This Philly Yoga Studio Is Closing — And Free Outdoor Classes Are Partly to Blame

This Spring Garden studio will shutter on May 12, 2018.

Photograph courtesy Mindful Elephant.

Note as of Thursday, June 4, 2020: Mindful Elephant reopened for yoga and meditation on March 28th, 2020. Please visit their website for detailed information on how to sign up for classes


On April 28, 2018 Juli Fussell sent out an email to her yoga community with the subject line “Very sad news.” In the email, Fussell explained to clients of her yoga studio, Mindful Elephant, that she was closing the practice down on May 12.

The news came a couple months before the studio would’ve celebrated its second anniversary. In the email, Fussell explained that an increase in the property value — it jumped from a market value of $485,000 in 2017 to a market value of $1,189,600 in 2018 — had also increased the property taxes, making her rent unaffordable.

But it wasn’t just the increase in expenses that solidified Fussell’s decision to shutter. When she first opened Mindful Elephant, she knew there were other hot yoga studios in the Spring Garden and Fairmount area. Since Mindful Elephant doesn’t offer hot yoga, she wasn’t worried about competing with these businesses. But since then, The Rabbit Hole opened just two blocks away, and Lumos Yoga & Barre is scheduled to open two blocks north of Mindful Elephant in June.

Of course, Fussell said that without the added struggle of increasing expenses, she would have felt “comfortable competing with these studios.” The final straw was the sheer number of free outdoor yoga classes around the city — something that Fussell felt she ultimately couldn’t compete with.

“It seems every week I get notifications of free outdoor/pop-up yoga classes all over the city,” says Fussell. “Having attended many of these myself, I know the majority of attendees can afford studio classes and this just pulls more and more students out of studios. I fully support taking your practice outdoors and providing affordable yoga to those that truly need it, but just like the taxes, there are excessive free outdoor classes in Philly.”

The lure of free outdoor workouts is one that’s hard to resist, but Fussell sees them as damaging to the industry. Fussell says she believes that the excess of free classes “devalues the extensive and expensive training of quality teachers” — and she has a good point. If Philly had free latte carts popping up on every corner, wouldn’t we all start thinking that paying $4 for a coffee, no matter how talented or experienced the barista, isn’t necessary?

Due to the fact that Fussell invested in building out the studio, she doesn’t currently have the funds to invest in a new space. She does, however, love the community she’s built, and hopes to find ways to continue connecting with them — outside of a classroom.

“The community of yogis at Mindful Elephant are amazing, strong, and supportive of each other, so I’ll look for options other than a brick-and-mortar location to keep the vibe going,” says Fussell.

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