Building a Community Through Activism
By Meredith Simmons
Owning a yoga studio in Washington, D.C., can be difficult—causing studio owners like Jess Pierno to struggle with the need to balance politics and practice.
I had the opportunity to interview Jess, co-owner of the DC-based Yoga Heights, at MINDBODY University in San Luis Obispo in February 2017. During an interview with her, I asked what her goal was for 2017—and her answer underscored the daily dilemma business owners in Washington, D.C., face.
"In 2017, Yoga Heights is going to take a stand. That means we are going to do more and offer more to support our values because this is a year that is incredibly politically charged and uncertain for a lot of people. We see a lot of fear and nervousness. We've tried hard to stay neutral, and it doesn't feel like neutral is the right thing to do anymore.
“Yoga Heights is decidedly going to take a stand to create a safe space where people can come together as a community and address all of their uncertainty they are feeling because of the political situation, which is a really scary thing to do.”
When I talked with Jess in January to learn how MINDBODY’s dynamic pricing tool was working for her, I asked how her 2017 goals turned out nearly a year later.
“We did a lot in 2017 around fundraising for nonprofits and empowering our students who work for different nonprofits or causes. We donated over $5,000 in gift cards and passes and held ten different fundraiser classes at the studio,” Jess shared. “We weren’t doing anything too far out of hosting classes, which is what we do every day. It used our strengths to have a bigger impact without creating something brand new.”
Yoga Heights’ guiding mantra is “Every body, every level, every budget,” and it’s clear that the studio’s efforts towards more activism left a positive impact on the community of students practicing there.
"It helped students to feel like Yoga Heights is their community and we support them in all aspects of their life. It helps the studio be seen as a place that's going to take a stand about issues and care."
The studio’s increased activism wasn’t the only major change in 2017—Yoga Heights expanded to a second location as well. Now with two locations to manage, Jess chose a different guiding principle for 2018.
"2017 was focused on growth and prep to get the second location open. My word of the year is enjoy,” Jess said. “We’ve done all the work, we’ve launched this new thing. Let’s watch it grow.”