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September 22, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Yoga aficionado goes with pay-what-you-can business model in Scarsdale

Joshua Dooz, left, in a contemplative pose with his mother, Maria Bai, next to him at a recent yoga class. Photo by Aleesia Forni

On a chilly Tuesday morning, a dozen yoga participants — some novices, some who had practiced for years — gathered together, ready to try out one of the newest yoga options in Scarsdale, Flow With Us Yoga.

But instead of arriving at a trendy new boutique studio, they met at a church. And instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to attend, none were required to spend any money at all.

Flow With Us Yoga, a donation-based yoga program, is the brainchild of Joshua Dooz, a 23-year-old Dobbs Ferry resident, recent college graduate and yoga enthusiast.

“You just go to yoga and you feel better when you leave than when you walked in,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to promote here.”

Launched earlier this year, classes are held in a rented room at the Greenville Community Church on Ardsley Road in Scarsdale, where participants transition from pose to pose amid space heaters set up on the edges of the room, painted portraits of religious figures hang from the walls and large windows that offer views of the wooded landscape.

“These are our humble beginnings, but I love this space,” Dooz said before adding, “Maybe if it was a little warmer.”

There is a suggested donation of $12 — roughly half the cost of many nearby yoga studios — but Dooz said amount is neither “a floor or a ceiling.”

“If you want to pay, pay what you can, Dooz said. If not, that’s alright, just bring a friend next time.”

Joshua Dooz and his payment box, complete with a smiley face. Photo by Aleesia Forni

Dooz collects donations in a simple container the size of a shoebox that he painted green and accented with stickers and a hand-drawn smiley face.

“It’s just about providing something that the community needs,” he said. “It shouldn’t be only for people that can afford it. It shouldn’t be so expensive that it’s an exclusive thing. That’s not what yoga is.”

Raised in Dobbs Ferry, Dooz comes from a family of dancers. His mother Maria Bai was a former prima ballerina who, together with his father, owns Central Park Dance in Scarsdale, a company they founded more than three decades ago. His sister is also a professional dancer.

“I guess I didn’t get those genes,” he joked.

Instead, Dooz grew up an athlete, wrestling and participating in various competitive sports, and said he “never even gave a thought” to yoga.

When a friend suggested he attend a hot yoga class in college — where participants perform movements in a room with high temperatures — he decided to give it a shot.

“It was okay,” he recalled with a shrug, but he left the class without being fully convinced of its benefits.

It wasn’t until a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica that Dooz had what he calls his “moment.”

“Being out on the beach, doing yoga, looking at palm trees, the waves coming in,” he recalled, “I realized, I have to do more things like this, because this feels so good.”

After graduating from The University of Rhode Island in 2016 with a degree in communications, Dooz said he tried out a number of yoga studios in New York City once he returned home but struggled to find his perfect fit.

“They were all very expensive,” he said. “Not to put down any studios, they’re great, I love the practice, but I just wanted to create something where people can pay whatever they want.”

That desire was the foundation for Flow With Us Yoga, which claims to be the first yoga program in the county solely funded by donations.

Classes are offered five days per week at varying times, from a 7 a.m. power vinyasa flow to an 8 p.m. class with lit candles and soothing music. Though Dooz had originally aimed to offer 17 classes per week, he’s trimmed those offerings to a more manageable 10.

“We were a little ambitious at first,” he said.

Though Flow With Us has only offered classes for a few weeks, Dooz said, “It’s going pretty good so far.”

“We’ve had classes with 10 (participants), we’ve had 8, 6, we’ve had one, none,” he said. “It’s been a little slow, but we just started.”

Dooz employs five yoga teachers, all of whom he found through Craigslist. Soon, Dooz hopes to become an instructor himself, with plans to complete an intensive three-week certification course in Costa Rica in March.

“I feel like I want to make yoga more about the practice,” he said. “And I think the business will follow after that.”

Dooz originally hoped to hold classes in his parents’ dance studio, but said that timing and noise levels at the studio cut those plans short. Instead, he pays around $50 per class to rent a room at the church.

“I kind of like this,” he said of the church. “This is nice and quiet.”

Flow With Us is only one of the young entrepreneur’s ventures. He also founded Dooz Dance, an e-commerce website he runs at his parents’ dance studio that offers dance attire, shoes and accessories.

“I’m an opportunist, and there was a great opportunity,” he said. “They had the license and I was able to use it” to start the e-commerce business.

Since graduation, he has also worked in brand development for a New York City startup and for a friend who runs a T-shirt design and production company.

“I’ve been behind my parents’ business my whole life,” he said. “I guess that’s always made me think, ‘Well, I could start this myself. I could do this.’”

His family is also strongly supportive of Flow With Us Yoga and both his mother and sister are frequent participants in the classes.

While the humble beginning at the church might be new for Dooz, it’s all a bit familiar to his mother. She had her own version of a humble beginning when she launched what would later become Central Park Dance in the basement of the Zion Episcopal Church in Dobbs Ferry more than 35 years ago.

“I had the same vibe,” she recalled. “It was a big room and everything was wooden. It was very much like this feel.”

So, eventually, could Dooz follow in his mother’s footsteps and open a Flow With Us a studio of his own?

“That would be phenomenal,” he said with a grin.