Yoga and activist are 2 words not commonly seen together. Nonetheless, it is a title that Maya Breuer wears proudly and has built her business around that philosophy.
Breuer experienced the transformational benefits of yoga and wanted to share them with others. After not seeing many people of color in her classes, she decided to create programs to draw more diversity and a passion was born. The Women of Color Retreat happens multiple times a year in different parts of the country offering various holistic practices that nourish the mind, body and soul.
In addition to owning the Santosha School of Yoga in Rhode Island, she has successfully lobbied for for the creation of a scholarship program for people of color and later served on the board of Trustees at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health creating the Teaching for Diversity Program.
Breuer’s efforts to make yoga more colorful space, earns her a spot in this year’s Yogapreneur series.
What was the impetus behind venturing into the health and fitness industry as an entrepreneur?
After my Yoga Teacher Training certification at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, I traveled to Gujarat, India to deepen my knowledge of yoga and its intrinsic philosophies. When I started teaching yoga, I had full classes but no people of color. While studying in India I had asked one of my teachers how I could reach my people? She stated, “With the breath, use the breath”.
My first step into the health and fitness industry was to offer yoga classes to women of color in my community. These classes for emphasized learning how to breathe, self awareness and sharing circles where women of color could talk about their lives. In 2001, my classes were growing steadily. I had an epiphany and the Yoga Retreat for Women of Color was born.
How has business been going for you?
Like the rest of the country my business reflects our economy. Since the recession, I have been offering less international retreats and focusing more on offering Yoga Teacher Training & Certification programs and the Yoga Retreat for Women of Color. This month I will offer my third retreat in Atlanta GA. The requests [for more YRWOC] continue to come in.
What resources did you use to start and grow your business?
I had few resources when I started the Yoga Retreat for Women of Color. One of the things I did was invest the monies I had available in hiring a marketing person to help me. This enabled me to get articles about the retreat in Pathfinder, Essence and Heart and Soul Magazines that target women of color. The birth of social media has also been a boon to getting the word out to the world about the Yoga retreat for Women of Color. I also contributed articles to various magazines about yoga and the health benefits for people of color and especially African American’s who suffer from diabetes, hypertension and stroke.
Do you feel it’s necessary to diversify yourself to be a successful Yogapreneur?
To anyone considering leaving their job to start a yoga business – it’s important to keep your day job as you move into the yoga business. True, yoga is a flourishing business, but making a living “just teaching yoga” can still be difficult. If one decides to become a successful Yogapreneur it may not be necessary to include more than yoga as part of your business.
As a Yogapreneur consider diversifying what you offer within the context of teaching yoga. I recommend you assess your skills and qualifications and then create a variety of ways to offer your skills under the yoga umbrella, i.e. workshops, retreats, lectures, participation in Health and Wellness Fairs and festivals, offering stress management workshops for business and nonprofit organizations. Today yoga is incorporated into many aspects of our lives and one can be very creative with your offerings. However, you must have a plan and then work the plan.