When Marla Pelletier found herself struggling to maintain her yoga practice, she was inspired to leave her desk job and turn her passion into a career.
After receiving her yoga teacher certification in India, Pelletier came back to the U.S. and started teaching at studios and with private clients on top of her full-time job working in advertising. But balancing work, a family and life in general, Pelletier was forced to put yoga on the back burner. After a while, she realized she felt personally inspired to teach yoga, and it was time to answer her calling.
Pelletier began Inward Office, a company that brings yoga and wellness classes to the workplace, in 2007. In the beginning, it was just Pelletier teaching at different locations, but when her husband was transferred to Washington D.C., she realized she needed to do some hiring if she wanted to continue the business remotely. Since then, Pelletier has accumulated 20 teachers who function as independent contractors for Inward Office.
By 2013, Pelletier and her family had moved back to Rochester, and she’s been running the business locally ever since. Inward Office’s client list contains some prominent local names: the University of Rochester, Rochester Regional Health and Canandaigua National Bank. The most popular class that employers have been requesting is a weekly yoga fundamentals class.
“Our yoga class that is more on the gentle side is our most popular offering,” says Pelletier. “Our clients don’t want to be risky; we don’t want to have injuries. Beyond that, a lot of clients have started to go toward meditation classes.”
Employers can schedule a one-hour class or two 25-minute sessions, which Pelletier notes has been growing in popularity. Besides basic yoga, Inward Office classes include active yoga, Pilates, Zumba and toning. In addition to weekly classes, Inward Office also holds workshops for clients in areas such as stress relief yoga, mindful eating and meditation.
“The overarching theme within our services is mindful movement and helping to bring about present moment awareness,” says Pelletier. “We also do a mindful eating course, which is one of our newer offerings. The mindful eating course basically focuses on why you are eating what you’re eating and how you eat. Instead of focusing on the rules and the limits, you’re turning your attention inward and noticing what you really need.”
Working full time, having a family and maintaining a social life can make it difficult to find time to hit the gym. This is where Inward Office steps in and provides clients a midday break to give them an energy boost to power through the rest of their day.
“Inward Office makes it easier for employees to exercise—especially people with kids—because most of our classes are during the workday,” says Pelletier. “If we’re doing a daytime class, I explicitly tell the client that we’re not getting sweaty. If you want to do a sweaty class, do it at the end of the day.”
Running a successful business comes with its fair share of challenges, which Pelletier consistently works to overcome. She notes that conveying the value of yoga and meditation to clients is something she tirelessly strives to accomplish.
“I feel like I have this jewel that I’m holding on to that can help you in so many facets of your life, but people don’t value it as much,” says Pelletier. “But once you start practicing yoga or meditation, you notice that it really does help. After starting classes at UR 10 years ago, I can go sub one of those initial classes and see the same employees that are still going after 10 years because they see the value in it.”
Growing a business for the last 10 years has been an extensive learning experience and a means of getting to know many types of people in the local community.
“I find that people in the wellness field are generally really nice,” says Pelletier. “There’s a strive to become a better person every day, and there’s a level of encouragement and camaraderie that’s there.”
Pelletier credits her husband for introducing the word “coopetition” into her vocabulary. In regard to other yoga studios and gyms, Pelletier notes that they’re all working toward the same goal of getting people away from their desks and toward a healthy, active lifestyle.
Ten years after starting Inward Office, Pelletier’s top priority remains bringing wellness into the workplace in order to improve people’s lives and create a healthier community.
“In the workplace wellness course they talk about work/life balance, and I feel like the overriding point is that there is no work/life balance,” says Pelletier. “You’re going to get personal calls at work and work calls at home; it’s all very fluid. Having some technique that impacts all parts of your life is the jewel in your life. You’re going to have better relations with people, you’re going to understand people better, you’re going to be able to relax at night and sleep better.”
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