By guest authors Amber Sturtz and Claire Baker, Wellington Free Yoga Day
This large scale Wellington-wide event was first held on Labour Day, Monday 27 October 2014.
Yoga enthusiasts Amber Sturtz and Claire Baker co-founded and co-organised the project. Amber, originally from Austin (Texas, USA) came across and participated in Austin Free Day of Yoga a few years ago. She wondered how it would go here, and thought Wellington should have a similar event.
Claire and Amber discussed the possibility of a Free Yoga Day in Wellington, and agreed to coordinate the event and create a Wellington Free Yoga Day. The event was organised without any funding or sponsors, and actualized based on many volunteer hours and community support.
Reason for the day:
We’re both yoga students and practice regularly. We’ve noticed real benefits for our lives and want to share this with as many people as we can.
We feel calmer, happier and more positive, and more connected with people through yoga. Because of these things, we wanted to make yoga as accessible to others as possible and encourage people who have never tried yoga to give it a go.
People often talk about wanting to try yoga, but other commitments take priority. An entire day with free yoga classes, held on a public holiday, means no excuses.
Here’s how it worked:
In May 2014 we started meeting weekly and project planning. We first rang around all of the yoga studios and teachers we knew of in Wellington and received a positive interest and uptake.
This was the most important bit of the project – a day of free yoga classes couldn’t be produced without the yoga teachers agreeing to generously share their expertise and time.
We worked with Wellington City Council (WCC) from the beginning. Amber attended a ‘Spread the Word’ workshop in June, which provided helpful information on how to best promote a local community event.
To give the yoga day a community feel, we were keen on producing a class without walls – an outdoor class. The WCC Parks and Recreation team granted us the use of Frank Kitts Park and promoted the day on the WCC website.
We asked a local independent teacher, Bridget Kelly, if she would be interested in teaching this class, and making it accessible for newbies to yoga or experienced students. She happily agreed.
We wanted independent yoga teachers to be able to teach on the day, despite not having their own studio. So we submitted a proposal to Urban Dream Brokerage (UDB) for support. UDB brokers vacant spaces available for lease to community projects. We were granted the use of an empty shop on 1 Grey St, which was a fantastic space, perfect for yoga classes.
We called this space the Pop-up Yoga Studio. In addition to scheduling 4 classes by independent yoga teachers here, it was also used as our backup rain venue for the two outdoor classes, which we needed in the end.
With the confirmation of numerous yoga classes, marketing became the most important job. We suddenly had a day of 20+ free yoga classes, and we needed to make sure we got people into those classes. We used all of the free marketing avenues we could find. We figured if you don’t ask, you don’t receive!
Graphic designer Brent O’Connor voluntarily designed the Wellington Free Yoga Day logo. We recruited our artistic friend Astrid Visser to take photos of us and other friends doing yoga in Civic Square. We used WIX free website templates to create the Wellington Free Yoga Day website, and used some of Astrid’s photos on the website.
We designed our own posters and flyers, and received sponsored printing from The Big Picture and Rieger’s Print and Copy. We posted the event on Eventfinder, and created a Facebook community group and a Twitter account for Wellington Free Yoga Day.
We asked the local radio stations and newspapers to promote the event and received great exposure, both before the event and following the day. The Dominion Post showed up to our “Outdoor Yoga for Everyone” class, which was indoors due to rain, and wrote an article about yoga day, printed on 28 October.
Participating yoga studios and teachers promoted the event to their contacts via their own websites, social media, posters and word of mouth. We pinned up posters in Wellington’s cafes, universities and backpacker hostels, and chalked up the waterfront while handing out flyers to the crowds at the Diwali Festival of Lights.
This was effective marketing – people stopped and asked us about the day while we were drawing on the pavements, and we were able to promote the event in person!
The biggest challenge was continually updating the website with the revised yoga class schedule. In the last few weeks before the event, we had studios around Wellington region contacting us to ask if they could participate and offer a class.
This was exciting, as it meant the marketing was working, and word was spreading! We organised the schedule so there was good class coverage at every hour of the day from 8.30am until 9pm.
There were 37 free yoga classes at different yoga studios, gyms and public places in the Hutt Valley and Wellington, with at least 3 classes every hour. Over 750 people attended yoga classes throughout the day. Most attendees had not attended a class by that teacher/studio before.
We’ve had some fantastic feedback:
Cassie Roberts (attendee) said the day was:
Great! My 5 and 8 year olds loved the kids class in Petone.
Kelly Begg (attendee) said:
It was great, cool to try a different studio and style, I would love to see it repeated.
We’ve been running a survey to find out what people thought of the event, and if the public would like it to become annual. Some of the comments from the survey:
Yes I loved going to the class, as I enjoy all styles, and enjoy learning lots of different ideas. Thank you very much.
I enjoyed the yoga classes I attended. It was good to experience different yoga teachers and styles and learn some different yoga exercises. One yoga teacher offered a yoga handout (which she emailed to participants later) which was really useful. Overall I think the event was well organised. Thank you to the organisers for their hard work.
Thank you, great experience!!
Just an enormous THANK YOU to the organizers and my one-day teacher for putting up that event. That’s awesome, and I am sure it will have opened up new persons to yoga.
Thanks for organising this! It was a great way to finally experience yoga. Definitely thinking about doing it regularly. 🙂
Thanks for organising it. It’s raised my interest in finding yoga classes that I can fit into my schedule.
We learned that Wellington definitely has a need for this project, and we intend to make it an annual event.
Wellington Free Yoga Day 2015:
We couldn’t have done this without the support of the yoga studios and teachers. Wellington Free Yoga Day showcased the range of yoga studios, instructors and classes we’re fortunate to have in this city.
We hope to make next year’s event even bigger. We would like to expand to other communities, including Porirua, to make the free classes even more accessible to people who haven’t had the opportunity to try yoga.
We plan on applying for funding and looking for sponsors to assist in the costs of running and advertising the event.
If you’d like to offer a class or become a sponsor of the event, please contact us by email.
Want to stay in the loop?
Amber Sturtz: Chef and business woman. She attends community yoga classes in Newtown when her busy schedule allows it, and floats between studios in Wellington Central trying out different yoga styles.
Claire Baker: Gallery Manager and business woman. Having recently moved to Christchurch, Claire wants to help grow the popularity of yoga in Christchurch.