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VOL. 128 | NO. 98 | Monday, May 20, 2013

 

Midtown Yoga Owner Bends Over Backward for Clients

By JONATHAN DEVIN

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Those who practice yoga are known to be very flexible, and the new owner of Midtown Yoga is especially grateful for that fact.

Grace Harwood, who purchased the business on Jan. 1, said she is trying to make the transition invisible to a very loyal client base.

“Yogis can be very particular about changes to their studio, and I’m aware of that,” said Harwood, a mother of three who has never owned her own business before. “I think they’ve been very pleased. I think everybody was extremely patient with me during the transition.”

Harwood has a long history with the previous owner, Sarla Nichols, who founded the studio at 524 S. Cooper St., at Cooper and Peabody Avenue, in Midtown 13 years ago.

HARWOOD

Harwood went through Nichols’ yoga teacher training in 2007 and managed a second Downtown location. That location was opened in response to residential growth Downtown, but the client base did not grow fast enough and the studio closed after about three years. Harwood has been teaching at the original location ever since.

Nichols was interested in selling the business to leave behind some of the administrative functions and to free up more time for traveling in order to teach. She is also a new grandmother.

Harwood’s three children had gotten old enough that she too was looking for a new chapter.

“(Nichols) wanted to pass the studio on to someone she was hoping would continue the history of it,” Harwood said. “She wanted it to go to someone who had been by her side.”

Nichols has continued to teach classes at Midtown Yoga every week. She’s one of more than 20 teachers offering about 55 classes each week. About 450 people attend classes each week.

Recently, Harwood hired one new teacher but said she is keeping all of the teachers who taught under Nichols.

Classes are mostly sold in packages like a 10-class package for $110. Unlimited monthly class packages are also available, as is a beginner’s series and community classes, which cost $7 per class.

Harwood said that most of her clients are women between the ages of 25 and 55, but that anyone can practice yoga regardless of age and ability. Some of her clients are in their 70s.

New Midtown Yoga owner Grace Harwood performs the danurasana pose with yoga instructor Geoff Bleech at the Midtown studio.

(Photo: Cate Plekon)

“You can make it be what you need for your body,” Harwood said. “You can make (the experience) more powerful. But if you need to lengthen your muscles, you can do it in the same class where someone else is really sweating it out.”

Senior yoga is offered seated in a chair.

Midtown Yoga has two studios – an 1,800-square-foot studio for larger classes and a smaller one of about 1,000 square feet for hot yoga classes and private lessons.

About three years ago Harwood went to New York to be certified in aerial yoga, which is now offered at Midtown Yoga. In it, participants perform poses while suspended about one foot off the ground in a sling made of looped aerial silks.

It does not involve aerial acrobatics like those popularized in Cirque du Soleil; instead, participants are never out of reach of the floor. It can be especially good for those exploring inversion poses and people living with spinal compression, Harwood said.

More recently she introduced AcroYoga to the studio, which involves yoga exercises performed in pairs. Harwood became certified in it over the summer.

Harwood also introduced computers to Midtown Yoga, which had been an on-paper business previously. She hopes the change will make it more convenient for participants to keep track of their classes.

The eight-week computer transition came with its complications, but those, she said, have been ironed out.

“It’s exciting and terrifying,” Harwood said. “At least I’ve been involved in it for a while so I’m well versed in how it runs.”

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