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Popular Yoga Studio Grows with Fun and Fitness

01.04.2018

Cleveland Yoga founder Tami Schneider says she didn’t set out to have one of the most popular yoga studios Greater Cleveland. But as she followed her instincts and built gradually, with a bank partner that understands her needs, that’s exactly what happened.

“I was working for the international sports management agency IMG and, being around professional athletes, I got the fitness bug,” said Schneider. She became a personal trainer, taught group fitness classes, and with a partner opened a fitness and yoga studio called Strong, Stretched and Centered. That was in 1999. A few years later, the two went their separate ways and Schneider opened Cleveland Yoga.

“Cleveland Yoga was created because I loved fitness and movement. There was no business plan; it just came from a place of me wanting to feel good and get together with people to exercise and have fun,” said Schneider.

As it turned out, she was onto something big. Schneider brought to Cleveland what was then a relatively new and very athletic style of yoga called “hot power vinyasa,” and its popularity exploded. Unlike more relaxing forms of yoga, hot power vinyasa is a rigorous flow of poses and practiced in a room heated to about 90 degrees. Students leave class feeling like they’ve worked and stretched every muscle in their body—including some they didn’t know they had. They also feel incredibly calm and centered, sometimes even blissful.

“You change when you practice yoga, that’s just the way it is,” said Schneider. “It’s hard to pinpoint what’s happening. Your body will change, you’ll get toned and fit and flexible, but other changes happen energetically too, that are hard to describe.”

Schneider says yoga’s proven tangible benefits include increased flexibility and strength, reduced stress and better sleep. Those may be some of the reasons why its popularity has increased so dramatically in recent years. In 2016, 36.7 million Americans or 15 percent of the U.S. adult population practiced yoga, up from 20.4 million in 2012.

Having launched her yoga business in 2003 with her Beachwood studio, Schneider capitalized on an emerging trend. Her desire to bring the benefits of yoga to more people—and to provide contract jobs for some of the 400+ yoga teachers she had trained over the years—led her to expand. She added a second location in University Circle in 2013 years, and recently a third in Westlake. (She also acquired Barre Cleveland along the way, a different type of exercise studio incorporating movements based on ballet.)

Because she started without a business plan and learned as she went, successfully building her yoga business required a strong financial partner. For Schneider, that meant KeyBank.

“I’ve banked with Key for as long as I can remember, starting before I was in business when I just had a personal checking and savings account with them,” she said. “One of the things I like most is that they’re local and so focused on having that personal relationship. I remember the day I walked into the branch 15 years ago when I wanted to open my first studio, the woman in the office said ‘Hey, I know you, I take your aerobics classes,’” said Schneider. “She’s been with me ever since, and given me a real sense of comfort and hand holding all along the way as I grew my business.”

For those who haven’t tried yoga before or are intimidated by it, Schneider’s advice is to just go.

“In the beginning, just getting yourself there is the hardest part, but everyone starts somewhere. Just go, and pack in as many classes as you can in a short period of time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll see results, not only in your body, but also in your mental state.”

Schneider says it’s those “off the mat” benefits of mental calmness and the ability to quiet the chatter in the mind, that turn many new practitioners into lifetime yogis.

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