By JEFF CLEMETSON | Mission Times Courier
Since mid-March when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared the initial stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus outbreak, businesses owners have struggled to find ways to stay afloat while being cut off from customers. While restaurants quickly moved to pick-up and delivery models and retail shops quickly took to Instagram and Facebook to sell their wares, the health and fitness industry had to invent its own ways to serve clients safely.
One such local business that took a proactive approach during the COVID shutdown is Trinity Yoga & Fitness in San Carlos, which held its last in-person yoga class on March 15 before getting up and running with her “NamaStay At Home” virtual classes the very next day.
“It was a Sunday and it was four days before the governor stated his stay-at-home order,” she said. “I decided to state my own stay-at-home order to protect my yogis. From following all the stuff going on, I just knew it was the right thing to do.”
That afternoon after her last yoga class, Van Sickle said she went home, ate lunch and made the decision to go all virtual and spent the rest of the evening downloading and teaching herself how to use the GoTo Meeting app, setting up her home meditation spot to accommodate filming and contacting her students to inform them of the move.
“We were ready to practice that very next morning with our first class at 9:15 a.m.,” she said.
Since then, she has been making improvements to her online class set up, including installing better lighting, purchasing a headset with a good microphone and adjusting camera angles so students can see all of the positions from standing to laying on the ground.
“There’s a lot to it and we’re still kinda working out some of the kinks but we mostly have it all settled in and we’re happy with the program we have,” she said.
Another improvement to her yoga practice she accomplished during the quarantine is hiring back two teachers who were laid off at the beginning of the year because new rules that took effect governing independent contractors. From January until the beginning of April when she hired back the two teachers, Van Sickle said she had to teach all 19 of her classes.
“That helped take a little bit of the load off of my shoulders,” she said.
She hired back the teachers even without aid from the government because Trinity Yoga was ineligible for Paycheck Protection Plan monies she had no employees at the time of the bills passing.
“We’re hoping to hold onto them,” she said. “Our goal was always to have more teachers to give that good perspective of what they’ve learned in their journey through yoga, but then COVID hit. We’re hoping to bring everybody back, but we’re running with three of us right now.”
In addition to bringing back two teachers, Van Sickle said Trinity Yoga has been able to retain a core group it its clientele base. The virtual classes have even attracted some students from outside the region in places like Denver and San Francisco — mostly family members of her core client base — and even brought back a former student who now lives in in the Virgin Islands.
However, despite the new ability to reach far away clients, Trinity Yoga, like most businesses, is suffering the effects of the recession.
“We’ve only gotten three new clients in the last three months, which is abnormal,” Van Sickle said. “So our capacity is way down. If I had to guess we’re probably running about 30% of our normal client base, so it’s dropped and we’re paddling underneath but staying calm above.”
Now that the state has started Phase 3 of the reopening process, which will allow her to teach in-person classes again, Van Sickle is preparing the Trinity Yoga studio for classes. She has given the San Carlos space a deep clean and will eventually move the filming equipment and lighting there to continue the NamaStay at Home program — a must for her because under social distancing requirements she will only be able to teach nine students at a time, down from her normal 33 student capacity.
“We will be filming that practice in such a way that the mirrors will not capture the clients who are coming so that it only captures the teacher, for privacy issues,” she added.
Van Sickle, who explained that she does not like to boast about herself, did admit that she is proud of being able to manage the new normal of operating her yoga business in the midst of a recession and health crisis and offer her services to her customers.
“I knew I wanted to not close any classes right in the height of it,” she said. “That was my goal — to be there for everybody because yoga is proven to help with anxiety, it’s proven to help with overall wellness.”
—Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.