Bikram yoga studio shuts over competition, weak economy and founder's poor health

Diane Lee, director of Bych Hot Yoga, revealed that she had hepatitis C and decided to pull the plug on the business.
Diane Lee, director of Bych Hot Yoga, revealed that she had hepatitis C and decided to pull the plug on the business.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 10-year-old yoga studio has shut its doors for good, citing competition, a weak economy and its founder's poor heath as reasons for its sudden closure.

Bych Hot Yoga, formerly known as Bikram Yoga City Hall, closed after its last class at Regency House on Sunday morning.

In an e-mail announcing the closure to members on Friday (April 8), its director, Taiwanese-Canadian Diane Lee, said the studio has been "facing uphill battles" since last June.

"Regardless (of the) various approaches I tried, none of them seemed to work. I would have loved to keep trying but accumulated stress has exhausted me," she wrote.

She revealed that she had hepatitis C, and decided to pull the plug on the business so as to start her treatment in Taiwan as soon as possible.

The e-mail, which was also posted on Bych's website, said the studio was working on two solutions for members. It will either refund members - the money will come from the sale of Ms Lee's house - or get another hot yoga studio to take over the operations.

Ms Roxanne Goh, a manager and instructor at Bych, told The Straits Times that it is in talks with a few studio owners keen to take over the business, and hence has not decided what will happen to members and their packages.

"If all goes well, we should ideally come to a decision by the end of this week (at the earliest)," she said.

Ms Lee is credited with bringing Bikram yoga - known for its celebrity fans such as actress Jennifer Aniston and singer Sting - to Singapore in 2006. She has been managing every aspect of the business and financing the studio, said Ms Goh.

"However, with high competition, a depressed economy, rising costs and difficulties with manpower, all these factors make the running of the studio even more challenging. With her current state of health, she is incapable of undertaking further stress," said Ms Goh.

"To ensure that the brand and the quality of the studio's classes and management are not jeopardised, the difficult decision is to cease operations."

The Consumers Association of Singapore said it has yet to receive any complaints about Bych's sudden closure.

Bych had stopped selling prepaid membership packages from April 1. In 2008, it was reported that the yoga studio had 4,000 members.

A Bych member of five years, who declined to be named, said he bought a package of 100 classes for about $2,500 a year ago and was surprised by the abruptness of the closure.

"Everything seemed to be normal. Diane published the class schedule for the week (on Monday) and suddenly, on Friday night, I got the e-mail about the closure," he said. "We had no time to react to the news."