Interview with Leila Burrows from The Pad Studios

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One of my favorite things about blogging is that feeds my curiosity and it gives me an excuse to ask people a lot of questions.

I’ve always wondered how it’s like to run your own yoga studio. The idea of it sounds so perfect….it’s like I have this preconceived notion that those who dedicate their careers/lives to yoga are somehow more fulfilled and happy.

But I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s all butterflies & daisies (or lotuses & asanas?) – running your own yoga studio is a business, just like it is to run your own restaurant, law practice, or even your start-up. I wanted to learn more what it’s like to run your own yoga studio from Leila Burrows, co-founder of The Pad Studios, after one of our morning practices.


After a morning power yoga session, Leila and I sat down on the floor of the airy, well-lit studio and chatted about her journey with yoga and The Pad Studios.

Why did you open The Pad Studios?

LB: It was sort of random. Lily (Lily Horowitz now Lily Riesenfeld) and I had best friends from high school and were also both living in LA. Lily was a pilates teacher and Lily had her own studio called The LilyPad. Even though we led different lives, we would go to yoga together at Maha Yoga, which ended up being the inspiration for The Pad – wood floors, white walls, and fun music.

In the Bay Area, all the studios in the east bay felt “hippy-dippy” or catered to a different kind of clientele. We felt there was a need for something fresh, modern, and clean. We started cultivated this dream and it was all kind of chatter.

One day at dinner Lily mentioned that she fell in love some with someone back up in the Bay and she’s moving back…she then stated “why don’t we go and open that studio together?”

It was one of those moments where words went through one ear and head said “yes”.

I did my yoga teacher training in March 2008, moved home in April, and 10 months later studio opened. At first we were looking at in SOMA, but were weren’t finding the right space. Then one day, she walked by this space that used to be this interior design showroom, and Lily had her dream and we did exactly that.

Let’s talk about the business aspect of The Pad. How has it grown and changed?

LB: At first we only have the space that is now the Pilates studio and then this room became available, and Lily and I were like “oh my gosh…all the windows, the light, etc.”… but that also meant increasing our rent by 100%. .

We acquired this place two and a half years ago and that was the best move we ever did. We went from 22 person packed classes to 55-person packed classes, and that is what ends up paying the bills. The income is increased by the number of students in the room, so it’s all working out.

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Did you feel like you had the right business acumen going into it? Or did you learn a lot on the spot?

LB: Both Lily and I are smart, educated, can-do women. Both of our fathers are very business-minded and we both had very different skillsets. We learned a lot along the way.

I knew a lot about hospitality, customer service from the hotel business and Lily is extremely talented with visual design.

My plan was to go to business school, everyone in my family went to GSB or Harvard Business School, and this was a crash course in entrepreneurship. You are wearing all the hats, which for me, has been massively fulfilling.

Final question before I had to get to work: Do you have any mottos/mantras you live by…and that you want your students to potentially live by?

LB: Hmmm wow that’s such a great question I haven’t been asked that. Um, you know of course I have mottos that I have always said like “work hard, play hard” or “everything in moderation” specifically around the diet/food conversation that comes up.

People spend so much time talking about what they are eating and they are not really paying attention to how they are acting in the world. It’s really not that interesting if you are gluten-free, or dairy-free, or alcohol-free…etc. it matters what you are saying what you are speaking, starting with the message that you say to yourself.

You know you’ve asked me a question that I’m going to contemplate for the rest of the day. I don’t know if I can tell you what is my mantra or motto but when I come to the mat…the yoga practice constantly brings me back to the recognition that I have the power to chose.

I have the power to choose my reaction. I have the power to choose my contribution. I have the power to choose everything – the way I set-up my life, the company that I keep, the choices that I make.

Yoga continues to be the most steady part of my life. I tend to be fast-paced, high functioning, and hold myself to high standards. They are all good things but it’s really nice to have that 2×6 space on that mat to have something to come back to.

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P.S. Come find Leila at the Pad Studios on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 6:30 AM. I would love to have you join me for a class!

Leila Burrows, co-founder of The Pad Studios shares what it is like run a yoga and pilates business

Author: Akansha