Turning around a yoga studio in just five days
It took a bit longer than the wave of a fairy godmother's wand to transform Bristol's renowned Yogawest studio – but not much.
After arriving from London in their 1973 VW camper van named – appropriately enough – Pumpkin, new owners Diana and Mike Penny took just five days to complete building work to transform the Yogawest studio that has been at the heart of Iyengar yoga in Bristol for two decades.
The red brick building now features a new foyer and remodelled reception area, refitted male and female changing rooms, plus two redecorated studios, and a landscaped and decked area with seating and uplit black bamboo.
"We had five days in which to do the building work before we reopened," says Diana, 47, as we walk through the bright, airy building, with freshly-painted yellow walls.
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"Everyone was working 18-hour days to get the work done. Fortunately, Mike works as a project manager, so that was a huge help in getting things done here."
The Yogawest studio was set up in the 1990s by Bob and Kathy Welham in a building that was previously the British Legion Club in Denmark Place. It went on to be run for over a decade by Gerry Chambers and Linda Purvis.
New owners Diana and Mike, who have a 21-year-old daughter and son aged 19, had been planning to sell their family home in Tooting, south London, and move out of the capital to set up a business in the countryside.
But then they saw the Yogawest studio was up for sale.
"We had been thinking we'd move out to somewhere rural, but then this place came on the market and we decided to take a look around," says Diana.
"We walked in and were shown round, and afterwards we looked at each other and said that we'd found the place we wanted."
While 41-year-old Mike's professional experience as a project manager played a key role in redesigning and redecorating the building in less then a week, Diana's original career as a graphic designer has been an influence in the new branding of the studio, which features a golden flower.
"We've designed our whole branding around our van Pumpkin, using shades of orange and yellow," she says.
The flower logo features in the range of merchandise behind the reception desk, including mugs and white T-shirts, as well as on brochures advertising a range of classes that include yoga for children and for during pregnancy.
Diana started doing yoga just over a decade ago, when she decided she needed something to help her cope with her demanding life.
"I went through a very stressful time when I was working very hard in a graphic design studio, sitting on a chair at a screen for hours," she recalls.
"I knew I needed to make some changes and joined a local gym. My idea had been to go swimming, but then I realised I needed something to help me with the stress and anxiety in my life and started doing yoga and hypnotherapy.
"Yoga gave me the sense of balance and tranquility that I needed, and it helped me to make sense of the rest of my life.
"I'm never going to spend 18 hours on a yoga mat, but I do enjoy the sense of well-being it brings."
Diana tried lots of different types of yoga before settling on Iyengar yoga in 2000.
"I like the way it's so precise and thorough," she explains.
As well as learning Iyengar yoga, which she now teaches, Diana also trained to teach hypnotherapy, and went on to run a successful hypnotherapy business.
"My real speciality is anxiety and stress. That was what got me into hypnotherapy and yoga," she says.
"But I was featured on the Channel 4 programme Embarrassing Fat Bodies a few months ago, when I did gastric band hypnosis to help someone lose weight and it created a huge amount of interest, with lots of people wanting appointments with me."
So wasn't she tempted to stay in London and work as a hypnotherapist?
"Not at all. We wanted to come to Bristol and have a place where we could do fun things," she says.
"Both children have now left home and we didn't want to end up with empty nest syndrome.
"Ten years ago we sat down and planned what we would be doing in a decade's time. We looked at what we really wanted to do – we knew we wanted to work together – and we are both trained life coaches, doing work with team building. We knew we wanted to work with people.
"Mike went to the University of the West of England in Bristol in the days when it was a polytechnic and we've got a lot of friends here. Also, my brother lives here and we run a campsite in a forest in Wales, so Bristol is an ideal location for us."
The couple are now living in a flat above the Yogawest studio, where in addition to the two studios there are treatment rooms for hynotherapy, massage and physiotherapy.
Amid all the recent alterations at Yogawest – using used local tradespeople and supplies from nearby Bishopston Hardware – some things have remained unchanged.
Diana says: "We've kept the original wooden flooring, which dates back to the 1950s, and we've still got the original stage in one of the studios, which is very useful for teaching."
There are ropes hanging from the wall at the back of the stage.
"They are very much a sign that this is an Iyengar studio – we often hang upside down on them."
â For further information about Yogawest go to www.yogawest.co.uk