Originally from Santiago, Chile, Claudia Baeza, Owner of Pineapple Yoga + Cycling Studio, moved to Washington D.C. when she was still a child. She attended college at Boston College and later earned a Master’s and Law Degree from Boston College and Suffolk University Law School. After working part-time as an attorney and an Adjunct Professor of Design at Boston University, Baeza discovered yoga during a particularly difficult time in her life.
“My entry into yoga wasn’t from a good place,” she said. “It was around 2010 and I was recently divorced. I was dealing with some mental health issues and yoga became the best way for me to get healthy and become more balanced. I found it so empowering and it made sense to share what I learned. This was the source of Pineapple Yoga + Cycling Studio and The Dharma Footprint Project.”
In 2016, Baeza moved to Sarasota. She targeted Florida for its warm weather and, after initially thinking she wanted to live in Ft. Lauderdale, a visit to the west coast quickly changed her mind. Once settled, Baeza completed her yoga teacher training and put the wheels in motion to open her own studio.
“I initially thought I’d teach at various studios around town,” she said. “However, I found that path to be too limiting. I wanted to bring an advanced practice – a practice evolving out of classic yoga principles from the Kripalu School of Yoga. There wasn’t much of that around here, so I decided to do it myself.”
Baeza continued, “After incorporating the business, I found a great location in downtown Sarasota. My vision was to be a practical downtown-focused community yoga studio. I wanted a location that was walkable for local residents.”
Baeza shared that Pineapple Yoga studio was a self-funded project. That, along with finding qualified yoga instructors and sharing the benefits of yoga with a relatively new yoga community, presented a challenge. Nevertheless, through a combination of digital and traditional advertising and word-of-mouth referrals, the studio and the community has seen consistent growth.
“It has really become a gathering place for all walks of life, including the fragile community,” Baeza said. “Through The Dharma Footprint Project, the non-profit side of the business, we’ve developed a practice that’s specifically designed to support the needs of particular communities. We’ve identified five communities that benefit from yoga. These include ‘recovery from addiction’, ‘Parkinson’s’, ‘Veterans’, ‘Traumatic Brain Injury’ and those affected by ‘Anxiety and Depression’. We raise funds to be able to provide yoga to these communities.”
Last year, Baeza made, what she described as, “the easiest decision” to add a new element to her yoga studio.
“We added cycling,” she said. “It wasn’t just an easy decision, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It took an investment of over $25,000, but it gives us yet another way to teach and reach different people. Our cycling is not what you’d expect. It’s based on yoga principles and involves a lot of yoga stretching. Unlike traditional cycling, which is too vigorous for a lot of the population in Sarasota, our cycling is more inclusive and accessible.”
For Baeza, the joy of yoga is experiencing and sharing the benefits. She intends on spreading the love and reaching even more people.
“I get to share what I love, which is yoga, healing and meditation with the community,” she said. “Giving the gift of yoga to others has a broader and more lasting impact than anything I’ve ever done before.”
Baeza continued, “We’re currently putting our content online to reach even more people. We’re always evolving, adapting and changing to meet the needs of our community. Ultimately, we want to be an integral part of this community.”
What advice does Baeza have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “I would recommend that those interested in entrepreneurship learn or investigate and be curious about who the business leaders are in your community,” she said. “Ask for their advice. Have coffee with them. Ask them to be your mentors. They have insight and are capable of helping you. I’ve become that go-to person for a lot of younger people especially young women that are starting their businesses. Because of this, I’m gaining a reputation as a team leader in the community. Also, be as lean as you can. Businesses have good seasons and bad seasons. Be a planner so you can ride the wave when it’s quiet. Lastly, follow your truth and act ethically. Treat people how you would want to be treated.”