Speaking with Ellen Levine reveals a woman who is congenial, amicable and focused — which makes teaching the art of yoga a natural for her. Her Sol Dance Studio is tucked inside the quaint Frederick’s Court in Solvang. In business for four years, Levine is clearly proud of her yoga, Pilates and NIA studio.

 “The studio is unique in the Valley because of our drop-in classes as well as its experienced teacher staff,” Levine explains.

Their upstairs studio is sunny and peaceful. Natural light warms the wood floors and soft (and sometimes loud) music fills the space with music that celebrates and reveres the freedom of each body’s movement.

Incredibly, the dedicated staff of eight yoga teachers shares between them 100 years of experience. It’s looks like with their enthusiasm and drive, partners Julie Samuels and Ellen Levine, as well as the remainder of their staff, have many years of yoga instruction in the Valley ahead of them.

The staff is qualified and certified in each of several specialties. Class sizes are generally small, thus offering personalized attention.

The yoga classes are offered in the mornings as well as on several evenings and on the weekends to accommodate the schedules of residents. The Sunday yoga class rotates teachers and styles and provides a glimpse of different styles and teachers.

SolDance also offers NIA classes, which consist of dynamic, fluid moves that flow with fun world music using both structured and free movement to help participants sweat, strengthen and increase their joy.

Mat Pilates classes focus on toning core muscle groups and creating a fusion between mind and body. Also on the weekly schedule are a wide variety of mind-body oriented classes ranging from belly dancing and the martial arts to kids yoga and meditation.

 

We visited with Ellen Levine this week to talk about her business. Here’s what we learned.

 

Why did you start this business?

Julie and I started the business together because we both love yoga, and we were sick of traveling to Santa Barbara to take classes. We had a group here in the Valley that had been practicing together for over five years, but we constantly moved from place to place. We decided that the Valley could support its own yoga studio.

 

What is your business background?

I have a marketing background, and Julie comes from the counseling field. We both have families and live here in the Valley.

 

What is the best piece of business advice you have been given, and who gave it to you?

Don’t start a business out of your hobby or the hobby will become the business. Obviously, we didn’t take the advice, but we have to work very hard to keep it fun and still leave time for yoga.

 

What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

The economy has hurt our business as many people have cut back on what they consider to be unnecessary or luxury spending. We maintain that a person’s health and mental focus are never a luxury but always a necessity.

 

What is the simplest thing you’ve never learned to do? Meditate.

 

What sets your business apart from your competitors’?

We have no competitors. That’s the nice thing. There is no other studio that offers yoga, NIA, and Pilates on a drop-in basis. There are no other locations in the Valley that offer the expertise in yoga that we do. We offer yoga classes for every level, from beginner to advanced.

 

What books are on your bedside table?

Always novels. Right now, it’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland.

 

Why did you choose to set up your business in the valley?

Because we live here and we love it here!

 

Where do you see your business in five years?

We hope to be in a larger space with high, vaulted ceilings, natural light and bamboo floors. We envision adding some Pilates equipment and possibly a retail operation.

 

Finally, what is on your to-do list?

Our upcoming Introduction to Yoga Weekend with Laurie Burnaby Oct. 16, 17 and 18. This workshop is ideal for anyone who has never done yoga before, and we are hoping to fill it up with people who are brand new to the studio.

 

Business:

SolDance Studio

Owner(s): Ellen Levine and Julie Samuels-Metheany

Address:

485 Alisal Road

Telephone:

(805) 686-YOGA

Hours:

See Schedule of classes online

Email address:

info@soldancestudio.com

Website:

soldancestudio.com