Teach yoga to the Boomer masses one by one—and multiply your profits.
Whoever isn’t focused on capturing Baby Boomers over the next two decades isn’t focused well on the future.
In the coming 20 years, boomers will inherit estates worth over 10 trillion dollars—that’s more than the value of the entire New York Stock Exchange today. And every year, 4 million Boomers turn 50 and 4 million turn 60.
So what does this huge, affluent, aging population need? And why are private yoga sessions the best solution for meeting its needs and multiplying your program profits?
Most maturing Baby Boomers share three priorities:
1. quality of life—the ability to pursue an active lifestyle as they age
2. freedom from the limits of health concerns and physical problems—in order to enjoy leisure time for travel and family activities that they have earned the resources to pursue
3. stress management—in “A Study of Consumer Attitudes Toward Physical Fitness and Health Clubs,” 2002, by American Sports Data Inc. [ASD], the percent of Americans who reported feeling stressed out—26%—was one of the largest measurable psychographics in the United States
The thing that will most quickly make these priorities seem out of reach is a sudden or chronic physical limitation, especially one that will not respond to traditional medicines or surgery—and there are many of those. As Boomers age and see friends start to suffer from nagging injuries and preventable diseases, they will want to do everything possible to prevent two things:
• overuse injuries, which are exacerbated by limited flexibility and strength
• unnecessary accidents, which result from falls caused by lack of balance and strength
Most fitness industry people and active consumers now believe that a variety of disciplines can help people avoid and recover from problems caused by overuse injuries. The most common activity choices include strength training, Pilates, tai chi, yoga and cardio training. All these disciplines are useful, but with an 18% increase in participation, yoga was the fastest-growing fitness activity in 2005, according to ASD’s SUPERSTUDY® of Sports Participation, fielded in January 2006.
1. Yoga is the only discipline in which strength, flexibility and balance are often used together, increasing all three in those who practice.
2. Yoga relaxes both muscles and minds—key in retaining health and longevity.
3. The breathing practices of yoga increase the ability to oxygenate the body, leading to an overall feeling of energy and well-being.
Practically speaking, yoga is also the most accessible form of exercise: It requires no special equipment or clothing and can be practiced in whatever space is available, even in an airplane seat or on a bed. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere, by anyone of any age.
Despite its obvious popularity and many benefits, economically speaking, yoga is being given away in most health clubs and undervalued in studios. Yoga is offered almost entirely in classes, which are generally included in monthly or other fees. What clubs in general, and even many studios, are missing is the great potential that exists for one-on-one yoga instruction.
For several millennia, yoga was taught to people of all ages in a one-on-one format. Traditionally, the discipline addressed the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the individual. Today’s class format limits the leader from working on the specific needs of different individuals. What’s more, there is rarely any effort to teach participants how to utilize yoga to help them in their daily lives.
However, the Boomer market for individual (or very small group) yoga sessions is huge, offering substantial advantages for consumers and facilities alike. For people with physical limitations, I would argue, private instruction is the only safe and effective way to learn. And there are many other types of clients who can benefit from studying this way, even if only to get started.
Healthy, Active Boomers
The youngest, healthiest and most active Boomers don’t see themselves as having special needs; may not yet be worried about the effects of aging or overuse; and tend to be interested in fitness, fun, stress relief and improved athletic performance. Why would these people find private yoga appealing?
Athletic coaches of individual sports like tennis and golf have discovered that yoga offers more than a way to increase flexibility, balance and strength without creating bulk that gets in the way of performance and adds weight. Many coaches also understand that controlled-breathing skills help maintain target heart rate zones for optimal performance and that yoga has positive effects on managing distractions and improving concentration and body awareness.
Since tennis and golf are still the sports of choice for affluent male professionals wishing to be active and competitive with friends and business associates, it makes sense that private yoga will be an attractive offering. For people in this vital, moneyed segment of the club industry (ASD reports there are approximately 5.2 million regular tennis players and 5.6 million regular golfers), a practice that will help them control both their skills and their temperament during performance will be a powerful attraction.
The private yoga instructor need not be particularly knowledgeable about a specific sport to improve a player’s performance. General observations about the applicability of the physical and mental aspects of yoga will be quickly seen by this bright demographic, as soon as its members begin to experience yoga.
Women Over 40
Yoga class participants are more than 75% women. Almost half of those who practice are at least 35 years old (the youngest Boomers are now 41), and 20.5% are 55 or older, according to the ASD SUPERSTUDY for 2005.
Women participants with dance backgrounds are not the best candidates for private yoga—because they thrive in a class setting. The only yoga promotion they need is a reminder that they will enjoy the dance-like movements of flowing (vinyasa) yoga.
But women who have not grown up with dance, and who may not feel athletic, are likely to be attracted to a brief tutorial that will get them up to speed before they try following along with others who seem to need no guidance or special help. A one-on-one introduction will give these less experienced or less confident women a nonpublic opportunity to improve their self-esteem by mastering yoga’s slow, repetitive movements.
Aging Single Men
Among the older set, single men who can show off a strong but softer side can be especially appealing to women. But in order to show off, they have to know what they are doing, and for most older men—even those who are still athletic—the movements of yoga are foreign and may make them feel awkward. Private yoga sessions offer a quick way to get these clients up to speed.
The particular components of private yoga tutorials will vary according to clients’ needs. Generally, sessions focus on the following:
• adapting asanas to individual needs and abilities
• designing specific yoga routines to deal with health issues such as low-back pain, stress, etc.
• outlining a preventive health routine and offering general guidelines on healthy eating (within the instructor’s scope of practice) and simple meditation instruction
• teaching breathing practices and explaining their specific benefits
Pricing. Going rates for 1-hour massages, which help people with aches and pains, are typically $75–$125. Yoga should not be priced lower than that, as it not only offers immediate benefits but also, once learned, can be practiced at home or in group classes. An introductory series might consist of five 1-hour sessions for $349–$449.
The Right Skills. Yoga certifiers such as YogaFit® offer specialty classes in which teachers learn the technical poses and variations that clients need in order to address a wide array of common problems. (See “Resources” below for more information.) Within the Boomer millions there are many subgroups with diverse needs. Choosing areas to focus on requires first understanding the common issues facing this generation. Different target subgroups may need instructors of different genders and ages, and they should be trained to relate to the populations they choose to work with.
Boomers are the largest and richest macro group in the U.S., and with proper marketing, one-on-one yoga has the potential to attract them in huge numbers. (See “Marketing to Boomers,” below.) In the next issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, read this column for a series of mini yoga routines that can be taught in private sessions.
It’s true that yoga classes generally do not appeal to older adults—especially men—without prior yoga experience. It’s also true that most classes are not marketed to appeal to these adults—and that when atypical populations do try generic yoga, most don’t receive the individual instruction they need to subsequently enjoy a positive experience in a class setting.
Ad copy that carries a targeted message will help you reach the untapped Boomer market.
Rick Devereux was director of operations and marketing for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) from 1986 to 2005, and is currently teaching yoga skills to Boomers, seniors, Harvard’s varsity tennis team and people with physical limitations.