Studio iO Speaks To Absolute
Holly Cooper, born and bred in Sussex, is the Founder of Studio iO, a small dedicated Yoga Space that has just relaunched as a membership-based club in central Brighton. As well as teaching weekly classes in Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and TRX Yoga, Holly has been the inspirational force that has created this sanctuary for healing, restoration and movement for mental health. Members are invited to escape away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax in what is space of calm and tranquillity. Studio iO offers many styles of yoga to suit everyone, meditation, Pilates and more, whilst the rooms upstairs offer a variety of healing treatments and therapies to leave you feeling nurtured and cared for.
With the new year approaching and a ‘new me’ regime in the planning stances, Absolute Magazine Editor Victoria Marie Emerson takes time out with Holly to discover what membership at Studio iO involves, the story behind the success and what the future holds for this mumpreneur.
How did you first get into Yoga?
Over 20 years ago I walked into my first yoga class at the Brighton Natural Health Centre. I was sporty at school and felt like yoga would be a good compliment and also another energising way to keep fit. So I was drawn to Ashtanga and other forms of yoga that were dynamic and felt like fitness to me. It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I travelled and explored yoga in India and in a much more meaningful way. Yoga wasn’t about exercise anymore but more a way of living and being. During this time I travelled whilst DJing and working late nights. So the yoga most definitely brought balance to my life. I remember being out in Ibiza, enjoying the parties but would still get up to practice yoga, have a healthy smoothie and enjoy the day. During my travels I met a lady in Chile who recommend a yoga training school based in Vancouver. I enrolled on the training and have since taught full time for 12 years. I am also training at The Special Yoga centre in London, Tri Yoga, together with wonderful teachers and now this January I’m training to become a Nidra Restore teacher, allowing me to offer more in the healing path of one to one yoga. Life today is busy with running a studio on my own with over 14 teachers, being a mother of two small children and now having a puppy. It’s a job I love though and pinch myself that I get to do what I love so much everyday.
You have recently relaunched Studio iO. Tell us about that.
After 7 years of running Studio iO as a rental space, I decided I wanted to change and build a place that had teachers that embodied yoga and taught styles of yoga that embraced self care and nurturing for their students. The relaunch has enabled me to now offer memberships and this meant I could create a space that was more about yoga for healing. Less about yoga for exercise but yoga for mental health too, a sanctuary of calm and community.
I do still rent out the space and it’s a popular studio for photoshoots, filming and rehearsals.
As a studio that works on a membership basis, how would you describe your members?
It’s been so wonderful to see the number of members grow and I can really see such dedication from them. We actually have several families that are members, mothers and daughters, friends and this really helps to build that strong community and support around them. Last week one member said to me she couldn’t ever move house now as she can’t leave Studio iO, it’s her little safe haven that she loves so much.
Your team at Studio iO is rapidly increasing. What do you look for when recruiting your teachers?
This has probably been one of the hardest things to do since relaunching then studio. I’ve had many teachers working from Studio iO over the years and they’ve been genuinely lovely people however, change had to be made and for me one thing that I really look for is to see a genuine smile, together with a genuine feeling of love and happiness for being a yoga teacher. Showing that you actually care about what you teach, you live it and believe in it. We have a forever growing number of yoga teachers in Brighton, which is wonderful as so many of us practice yoga, however, I have been surprised at how many I’ve seen don’t come across as enjoying it whilst teaching.
I want to see a teacher who has confidence, can hold a room, create a safe space, talks to their students with interest and gets to know their students. For me it’s not important if that teacher can do a handstand or wrap their leg around their head – I really want to see their dedication, charm, happiness and creativity. Showing they are productive and hardworking. A teacher also needs to be presentable, show that they care about the way they look and present themselves.
What is your overall aim when running your classes?
No matter what the style of yoga, whether it’s gentle and slow or something more dynamic, the ultimate thing is to have a class full of students who leave feeling better. Whether they are coming to yoga for stress, for recovery from an injury, looking to just move or maybe deal with depression we want each person to feel a sense of peace and have learnt or been encouraged to take tools away with them to create time and space for more self care in their life. We run daily lunchtime classes geared towards the local workers in offices, those that maybe sit at a desk all day. Allowing them just 45 minutes to breathe and focus on that, so make them aware of the importance to their health. One of B.K.S Iyengars famous quotes is “Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.” This rings true in the sense that we can come to class and be more conscious in our thoughts and actions off the mat too. We can become more mindful and accepting of who we are and what we do.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start the new year with their first yoga experience. How do you choose which class is right for you?
I always say to anyone new to yoga to go out there and explore many styles and many teachers. If there’s a teacher your friend likes, it doesn’t mean to say they are right for you. It’s so confusing these days with so many names of yoga classes. For example a flow yoga class with one teacher could mean slow and steady whereas with another it may be strong and dynamic so it’s not always easy to know what’s right for you.
One person’s voice may soothe you or it may irritate you, so finding the right teacher is key. At Studio iO we run a specific beginners class on Sunday and this is always a good starting point and then I can advise which teacher is good to try next. I then suggest trying out each teacher and finding the right match.
For anyone feeling shy or even intimidated to walk into a studio. the great thing about Studio iO is we are a small space and the teacher will be there to greet you and listen to any concerns.
I would suggest starting with a one to one yoga session is a great way to build up some confidence to then walk into a group class. A one to one will allow you personal time with a teacher and this way you can ask questions.
We also have some yoga videos that we send out to our members and newsletter subscribers so they can practice with one of the teachers at home too.
You have entered into some reallysuccessful and interesting collaborations, working with Brighton brands and businesses including i360 and Kleen Kitchen. How did these come about?
So the i360 has been a project with my partnership business My Escape. My Escape is a company started by myself and Ellie Priest of Brighton Pilates and we have been running Pilates and Yoga holidays all over the world for the last 8 years. Since we have both had children all under 4 now, we haven’t travelled so much. When I fell pregnant we got in touch with the i360, so 5 years ago now. This was before the pod was even built and it was just in the planning stages. We pushed and pushed for years to get an answer about running classes up it. Eventually once opened we sent through a proposal with some exciting project ideas and they loved it. Yoga in the Sky launched last year and it’s now been selling out every month.
I love collaborating with Brighton brands, bringing people together and supporting local. Last summer Studio iO worked with SeaLanes to bring the community Beach Yoga. We had fun yoga and fitness mornings with UberMummies to bring women together. We did beach events with brunch and sea swims and saunas. The new Studio iO membership is all about this, giving our members greats deals and offering packages so they can look and feel their best. Members also enjoy discounts at local cafes and shops. AestheticBTN offers medical skin confidence clinics for all our members and The Kleen Kitchen offers discounts to cookery workshops and homemade vegan foods.
Our most exciting collaboration is the relaunch of the Spa at the Grand Hotel. The spa had a flood last Summer which had left the spa closed throughout the end of 2019. However, the new spa will open soon and Studio iO is partnering up so that all our members get access to the spa all year with a glass of bubbles on arrival. They will also get discounts on treatments too. The Spa members will in turn get to come to us for yoga. It’s a truly wonderful membership and nowhere else offers anything like it in the city. The ultimate package of self care.
We hear you’ve just won a very prestigious award! Tell us about that.
Yes that was a very nice surprise. We’ve just won Healing Yoga studio of the year with the Luxury Travel Guide Awards. One of my clients nominated the studio. We were shortlisted and based on our 5 star reviews, website design, social media pages and the work we do with one to one yoga and the focus on healing and restoration, we were awarded Healing Yoga studio of the year. I’m so happy and this is our second award we’ve won in just a few years.
What does the future hold for Studio iO?
As we move into 2020, I’m very excited about collaborations with the Spa at the Grand Hotel and to continue to work with companies like the i360.
This coming summer will be our best yet with even more exciting beach events coming up in the planning stages. There will be more online videos coming up for our members plus more workshops and trainings for teachers.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the planning stages of future retreats as I miss doing them very much. Right now we offer the chance to escape to the studio, to the Sky, to the beach and we’ve got plans to bring an escape to the woods too.