New Bikram yoga studio a family business

KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 08:15 15/12/2012
ALL POISE: Bikram Hot Yoga owner and teacher Nadine Mesnage in her heated studio.
MARK TAYLOR
ALL POISE: Bikram Hot Yoga owner and teacher Nadine Mesnage in her heated studio.

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A hot new type of yoga has arrived in Hamilton's CBD. Kashka Tunstall sweats it out with the sisters behind the business.

They say going into business for the first time is tough enough, but going into it with family adds a whole new layer of difficulty.

Nadine Mesnage, 38, and sister Alexia, 32, say it isn't so.

The two have set up their first business together, Hamilton's new Bikram Hot Yoga studio, after seeing a gap in the market.

Bikram yoga, founded and named after yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, involves 26 poses and two breathing exercises performed in a room heated to 40 degrees for 90 minutes. The Mesnages' studio is the first of its kind in the city.

Nadine had been teaching Bikram in Auckland for seven years and never planned on opening her own studio but it presented as a natural progression for her career.

Setting out to find the perfect place to open a new studio, she discovered that Whangarei and Hamilton were the only main centres that did not have one.

Hamilton, for her, was the obvious choice.

"We used to get people who would come up to Auckland from Hamilton just to go to classes," she says.

"I was really keen to get out of Auckland and to buy land, somewhere to grow vegies and be self-sustaining, so it all seemed to fit."

But she was not so keen on looking after the administrative side of the business. Enter little sister Alexia who has a background in digital advertising and once worked for mega company Microsoft, splitting her time between London and Paris.

She had always wanted a business of her own, she just had not imagined that it would be a Bikram studio in Hamilton.

Alexia was born in the Waikato but moved away soon after. "It feels like I'm coming back to our roots in a way," she says.

The sisters were set on a fringe CBD location so they could be Waikato central. They found the perfect premises at 139 London St.

The studio is opposite strip club Firecats.

It is not a problem for the sisters. They say it generally helps people navigate their way to the studio.

The fit-out of the space, which used to be walled offices, cost $150,000 which the sisters borrowed.

They did not to skimp on materials, they say.

An expensive infrared heating system, used for high-end saunas and baby incubators, heats the room to the right temperature.

Renovations are still under way and showers are yet to be installed.

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Alexia had a website up and running three months before the studio officially opened.

They collected a list of interested names and opened in October with two free classes for the public.

More than 100 people turned up for a complimentary "sweat" and from there an introductory offer has brought in the customers, even with the rising summer temperatures.

Bikram is the fastest growing yoga in the world and its popularity among celebrities like David Beckham has helped push the brand internationally.

There are six studios in Auckland and 17 nationwide.

And while Nadine says she would not be too happy if a studio opened up across the road, the sisters are not too worried if competitors set up elsewhere in the city.

More yoga practitioners are never a bad thing, she says.

"It's kind of the lingo now, yoga isn't thought of as a weird thing that people do any more. Lots of kinds of people get into yoga so it's a really good time to open up a studio."

Nadine says there are misconceptions about Bikram which make people a bit apprehensive to give it a go but it's a style that anyone can do, regardless of fitness levels or previous experience.

They are hoping to start turning a profit next winter if the strong patronage keeps up.

People who have not exercised for a while can take to it easier than marathon runners who are toned, taut and a little bit rigid, she says.

It is a relaxed attitude that flows into the business structure. Clients do not need to book, they just drop in half an hour before the class starts.

"If you're making people suffer a bit, you want to be friendly at the same time," Nadine says.

The roster currently caters for 12 classes a week - Nadine is the only teacher and this is the most she can handle. Next month a new instructor will join the studio.

Nadine is four months pregnant and when the baby comes in May, she would like to have people trained up and ready to take over teaching for a while.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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