WSB Inspiring Woman: Bethany Al Haidari – Oz Yoga Studio

WSB Inspiring Woman: Bethany Al Haidari – Oz Yoga Studio

     Tell us about yourself?

I’m a single mother to my beautiful Zaina, I am originally from the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. I am a PhD Candidate in Human Rights Law and a lover of yoga, travel and handstands.

     What made you start Oz? 

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after I gave birth to my daughter. I struggled being away from my friends and family in Saudi as a new parent for the first time. Yoga helped me through that battle, everything I practised on the mat was a metaphor for things going on in my life. It allowed me to reconnect with myself after many years of being lost, it became something I wanted to share with the community.

     How long have you been in business in Riyadh?

I opened up my home studio and took on my first client in January of 2017, I was granted the SAGIA license in May of 2018. Running a home studio and an actual studio are incomparable, but the home studio process was a necessity for me to be prepared for what would come. 

     Have you had formal training or are you self-taught?

My journey started with youtube and Instagram, I was inspired by others and learned from them. I was formally trained and registered first with CorePower Yoga in 2016, then did my first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Certification in 2017, I continued with further training in India and Bali to also be certified in Kalari Prana Vinyasa and Aerial Yoga. In yoga, as in life, nobody is truly “self taught”, we all have teachers in some form or another.  

     What does Oz Yoga offer?

An incredible family of clients, staff, and instructors who are there for transformation and self-inquiry. We also have Yoga classes of many different varieties. For kids, for adults, for women, for men,  and for people of all backgrounds and levels. We also offer yoga retreats around the world and teacher trainings for individuals looking to become Certified Yoga Instructors..

     What makes Oz unique?

OZ focuses only on yoga and how to look deeper into our personal journeys. We try to integrate the ethics of the practice into the business model, and try to encourage personal practice among our members. We are a small start up, we are proud to clean up after ourselves, we try our best to offer reasonable prices, and we try to accept everyone where they are at. We are not a gym or studio, we are a safe space where people use breath, mindfulness, and movement to dive deeper into their own journey and in connection to the community around them. 

     What is a typical day like for you?

Each day with the studio looks different, but I never have an alarm clock as my daughter wakes me up at 6am every morning. I make her breakfast and get her ready and drop her off at school, then return to the studio to teach private sessions throughout the day or whatever scheduled classes I have. I clean the studio a couple times a day, check people into classes, organize the schedule with the teachers each week, post to social media daily, try to organize events for the studio, plan new retreats, respond to social media, email and phone calls, head to the bank, pay bills. Saturday is my day off, but a lot of weeks I don’t have a day off. Some days I pop in and out of the studio and run errands and teach private sessions. Other days I am there from 9am to 10pm. It all depends. Every minute I have free from the studio I’m with my daughter.

     What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Yoga attracts some really great human beings, and I’ve met such an incredible community of people who have loved, supported me and uplifted me more than they will ever know. I love to see them develop in their journey, and in yoga we deal with some pretty deep life issues, I love going there.  The other incredible thing is the family of teachers that we have working at the studio. 

      What is the hardest part about your work?

Opening a new business is so difficult. Also, coming from a yoga studio culture in the USA that is very well developed, being the first studio of our kind in Saudi Arabia was difficult to try to create a new business model and culture in the community. The first three months I worked 80-90 hour weeks, and didn’t have a single day off. Being a single mom, going through divorce and some very deep life stuff on top of that was so tough. I struggle with being a business owner and having to pay bills. It’s hard to have something you love that you want to offer to everyone for free, but cannot. Turning passion into business has its perks, and its also difficult as we’ve had thousands of people through the studio now, its harder to get to know everyone who visits on a deeper level.

      Tell us about your journey of starting your own business in Riyadh.

I had been running a yoga studio from my home, as yoga was previously not permitted in the Kingdom, and as far as I knew foreigners couldn’t open start ups. When my ex-husband quit his job I was faced with the reality that I didn’t have anyone to depend on to raise my daughter but myself. I used my savings from private clients and teaching out of the home to get my license from SAGIA. I had to battle to find a government sponsored individual to hear my business plan and financial projections for the company. When the vision plan for the company was approved by the head of the Entrepreneurship institute, I partnered with my dear friend and long-time client Diana who invested into the idea and believed in me. Together we expanded and battled in government ministries to get all the required approvals, which seemed endless. I started the legalization process in May and we opened our doors in September. We started with not a single riyal in the bank, and have had to build everything from scratch and hire help little by little. It wasn’t the smartest way to start a company or the easiest, but we have had an incredible team that has worked their hearts out to make sure it would survive. I hope it continues to do so.

     What advice would you give women considering starting their own business in the Kingdom?

I would say it’s a battle. Get a good lawyer. Be super detailed and clear about everything so that there is no confusion. Be diligent about your vision and trust what you uniquely have to offer. Listen to the people around you but trust your intuition. Also, there is always someone out there doing the same thing as you, don’t compete – support each other. There are so many things that should be simple here, but are so complicated and nothing is what it seems. Arabic is a must. If you don’t speak Arabic, you NEED someone who absolutely trust with your life to carry you through. 

     Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?

To OZ yoga studio of course! 

      Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

My motto always changes depending on my life season – but right now I’m inspired by trying to be the best example of unwavering strength, of resilience, and grit to my lovely daughter Zaina. My girl is a Saudi American, and I want her to know that even in the most difficult of circumstances, as an outsider – mommy could do it here, and did it for her. Or she tried her best anyways…

Contact Information & Social Media

My personal Instagram : @Zainas_Mama

OZ Yoga Studio: @OZ_yoga_studio

Om Zaina Yoga Company 

7320 Amr Ahdhamry Street, Suite 67

Diplomatic Quarters, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 12512

+966 538 000 126

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