Dear Readers,
Many of us enjoy yoga. But what does it take to build and run a yoga studio? Let’s find out.  I was introduced to Lisa Ellisen (in photo above), owner of Soul Yoga Studio in Santa Rosa, and here’s her career story:

Lisa, what do you do? How do you describe your work?

I own Soul Yoga in Bennett Valley, Santa Rosa. We opened in 2014, but I’ve been teaching yoga since 2001. Our studio is in a shopping center, between a bakery and an ice cream shop! Soul Yoga offers about 35 classes a week, 7 days a week. Classes range from pre-natal yoga to kids yoga to power vinyasa, to Hips and Heart Openers. All ages and levels are welcome. I teach 12-15 classes a week, including private sessions. I am responsible for: social media, web development, flyer design and production and teacher mentor and training programs. I also do the more traditional business functions: payroll, accounting, hiring and managing staff, plus physical maintenance of the space to keep it clean and welcoming. My commitment is to creating a community whose commitment is to healthier bodies and happier souls.

What are the rewards of owning Soul Yoga?

I get to do what I am passionate about every single day!” I enjoy being able to move my body and help people move theirs. There is endless variety to my days. I enjoy using all of my skills: leadership , business management, graphic design, teaching yoga, and training teachers. I enjoy continually learning and growing and being able to provide for my family. I’m proud of creating an income from something I am passionate about but no one should get into the yoga business looking for great financial reward.

We are committed to the community, and have provided free and sliding scale yoga to people who don’t have the means to pay. After the 2017  wildfire, Soul Yoga served victims through stress-reducing yoga classes.

It’s very rewarding to know that I have created a space that people want to come to each day. I get pride knowing I designed a welcoming, clean, comfortable environment, beautifully designed for yoga practice. We intentionally designed the space to make people feel good.

What are the challenges of your profession?

The downside is that days can be very long, sometimes running 7 am to 11 pm.
I’m challenged sometimes because Soul Yoga can’t provide all the reduced/free classes we’d like to as we have to carefully balance the mission to reach everyone with balancing the books.

What does it take to become a yoga studio owner? 

Key traits needed to do the job well include:

  • a passion for yoga
  • a true love of people and of creating a space for them to be who they are
  • leadership and business skills
  • maturity to deal with different kinds of personalities

Yoga studio owners often come from other careers. It’s vital to have business skills or bring in a partner or mentor who has those skills. You need start-up capital to get the business started. Costs can be lower than for other  businesses as you just need an open space, good flooring, good lighting and ventilation. The biggest expense is personnel.

What was your path to this career?

I grew up in the fitness industry in Santa Rosa. My mother owned California Lady, an aerobic fitness studio. Coincidentally, it was just down the street from where Soul Yoga is today. This was back in the 1980s, circa the Jane Fonda style of workouts, high impact and intense. California Lady is where I hung out and helped out; learning business and fitness by osmosis. I loved the world of fitness, went to UCSB to study sports medicine and along the way  became a fitness instructor, then gained a credential in graphic design. I worked in graphic design for several years, which comes in handy doing all the design work for the studio. Once introduced to yoga, Lisa was hooked. The rest is opportunity meeting readiness. Through the support of her life partner, Tod Ceruti, I developed the confidence to reach for my dreams. “Soul Yoga truly is the realization of my vision to create a space for people to enjoy, feel accepted, welcomed and participate in yoga.”

Any additional thoughts or personal philosophy about your career?

The Soul Yoga philosophy is to provide a warm welcome and acceptance to each person who walks in the door. We know that every individual brings their unique body, story, history and typically some kind of desire. We want to give them the opportunity, through yoga, to feel what they need to feel, heal what needs to be healed, and end up happier.

Soul Yoga is committed to our local community. We are a part of First Responders Resiliency, Inc. bringing yoga to first responders to empower them to be more resilient in their important work.

Lisa can be reached at: 

Soul Yoga is at 2700 Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa

Onward in your career success, Lisa, and thank you for sharing your career story with us.

Readers, kindly let me know any thoughts, questions and ideas for local career stories. You can reach me at:

Coach Joan