If you’ve taken class with Bethany, or you’ve taken class with John, or — major bonus — you’ve been in a class they’ve co-taught, you know that they bring the magic individually, and together they’re downright explosive.
But there’s so much more to this power couple than their ability to ferociously and enthusiastically kick students’ asanas inside the studio. As co-founders, the husband and wife team are also business partners.
On the one-year anniversary of Lyons Den Power Yoga (!!!), what better way to honor the studio’s roots than by getting the inside scoop straight from the dream team? Read on to hear about their highs, lows, and the time John locked himself out of the studio…barefoot.

JB BACKLESS

Take us back to the very beginning. Where did the idea to open the studio come from? Is this a lifelong dream being realized?
Bethany: It had been brewing for several years, but I had such great opportunities coming into my world from so many different angles and directions that I was honestly a bit scattered. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. I also really wanted a Baptiste-dedicated studio in the city I love. So this was not a split-second decision at all, but a process, and it ended up happening at exactly the right time. Getting John on board to do this with me was clutch — he is an invaluable partner. Once he was in, it was game on.
John: After I went to my first Baptiste teacher training, I came back and knew she was right on the money. Baptiste yoga is exactly what New York City needed. We set the intention to find the right space, and the rest is history.

When you found the space at 279 Church Street, did you know right away that was your spot?
John: No. I saw the raw space, but I couldn’t see it. But I looked at Bethany’s face as her eyes moved along the space, and I knew she had a vision. It was at that moment I knew we had found the home of our first studio.
Bethany: No! I ran away screaming (inside I was screaming) the first time I saw it. The building is old, with a very shady history. (Looking for a brothel, anyone? No, really…) And the build-out was daunting. It needed to be gut-renovated. But when we saw it again a year later and met with the landlord, I could just see it. I knew TriBeCa was where we needed to be, and after walking around the broken down floorboards, the vision appeared. At that point, I had zero doubts.

279 Church Street, the former brothel turned yoga studio
279 Church Street, the former brothel turned yoga studio

What were your biggest fears about opening the studio?
John: That no one would find us. I knew Bethany had a strong community, but for us to be able to stay open, we needed to reach complete and total strangers.
Bethany: Complete and total failure in making our rent and making this actually work, finding the right team of instructors, finding any sort of balance in my life, no sleep, running out of the money we borrowed. The list goes on. But once I figured out the worst-case scenario and said, “Yes, I can handle that,” I was OK.

Were you ever afraid no one would show up?
John: The bravado side of me says I never doubted it for a second. The reality is that fear was there right up until I went to my Level 2 teacher training, which was the week before we opened. Being immersed in the Baptiste community and feeling the power of the practice, something clicked. I couldn’t wait to get home to Bethany and our studio. I knew we had something special.
Bethany: The whole thing felt scary as hell, but I knew in my bones this was going to work. I knew people would show — this practice is made for New Yorkers — I just had no idea they would show up so quickly! John was worried. I kept saying, “Don’t worry, I got this.”

#goaldigger
#goaldigger

What are some of the funnier moments you recall from the past year?
John: There was the time I locked myself out with no phone, no shoes, and class starting in 30 minutes. I had a choice of finding a way into the studio or calling Bethany to tell her I had to cancel class for being an idiot. Let’s just say I channeled my inner MacGyver and class started on time.
Bethany: John and I putting together the refrigerator the night before our opening party. It was 1:30 AM, we hadn’t slept more than a few hours in several days, and every time the door opened, it would start talking to us loudly. “Thank you for purchasing a beverage!” Or it played a very loud jingle. Then it started playing classical music — like a symphony for hydration. I was losing my mind. John was determined. I finally broke down and started hysterically laughing and filmed it on my phone.

John, 1:30am, the morning of the studio opening.
John, 1:30am, the morning of the studio opening.

Let’s get personal here, if we may. How did becoming business partners affect your marriage?
John: It brings the marriage closer. It’s not a test, because it’s not pass/fail. Bethany is committed to co-creation and she inspires me to be better. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to check my ego. I come from a professional world where I’m the Chief Operating Officer for a large restaurant group. I came from “I know better than you.” That attitude didn’t serve the studio or me because I just tried to overpower Bethany’s opinions and leadership at times. Truly embracing Bethany’s talent, intuition, and knowledge allowed me to take a backseat and focus on supporting her and the studio as opposed to fighting her. And the results have been great. I could not be happier to have her as my boss!
Bethany is my wife first, and business partner second. At the beginning, I wanted to have a say in everything and the friction was harmful. Finally, I embraced that serving my wife and supporting her as my boss allowed our business relationship to click. Now, not only is she the love of my life, she is my teacher, leader, and someone I find new reasons to love and respect every day.

JB NUMBER CRUNCHING

Bethany: I love and respect John so much more than I did a year ago (and I totally loved him then!). He is tremendous, loving, and generous in the way he shows up for me and embraces new challenges and growth. We knew becoming business partners was really going to work or really not going to work. Luckily for us, it works. And once John decided I was officially “the boss” of The Den, well, let’s just say things went a lot more smoothly!

JB ANNIVERSARY DINNER

What has surprised you most about opening the studio?
Bethany:
The awesome community that has emerged in no time. I am consistently blown away by the way our students, team, and teachers show up for each other on and off the mat. It is inspiring and real. The fact that John and I have anything to do with creating a place where that can happen…wow.
John: Two weeks in, I remember coming to the studio after a 14-hour day at my other job, and dancing around the studio wiping sweat off the floor. I can’t remember a time when I was happier or more fulfilled. The pride and love I receive from seeing someone leaving class with a smile blows me away every time.

What are you most proud of?
John:
The friendships, romances, laughs, tears, and genuine community our students have created. A year and a half ago, Lyons Den Power Yoga was just a thought. Today it is a living, breathing, badass community because of the magical and inspirational people who choose to practice with, and teach us day in and day out.
Bethany: I am most proud of the space we have created that inspires the courage I am fortunate enough to witness daily. I am also so proud of our teaching team and the individuals that have stepped up to that particular challenge.

Bethany, John & Camille on stage teaching Solstice in Times Square
Bethany, John & Camille on stage teaching Solstice in Times Square

We’re now entering year two for Lyons Den. What can we expect?
John:
Our continued drive to empower others and, above all, to be courageous.
Bethany: The sky is the limit, my friends. I tend to play big.

Bethany, Leading Solstice in Times Square Yoga
Bethany, Leading Solstice in Times Square Yoga
John, our first t-shirt model.
John, our first t-shirt model.

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lyonsden November 14, 2014

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