“You can’t cram experience,” says Jean Koerner, who has spent the past 25 years developing hers. In the past two and a half decades, she has served as group and private instructor, Studio Co-Owner and Developer of Teacher Training at Be Yoga, Director of Teacher Training and Programming at Yogaworks East Coast, and Director of Programming at ISHTA. There’s no cramming with that resume!
Recently, Jean took over the lease at Lila Yoga, Dharma and Wellness and started Bowery Yoga in its place. Elysha Lenkin sat down with her to find out how her experience will help her navigate the tricky and somewhat tumultuous road of yoga studio owner.
Elysha Lenkin: You left Be Yoga and now you’re back with Bowery Yoga. How did you end up as studio owner again?
Jean Koerner: I was up at Omega doing a workshop with Glenn Black, and he partnered everybody off. Eden Fromberg was my partner, and I said to her, "Are you Dr. Fromberg?" She said, “yes I am. I thought I recognized you. You were my patient.” She had just opened Lila, that was 13 years ago. As an OB-GYN, her initial vision was to have a center for women. So she brought Mia Borgatta in to do a prenatal yoga program and it was also a place where young innovative Buddhist groups who were just arising around the city could meet. Eden envisioned it as a center of community service and good works. She hired me as a consultant because she saw from my experience in programming and booking workshops that I can bring people in.
They were proud of being the low profile, farmers' market, brown paper bag, computer-free version of a yoga studio. But at the end of October, Eden got extremely busy, moving her medical practice, teaching a course with Tom Myers, and she'd had an accident, so she asked if if I wanted to take over the lease. It all happened so fast. I thought ok, I could always move in if it doesn’t work out because it is a live /work space. So I said yes. It all happened in a week.
EL: What are some of the upgrades you have done?
JK: The landlord came in and did a little bit of a renovation. I replaced all the props. But coming in as an owner with two months security deposit, a month rent, and then I need next months rent. I want to keep it minimal.
I have an accountant, and he is on top of me. Eden did it the old-fashioned way, but I’ve owned a business with MindBody software and I needed that. Otherwise, I want to keep what was going on here, still going - the prenatal, mommy and
me and the Buddhist group that’s here in the evening, Dharma Punx.
EL: Why are you going back to being a studio owner?
JK: I always wanted my own space. I started a group called Yo Pro Pro, the Yoga ProfessionalsProgram to mentor teachers beyond the scope of teacher training, and when I needed to get the group out of my home, I started using this space. We meet once a month.
Also, I have all these teachers that I love to study with, like my essential oils teacher, Catherine Garro. There were times I couldn’t do the oils workshop when she was offering so I would hire her privately. And I ended up asking, do you mind if I post it to try to get other people to come, and make it a workshop? Then I would do it in my home. So now I have this space for these kinds of workshops.
EL: How will you do things differently, to keep from getting burnt out?
JK: I haven’t put myself into the schedule because I want to take it slow. I have to ask myself if I want to start at 6am teaching classes and be here all day as the studio owner. I need to think about it. So far it’s only been a month. Also, my son is a freshman in college so I don’t have to be as aware of his schedule.
EL: What about the pressures like paying rent? Are you worried that there are so many studios nearby?
JK: First off, there’s no stealing students. People go where they go. There is enough to go around. And yes, I am in the same building as another yoga school. Am I worried? No, not really.
Everything in my life has come to me. It wasn’t like I wanted to become a yoga teacher when I signed up for teacher training. Alan Finger came to me - do you want to be a teacher? You look healthy. You do the poses nicely. You come every day. We need a teacher.
Everything in my life came to me like that. Hopefully we’ll be able to make a private room with that back area for special teachers. Or if I keep it empty then I could rent it out for photoshoots, and then just keep the space for my workshops and my teachers that I want to bring in and study with. Also, I’ve got someone coming in today who may rent it for her upcoming Kundalini training. So there could be trainings here. I’m not worried. I feel like when you worry it blocks the flow.