In this episode of HR on the Mat, Courtney and Peggy talk to Cindi Odle, owner of Baptiste Power Yoga Indianapolis. They discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic affected Cindi’s business, taking things one step at a time, building an engaged community, and more.
This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.
Welcome back to HR on the Mat, the series where we talk about the parallels between your yoga mat and your work life. I’m Courtney Scott with Balance and Harmony Yoga, and joining me, as always, is Peggy Hogan from Purple Ink. We’re on site today, as you can tell. We’re at Baptiste Power Yoga Indy with Cindi Odle.
Thanks, Courtney, happy to be here with you guys. Thank you for having me.
Really excited to talk to you about today and learn a little bit more about Baptiste and how you got started, and if you don’t mind sharing, some of the circumstances and changes you’ve had to make given the COVID.
Sure, I’d be happy to share with you guys. I never thought I would be owning a yoga studio, let alone teaching yoga. My background is advertising and marketing. And my husband and I have been in Indy for 16 years, and we were in Fort Wayne for seven. During our time in Fort Wayne, I worked part time at my church, and one day when I was leaving my church to pick up my son from school, I was in a pretty bad car accident where a young driver ran a red light and t-boned my car, and it flipped one and a half times, and I walked away with seemingly without a scratch, but ended up with a really bad concussion that I still actually see a doctor for even at this time, but much better, much, much better than I was. But it was that concussion and that injury that led me to yoga. And prior to that I had always said I don’t have time for yoga. It’s not really for me. I had done athletic workouts and things like that, but not yoga. And when I couldn’t do anything else, all my symptoms would be…would start to come back when I was doing high intensity cardio, other types of things. I decided to go to a yoga class – my husband had been going to a yoga studio, and I decided to do that. And I took a class and was amazed that my symptoms…didn’t bother my symptoms. I even had a doctor tell me, oh, you shouldn’t do hot yoga. I was like, no, that’s, like, the only thing I can do, it’s the only exercise I can do. And then from there, I did an intro workshop, and then I did teacher training, and then we moved back to Indianapolis and always had in the back of our mind that if we didn’t find a yoga home that felt right to us, then we would consider opening a studio. And we decided to do that last year right before COVID happened.
Great timing, right?
Right. Right. Exactly. Great timing.
So one of the things, Cindi, that I think you’ve done a really great job is creating a community. Not only a community of members who call this studio their second home away from home, especially in this COVID world, we all need a place to escape. You’ve created that safe place to escape in a multitude of ways. So I’d love for you to talk about some of the safety protocols that you had to put in place and changes you have made due to COVID, but also creating a community of teachers. And so can you share a little bit also, not only on what you’ve done from a physical space perspective, but also on how do you build a community of participants and teachers at the same time?
Sure, I’d be happy to. I…the COVID thing is…”COVID thing,” as we call it, right? And we had found this location late last year, early January, and then signed on with a contractor to do our build out in our space and…in early February. And then everything…the world shut down. We were actually headed back to global summit, out in on California, training, the week that kind of the whole world shut down. And we had to make a choice. Do we keep moving forward, or do we stop? And we just had come off a super inspiring weekend at this other…yoga studio owners and practitioners and we were like, we’re just going to keep moving forward, and so…but then that did give us the opportunity to do some different things in the studio. Intentionally, we wanted to have a lot of space. This area, the front area that we’re in now is open, and our hallway is much wider than it typically would be. And that was intentional, because at the time we knew at least six feet apart is what we want to be. And our contractor was like, we don’t need this much space in your hallway. And we’re like, no, we want this much space in our hallway. In addition to that, we added an air scrubber to our HVAC system, which is the UVC light that kills germs and viruses. And we had an air filter or an exhaust fan put in the room, and after every class, that exhaust fan is turned on for 10 to 15 minutes and all the air is taken out of the room. Those things were not in our plan, obviously. However, in the scheme of things, when you’re building out a space that you’re…you want to be in and be safely and create a safe home, or a safe space for people, it just became, of course we’re going to do that, you know what, let’s just add that in, knowing that we’re doing everything we can to keep ourselves safe, to keep our teachers safe, and to keep our community safe. And I do think our community has responded well to that. You know, I always say I can’t be up in the HVAC system, seeing if it’s actually working as magic. But I feel like when we have people that come in or call us asking about our safety protocols, and I just had a message from someone earlier today about our social distancing. And we’re at a third of our capacity, we had initially planned to be able to have 60 mats in both of our rooms with the doors open, and we can now accommodate 20. And that number is probably going down in the next couple of weeks intentionally, just to continue to keep everyone safe.
And just to reassure people, we are social distancing right now as well. So continuing that, but I’m sure that a lot of change that you didn’t really build into your initial business plan.
Yeah, no, it absolutely is. And basically, what it meant for us is that it’s going to take longer. It’s gonna take longer to…to build the community, it’s going to take longer to make our business profitable, and it’s going to take longer to make an impact for people. But the thing I will say that’s been really amazing, and we had this experience, about two weeks ago, we had a fundraiser here at the space for IWIN, Indiana Women in Need, and one of our teachers is who created that nonprofit. And, you know, when we envisioned this, we envisioned doing that at a big capacity and having a full studio and having fundraisers and making a big impact. And what became really clear to us is that we were still able to do it, we were able to have people in community together, we had a small little reception afterwards, everybody was masked up, we were still able to be in community and make a difference for IWIN, we raised over $1,000, our community did. And it may not be the scale that we thought it was going to be, but we’re still able to make it happen. And I think that’s the…the piece of all of this, is just that there’s a…one piece of Baptiste Yoga, which is don’t rush the process. And that’s a transformational law, number nine, that’s the one, I really do know that one. And it’s just really been such an important part of everything, from building the space out to being in this during COVID, to building the community, and then to whatever’s next, you know, continuing to be in that space of not rushing, but taking one step at a time forward.
That’s…I love that. Making the decisions that are right in the moment and being…being present and making those hard decisions, even when those decisions are difficult. Cindi, can you share with us a little bit more about how you keep your community engaged? Because we find leaders today are struggling, especially in this virtual world, to make sure that their teams and their stakeholders, internal and externally, continue to stay engaged and committed to the purpose.
Absolutely. Well, I think, you know, it starts with the type of people that you surround yourself with, number one. You know, like, the people who…I feel like on our team, our team of teachers really want to be here and they really want to be a part of this and what we’re building. And the community, I sense that, as well, you know. And so what’s the biggest thing, really, has been even more intentional communication than I expected to do. We do a weekly newsletter, also, in the studio, really being intentional around introducing new clients to existing clients. Now more than ever. They have their mask on, right? So it’s challenging. I mean, I’ve had people come in, and I’ll, you know, think I’ve never met them, and I have met them, and, you know, it’s…it’s that authenticity of transparency, like, oh, I’m so sorry, you know, like, and I’m so happy you’re here, you know, and that’s a big piece for us, is that genuinely, when you walk in through our doors, like, we are so happy that you’re here. And the feedback that we’re getting from people who are coming in and practicing and moving and breathing with our community is that they’re feeling a part of something. And I think that is the piece. What we’re looking to do right now, just is that as we move into maybe a little bit more of a time when we can’t always be in a studio together, it’s a few more virtual options. Prior to opening the studio, we did a virtual book club. Book club have anything to do with yoga? May or may not, but it has something to do with community, and that’s what we…we’re really trying to create. And so one of the pillars that we are working on now, too, is nutrition. And especially in this day and age of what else can we do to be healthy, to have strong immunity, to fight off disease. And we can do that with whole foods, so we have a nutritionist on staff, and in the next couple of weeks, we are going to do an online event with her talking about how can you eat for health and how can you eat for immunity, and so really continuing to take it outside of just the four walls of this space and…and looking at value added virtual options. I know people talk about Zoom fatigue and online fatigue, and I think that’s true, especially if it’s the same old thing. But where can you create some added value is the way I look at it, like, where can we create added value for our clients? And then it’s like, oh, I’m kind of excited to be on that call, you know, oh, I want to learn about nutrition. Oh, gosh, I never thought about that. And I get to see people without their masks on. And so that is the thing. I…as much as we have frustration with Zoom, is it is, like, right here, it’s so nice to be with you guys, to not have to have our masks on because we are six feet apart, is that you get to see people’s faces and that…to take, you know, to balance that out with. Yeah, it’s one more Zoom call, but how can you build that community? So.
And I’ve felt very comfortable practicing here. The, you know, the room has not been crowded, everybody’s really good about the protocols and everything, even taking the temperature when we come in, you know, makes everyone feel safe. And…but I also, I love Zoom yoga at home, too, because sometimes, especially the really relaxing ones, it can be kind of nice to just, you know, get in your jammies right away. And so I could see that being something that, you know, you continue to do.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, no, and I think you’re…you know, we initially started live streaming about 70% of our classes, and even this last week, we’re moving to about 90% of our classes are going to be live streamed. And I don’t think that will ever go away. I think people have the convenience of being able to do something from home, whether it’s time constraints, maybe you have a kid that’s home sick, maybe you’re just not going 100…you know, the other thing I will say about this community is the people, I’ve really respected, like, if you don’t feel good, stay home. And people will call and say, hey, I have a little cough this morning, I’m going to take that class from home online. I’m like, thank you, please do, please join us in and…or join in with us. And what we as a team are trying to get better at and…is really creating that welcoming sense for people who are live streaming. And also, you know, because the job of a yoga teacher used to be, welcome to class, I’m going to teach you my class. And now it’s welcome to the studio, can I take your temperature, I’ve got to log on to Zoom, I’ve got to log on to my live stream, and I’ve got to welcome those people, and I got to welcome the people in the room. And it’s a…it’s a…it’s a new way of thinking of it, but I think we are finally – I say “finally,” we’re only three months old, so it’s not really that long – but we’re figuring out, like, how this community can be really great, whether you’re here in the studio, or whether you’re live streaming with us.
And I don’t know, too, I just want to add, you know, if it’s your marketing and advertising background, but I think you’ve done some other fun things for engagement, like the bingo cards. I love the bingo card idea, and I’m actually stealing it.
I hope you don’t mind, not that you came up with bingo, but I thought, you know, you want to get people practicing, and you want to get them doing things, because with practice comes competence, which then comes confidence, right? And the same thing goes with my group coaching a lot, I’m actually going to come up with a…we’re working on a little bingo card for coaching clients, just, you know, increase your connections by 10 this week, or, you know, ask somebody to coffee, but kind of getting those little pieces to the puzzle. And that really appeals to people who have a sense of competition, and if that’s a strength of theirs, and they love, you know, making those connections, so I’m stealing that one.
Yeah, no, I…I’m glad…I’m glad you brought that up, because I think that the very first one we did was Disrupt your Drift challenge and we did 21 classes in 30 days. And I was shocked at how many people were like, I can’t get my…I want to get my…I want to get…I want to do it, you know, and then it creates other people talking about it and it creates, oh, look who’s here and who’s there, and you start to get to know people, too, by their names or…whether they’re in studio or if you make the announcement and then it builds from that and creates, you know, creates action, is one thing it creates, which is really a piece of what we offer here, as well, is it creates that community connection in a way that I had no idea. I’m like, I think every month we’ll have something like that, because it’s about…people really love the opportunity just to…it’s just an additional motivational piece, too, for people, like, oh, yeah, one of our bingo things is drink half your weight water. You know, there’s nothing to do with yoga, but it has to do with wellness and health, you know, and maybe someone’s never done that before, and they do it, and they’re like, I felt really great that day. And so now they start that habit, you know, and I think it’s similar to what you’re saying, I think that opportunity exists across a lot of different businesses, you know, not just this. So.
So the overwhelming theme I keep hearing between…in this conversation is this idea of adaptability, especially as a leader. Adaptability to…and meeting your team where they’re at and your community where they’re at. So our…kind of our final question, because I want to be very respectful of your time. So we thank you so much for your time and dedicating your space to the conversation today. Is…do you, in the spirit of adaptability, can you share some of the, maybe, the mistakes or trips and falls that you’ve made as a leader as you’ve built out this business, and what you’ve learned from it?
Yeah, well, I was…I was thinking a little bit about that. And because we’re pretty early so far, like, I’m sure there’s plenty of mistakes that we’re making right now that we don’t even know what they are yet. You know, what I will say about mistakes in general, I mean, for me, as far as my business career, and my family life, and everything else, is that opportunity to learn from them, you know, to really…to see that as just one thing to learn from and not to get caught up in how it made me feel, or how it affects me, or anything else. To just see it simply as a lesson, you know, and not that it’s a judgment around me as a person, around us as a business, but it’s an item. And then how do you then take that item and learn from that, you know, learn from that choice or that decision, or whatever it is, to grow and make something, to make a different choice from that. And I think that’s the piece, I mean, as we build out the space, I mean, there were just little things that would come up during, and you’d have to, I think, kind of make that tough decision, and I think….Actually, I’m gonna…I’ll give you an example right now. And we talked about this a lot in our local yoga community, other affiliates, studio owners, is that when you’re grappling with a decision, and you’re in the middle of the decision, it can be…feel so overwhelming, and it feels like you just….What’s the right thing to do? Like, should I do this or do that? And once you make a decision and you move forward, it’s so freeing. And the example I will share with you is, I mean, today, we’ve been talking this week about the numbers of…COVID numbers going up in this time in Indiana, about creating a…we have a mask to mat policy already, but then 100% face shield policy even when you practice. And we went and we’re weighing the pros and the cons, it’s been this conversation with my husband and with our…some of our team and just some of our clients, and then we made it. We decided to do it, because we’re like, it’s the right thing to do. It comes from wanting to protect ourselves, to protect our teachers, protect our clients. And we made that decision. And I can’t tell you how freeing it is. Like, and I’m just 100% like, it’s the right decision, this is what we’re doing, and I can’t wait to finish this interview and then get on social media and share that that’s what we’re doing, because it feels so right. And so I think that…no, it’s not about the failure piece, but it’s more about, like, being in that struggle of making a really hard choice or decision and then knowing that that’s the hardest part. And then once you make it, and then you just move forward, you know, and then I think you can…you have that freedom. We talk a lot about that in this practice, the freedom to move how you want to move. And then for me, it translates into the freedom, how you want to be in your life off the mat, as well.
And really, life is that way. Like, we can’t really predict what’s going to happen. Obviously, we would have laughed if somebody would have ever said this would have happened, you know, with COVID, like, eight months ago, probably, or 10 months ago. So really as a leader or business person or in your own personal life, you’ve gotta just know that what comes you’re going to deal with and you have confidence that you’re going to have the resources and the intelligence and the support system to deal with what happens and pivot.
Yeah. I heard a quote the other day that really resonated me, so I want to share it with…with you two and our viewers online, which is that “you’ve already survived 100% of your bad days.” And just the empowerment in terms of today may not be a good day, tomorrow may not be a good one either, but you’ve already survived. You can get through it. And that’s part of, for me, why I love to practice on my mat, because it gives me a safe spot to explore and to try new things, that if I make a decision and it doesn’t work out, the risk is pretty low. I get to learn, right? It’s just…it’s just not that serious.
You could fall on your head, if you’re doing an inversion.
You could fall on your head.
But, you know, you’re not gonna hurt yourself.
No, I fall on my back plenty of times, roll right on over. But you know, I think they still pick up and we continue to move on. And that’s one of the reasons why I love to practice here, because it is a safe spot where I can explore, I can be fun, I can also pull back if I feel like I need to, but it’s a safe spot where I can try this out before I take that same practice off my mat to another aspect of my life.
And I really like, too, that there really are classes for everyone. So people who want to burn calories, and they want high intensity, they can come do that. For people who want to rest and relaxation and more restorative, they can do that. For people who want more meditative or prayerful or, you know, introspective, they can do that. And I love that. Some of the encouragement and the words of affirmation and the kind of spiritual aspect that comes into yoga, a lot of people need that if they’ve had a really rough day, something going on personally in their life or at the workplace. And…and I think leaders who can incorporate some of those characteristics, whether they’re in a, you know, a building downtown in the…on the 12th floor with their people, or whether it’s virtual leadership for their office, but having some of those words of encouragement and stakes are okay, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Let’s try it. Thank you, you know, those are all things that are going to make people more productive and more engaged.
Absolutely. Well, and I will say that there was something you said earlier that really resonated with me around the thought process, but one of the ways that we…that I have learned to think about things, and a lot of it’s from the style of yoga from Baptiste Yoga, is the mindset of abundance versus scarcity. And right now, during COVID, we’re all feeling scarcity. Like, especially in the beginning, there’s no toilet paper, there’s none of this….Like, if you’re in that mindset, you cannot…your…the opportunity to…to grow and to think in a new way just is nonexistent for you. And so instead of starting from that place of not having enough, starting from a place of everything we have we need, you know, and that’s that abundance. And that’s when people say to me, well, you’re going to open, you know, a yoga studio during this time, and I’m like, yeah, I am, because people really need it. And people really need this, the mindset, that shift of thinking, the opportunity to disconnect for even one hour is so powerful. And I know, I mean, you guys both practice yoga, and prior to practicing yoga for myself, I would have never thought that. I would have never been like, what difference can an hour make, let alone, you know, a five minute meditation or something. And now for me, I mean, just to go from the busy craziness of the world today, give yourself that uninterrupted time to disconnect from all that’s happening out here, is…is just so valuable. I feel like. And it’s such a gift.
And mental illness right now, and just…you know, it’s so prevalent, there’s so much more depression right now. But whether it’s, you know, anxiety, we hear about a ton of anxiety out there, or even you know, ADHD, there’s so much, when you read up on it, that can be, you know, exercise can be, you know, the saving grace, you don’t…might not have to go on medication if you’re getting your serotonin from other things, which might be meditation, meditation instead of medication, maybe, right? Not that medication isn’t warranted, by certain circumstances, for sure. But it is a way to kind of help people cope when they’re feeling down or anxious.
Yeah, and I think right now, the other opportunity we talk about is people…where are you getting the good stuff in your life from right now? You know, like, there’s so much…there’s so much we’re not able to do that we used to do, and the…that…those things of community and fun inspiration are now replaced with worry, fear, and doubt of the future or what’s happening in this moment, things we can’t do, and so if you have a place to source that really good stuff, that’s, like, what we like to call this place. It’s like, it’s a great place to be a source of good, you know, and to be a source of inspiration. And if you’re not getting that everyday somehow, whether it’s through movement, or through mindfulness or meditation or podcasts, you know, a video like this, if you’re not filling your cup that way, if you’re just kind of going through the day and are listening to the news or whatever, you’re not having that source of good inspiration. I just feel like that’s a great opportunity to…to make sure you are getting that is…it’s our theme, really, disrupt the drift, I mean, that comes from being in the drift of life, and not really being intentional about the choices. And we’re all just kind of drifting, and we’re all caught up in a COVID drift right now. And how do you pause and reflect and disrupt that?
And that’s really where a lot of innovation comes, too, is when we do have to make those changes. Well, it has been great being a part of this practice and, you know, kind of drawing those parallels between HR and yoga and being an entrepreneur, and how you’ve been able to manage during this change, too, and so thank you so much for giving us time in your studio and some of your experience to share with others.
Absolutely. Thank you guys for what you’re doing, because it’s…it’s innovation like this and programs like this that are going to continue to make a difference for so many.
In the spirit of yoga, shall we end as we might in a typical yoga session?
Yes. So let’s end as a community of breath. So we’ll go ahead and on an inhale, lifting up, shining your light, palms come to clasp at the top. On the exhale, bring them down to heart center, taking your drishti, your focus, with it. The light in me honors the light both of you and all of our listeners out there. Namaste, friends.