Closed due to coronavirus, yoga studio goes virtual

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island Hot Yoga is just one of many businesses in limbo as health officials urge establishments to make major changes to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

For six years, Juliana Olmstead, owner of Rhode Island Hot Yoga, has been working to perfect the craft of running her own hot yoga studios.

Now, she’s forced to balance a new reality, which includes moving her classes online to try and keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.

“It seemed to us that we couldn’t justify keeping our doors open anymore, even though we really wanted to be there for our students,” Olmstead said.

At first, she planned on limiting the number of students per yoga class, but with the pandemic developing as quickly as it has, she made the tough decision to shut down her studio.

The last in-person classes were held on Sunday. 

Olmstead said even if she tried her best, she knew her efforts to sanitize and clean may not be enough to guarantee the safety of her students and staff.

“It’s just devastating, honestly,” she said.

At this time, only staff are allowed inside the yoga studios, which are located in Providence and Bristol.

The closure has been tough. Olmstead said she’s had to cut about 80% of her payroll and now has to focus on ways to make ends meet, so she can stay in business.

She’s now exploring new opportunities, including live streaming and pre-recording classes so her students have access at home.

“We’re working on rebuilding our entire business completely from scratch, in basically 24 hours,” she said.

Olmstead said she suspended all of her membership accounts over the weekend when she closed the studio. But she heard from several students who wanted to support her business and continue practicing yoga.

On Wednesday night, she held a virtual class in which 40 students tuned in. So far, students seem happy and understanding of the alternative.

“We’re doing some pre-recorded classes, that they can go to our website to view, and we’re doing some live classes where you can tune in and do the class along with the instructor,” she said.

While she’s still figuring out her new business model, Olmstead said this might be the outlet people are looking for, whether it be a familiar face for her loyal students or a new way to cope with stress.

“I already have messages from people saying ‘Thank you so much for the class, it stopped me from having a complete nervous breakdown because at least I could finally do something that made me feel normal again,'” she said,

Olmstead said she plans to reopen her studio when it’s safe to do so again. She hopes to inspire people to try yoga as an outlet, especially with everyone being cooped up at home.

“We always tell our students we are teaching them to be resilient, and now we get to be a really good example of that,” she said.

Interested in taking a virtual yoga class? Click here »

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