Ellen Connell says she is not a quitter but is now looking for a way forward after closing Sidney Hot Yoga on Jan. 31. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Ellen Connell says she is not a quitter but is now looking for a way forward after closing Sidney Hot Yoga on Jan. 31. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney yoga studio folds against backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic

Closure of business holds larger lesson for other businesses

In the end, the stress was too high and the revenues too low for Ellen Connell to keep her yoga studio open.

“This is not a decision anyone would take lightly,” said Connell, owner of Sidney Hot Yoga.

The closure as of Jan. 31 closes a personal and professional chapter in Connell’s life, that may preview the fate of other small businesses as health measures designed to fight COVID-19 continue.

One factor is Connell’s career as a registered clinical counsellor. Juggling this career with her yoga studio was unsustainable.

“Unfortunately, with the ongoing restrictions, there just weren’t enough students, there just weren’t enough teachers,” she said. “It just wasn’t possible. And because the yoga studio was not my full time job, I was not at liberty to teach all of my classes.”

Connell navigated an alphabet soup of support measures that helped in part, but she feels government should have offered direct grants instead of debt-adding loans.

“I think for any small businesses that are surviving, the owners are having to work incredibly hard, incredibly long hours just to get through this,” she said, adding survival depends on money but also other resources.

Connell was trying to reduce stress. “And if I am losing less money or the same amount of money with the doors closed as I was with the doors open, there are fewer moving pieces.”

Connell attended the studio, which she would eventually own, for nine years, having started shortly after its opening in 2006. She eventually purchased it in June 2018 following a hiatus, offering hot yoga rather than Bikram yoga.

RELATED: ‘Low-intensity’ indoor fitness OK under B.C.’s revised COVID-19 orders

She developed a business plan seeking to “support people practicing yoga on and off the mat.” Connell expanded the public presence of the studio, forging ties with charitable groups and other businesses and contributing over $4,000 to charities.

“By March 2020, we were cooking with gas,” said Connell, who has been teaching yoga privately for 30 years. “Then, unfortunately, this virus occurred.”

The business closed for four months before re-opening in mid-July. A second closure in November killed the “steady progress” the studio had made.

Connell then re-opened in mid-December with fewer students and lower temperatures in line with new guidelines, but struggled as health measures cut the number of classes and the number of people per class. The numbers simply did not add up, even as the studio combined in-person sessions with online sessions developed earlier.

READ ALSO: Canada’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination program won’t get better this week

This closure comes after the studio won the 2020 Reader’s Choice award for Favorite Yoga Studio and finished third in the Best Places to Work Out category.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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