Written by Pete Jackson

It’s a brave thing branching into business for the first time. Ask anyone about their first few months or years and you’re likely to hear of long work days, low financial return and the unforeseen and unexpected happening. It’s even more challenging when your business partner is your housemate, and you’re still getting to know each other as friends as well as business partners. For Deanne Velissaris and Miriam Stratz long days with a paintbrush and gentle guidance from John Ogilvie, founder of Byron Yoga Centre, is beginning to pay off with their new studio in Melbourne.

Deanne and Miriam didn’t know each other when each completed their Level 1 teacher training in Byron Bay in 2008. Both eventually returned home to Melbourne to begin yoga teaching. Miriam began teaching in the bayside suburb of St Kilda while Deanne took up teaching in inner city Richmond.

As Deanne says, “it was soon after we both discovered a need to deepen our knowledge so a return to idyllic Byron Bay was on the cards”.

As it was, fate had a hand in bringing them together as roommates soon after, undertaking level 2 teacher training in late 2009. “We bonded immediately!” said Miriam. It was soon apparent the pair worked well together, ‘feeding off each other’s energy’, which was a promising sign of good things to come.

It was Byron Yoga Centre’s meditation teacher, Stephan Kahlert, who then planted the seed of an idea which soon showed signs of growth.  Stephan observed and commented on their ‘sisterhood’ and the idea to set up practice together was born.

The pair returned to Melbourne where Miriam soon after moved into Deanne’s home and so began the search for an ideal studio space. As Christmas was approaching, they had to work fast. Holding down regular jobs to help pay the bills, Deanne and Miriam found themselves discussing their plans after hours for branding and advertising well into the night at home. They also made sure their ideas gelled towards creating a studio which reflected their philosophy and style born out of their training days in Byron Bay.

In stepped their mentor, Byron Yoga Centre’s founder, John Ogilvie. The girls turned to John for advice and guidance on setting up the business and invited him to become further involved in their Nitya Sukha Yoga (Eternal Happiness Yoga) Purna studio. As Deanne says “we received in return not only the comfort of John’s open and sharing manner, but when we told of him of our plans for an open day, he instantly offered to fly down for the day to lead a free workshop”. “We were both shocked and humbled!” says Miriam. From then a supportive partnership was formed.

And so it was off with the yoga tights and on with the overalls! The girls found clear vision and renewed enthusiasm to start promoting the new studio Open Day. And while the administrative side of the business was falling into place, both girls appreciated the new studio was going to need a lot of love before it was ready for its first students.

First there was the paint. “If you’ve ever had to paint, you’ll know how much time it takes to do” muses Miriam. Friends rallied to their aide and the changes started taking shape and form – slowly!  To buy them some more time, they delayed the Open Day.

Pressure was mounting. Bookings began to roll in but still things weren’t finished. A plumbing incident the night before they were to open, brought on human waterworks (tears!), but disaster was soon averted.

Then the day arrived. Like one’s first day at school, the girls were up early. “We found ourselves at the studio by 5:00am, ” said Deanne. Nerves needed soothing, so what better way than to begin with their own practice, to, as Deanne says, “get into the zone”. Melbourne’s summer was on full throttle as outside temperatures began to rise. “It was on the way to 42 degrees outside but inside the air-conditioning proved it’s worth, ” said Miriam.

Students began arriving and so did John Ogilvie with his warm smile and overflowing enthusiasm. The first class of the day began and there was real excitement with John’s capacity workshop peaking in energy as the mercury peaked outside. The air conditioning struggled but there was no containing the love and light which spilled from the room as participants took to their practice.

“Everyone was feeling so exhilarated and inspired,” says Deanne. With fruit and ice tea, the studio and everyone inside cooled off to prepare for the final beginners class taught by Masha, herself a Byron Yoga Graduate,  and now a teacher at the Nitya Sukha Yoga centre.

The Open Day was a huge success – thanks to the support and kindness,  in no small way, of John whose enthusiasm and love showed no bounds. Nitya Sukha Yoga was born, a difficult delivery, but now showing every sign of health and longevity, with an increasing number of students coming through the doors.