When I started a yoga class at my gym earlier this summer, I expected it to take a few weeks to gain a following. Unfortunately, it’s been even slower than anticipated. Teaching weekly when attendance can be counted on one hand has been challenging.

I tried a lot of things to light the fire:

  • I advertised it more to via social media
  • I casually chatted up members and encouraged coaches to promote it in their classes
  • I asked trusted members and fellow coaches to provide me feedback and advice on making it appealing
  • I changed the scheduled time once
  • I wrote a note on the white board at our gym – a hub of activity that everyone sees

Coaches and members spoke to me of their interest and yet didn’t attend. I have wracked my brain, but not much has changed as summer draws to a close.Image of a fire pit alight

Friction to Heat

Despite my frustration, I committed to show up every week and see what happens. In showing up, I have embraced the friction of taking it slow. I could choose to feel the awkwardness of staring at one or two people and spending a torturous 75 minutes wondering if it was worth the utilities it cost to be open. However, smaller classes have unique opportunities. They’re also a great time to experiment.

A small class is naturally more playful in tone and much easier to customize. You experience the heat and discomfort of a muscular trigger point in your hamstring in Triangle? No problem! Let’s shift the lesson plan, smash the muscle with a few tools, and jump back into class with new legs! You’re unsure how to modify around a back issue in Up Dog? No problem! Let’s stop to discuss how the posture could be affecting your injury and embrace the chance to modify the posture just for you. I’ve never taught this pose? Awesome, I’ll research and try it out and show up and get forthright feedback in conversation rather than blanks stares from a room full of participants. I fall over, you fall over, or we both collapse? Let’s laugh it off together!

Heat to Flame

Growth is vital to keeping the lights on for most businesses and nonprofits, and the “hobby” status of my class keeps the stakes lower for me than most. Even in the catbird’s seat, I cannot afford to spend this much time planning, practicing, and teaching for not even a handful of people forever.

Being the only teacher and having limited physical availability in the schedule, there are factors I can control, and many I can’t. I realize the weekend time slot might have been a tough sell during the vacation-heavy summer months. I cannot try out multiple time slots simultaneously. I can’t control whether my CrossFit buddies can transition their “go hard” mentality to the complementary “slow strength” of yoga. There may be no way to get my numbers much higher without changing locations or communities or target markets.

I’m still willing to try more tweaks. I’ll keep asking for feedback and trying to apply it. I’ll work on the schedule, the content, the tone, the music, the expertise I bring to the class, and basically anything else that might help me grow attendance. I believe growth will happen, but I’m not going to ignore the lessons of the slow start. After all, a large fire begins like a small flame – with a single spark.


Image Credit: “Fire Pit Firegraphs” by Stephen Dann – Licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License