As 2021 dawns, Pulse’s Sammy Jones checked in at Soo Yoga to see how the new business fared during an extraordinary year – and what the future looks like….

T he last time I spoke with Kristina Rihanoff she was buzzing; the Strictly Come Dancing star had just realised her dream of opening the first family wellbeing centre in Northamptonshire, and Soo Yoga was proving quite the magnet for those wanting to improve or maintain their health.

Kristina and her partner, former England Rugby star Ben Cohen had poured their collective heart, soul, knowledge and finances into the venture, and the response had been fantastic.

She was working crazy hours in her bid to ensure it was a success; often teaching half a dozen classes daily herself. It was early days, but things were going well.

And then coronavirus bit. Like businesses everywhere, Soo Yoga had to pull down the shutters, and Kristina and Ben were left in no man’s land: “Ben and I fell into that rabbit hole where we had zero support from the government because we were company directors,” she said.

“It has been extremely hard, the worst time to be working a new business, but you have to believe in what you are doing, and follow your heart,” Kristina told me, “I just feel really sorry for anyone who has been going through the same thing.”

Technology has been a great friend and enabled Soo Yoga to switch classes online. Many customers still chose to get busy on the yoga mat in front of the computer screen, but Kristina found it irksome that while she wasn’t allowed to run socially distanced classes in person, people were flocking to sit in close proximity in restaurants as part of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

“I’m not saying it is wrong to support the hospitality industry, but what about leisure, and what about yoga and dance schools?” she asks, “We are the ones providing the most vital services for people’s mental health; we all know that physical exercise, no matter what it is, or how gentle it is, improves your immune system – and we all need strong immune systems to fight this virus.

“I’m baffled and I can’t work it out how our government didn’t recognise that. By all means give money to hospitality, but also give equal support to our industry. We are the ones who will actually give the nation what they need – better mental health, better physical health, and overall well being.”

It’s a valid point, don’t you think?

“Studies show that if you do meditation and mindfulness for just eight weeks your immune system and mental health gets better – isn’t that what we want?

“Having a burger and french fries will only get you so far.

“We have clients who live alone and coming to the studio is the only way for them to socialise and feel part of a community. They wouldn’t go out to a restaurant by themselves, but they feel safe and comfortable enough to come here. Why didn’t they say ‘work out to help out?’ and let people decide what they wanted to spend the money on.”

As we put this feature to bed for the magazine, the latest lockdown has just reached its end, vaccines are being rolled out in incredibly quick time and like thousands of other businesses, for the moment at least, Soo Yoga is back open.

Talk now is of hope for the future, and people are daring to imagine a time when normality is restored. The pandemic has been catastrophic for business, and whether Soo Yoga makes it out the other side remains to be seen. But the brand couldn’t have a more determined couple at the helm.

“Whether we will survive we don’t know, but we are definitely going to give it our best shot,” Kristina promises.

“We are not people who quit. We both come from competitive backgrounds – we are wired not to quit. We’ll fight and do whatever it takes, and we’re hopeful that the new year will bring new dynamics.”

Kristina’s top tips to get you feeling great in 2021

1 Do something!

You have got to allocate at least 15-20 minutes a day, every day for your health; it doesn’t matter what you do – it could be walking, running, anything.

Dance is a very, very powerful tool to make yourself feel instantly great too. If I had to choose a physical exercise, that would be the one I would recommend.

Time-wise, it’s not much, but you have to decide that you will be doing it. Decide what it is that you like and go for it.

2 Become part of a community

Become part of any group that you feel will suit your needs and follow the online accounts.

Community is extremely important too – during the first lockdown I created a community WhatsApp group. There are about 40 people there and we helped each other through lockdown, and when people were down mentally or physically, we kept each other going.

We rant, we joke about, we support each other. It is important to be connected and to know that you are part of the community.

3 Start a good habit

It takes eight days to create a habit, so if you stick to your chosen activity for eight days, doing 15 minutes a day meditating, going for a brief walk, or whatever it is, it will work. After the eighth day your body will crave the endorphins it creates.

4 Routine is everything

The body and mind work well when you have a little bit of a system or a plan. If you plan to do your class or run every morning when you wake up, make sure that you stick to it. Don’t do it at different times; it needs to be the same time, same settings, same thing every day.

5 Be kind to yourself

If you do skip a day, do not sit and beat yourself up for hours – be kind to yourself. We all have those days. I’m not saying just skip it and don’t worry about it, because of course it’s not good – we all want to create that healthy habit for a healthy life – but do not dwell on it. Pick yourself up and start again and get back to it the next day.

For more information on Soo Yoga visit sooyoga.com

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