some kind of connection to the Tahoe Flow Arts Studio or the instructors join our virtual classes,” Pollak said. “Just this morning we had five people in our yoga class — two were locals and the others were from out of state. It is nice that we can grow our class size because we can offer it to more people.”
Moving classes online also saves on travel time, allows people to reconnect with their home spaces, and allows Tahoe Flow Arts to reach a larger group of likeminded people.
“I believe 100% that we’ll keep the online classes going,” she said. “The beauty of this is we can tap into yoga abroad and it’s allowed us to interact on a different level. In a way, it allows more freedom.”
FOR THE YOUTH
Tahoe Flow Arts also has an aerial studio in Truckee that’s managed in conjunction with the Truckee Dance Factory and it’s a priority for the owners to keep the youth performance arts program alive and keeping kids engaged while being stuck at home.
“We’ve built a virtual aerial fitness and performance class for our youth program, so that they are staying active, journaling, and writing out their performances …,” said Pollak. “There’s a lot of energy and heart that goes into performing and this allows us to pay a couple of our aerial instructors to keep that going.”
“We are really trying hard to make our youth aerial program work because it’s a big part of the kids’ lives and they look forward to certain performances that now may or may not happen this year,” she said. “For instance, they always perform at the Made in Tahoe festival in Squaw Valley that has been postponed to the fall now.”
As Tahoe Flow Arts works to keep its virtual doors open, Pollak said she hopes community collaboration will help.
“We have such a euphoric community here, there are so many creative mountain people here who are giving all they can to help each other through these times,” she said. “We’re a whole basin built off of small businesses, so I know we’ll get through this together. And I really am enjoying what we are doing virtually. Every day is an adventure and every person that steps in here is family.”
Kayla Anderson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe.
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