- Hotpod Yoga to launch individual ‘Minipods’ in its London studios for safe, socially-distant hot yoga practice
- SoulCycle, Fiit, F45 and Frame launch innovative solutions to overcome limitations caused by COVID-19
- Hotpod Yoga will reopen its Hackney studio on 24th August, followed by its Brixton studio on 14th September, and then its four remaining studios over the following months
- Co-founder Henderson believes sector will “emerge leaner, more agile and more innovative in the long run”
LONDON, United Kingdom — Europe’s largest yoga business has announced it will be launching a 2×3 metre individual Minipod to ensure a safe, socially-distanced practice when it reopens two of its studios in late August.
The inflatable studios will provide a fullly immersive hot yoga experience for one person and have been designed to mirror the atmosphere of Hotpod Yoga’s full-sized studios, with soft purple lighting and the brand’s signature aromatherapy blend.
Each Minipod is heated to 37°C and contains a smart tablet which allows customers to choose whether to attend a live-streamed class or browse through a selection of pre-recorded classes on Hotpod Home — the brand’s on-demand streaming platform which launched earlier this year.
“The Minipod is something we’ve been dreaming about for years, and we are so excited to finally see it become a reality,” Hotpod co-founder Max Henderson said of the launch.
“[England rugby captain] Owen Farrell and the England team took one to the Rugby World Cup last year and gave us phenomenal feedback. Since then, we’ve been working on making them studio-ready.
“Given the public health context, we opted to accelerate this, as they provide an even safer and more socially distant way for our customers to enjoy our classes.”
“A big negative to the business”
Speaking to Welltodo, Henderson explained that the pandemic accelerated the Minipod launch by around six months. And he admitted the company was fortunate with the timing as it was “a huge bit of innovation and an amazing response to the circumstances. Yet, overall, Henderson revealed the business and sector more generally has taken a big hit over the past six months.
In mid-March Hotpod Yoga was forced to temporarily close all of its UK studios due to the coronavirus pandemic and decided to delay reopening beyond the 24th July, when other fitness facilities in England were permitted to welcome back members.
“[Lockdown] has been a big negative hit to the business – ultimately the core has been shut down totally for 4-5 months,” co-founder Max Henderson told Welltodo.
“But, we’ve focussed on ensuring there are positives. We’ve pulled together amazingly across the network and so it’s been a real success to see everyone planning to reopen – with none [of Hotpod Yoga’s franchise studios]closing permanently.
“That says something pretty powerful about the resilience of the brand and model we’ve built. And, in the Minipods and Hotpod Home, we’re also emerging from the crisis with two totally new business lines, so that’s a real positive.”
SoulCycle Outdoor Classes, F45 Home Gym Kits, Fiit Group Classes
Hotpod Yoga’s Minipod launch follows similar innovations by wellness brands adjusting to the new COVID-secure regulations and limitations that are impacting the sector. Recently US boutique SoulCycle launched outdoor classes, aptly named SoulOutside, with music played through individual headphones instead of speakers to create a silent disco effect for riders.
Recognising the popularity of group workouts via platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet, digital fitness app Fiit has just added an on-demand group classes feature so users can schedule private workouts with their friends.
During and post-lockdown, F45 and Frame both launched versions of gym kits for members to purchase to use at home with their online classes or take to the studio as BYOK (bring your own kit) workout solutions.
Henderson believes that with the innovation the pandemic has triggered, the fitness sector will emerge leaner, more agile and more innovative in the long run.
“I think it will certainly emerge leaner,” he said. “Businesses will have really pushed to keep costs trimmed down and many of those changes are likely to stick. But there’s also been a lot of pain and damage suffered.
“Many studios have closed and will never reopen. That’s horrible to see. But, hopefully most of the strongest will survive and emerge better. And if you manage to do that, you’ve likely shown your agility and ability to innovate.
“The main trend we’ve seen is clearly a fast-tracked migration towards online,” Henderson commented. “This was inevitable, but has been fast-forwarded remarkably.”
Minipods For The Home?
Beyond online and digital, Henderson expects big innovations to come as the industry adjusts to new demands and customer behaviours. “I think that may well come. Real innovation takes time, so it’s tricky for people to respond and roll-out anything major that quickly.”
Asked if the Minipod system could be offered for the home or at travel hubs such as airports, to extend the brand’s reach beyond the studio, Henderson said it’s something the company has considered and been working on.
“It’s a huge opportunity but can only work if we get the design and experience perfect,” he told Welltodo.
“We’ve already shown Minipods are a phenomenal offering for sports teams – even more so now with teams operating in ‘bubbles’ and unable to access external instructors – so we’re seeing a lot of traction and interest in Minipods from elite sports teams. “We are then taking it one step at a time from there.”