Erika Bennett has never been one to back down from new and at times challenging experiences. So, when she made a trip down to Tampa, Florida, to visit her family, one of her family members invited her to try aerial yoga for the first time. Though she did not have previous experience with any kind of yoga, Bennett figured that it would still be a fun experience.
“I tried it and instantly fell in love with it,” she said. “I knew that the minute I got home, I had to find a studio to continue practicing aerial yoga.
But, when Bennett came back from her vacation and started to research aerial studios near her, the search came up empty. That is when Bennett got the inspiration to start up her own studio.
“When I didn’t see any studios near the South Georgia area, I decided to take a leap of faith and start looking at the possibility to start up my own studio,” she said. “I knew that it would be a challenge to start something from scratch, but I wanted to bring this practice to the people of Valdosta and surrounding counties. I wanted others to be able to experience what I did when I first tried aerial yoga.”
Starting up Hangout Yoga was one of the most eye-opening experiences of her life so far. With a full-time job at South Georgia Medical Center, Bennett had her hands quite full with this new business endeavor, but new challenges have never stopped her before. Little did she know that Hangout Yoga would turn out to be such a success in the short two years that it has been open.
“At first, learning the ins and outs of running a business was hard,” she said. “Luckily, I had a good skill set coming into it from my experience while in the workforce. But, being in the role of the business owner and all the responsibilities that comes with that title put some pressure on me at first. Through those obstacles, I have learned and grown through this experience, and it has been so rewarding.”
Now two years in, Hangout Yoga has grown far beyond one class that consisted of a small group of Bennett’s friends. Since that day, Hangout Yoga spread like wildfire throughout South Georgia. By word of mouth and through social media, people from areas like Thomasville, Albany, and Tifton all traveled to Hangout Yoga to give it a try. All who have come to try it have fallen in love with aerial yoga.
“Not only is aerial yoga a good workout, but it gives the clients a sense of empowerment and inner peace because throughout the class they are able to shut off their worries and focus on themselves,” Bennett said.
Through this business, Bennett has been able to grow relationships not only with her employees, but also with her clients. She has been able to see her clients grow and evolve. One of her favorite things about Hangout Yoga is that she is able to help her clients conquer their fears and learn something or do something new.
“Sometimes they are a little bit skeptical to try a new move, especially the inversion ones, but once they get past their mind barrier, they are able to accomplish things that they never thought that they would be able to do,” she said. “That is what it’s all about for me: to be able to give people the same feeling that I felt when I first got into aerial yoga.”
Considering the growth that Hangout Yoga has experienced thus far, there is a bright future for aerial yoga in the South Georgia area. Bennett has seen the impact it has had on the people of Valdosta, and she loves that she is able to bring people this form of fitness. She hopes one day in the future there will be more Hangout Yoga studios in neighboring cities.
Written by: Kaylee Kopke | Photography by: Eric Vinson