Urban Ashram Manila Puts a Modern-day Spin on the Age-old Art of Yoga

It’s surprising to think that yoga, a discipline thousands of years old, could find a following in contemporary cities dominated by selfies and startups, but Urban Ashram Manila has made avid yogis of digital natives. Mastering yoga was once a solitary journey: It used to be that one had to travel and train with a yoga expert overseas for years to become an adept. But Urban Ashram, founded in the belief that the learning process is stronger within a community, has leveraged on technology to make the benefits of yoga more accessible to their tech-savvy, metropolitan market.

“What we wanted to do with Urban Ashram was create a space in the city where people who live here can practice yoga. We're in a very urban setting, and technology has really changed the way the learning can happen these days. It’s allowed us to explore beyond the physical aspect of the practice," says co-founder Marc Macadaeg. "It's just really an amazing convergence of the old style of learning--from one particular teacher over an extended period--and the visibility that technology brings to it."

Urban Ashram Manila Puts a Modern Spin on the Age-old Art of Yoga

Urban Ashram has already expanded with studios in Makati, Taguig, and Pasig. And yet, its founding team of seasoned yogis are still eager to learn more about the craft. "I think the nature of our profession is that its an ethical one: When you accept that you'll always be learning and always be a student, then there's always this natural desire to get content,” says Maricar Holopainen, one of its co-founders.

Connectivity not only allows them to maintain a constant reparte with their fellow teachers, but with their students as well: Anyone can look at read customer reviews, look at schedules, and book a class with Urban Ashram online or through the MINDBODY Connect mobile app. Says Holopainen, “Through online messaging, we are able to send free messages to our members [about] community events, promotions, or special announcements, as well as create Viber groups for our staff and entire team to be in touch with one another, which allows us to deliver superior service.”

Urban Ashram Manila

Customer service satisfaction is something that’s taken seriously in their studios: After a class, students receive an automated feedback form online, which has been instrumental in the business’ continuous growth: It lets them know if their customers see anything in the facilities or curriculum that isn’t up to snuff, so they can act on it immediately. "We all know that keeping communication lines open is the only way to run the studio effectively,” says Macadaeg. “Technology, from a managing point of view, has allowed us to prepare and respond. It’s how we learn. It’s made us dynamic."

Urban Ashram also offers video sequences on its website called 'Practice in my Pocket', so if students have missed their class but want get their yoga fix, they can still keep up online. "The content that we provide in terms of yoga has kind of bled into the other aspects of how we run the business. Engagement is really key for us. If you don't have good content, then there's no successful way to maintain the community," he adds.

Their business model works to continuously educate both their customers and the founders themselves, says Holopainen: "We're bringing in teachers not only to share their skills with the community, but to become more educated in the practice ourselves. Technology has allowed us to close that loop faster," she shares. It's also empowered them to vet and get to know world-class teachers, growing their strong network of like-minded yoga advocates and instructors: Well-known practitioners who have been invited to lead their classes and workshops include Annie Carpenter and Alexandria Crow. "We now search around the world to find and recommend teachers. They come here and see what we do, we become friends, and they want to come back. It becomes a continuing global relationship."