A Q&A with Lucy Bannister, a pioneer in London’s rooftop yoga scene who’s now making waves in the North of England…

Tell us a little about yourself…

I am trained in Dru Yoga – a gentle, flowing and slow yoga that is accessible to all bodies. I call it #nostressyoga because I want my students to experience yoga that causes no stress to body or mind, and yoga that helps to ease the stresses of daily life.

I’m a Yorkshire lass and after a brief, wonderful few years in London I am back up north living and working in the stunning countryside and vibrant cities of West Yorkshire.

When did you qualify and where do you teach?

I qualified in 2012 and I have a passion for teaching in unusual spaces. I’ve taught in all sorts of unexpected places including setting up a yoga studio on the roof of a multi-storey car-park in Peckham and a corporate class in the middle of Bloomsbury Square Gardens!

Currently I teach monthly in two stunning and unusual venues in central Leeds – the old Tetley brewery head office which is now an art gallery, and the central hall of Leeds City Museum which was previously a theatre.

I also teach weekly Yoga for Runners classes for a running club in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and an all-levels class in my local Tae-Kwon-Do studio in Bingley. Each year I head out to Spain to teach retreats and run quarterly themed workshops at Yoga Arch in south London. For the last few years I’ve been organising yoga retreats in both central Leeds and the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

What always surprises people about you?

I set-up and ran a rooftop yoga studio on the top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham, South London.

Back in 2013 I had the idea that the roof space next to Frank’s Bar, where the Bold Tendencies art project takes place each year, would be a great spot for my Saturday morning yoga classes.

The view and the experience of doing yoga outdoors in London was magical. It really caught on and became hugely popular. I expanded the Rooftop Yoga Peckham programme in 2014 to include Tania Brown and Zoe Sharp teaching every week, along with local studios sending us guest teachers on Monday nights for the Sunset Sessions.

Rooftop Yoga Peckham was also a great way for me to stay connected to my previous career in contemporary art. I think it also surprises a lot of people to learn that I have a degree in Fine Art Sculpture from Glasgow School of Art and I’ve exhibited internationally as an artist. My final job before going full-time as a yoga teacher was at the National Gallery.

My training as an artist is fundamental to my yoga teaching – I like to bring a lot of creativity to my sessions, theming them to the seasons, the place we are practicing or something that I am passionate about like social activism – and always accompanied by a carefully-crafted playlist.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? 

I think it would have to be a quote that I saw someone share on social media many years ago – “I’m not interested in competing with anyone, I hope we all make it”.

It really hit a chord with me and I have tried to apply this to everything I do as a yoga business.

Like when a couple of years ago I came across another business using a very similar brand to me – my name in Spanish and with the same colours too. Friends told me to contact them and say I wasn’t happy about it. I did contact them, not to tell them I didn’t like their brand but instead to see if they wanted to work together! I am now delighted to teach for Lucia Yoga at their fantastic retreats in Spain.

At Rooftop Yoga Peckham we created the Monday night Sunset Sessions to present local south London yoga studios to a new audience. I worked with Project HB, a blogger I met via social media and we asked the studios to send a teacher they’d like to represent their offer, for a one-off class on the roof.

So many people tell me they’ve tried yoga and didn’t like it, and I felt passionately that it was just because they’d not found the style for them. I love what I teach but its not right for everyone. So by offering a whole range of yoga, from Broga to Voga to Hatha and Hot Power Yoga, I hoped it would show people that there is a yoga style for everyone. And of course I wanted to encourage people to attend the yoga studios we were ‘hosting’, so as to share the success of Rooftop Yoga Peckham for everyone.

I also apply this collaborative principle when running my more unusual classes by asking the venues to make my rent a percentage of the class takings rather than a flat fee. This way the success of the class benefits everyone – the more people who come and experience yoga, the more money the venue make! So we start from a position of collaboration rather than venue and faceless hirer.

This also motivated to set-up the sister business to Lucyoga, Om Line Training. Through this I help other yoga teachers to overcome their tech fears and to flourish in digital and social media. It serves us all if we all succeed in reaching as many people as possible through yoga.

Photo courtesy of Pat Bannon

What business focused resources would you recommend and why?

Hands down it has to be my online booking system, www.goteamup.com (NB: affiliate link). I first started using it for the second year of Rooftop Yoga Peckham, and it has since become the most treasured tool for my business.

In that first year I calculated that teamup had increased my revenue by around £10,000, which is incredible. This was mainly through taking payment at the time of booking, implementing a proper cancellation policy, and also being able to more easily sell and track class passes.

I love the fact that it acts as my business brain so that when I am teaching I can totally shut off from that side of things, and just leave the booking system to manage the payments, waiting lists and any cancellations.

I, like many yoga teachers, struggled with asking people for money when I first started out, and even worse was trying to deal with no-shows, expired class passes and awkward conversations about refunds. It was explained to me by a senior tutor that money is simply an energy exchange. Our students work for money, and exchange it with us for the energy we put in to share yoga with them.

I really liked that, and it helped me be more confident in asking for payment, but I’m not a numbers person, so I still tussled with the reality of managing registers and payments. This is where the booking system really comes into its own as it does all that for me. I wouldn’t be without it, even though I have a different form to my business now to when I was running Rooftop Yoga Peckham. It is a very flexible tool and works just as well for my local weekly classes as it does for my London workshops and international retreats.

My other ‘can’t do without’ would be canva.com. This is is an online design software that has a huge collection of pre-designed templates for all the different types of social media posts, flyers, posters… you name it. You can customise them with your own text and images so you can create really lovely design work in a fraction of the time it would take to do it from scratch.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Bland

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started teaching yoga?

Don’t listen to the self-limiting beliefs. Those inner critics are responsible for lots of questionable decisions over the years – like when I was asked last-minute to cover a ‘dynamic yoga’ class. I tried to make my class dynamic because I thought the students wouldn’t like it if I didn’t.

No! It was a disaster. I should have just gone in there and taught true to myself and my style, it never works to try and impersonate someone or something you are not.

Or when I nearly didn’t send out the press release I had written about Rooftop Yoga Peckham. All these self-limiting voices in my head told me not to send it to Time Out, they wouldn’t be interested. Luckily I ignored them because Time Out weren’t just interested, they gave it a full page spread!

What are you most excited about now?

Developing a new business model that works for me and my family. My life has changed enormously over the last couple of years since becoming a mum and I have lots to work out as to how I can run my business so that both Lucyoga and I flourish. I am looking at how I can delve into the world of online yoga classes, Facebook Live and doing more of the tailored small group experiences like the workshops I run in London.

I adore teaching yoga, and yoga that is a bit out of the usual mould, yoga that is open, positive and inclusive to all bodies. I have recently been learning about Mudras (hand gestures) and I can’t wait to share these more at my workshops as they are incredibly accessible and powerful.

Where can we find you?

My social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube are as follows:

www.facebook.com/lucyoga

www.instagram.com/lucy_yoga

www.twitter.com/lucy_yoga

www.youtube.com/lucyogatv

My website is at www.lucyoga.co.uk where you will find my schedule, including No Stress Yoga at The Tetley.