Yoga Journal China recently had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong.
We had heard many good things about the Yoga studio called Yoga BamBam and their very special locations. We found the studio full of joy from the innovative owner Melanie B and the many talented Freelance Yoga teachers .
We are on the ground floor of the studio, the sliding glass door that covers the whole front of the Yoga studio is wide open. We are sat with Melanie on the floor on very beautiful Thai hand printed cotton blankets.
YJ ”Hello! This is a new studio you own? Very beautiful! ”
A neighbour passes by the studio and waves warmly to Melanie .
MB ” That is why I choose such inviting locations, we are an outdoor/ indoor studio with AC. It’s so liberating to be so close to nature whilst practising Yoga. To being able to listen to the birds and the thunder storms during class.
YJ “This location choice, ground floor must be costly”.
MB ” The rent is more than it would be to be in a high rise building, but life is so much more colourful this way. We get to be involved in the daily lives of the district.” We can pop out, have a coffee and leave the studio open, let the students enter & practice when we are not there.”
We are interviewing Melanie at the Central studio, the second Yoga BamBam to open in 2 years. Both studios are set on a traditional Hong Kong slope ladder steps, with trees ,birds, cats around.
It’s like living in a small village. Another neighbours passes the entrance and greets us with a warm smile.
MB “The Cooking school across the street ( Mixing Bowl) often sends cakes over for us to share. The French wine shop (La Cabane) across the road shares glasses of organic wine for me to taste at the end of class.”
Passing local school children walk by the studio and laughingly do a few Yoga poses.
The studios are next to coffee shops, restaurants, bars, shops and art galleries. Students can get a drink, read a book on the stone steps, spend time to relax. There is even a popular French bar under the studio (NEO).
Sometimes there are parties people playing music, chatting, joking outside the studio.
This is not just the a Yoga studio, it is a place to gather. A place to come and experience more than just Yoga.
Melanie is British Jamaican, she was born in the UK.
MB ”BamBam means a pot luck party in Jamaican. Everyone gives something, someone brings music, bananas, Rum, or whatever they have to share to help the host have a good party. At Yoga BamBam every teacher and every student offers their presence which is in fact a gift and a blessing. It’s a Yogic BamBam.”
When Melanie arrived in Hong Kong unlike most expatriates she wanted to learn Cantonese. She chose to learn the local language over Chinese in order to integrate better into the community. However after three months of language school she gave up.
MB “Cantonese is very difficult to learn compared to languages that are based in latin. I really sucked at picking it up”
When she created Yoga BamBam, she immediately introduced Yoga with basic Cantonese to help Expats learn during their Yoga classes.
The HK Yoga teacher, Matina Cheung speaks in English then repeats the instructions in Cantonese. Encouraging students to feel the language with their bodies.
MB ” Language is the key to integrate into a culture. We learn more organically when we live a language, when we are relaxed rather than learning from a book , sat at a desk.”
Yoga BamBam has traditional Yoga & specialises in Aerial Yoga & AcroYoga plus non traditional classes. Yoga is not the only purpose to the studio.
Before opening a business in Hong Kong, Melanie B taught Yoga and Dance in Paris, before that she was a dancer on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
She loves art and music. Artists draw on the studio walls. Yoga BamBam is also a Pop Up Art Gallery and shop for designers. Films and TV commercials shoot at the trendy studio, She invited the famous HK artist Bao Ho to paint on the studio glass doors in the Pound lane location. The artist drew happy fat Goddesses doing AcroYoga and loving each other.
Yoga BamBam has no membership system, no sales team, not even a receptionist. Students reserve the classes online, pay cash to the teacher after class.
With just 2 full-time teachers mainly all the other teachers are free lance teachers. These part timers teach Yoga in their spare time and have full time jobs including CEOs, doctors, therapists, lawyers, designers, university lecturers ⋯
Melanie B thinks that, as a Yoga teacher, motivation is very important. Her teachers LOVE teachingYoga, but also are serious in their professional careers,
MB “Most part time Yoga teachers dream of quitting their full-time jobs but it is not an easy decision to make, to give up a career that they studied so hard to succeed in. It’s a risk to become a full time teacher when you have a high paying job. Even today many people expect Yoga teachers to teach for low salaries or worse, they expect Yoga teachers to teach for free, just because we tend to be such givers and so self- less.”
Melanie makes a crazy face……
MB ” You have to be crazy, or really passionate to give up all that job security up to be a full time Yoga Teacher. When I first started teaching Yoga people would ask me when would I get a real job! Actually my mother used to ask me that question all the time.”
Yoga BamBam does not sell membership, Melanie explains why
MB ” It’s a rip off. Students think they are saving money by buying a 2 year membership contract. When it is a fact that most people lose interest and drop out of their gym membership within months of signing up. At YBB we only want students coming to the studio because they want to be here, not because they paid an arm and a leg to get sexy arms and legs. Money does not buy good health, only practice and dedication gets you the results. I have actually refused students who don’t fit with the studio. You got to be cool and trust the Yoga.”
Melanie has the intention to open more Yoga BamBam studios, but she says frankly, she is still learning how to be the boss and still needs to learn more business skills before going bigger or International.
Unlike most business owners, she can be seen serving her students and even cleaning their yoga mats by hand. She was cleaning when we arrived. Her easy going character, exude vitality. She seems not to be very serious and laughs a lot. People do not realise in fact, she has been teaching Yoga for 28 years and is an active athlete and represents Lululemon as a HK ambassador. I ask her about her childhood.
MB ” I grew up in England, my girlhood dream was to be a long distance truck driver, I like speed and driving. My masculine energy really got in the way of me finding a boyfriend. Being the captain of every school sports team ( even the boys teams) meant that I was too strong for the boys to like me. I guess even now it takes a special kind of partner to know how to handle me.
I was pretty fat when I was in school, one of the biggest kids until I was 15 years old. I started going to the gym to lose weight. It worked. I fell in love with working out and eventually decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Help other people feel more comfortable and confident. Help them live well.”
Melanie stretches in a sexy cat like way.
MB “Once I achieved a fit body the boys changed their minds. I dated a few handsome guys, a few professional basketball players, football players, boxers. Until I realised that there was more to life than muscle. My passion is Yoga, skiing, going down hills fast and being one with nature. Now I’m a mother, my two daughters are the only true important element in my life.
YJ “What is your goal?”
MB ” I’d like to ski with my great grand children. Or be fit enough to at least rugby tackle them. I will be happy if Yoga BamBam continues even once I am gone. What more can I ask for, but to leave a cool vibe here on the planet? “
10 Shin Hing Street, Central. Hong Kong
28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan. Hong Kong
Yoga Journal China 2016.05
Interview with Melanie B Owner of Yoga BamBam