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Women In Wellness: Kate Durand of YO BK On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Durand.

At the young age of 18, Kate Durand (Davies) chose to move out of New York and attend Trinity University in Texas, where she discovered her love of hot yoga, biking 5 miles every day to the studio to practice. It was during these times that Durand realized her desire to teach yoga and have her own studio. Upon graduating, Durand moved to Beijing and eventually Bangkok where she lived for 3 years, working as a Kindergarten Teacher and ensuring there was always a yoga studio close by where she could continue practicing her passion. Once she moved back to the United States in Fall of 2011, Durand became a yoga teacher and taught for four years before finally accomplishing her dream and opening the first YO BK studio in Williamsburg in 2015. Within one year, her business tripled and allowed her to open the second location less than one mile away in Greenpoint in 2018.

Prior to COVID, the studios offered 80 weekly classes that sold out at 40 students each. After shutting down in March of 2020, YO BK went online the very next day with free classes. Regardless of the circumstances, Durand knew her community needed YO BK and one another and she was met with equal support from its members who continued to attend classes. Due to the incredible support, YO BK reopened in March 2021 after a full year of shut down and was back to business as if the pandemic never happened. Shortly after, the opportunity to open her third location in Miami presented itself and Durand knew that studio ownership and spreading her love for yoga was the only path she wanted.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I began practicing hot yoga during my first semester of college and was instantly addicted to how incredible the practice made me feel! Everyday after classes, I would bike 5 miles to the studio and leave feeling both energized and calm. I knew right away that I wanted to teach and one day own a studio. Since attending my first teacher training in 2011, I have taught at dozens of studios in Texas, NYC, Miami and Mexico. I’m certified to teach Bikram Yoga, Power Vinyasa, Yin, Meditation and Inferno Pilates. My amazing mentor Lisa guided me towards studio ownership and helped me narrow my real estate search down to Brooklyn and Miami, where our studios now live! I have over forty incredible employees and three locations offering over 100 classes each week. I truly love my work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

There are so many! One of the most amazing lessons I learned was to stay open minded. 6 months into opening a Hot Yoga studio teaching solely Traditional Hot Yoga (Bikram), 2 of my instructors approached me about a Hot Pilates training they were taking. We added 1 weekly Hot Pilates class to the schedule, which started selling out. This one class became two, then ten a week. Now, it is one of our most popular classes and this openness to trying something new blossomed into offering Power Yoga, Yin and Aerial Yoga. I believe our success has come from our students’ ability to cross-train in one place and find a community in doing so.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my biggest mistakes was blurring the lines between professionalism and friendship. This is an ongoing challenge as I am fortunate enough to choose whom I work with but I learned over time that going out drinking with my employees does not build the right relationships or respect. Since expanding to Miami, I’ve been able to take a step back from the day-to-day operations and focus on the big picture — a big part of my big picture is being a mother and a wife, and I now relish my time at home with my family.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Our studios provide a safe space for people to build a deeper connection to themselves. I’ve always said that fitness is the “gateway drug” — a desire to be physically fit/strong/healthy leads many to a deeper awareness of breath, sense of calm and tools for coping with the stress of everyday life. We’ve always had a strict “no phones” policy in our studio rooms, and I believe that taking an hour a day away from distractions and responsibilities is what allows us to go deeper. Additionally, access to a large community has given us the reach to support many charitable causes that are important to our team through fundraising classes. We’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars to Sexual Assault Awareness, BLM and yoga initiatives in underserved communities.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Drink more water — being properly hydrated helps all of our internal systems run smoothly and sets us up for success in the hot room!

Put your phone away — I run the majority of my business on my laptop find it’s so important to take a break from technology, especially before bedtime. As a rule, my computer is away after 8 pm and I put my phone away before I crawl into bed. I do my best not to check my phone until I’ve been awake for 30 minutes.

Move everyday — Movement has the magical ability to shift our mood so quickly, and is one of the easiest ways to feel unstuck. Obviously, yoga and pilates are my movement of choice, but on days I can’t make it to class, I’m sure to take a long walk, dance with my son or roll out my mat for a few minutes of stretching.

Read before bed — I’m back and forth between NY and Miami so airport novels are my thing right now! I find reading gives the “work part” of my brain a rest and takes me somewhere else. I sleep so much better when I end my day with a book.

Learn to say no — We will always be pulled in multiple directions by work, friends and family. Learn to say no to the excess so you have time to rest and recharge, whatever that looks like for you!

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I grew up in a very privileged part of New York, where I had access to healthy food and regular exercise. Unfortunately, this is not the norm in so many communities, especially places where fast food is regularly available and people do not walk as their mode of transportation. How we feel physically has such an impact on how we feel mentally and emotionally — this is why I would love to create a holistic program that includes meditation, mindful movement and nutritional education to all in an in-person setting. I feel that we are bombarded with online resources, but the in-person connection is so important for making a lasting impact.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Outsource but understand — When I first opened our first location in 2015, I did absolutely everything: painting, repairs, accounting, marketing, teaching and so much more. Now, I outsource as much as humanly possible and one of my best investments was in a business coach, especially since I am a sole owner in the NYC studios. I’m very grateful to have a handle on all the processes of the business to have known the best people to hire for help.

Nothing is permanent — When you put your heart into your work, it’s so easy to take every interaction personally and to feel its gravity. When we work with integrity, things have a way of working themselves out and getting sunnier day by day.

Take a day off each week — It’s so important to put the computer away and take time for yourself! I love being at my studios so much that this is often a challenge, but I always come back fresher after a day (or two!) off.

Focus and organize — As a small business owner, my work pulls me in many different directions. I focus by leaning heavily on my google calendar and blocking off chunks of time to drill into big projects. I also do my best to get to inbox zero at least twice a week.

Keep your friendships — It honestly broke my heart when I first opened and my best friends took months to make it in for class. Overtime, I learned how important it is to have friendships that are separate from work — even when you have great friendships at work!

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health is a passion of mine. Our studios are located in big, busy cities and we exist so that students can have an hour of uninterrupted time a day to go within. On a personal level, I am so much happier when I take this time, and I know it impacts others in the same way.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

@yo.bk

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.