What It’s Like to be a Power Living Yoga Studio Manager

With Courtney Nault of Power Living Studios

It’s a crisp, fresh morning in the heart of Manly Beach, a beach town residing just a 15-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s CBD. I’m excited for my first interview with Courtney Nault, studio manager and yogi-extraordinaire.

The best yoga studios are the ones where you walk in and feel like you’re already home; when the people behind the desk greet you like an old friend, and remember your name when you return. And that is exactly what I’ve experienced at Power Living. Founded in 2004 by Duncan Peak, the studio was the first of its kind, solely teaching Vinyasa flow yoga. Since then, they’ve established 9 studios, one being in Manly and managed soulfully by Courtney Nault herself.

A traveler at heart, Massachusetts’ born Nault has been “on the road” since 2008. When we sat down to chat, she was actually celebrating her 2-year anniversary of moving to Manly Beach. Her fiancé is an Australian and actually from Manly, so it seemed only fitting they would choose this place as their home. For now.

In what can only be considered a blessing too sweet to surpass, it was Power Living Studio that inspired Nault to plant roots in Manly. In fact, it was one of her very first stops after flying into the Sydney airport two years ago.

Of course, this is because Nault is an avid yogi. She joined her first yoga class in San Diego, and was instantly hooked. All over the world she has practiced and taught. Prior to Australia, she was teaching yoga to children in Thailand. And when she arrived in Manly Beach, Power Living seemed to just be waiting for her.

​“The day I moved here, it was so cold and rainy. had moved from Phuket, where it was the warmest of warm water, and the bluest skies. I was so unhappy. I probably Googled flights home at least twice a day, considering going back. I walked into the studio. It was a really busy class, and they said to come back when you’re ready to practice. The next morning, I had jet lag and woke up at 5am. So, I went to a class, with the studio manager teaching. She was so pleasant and I absolutely loved her. If I hadn’t found that connection with people, that search for the flight home would have become an actual booked flight home.” – Courtney Nault

Over the course of her two years at Power Living, she has taken her 200-Hr teacher certification, and now become studio manager. Truly her home, she finds she has to remind herself to stay away on her days off… Or at least not start in on her To Do list when she comes in for a practice.And what a To Do list Nault has right now. Getting married in San Diego later this year, she is planning a long-distance wedding, running a yoga studio with 2,000 bodies per week, and in her free time spending time training at a local gymnastics studio, rock climbing, spending time in the kitchen baking, and keeping up with her own yoga practice. Oh, and spending time with her fiancé, of course.

Q: What is it like to run a studio that is as busy as Power Living Manly?

A: I mean, it’s amazing. I walk into that studio every day with a huge smile on my face. I feel so grateful to be there. But at the same time, I have to step back because I get caught up in the littlest things. It’s so good, because for me it was the change I wanted. When I went for this job, I was teaching the same lessons to kids (7 classes per day) and it felt a bit monotonous. And then I get here and there is no monotony. You have to let it go that you know what’s going to happen any given day. While also having a skeleton to work from.
To compare, I was going to a studio in Thailand for three years; it was a very boutique studio. ​You practiced on their mats; there were two towels rolled up on each mat, they mopped the floor and mats between each class because they had only four classes per day on their schedule. So, in contrast, when I first started working at Power Living, there was a To Do list with essentially tasks every 15 minutes, because your time flies by here and there is just so much going on.Sometimes I’ll get in at noon and I teach the 8pm class, and I’ll look at the time and think, “How is it already 5 o’clock?” There are days when you are so busy, you have to be OK with that, knowing that you have the same thing coming at you tomorrow.​

Q: Had you worked in a yoga studio prior to this?

A: No. I did property management back in the States, and I worked at a camp. But this was my first studio job.

Q: Are you responsible for retaining new clients, and how do you do so? 

A: Essentially the first time a person walks into that studio, it can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never practiced yoga. Everyone seems to already know what they’re doing. My job as studio manager is to prepare the educators [the people at the front desk] to make that first visit as smooth as possible.
So, they come on a buddy pass. They come in with a friend, or they do a drop-in. Most teachers are really good at connecting with them after to see how it went. I always recommend a Level 1 class to someone who’s never practiced yoga. After that, we educate the new person by telling them about our intro pass (1 month unlimited for $49 AUD). It’s important they know it takes about 10 yoga classes to really know what you’re doing.We call them after about a week to see how they are doing, and make sure they know their options. If they’re on an intro pass, we like to check in about half way through and look at the classes they’ve done. Have they tried the vinyasa and the yin classes? The balance between them is so important. And some people get stuck on Level 1 classes, but there are not as many Level 1 classes on our schedule. So, we like to encourage them to attend a Level 2, letting them know it’s not that scary!So, that’s what we are doing to make people become more committed; to acknowledge people for practicing yoga. Because that’s really what I want. I just want more people practicing yoga, because I know what it does for you.I’m part of someone’s first class through their intro until they’re members. I have people that have been members since I started, and I’ve watched their practice and confidence evolve. To be a part of someone’s change like that, that’s why I’m here, that’s why I do it. To support it and witness it.​

​Q:
 Do you have goals you have to hit as a studio manager?
A: We have goals like any successful growing business. In order to keep the business and community growing, the goals are there to get people doing more yoga.
It’s interesting because in the fitness industry, it is becoming more buffet style. That’s why we offer the new freedom pass. It allows a no-contract but unlimited practice. You can cancel at any time with a 14-day notice. With that pass, it allows people to feel less stuck to one studio. We also offer the 10-class pass. A few years ago, a membership was the only ​option, and our targets were based on that. But like ​anything, you have to evolve and make sure the people we are serving are getting what they need.

Q: ​How do you balance your many hats?

A: Whenever I’m about to switch roles from studio manager to yoga teacher for example, I have a really awesome coach who once told me, “Do something. Whether or not it’s going upside down for a minute, or going in the back room and taking three mindful breaths, do something to switch off.” So that’s something I’m working on. It’s going really well.For me, the way I balance it is having support in those different aspects. For example, I have the person that helps me with my teaching and sits me down and holds me accountable there. I have the regional manager that helps me with my studio manager role. Etc.

Q: What is your favorite class to teach?
A: It’s probably my Level 1 class. There are people that have been practicing yoga for years, and some that are stepping into class for their very first time.
For me, the classes are challenging in the sense I need to make sure everyone is practicing yoga for longevity, and not bringing harm on themselves. It’s a class to dive deep, and find out what they’re confused about in their practice. It’s very much about getting them into their body so they feel aware enough to advance to a Level 2 class. To watch someone evolve, it’s awesome!

Q: I read in your profile that your favorite pose is Ardha Chandrasana [half moon] pose. Would you still stay that is your favorite?
A: For me, that pose is the most expansive you can get your body while still staying grounded. Whenever a teacher says, “Open to Ardha Chandrasana,” I’m like yes! I get as big as I can, sometimes even forgetting the alignment! You can sort of turn off in other poses. But for me in Ardha Chandrasana, I’m there, ever present.

Q: How do you connect with your fiancé with your busy schedule?

A: He unfortunately tends to be the one that suffers the most. Because I commit to all these things! But he always says, “Go ahead, Court.” He’s definitely the most understanding. He won’t fire me. I like to be busy, but he also knows when to call me out. “Court, slow down… Stop doing your 6am trainings when you’re teaching until 10pm.”  I also come home and find he has made my lunch and dinner. He’s amazing.We love to travel together. We went to Canberra this past weekend. There’s more things like that, like planning a wedding. That in itself is hanging out!

Q: Is drinking alcohol a part of your lifestyle?

A: I don’t drink a lot but when I do, I get really excited! I love live music. There’s something amazing about having a craft beer while watching live music. I’m flirting with wine. In the States, I never would drink wine. I had red wine once and I put ice in it and Greg was like, “You can’t do that. You just drink it room temperature.” OK… So, I don’t drink wine much. When I go out, I usually order beer because it’s bigger and lasts longer!What truly inspires me about Nault is her unequivocal desire to create a strong community. When asked if she would consider being featured for my blog, there was absolutely no hesitation and in fact managed to compliment me and my blog on her quick reply. She thrives on supporting and uplifting the community that surrounds her, making her a truly fantastic studio manager and wonderful person, from the inside out.
I love the support I have from the other yoga teachers. Our teachers are amazing, and they see you. There can be up to 60 people in a room, but they’re still looking. They’re teaching for longevity, and not just for the moment. We have the head office in Manly studio. It’s amazing to watch the marketing team do what they’re doing, and the programs team do what they’re doing.”  – Courtney Nault
From her bright smile to her funky spirit, Nault is truly a treasure on and off the mat.

An Interview with a Nurse and Yoga Teacher Expat Living in Australia

When you move to a new home (whether it be a new country, city, zip code, neighborhood, yoga studio, fill-in-the-blank), establishing a community can be so important. It helps ease the newness when you meet people who share like-minded values. For me, moving to Australia from America, I was determined to meet a community that loves practicing yoga. I also wanted to meet friends that love to relax and drink wine on the weekends. It really was one of the main reasons I created this blog, in the hopes that it would attract to me a community with similar values.

I’ve been lucky enough to say I have already met a remarkable community of like-minded individuals, and the community just keeps expanding. One of my favorites would have to be Carly Rockwood. A Canadian-born expat residing in Sydney, Australia for the past two years, Carly and I met at a festival called Taste of Manly (think lots of food and lots of wine). The first words out of her mouth were telling our mutual friend about a gymnastics studio she’s been going to. I was immediately taken! If you don’t know this tidbit about me, I was a gymnast for the first 14 years of my life. I only quit because it got too competitive and time-consuming.

But I am a gymnast at heart, and crave any opportunity to cartwheel, handstand or back walkover.

In the bout of just 15 minutes, we discovered our mutual love of yoga (both of us being yoga instructors, too!), and made plans for a yoga date that same weekend. And we’ve been hanging out ever since. Over yoga and wine, we’ve bonded and grown to be fast friends. Of course, I couldn’t resist interviewing and snapping photos of her beautiful yoga practice for my blog.

What would you say is your favorite thing about yoga?

I feel like it’s home. I get on my mat, and I feel immediate relief. Anything else is going on in the world, I can forget about it for that length of time. The good feeling that it brings to my life, and keeps me grounded.

How long have you been practicing yoga?

I went to my first class when I was 17. The studio in my hometown had yoga classes on Friday night, so sporadically my friends and I would go to Hot Yoga and sweat it all out. When I was 21 and graduated University, the same studio had a free month offering for nurses and doctors and I joined. I became completely hooked.

What do you think it was about yoga that got you hooked?

Ever since I was really young, I was a very anxious child. It got really bad when I was 10, to the point I wouldn’t hang out with anyone outside of just a couple friends. If I was in an unfamiliar situation, I would have panic attacks. In that day and age, nobody was taking those habits too seriously. My parents at the time didn’t really understand it, and didn’t know to get me help. At one point when I was in high school, it got really bad. I felt really bad for my parents. Thankfully some of my friends supported me and helped me get back on the right track. In my second year of University, I had a terrible breakdown and asked for help when I was 19. I was on medication for years, going to therapy. When I was 21, I found yoga. I realized how much it was helping me, and I actually was able to go off medication. Yoga helps you find different coping mechanisms; knowing that we are in control of our own emotions. Now whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I just turn to my mat.I would highly recommend yoga to anyone, who is feeling any sort of anxiety, depression or body issues.

What connections have you made through yoga?

It brings you a community of like-minded people all over the world. I have friends in so many countries because of yoga. And everyone is really nice.

How often do you practice yoga?

Daily. At the studio, or at home.

Where did you get your teacher training at?

I did it back home in 2014, through the Olive Tree Yoga Foundation. My good friend Paul was one of Baron Baptiste’s assistants and ran a training in my home town, London, Ontario. The Foundation was started by him and his ex-wife to bring yoga to Palestine, running teacher trainings within refugee camps. I was an ambassador for them, and when Paul started a sister foundation called True North Yoga Foundation in Canada, I did work with them in Indigenous communities in Canada assisting with teacher trainings and doing yoga with the children.

Did you choose to teach yoga after going through your yoga teacher training?

I taught the kids through the True North Yoga Foundation and taught a little bit at a yoga studio back home in Canada. I do like teaching, but at this moment I like to be a student more. I want to continue to be a student and grow and learn more before I get back into teaching. Right now, I would love to learn more about the philosophy of yoga so I can bring more philosophy to my classes.

Do you see yourself advancing your teaching through more teacher training?

I would love to do a yin yoga teacher training and learn more about that style of teaching. Also, I have a goal to go to India in 2018 for a month or two, and just live in an ashram and deepen my meditation and practice. A little bit of Eat, Pray, Love. [laughs]

How do you live a balanced lifestyle?

Well, it’s getting better [laughs]. When I lived in Canada, I was a lot more balanced. When I moved here, social life [in Manly] is so easy because you live close to your friends. You could hang out with friends every night of the week if you want. I think it’s about setting priorities. I know if I don’t practice yoga, after even just three days, I notice a difference in my mental health.

What would you say is your favorite yoga pose?

I don’t know if I have a favorite, to be honest. I like yoga poses that challenges me. Like right now, it would be forearm balance. Because I can’t really hold it for long right now but, I’m trying so hard to get it. Since starting practicing gymnastics, my shoulders have gotten stronger and I’ve been holding it longer!My go-to party trick pose would have to be King Pigeon [laughs].

So, have you ever done drunk yoga?

Uh-huh. Hasn’t everyone?! [laughs] I also have done the worm at parties [cringe face]. I guess I wouldn’t recommend drunk yoga for everyone…