I am so excited to bring you a Q&A with my friend, Derek Haigler, who is also the Founder of Yoga For All Humans — a fully-inclusive online yoga studio.
I wanted to feature Derek and Yoga For All Humans (YFAH) in my corner of the internet for three reasons: 1. I think it’s vital to support your people, and 2. the studio is fantastic, and 3. everyone deserves a studio like this!
I have completed the free trial (more on this in the Q&A), purchased drop-in classes, and have the on-demand membership — so, I’m not just saying it, I am actually using this service, and even shared it with my employer to see if the staff could get involved.
Keep in mind that this is a fully-online studio with a sliding membership scale meant for everyone, so that means YOU, yes you, have access to it. Okay, I’ll let Derek talk now 🙂
How did you come up with the idea for YFAH?
Oh boy. Hope you’re ready for a longwinded answer!
Once the pandemic hit, yoga studios were forced to switch to virtual classes. This went as well as in-person offices going fully virtual. Need I say more?
At first, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to go into the studio, but that sadness was quickly replaced by a silver lining because I was able to increase my yoga practice from 1-2 times/week to 3-4 times/week for the same price with my favorite teacher!
She decided to part ways from the studio I was going to because they wanted to charge the same price for virtual classes as in-person classes. She didn’t think that was fair, so she created her own (very basic) website with Zoom links for her classes – with more class offerings than normal to boot! It wasn’t just the price that allowed me to increase my practice, though; it was the convenience of not having to get dressed and travel for class, saving me over an hour of work interruption each day.
A lot of people picked up hobbies during the pandemic. I was already gardening, and I’m not a very good baker. So, I decided to take a deeper dive into a practice I loved – yoga!
I signed up for a fully virtual Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) from a prestigious yoga school/studio – Asheville Yoga Center – in Asheville, NC. I was living in Iowa City, IA at the time.
I would have never been able to afford the full price for the training, nor would I have been able to take the 2-3 weeks off from work that an in-person training typically requires. Another silver lining of the pandemic!
During YTT, my eyes were opened to the systemic problems that existed in Westernized yoga. The lack of inclusion hit me in the face unexpectedly, particularly from 3 angles – race, physical ability (ableism), and financial security.
I knew that the Western image of a yogi had become a healthy, young, white female in Lulu Lemon gear, but I didn’t realize how deep the issues went until studying it more deeply in training and research.
From the outside in, yoga seems to be all about love and inclusion, but capitalism and colonialism have rotted it to the core. My HR problem-solving wheels started turning, and I slowly built the foundation for YFAH in my head without even realizing it.
Before I knew it, I realized I wanted to switch from my professional DEI/HR career and focus those efforts on an industry I truly love that desperately needs revitalization – Yoga.
What has your personal journey been like with yoga, and how did that shape YFAH?
I started doing yoga about a decade ago through a Yoga at Work program. The benefits were amazing, especially in the middle of the workday twice a week!
I wanted to do MORE yoga outside of work, but I couldn’t afford the pricey memberships and drop-in rates of local studios in addition to my boxing membership. I was so passionate about the program that I took over coordinating it and growing employee participation.
You see – the company didn’t pay for the program outright; we had to split the bill as employees, making it harder to get people to sign up. Unknowingly, this was the beginning of my yoga student recruitment!
As I was shaping the structure of YFAH, I wanted to make sure I created a space for office workers to be able to take a yoga break during their workday. As more and more companies decide to stay virtual, it’s a perfect union.
Even if it’s a 30-minute class, that can make a huge difference in someone’s stressful day. Of course, not everyone’s schedule allows them to attend specific class times, nor does everyone’s schedule follow a traditional 8-5 (what’s a 9-5?); we can’t realistically offer classes back-to-back all day, every day to accommodate every unique schedule.
I wanted the ‘class library’ to be accessible and affordable for those busy yogis who can’t make our live classes.
What’s the biggest misconception about yoga?
I have to go with two.
1 – The belief that yoga is just about moving your body (i.e. the physical practice). Yoga is about so much more than moving your body; it’s about tapping into your breath, clearing your mind, learning more about yourself… the list goes on.
In fact, there are 8 limbs of yoga, only one of which is the physical practice (called Asana in Sanskrit). If you think about yoga as a tree, the other 7 branches are all as leafy and important as the branch of Asana.
2 – The belief that you must be flexible to do yoga. I personally am not very flexible. I can barely even hinge forward in a wide-legged forward fold.
Yoga is about creating space within yourself, and that looks different for every human. Don’t be fooled by the acrobatic yoga pictures you see online. Will yoga improve your flexibility? Absolutely. We all have to start somewhere, and we all won’t end up in the same place – and that’s A-ok!
What is your advice for someone who feels like they have no time for yoga?
I get it. I have trouble making time for yoga some days, and it’s my job now. Yoga doesn’t have to be a one-hour commitment every time. It can be a 30-minute commitment or even a 5-minute commitment. It can also be just a few minutes of intentional breathing.
Quick yoga videos are just a YouTube search away! I’ve been working on a 5-minute series for the class library at YFAH. As you grow in your practice, you’ll learn that you don’t always need a video to take a quick yoga break.
If you have 5 minutes and some space, you have time to run through a quick sun salutation or intuitive flow on your own by listening to what your body needs at that moment.
How does YFAH give back?
We truly believe that everyone deserves a yoga membership, even if you can’t afford it. We offer sponsored memberships for those who can’t afford the bottom end of our sliding scale membership, which starts at $50/month.
We don’t require any “proof of need.” If someone asks for help, we’re happy to provide it through accessible yoga.
For Black History Month, we donated $1/person/class to 612 Jungle (for a total of $200), a black-owned yoga studio in Minneapolis. They offer BIPOC scholarships for their YTT, and we contributed to that mission.
Yoga training is expensive, which is part of the reason most yoga teachers you see are white (income inequality). We love the work Gabrielle at 612 Jungle is doing to bridge that gap, and we wanted to support her mission.
We plan to do something similar for Pride Month. We can’t wait to support 612 Jungle in bigger ways for years to come as our studio grows!
Once we start making a profit, we plan to donate 1% of our proceeds to Yoga Gives Back, an organization that focuses its efforts on India. We chose this organization to honor the roots of yoga, to show our appreciation, respect, and support for the place our practice comes from.
What’s something you’ve learned about running your own business?
Unfortunately, I’ve learned that people are mostly all talk when it comes to supporting your dream. I went into this launch thinking I’d have a lot of family, friends and colleagues signing up for memberships – because they said they would. That hasn’t been the case.
I’ve had to spend A LOT more than I expected on advertising. I’ve honestly had more support from people I hardly know, generally speaking. And don’t get me wrong – support doesn’t have to mean financial support. Commenting on posts and sharing things about the studio on socials is huge.
I appreciate the support I’ve received thus far more than you know, and I don’t discount or forget it for a second!
I also expected my teachers to advocate for the studio and promote themselves more. I structure our compensation to incentivize student attendance, on top of a very generous base rate for classes. I launched the studio with a full roster of teachers and classes thinking that lots of teachers would mean lots of students.
I personally have trouble getting people to attend my classes, so I get that it can be disheartening to keep putting yourself out there without any interest from your network. Many of my teachers also teach at multiple places, so it can be hard to juggle all of those in one central message. Many of my teachers also have full-time jobs and families, so I also understand that life gets busy!
Social media can be annoying, but it’s the only way to really connect with our network these days. Some of my teachers knock it out of the park with their social media game, and I’m so thankful for that!
If I could go back to the beginning, I would have cranked up advertising from Day 1.
What sets YFAH apart from other yoga studios?
Affordability, Accessibility, and Personal Touch. We truly believe that yoga is for everyone, regardless of financial or physical ability. We can’t compete with the experience of in-person yoga, and we don’t intend to.
YFAH can be your main studio, or it can be a supplement to your in-person studio. In-person studios have to charge more because of overhead costs (e.g., rent) and class size limitations.
Affordability – We offer sliding scale payments for both our monthly unlimited membership and our drop-in classes. We also offer an on-demand-only option for those who just want access to the videos.
As mentioned previously, we offer sponsored memberships for those who can’t afford the bottom of the sliding scale.
Accessibility – We are very intentional with accessibility because Western yoga (and a lot of Eastern yoga for that matter) is extremely ableist. Beyond the convenience of doing yoga online, many people can’t physically make it into a yoga studio.
We have a teacher that teaches from a wheelchair and many students who are also less physically abled. We have live stream video captions for those with hearing difficulties, and we even offer ASL interpreters upon request.
All our class recordings in the library are also captioned. Our teachers offer pose variations throughout the class to help those at different levels of physical ability. We also have an amazing mobile app that makes scheduling and attending classes much more accessible!
Personal Touch – While the studio is fully virtual, we still want our students to get the studio feel. All our teachers open class 10-15 minutes early to allow time to meet with students and discuss their personal needs, just like you would be able to do at an in-person studio. Our teachers also hang out after class to answer any questions students may have about class or yoga in general.
As the founder, I give people the option to book time with me personally to discuss anything related to their membership or yoga, free of charge. I want people to feel like they have someone they can actually talk to because we value all our students.
We also have someone monitoring the chat in every class in case students have a question or a need during class. I can’t think of another online studio that offers that service.
What are your tips for yoga newcomers?
Take it slow, try a variety of classes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Virtual yoga is a great place to get your bearings with yoga because you can be off-camera and not in a room full of people.
There are also plenty of instructional YouTube videos if you want to learn more about particular yoga poses. Keep in mind – that it’s a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.
What are the membership options and how can people get started?
We offer a free 2-week trial for all new members; no credit card is required. The free trial has all the same benefits of our unlimited monthly memberships – full access to all live stream classes (25+classes/week) and our class library where all class recordings are uploaded (100+ new videos/month).
You can sign up for a free trial here, OR in the ‘Store’ on the mobile app! The mobile app (Yoga for All Humans) is available in both app stores.
Monthly Memberships: $50-$100/month, choose your price at $10 increments.
Drop-in Classes: $5-$15/class, choose your price at $5 increments.
Our Yoga On-Demand membership is only $25/month.
What can we expect from the future of YFAH?
More diversity in classes and teachers. As we expand, we want everyone to feel like they are represented among our class offerings and our teacher roster. We aspire to offer classes for non-English speakers, the blind and deaf, and any other niche that’s brought to our attention as a need along the way.
We also plan to offer more classes in general. I’d love to see a full schedule of classes every day. We have students from coast to coast, and I’m sure we’ll have some international students eventually. With so many time zones, people need options.
If you have questions for Derek, feel free to leave a comment here or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org — I hope you all enjoyed the Q&A!
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