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Meet Julie Tonks

Hi Julie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I have been a Bikram certified instructor for nearly 13 years. I was taught and certified by Bikram himself. Bikram yoga is done in a hot room. It’s the same 26 postures and 2 deep breathing exercises every class. It’s very beneficial physically and mentally. I love the practice and I love helping people. I worked for a Bikram studio for 12 years. Financial issues grew and the latter half of 2019, we weren’t making enough money to pay me. I stayed on for a couple months without pay. The pay is not a lot to begin with so this wore on me financially. I just couldn’t keep working for free. It was Christmas day while camping that me and my person discussed options. I’ve never owned a business. I don’t know the first thing about owning a business. I never wanted to own my own studio/school, but I HAVE to teach this yoga and I NEED to practice it as well. So, this seemed the only option at this time. With no money to start a new business, in January, we started looking for space in Sanford, since that’s where I live. Also, Sanford has always felt like a closely knit community that could use Bikram or hot yoga. We looked at a few spaces, but when we walked into this former hair salon on Park Ave, I knew it was my new home. The mirrors were even already on the wall! So, with a little financial help from my family, I signed the lease and started cleaning and painting. We went through lots of challenges to get the heat where I needed it to be. The old wiring in an old historic building just wasn’t cooperating. I also do detox retreats in Costa Rica and had one scheduled for mid-February. So, my plan was to be ready before I leave and open when I return. Everything went very fast. I was literally begging for my business license to be rushed so I could open and start teaching again and earning some money. I opened for a few special people for a class or two before leaving for Costa Rica. And when I returned, I opened the doors with a full schedule. It started out great. At first, I had a lot of students that I taught at the other location and gradually started getting some locals. I had a grand opening planned for March with the Chamber and the Mayor. It was exciting. Then COVID hit. It couldn’t have been worse timing. We were forced to stay at home, so I had to close the doors. We quickly had to learn Zoom and set up an account and I started teaching live online. I maintained my regular schedule, but it’s just not the same. Class attendance was low. First, you have to struggle with the technology and everyone’s lack of knowledge on how to use it. Then your students have to find a suitable space and set up to do the practice. And lastly, and most importantly, you don’t have the benefits of a heated room. I kept that going until Phase 1 of reopening. I then reopened my doors with limited class sizes to maintain 6ft apart, overly sanitizing and masks in the lobby…every precaution possible. Since then business has been somewhat steady, but I’m nowhere near where I need to be. I believe many people are still afraid. I continue to get new students here and there. Everyone that comes in seems to be very appreciative and loves the experience. I believe I’ve made it through the worst of it. I know starting a new business always has growing pains in the beginning. Add a pandemic and it becomes really challenging. Hopefully things will continue to get better and we can grow in this community.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
No, it has not. I was not financially able to start a business. I had no idea how I would do it. But I just knew it would happen somehow. Once I found a space, there were lots of issues with the wiring and heating. Everything may have worked for another type of business, but it just wasn’t strong enough to get the temperature up to over 100 degrees. We went through a few heating guys and electricians to figure out how to make it work. Eventually the whole building had to be upgraded. My landlord has been a blessing and very cooperative through this whole process. COVID. This obviously has been a rough road for most businesses. It’s been a struggle being closed for a while and then being limited on occupancy and still convincing people that your business is safe.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
When I took my first Bikram yoga class, I knew immediately that the rest of the world had to experience this. It is like a vacation from your mind while taking your body through the roughest but best spin cycle of a washing machine. You literally wring out all the negative stuff from your mind and body. When I teach, I use a 90-minute dialog that Bikram wrote for us to connect to the students. The dialog is between the teacher’s words and the students’ bodies. We communicate on a very deep level figuring out what needs to be left on the mat. We move through a 90-minute lifetime together. There are the same 26 postures and two deep breathing exercises. I don’t do the postures while teaching. I am 100% present with the students as I guide them through their journey. I am most proud of my students. They work so hard. They are wonderful people trying to be the best versions of themselves and living their best lives. What sets me apart from other teachers is my ability to communicate with my students. I am able to meet them where they are at and help them through their own unique journey. I deeply care about each and every one of them. I feel like I am making a difference one person at a time, one class at a time, and one posture at a time.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
The essential quality that I think is most important for my success is being my true authentic self. By being my true authentic self, it sets the stage for the student to do this as well. This is essential to making any changes in life. You have to be honest with yourself. When a student has a positive experience, it is a gift that keeps giving.

Pricing:

  • I have my pricing set up to pay as you go. You pay. I teach. You’re happy. I’m happy. I don’t want to be in the position where I owe anyone any money. I also don’t want the student to feel guilty that they need to come to class because they bought a package. I want to keep everything in present time. $20 per class. $195 for private class. That’s it. Simple.

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Image Credits

All photos compliments of Jim Uhing Photography

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2 Comments

  1. Ellen Bendana

    November 21, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    So proud of you my friend…truly an inspiration to us all!

  2. Michelle Kalkan

    December 17, 2020 at 4:26 am

    This is awesome!! I used to live in the historic district of Sanford (pretty close to this) and I always wanted there to be a yoga studio. I absolutely love stories like this. Congrats to you Julie. Namaste <3

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