Yoga studio in Edinburgh overcomes pandemic challenges

Name: Karen Kirkness.

Age: 43.

What is your business called?

Meadowlark Yoga.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

We are a yoga studio and bring together plenty of experience as well as my love for integrated anatomy and how understanding our bodies through movement can lead to positive health outcomes.

To whom does it sell?

My message is geared toward all ages. I’m especially interested in how postpartum women can take charge of their recovery by learning more about their anatomy at any stage. I train yoga teachers to be more tuned into anatomy and encourage parents to learn anatomy along with their children.

We pride ourselves on being inclusive: all levels, all skills and all backgrounds are welcome.

What is its turnover?

Meadowlark Yoga is a not-for-profit enterprise, which means all of our £400,000 or so annual turnover is reinvested back into the organisation.

During the initial lockdown period the studio was fully closed for a number of months and all of our classes, workshops and trainings were moved to an online platform. The leisure industry was one of the last sectors to reopen and even at that point, we were still subject to social distancing measures halving our studio capacity. Now we are cautiously and slowly increasing our studio class capacity but we continue to offer an online timetable of drop-in classes, courses, workshops and trainings for those who aren’t quite ready to return in-person or who find our online offering more convenient for them.

How many employees?

We employ between five and eight staff and around 15 freelance teachers, in addition to our strategic partners.

When was it formed?


HeraldScotland: Karen Kirkness practices yoga dailyKaren Kirkness practices yoga daily

Why did you take the plunge?

The studio evolved around community interest in yoga. In the early years, I was taking three months per year to go to India to further my yogic studies and during my time away needed to find reliable cover to take my classes. As part of that process, I ended up building strong relationships with a handful of experienced teachers. They all had one common goal: to maintain a daily yoga practice and to earn enough money to support having a space within which to practice together. The not-for-profit business model evolved organically from there.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I started out as a visual artist working lots of different jobs to make ends meet in the early 2000s. In college while still in the USA, I got invaluable experience working through the intersections of the public and private sector as the Director of what was then called the Art in State Buildings Program.

Meanwhile, circa 2002, I had gotten into yoga and ended up doing my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand. After I qualified as a yoga teacher, I moved to Scotland to continue my academic training with a Master of Fine Art degree and a Masters in Human Anatomy from the University of Edinburgh.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I saved up all the yoga fees I was collecting through my website. I was in my mid-twenties and had low overheads and no dependents.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Teaching yoga in a space that is dedicated to helping each individual in our community to find the style that suits them. I also love building the business side, figuring out the money puzzle that keeps our small team gainfully employed doing what we love.

We are excited about 2022 when Meadowlark will be offering a wider range of workshops, beginners courses, training courses and 1:1 yoga sessions in the studio, and our reading club.

What do you least enjoy?

While I take satisfaction out of the business side of running a yoga studio, I also feel the stress of keeping up with the fiduciary responsibilities of ownership. No member of society was untouched by the stress of the pandemic, and I think owners of businesses at every scale faced up to enormously stressful circumstances. I do not enjoy the heaviness of responsibility for the livelihoods of other people.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Until confidence is restored, we do need continued government support. The rates holiday has been hugely helpful, not to mention all the grants and furlough options we’ve had since March 2020. I think a rates overhaul would help small businesses trying to stay open post-lockdown. If we don’t find a way to spread the overheads involved in keeping our local shopfronts operational, I think we’ll see more shop closures and the dereliction of neighbourhood marketplaces across the country.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

I have learned a lot through trial and error. If I could go back and advise my younger self, I would focus more on self-care and be less critical about the failures. Finding the balance of pushing through a bad decision without over-dramatising, while also reflecting upon it objectively to find the learning… that’s the greatest of all lessons for me.

How do you relax?

I practice yoga daily and walk, forage, enjoy nature and get creative when I can. Chilling out with our little ones can be chaotic but the cuddles are a sure-fire cure when stress feels over-the-top.

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