“There’s so much yoga out there, and we were so different being donation-based,” Smith said. “We just wanted to bring amazing yoga to everyone.”
After they got the idea, they visited other donation-based studios in California to get a feel for how they wanted to model their studio. Hylton said they settled on a boutique-style that would offer a high-end product at donation-based prices.
Then, in August, Spirit Yoga, located at 1559 Garnet Ave., got off to a slow start. The partners spent the entire summer tearing apart and remodeling the building, which was previously a boxing gym with low ceilings and fluorescent lighting.
Remodeling was a lot of work. They lifted the ceilings, redirecting the heating system into the studio and uncovering a skylight that had been barred up for decades. They were able to reuse wood and building materials to construct a new wall and build a locker room, which is decorated with chalk-art created by the community.
“It’s kind of like anti-corporate yoga, but very clean,” Hylton said. “That’s why we have the big, open windows and the hardwood floor, and we keep redoing the paint in here all the time.”
Opening across the street from Corepower Yoga, a corporation-type studio, they knew there were going to be some challenges ahead.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights thinking, ‘Did we do the right thing? Why did we do this?’” Hylton said. “But you just have to follow your gut. It was our gut that told us this is what we needed to do.”
Hubbard said only one person showed up to the first class, but as word got around, Spirit Yoga gained a satisfied client base that gives the studio a real sense of community.
“People at first, and still you find it, are kind of confused,” Hubbard said. “You know, donation-based, what do you mean? Because they’re used to getting charged like 20 bucks a class and donation-based means there’s a suggested donation, but you basically pay what you can, just come in and practice. Yoga is something that everyone benefits from, so why not make it accessible to everybody?”
Donations are not always monetary.
“We’ve got everything from people cleaning the floors to helping us paint the boards to doing our taxes for us,” said Hylton. “You know, all sorts of cool stuff that we didn’t really expect. But it works out great.”
Smith said people are now starting to notice the incredible instructors and friendly atmosphere.
The studio employs about 20 instructors and offers a wide range of classes, including charkra flow, which focuses on the mind and body, and acro-yoga, a partner class that involves high-flying acrobatic moves.
As classes end, clients stay to talk with one another and the instructors.
“We’ve got a really great set of students,” Hylton said. “People want to stay in here, hang out, talk with each other. They talk with the teacher and ask how their day is. And as a teacher, it’s nice to walk into a class of people who I would essentially go sit down and have a beer with and just talk to.”
Their goal is to not only grow the studio, but to give back to both clients and the community. Portions of each donation are divided between the teacher, studio expenses and growth, the owners and local community charities and shelters.