“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Can you believe it has been a little over 11 years since Lisa Pelzer had a really big idea? The seed was planted in early 1996 when she first discovered Bikram’s hot yoga while living in Honolulu. Her practice attendance slowly increased and, when she finally decided to attend teacher training, Lisa started saving. After two and a half years, the time finally came for her to study under the infamous Bikram Choudhury in 1999. Despite various financial setbacks, Lisa knew she wanted to open her own studio and dedicate her life to practicing and teaching Bikram yoga.
Once she moved back to Vancouver, borrowed some money from friends, and received a pre-authorized credit card, Lisa finally took the leap and rented a dance studio space near 16th and Dunbar where she taught one class six days a week. She says, “By that point, everything just fell into place.” For about six months Lisa rolled out the carpet and plugged in the heaters for 10-20 students before opening her own studio…
After meeting a great realtor who helped her find a more permanent space, the first official Bikram Yoga College of India opened in Kitsilano just before the new millennium in late 1999. It was located at Broadway and Arbutus in a professional building. It consisted of just one room with a bathroom in the hallway. She laughs and says, “…it was awful.” Lisa taught 11 classes per week at the Arbutus studio but invited her teaching friends every now and then to help her out.
One of Lisa’s closest friends Danny Dworkis knew the yoga was powerful and wanted to help the business grow. He said recently, “…[From the beginning] I knew Bikram yoga just worked. I saw people break out of deep depressions and get rid of chronic pain right in front of my eyes! I was just like—woah! You know?” A year later in 2000, Danny attended teacher training in order to help spread the word about the yoga, teach, and grow the business in Vancouver.
With Danny’s help, later that year, the Alberni studio opened in the Westend with a larger studio and two change rooms. After that, the Cambie studio opened in 2003 followed by the current Kitsilano studio in 2007. The Cambie studio shut down in late 2008 as a result of leasing issues but the new studio in City Square Mall will open September 2011.
Over the last 10 years Lisa and Danny (now co-owners and directors) have watched Bikram Yoga Vancouver grow from a tiny, one-room studio into multiple studio success where hundreds of students attend class every day. When we asked Danny how it feels too look back on the adventure he says, “I feel grateful, excited, optimistic… and satisfied. I guess it’s because all the hard work has paid off.” His best advice for new business owners is “just to make sure you are in a business that you enjoy.” Lisa agreed and said, “Do what you love but be realistic as well.”
Towards the future, Lisa says, “We are excited to have the possibility for more growth. I mean we’ve created a really strong foundation and community and I love the idea of that growing.” So if you are a long-time Bikram advocate, or just a curious student looking for a new opportunity, we look forward to growing our community with you. And on behalf of 10 years at BYV we wanted to say, “Thanks.”