In 2013, Jessi Lipowitz founded aUM Yoga, a yoga studio and school for fitness and spirituality aficionados. She subsequently founded Polarity in 2017, a pole dancing studio and event space for parties, bondings, and workout classes. Both of these businesses are unique to the Ann Arbor area, and prior to the pandemic, Lipowitz recalls that both spaces were incredibly popular, with tons of students and clients engaged in the various aspects of her businesses.

However, on March 11, 2020, the world changed. No longer could you walk into a yoga or fitness class without fearing for your health and safety. Polarity and aUM Yoga responded proactively to the pandemic concerns, closing their doors prior to the government mandate, left only with the hope that things would be back to normal by the next fall semester.

Both businesses immediately felt the impact of the pandemic as students fled from campus back to their homes. She explains, “we are intimately connected with the UM community, so we were really impacted by students not being on campus.” In combination with the shift to online coursework and the extension of Winter Break, the hopes of returning to normalcy for the Fall 2021 semester ultimately fell short.

Despite these setbacks, Lipowitz and her team responded almost immediately by making key changes in their business. “I want to keep the community engaged by creating a sacred space and outlet for people to help with their mental health during this time,” she recalls. She began releasing free content on YouTube to achieve that goal, creating up to 45 free classes within the first month of their closure. In addition, she started live-streaming on Vimeo for paid on-demand content, creating a virtual schedule for Yoga in real time to help her existing clients stay on track with their progress and also teaches pole dancing classes on Zoom.

In combination with these content efforts, Lipowtiz emphasized a need to connect with the Ann Arbor community. Her team held a free week of socially distanced classes with over 1500 people in attendance, helped with fundraising for different initiatives and community partners, and used her social media channels to promote content and engage with local and student organizations. Furthermore, she was able to transition her entire aUM Yoga Teacher Training curriculum to a virtual format, ensuring that her students were able to continue honing their craft from home.

aUM Yoga and Polarity are incredible examples of businesses that were able to pivot effectively in this tumultuous time. Lipowitz says, “The fitness world will be forever changed; however, the ability for people to practice yoga and engage in the teacher training all over the world as well as the creation of content that will last forever are some changes that we plan to keep post-pandemic.” If anything, the pandemic has offered more accessibility to individuals that otherwise would have been unable to partake in the practices that these amazing businesses have to offer.

But, aUM Yoga and Polarity still need your support! Check out their YouTube channel, on-demand content through Vimeo, and live sessions over Zoom.