As we all know, Covid has totally ravaged businesses, and has taken an especially hard toll on fitness studios and gyms. One local favorite, Align Brooklyn, a yoga-based boutique fitness studio in South Slope, is one such place that was greatly impacted by the pandemic. We spoke to Pamela Brown, co-owner of the studio, to see how they are doing and how Align has been able to shift their business in this new reality. Most importantly, Pamela reminds us why self care is so important, especially now, and how Align can help you take the necessary steps to make this a priority.
SSP: How has this pandemic affected your studio since it hit back in March of last year?
To say that the pandemic affected us is truly an understatement. The pandemic was like getting hit by a tsunami. We saw the wave coming, but there was nothing we could do to get out of the way. The main part of our business has been group yoga and fitness classes. When we closed the studio last March, we never imagined that we would not be going back to the space or that group fitness classes would still be prohibited by the city almost a year later.
SSP: How have you been able to pivot your business model, being that you couldn’t continue the in-person group classes that Align thrived on?
It was immediately clear that we wanted to sustain our community and our business during the closure. The day after we closed, we started filming video content. We quickly set up an on demand site and offered Zoom classes.
We knew that immunity was a key issue, and so Dr. Brown began offering weekly webinars on aspects of immunity and inflammation. We now have over 600 classes and a ton of educational content available online to members.
But we also knew that offering classes and content would not be enough. We also needed to offer the support our community needed to continue to prioritize wellness during this difficult time. We created an app called Align Coach that provides daily reminders, educational content centered around our 5 pillars of wellness (nutrition, movement, sleep, mindset, environment) and an accountability tracking system. Dr. Brown checks in on clients several times a week and offers feedback, information and support.
SSP: Can you share specifics on the kinds of online live classes, webinars and workshops you are currently offering, and the benefits they provide?
We offer most of the same classes: yoga, mat Pilates, barre, functional fitness and recovery.
The true highlight of our program are the wellness aspects. Classes and movement are essential, but so are other wellness habits like sleep, anti-inflammatory/pro-immunity eating, mindset and our environment.
On most Wednesdays Dr. Brown offers a free wellness workshop where he quickly covers a topic. It’s just 30 minutes and is a perfect midweek lunch break! The live event is open to all for free and the recordings are available to members.
All of our classes and workshops are designed to support wellness. For us wellness is not only the absence of disease, it is also a high quality of life as measured in both vitality and longevity. Everything we do at Align Brooklyn and inside The Aligned Life wellness membership is designed with this in mind.
SSP: Wellness and self care, especially for folks like our SSP parents of young ones, is more urgent and necessary than ever before. How do the Align classes address the issues that so many are facing these days, like lack of proper sleep and unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety?
There are two critical things to understand about wellness: wellness is a habit and in order to master the habit you have to track. With sleep and stress there is often a knowledge gap. We close that gap with educational content that takes less than 3 minutes to read, but provides links to deep dive into any topic of interest. By providing these daily educational reminders that come at the same time - 8am - each day via email and notification, already we are helping build a habit of thinking about self care.
Next thing to understand and appreciate is that it will take 66 days to really get into the habit of something. A lot of people have heard that you just need to do something for 21 days to form a habit, but the latest research says it’s more like 66 days. Once we know this we can understand that without support - especially now - it’s unlikely that we will be able to gain consistency over wellness habits. The other important thing to know is that tracking in and of itself improves behavior. Not everyone likes tracking, but research shows that it is effective for everyone.
You mention sleep - sleep is essential and there are some specific habits that can facilitate sleep. All of our memberships start off with a wellness evaluation with Dr. Brown. It’s a confidential HIPAA compliant questionnaire that helps us identify what aspect of wellness that improving will offer the biggest gains. Stress, sleep, movement, nutrition and our environment are all overlapping. By identifying one thing to work on scientifically, we can be realistic and save clients time. From there, Dr. Brown customizes a program and makes recommendations. If the client provides raw data from 23andMe we can personalize even further.
After the wellness evaluation, Dr. Brown follows up with all members - typically once a week - to see how they are doing and if anything needs to be tweaked. By offering access to tools from classes to tracking, and mixing that with support, we are seeing great results.
SSP: What do you want to communicate to those of us that have neglected ourselves, and believe we don’t have the time (or energy) to commit?
The pandemic is not likely to have a hard ending. If you’re waiting for Covid to be eradicated before taking wellness seriously, you’ll be waiting a long time and doing yourself a disservice. Hopefully, we will soon get the numbers down and eventually we won’t have to wear masks, but going back to “normal” life is a ways off, even with the best vaccine results. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of committing to wellness as a routine. Self care can’t just be a one off or weekend thing anymore.
Although Covid is dangerous for everyone, the most serious illness is generally found in the elderly and folks with preventable chronic diseases - and I say this with the caveat that these are broad categories and we are still learning about other aspects of the illness. But, in any case we should all take much more seriously the need to maintain a low inflammatory lifestyle to have positive outcomes, if we do get Covid, but also to live our very best and most vital lives. There is truly only one way to do this - you have to take some time each day. You should also get support and have some expert guidance, so that you can use science to personalize your activities for your unique body and life.
SSP: The South Slope neighborhood is looking forward to returning to your studio and feeling a sense of community there as they did for so many years. What does the future look like for Align, and what can we expect?
We have some very exciting plans on the horizon! We are planning to reopen in a nearby space - just a couple of blocks away - that is 3 times the size and will offer outdoor options. It will be a state of the art facility that will be designed with the reality of this pandemic and future ones in mind. We will offer community workshops, classes - when safe, chiropractic, myofascial therapy, and some retail. We are hoping to be able to reopen in the spring!
To help Align survive this challenging time, please consider supporting the Gym Mitigation and Survival Act.
To learn more, go to https://www.alignbrooklyn.com/.