Striking the Balance: Organizing a Fitness Group

By Mary Garcia, Meetup Content Manager

Yoga is all about balance: breathing into each pose and finding comfort while stretching to new positions. Similarly, finding the right balance for organizing a group on Meetup and engaging with members takes focus, dedication, and practice. Meetup organizer Bilyana Iliykova shares her story about building a community for yoga practitioners in Barcelona, organizing groups, and hosting online events.

What made you decide to start organizing a group on Meetup?

Bilyana Iliykova: When I moved to Barcelona 12 years ago I was looking for outdoor yoga with my friend Marija. We couldn’t find anything so we decided to organize it ourselves! Neither of us were certified teachers at the time, so we didn’t offer it as a class. Instead, we described the group as a way to practice yoga with others in a pleasant outdoor setting.

We did not expect 15 other people to join us at the first meeting, but they did and it was a pleasant surprise. Many participants were new to yoga, so even though we weren’t certified teachers, we shared what we knew and all learned together.

Please describe your group, Yoga Challenge: Tattva Yoga Studio. What are your events like? 

Bilyana Iliykova: Before transitioning to instructing online yoga classes, I’d been teaching yoga classes outdoors for years, and even started a space for wellness classes to take place, which was a bit like a co-working space for yoga teachers, though that term didn’t exist at the time. When we offered classes in person, we would pay a lot of attention to the space where people gathered before and after the class. To me, the environment where you are taking classes is as important as the classes themselves. So we have made a cozy reception with sofas and cushions on the floor. We would offer tea before and after the classes to make the space comforting, encouraging students to spend time at the space and talk with like-minded people. We value our small and friendly community and many of the students have become good friends.

What was it like to transition your group online?

Bilyana Iliykova: Restrictions on gathering went into effect so suddenly; it was a bit tricky to transition everything online without the experience of doing it before.  It was also a challenge to explain how the class would work in a virtual format and get people to attend the online events. While some people stopped attending, others, including myself, found the online classes a helpful way to deal with the confinement. We’ve gone back and forth between hosting in-person and online-only classes depending on local safety restrictions. If we were not forced to hold online classes by the circumstances, it’s likely that we never would have offered them. But now, even when we can host live in-person classes, we still stream all the events as well online. It’s been an excellent way to grow our audiences.

How has Yoga Challenge – Tattva Yoga Studio helped the group’s participants?

Bilyana Iliykova: I always hoped that our Meetup group will be a place where people can come together, practice and share yoga lessons, connect with like-minded people, make friends, and create a community. I hope we have managed to do that at least a little bit.

How has organizing the group benefited you?

Bilyana Iliykova: This group has allowed me to connect with so many people. It has been an incredible opportunity to share yoga practices with people interested in it. I have learned so much and now teaching yoga is my occupation.

What advice do you have for someone interested in organizing a group on Meetup?

Bilyana Iliykova: I’d recommend that organizers try to think about how their group can offer something different from what others are offering. I think one of the greatest things Meetup is getting to know your group members and designing a group to meet their needs. It is also a way to find community and do spend time on your interest in the company of others. Events and their content are important, but to me, it’s just as important to nourish the interpersonal connections, which are crucial during these times.

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