It’s hard to believe the yoga community is anything but sun salutations and lengthy savasana. However, Katrina “Kata” Bilanchone tells New Times that her journey to taking over Miami Beach’s beloved Green Monkey yoga studio was filled with negative energy.
“A lot of the clients, even though we relocated 15 blocks, were freaking out. ‘I’m not going to that location. It’s a downgrade,'” Bilanchone says. “There was a lot of negativity from customers who would never go to that side of the beach. We started losing memberships, and even our teachers needed to sustain the business started leaving and took their clients.”
Bilanchone has been teaching yoga for a decade, starting at the now-closed Dadeland location of Corpo Yoga. She took her expertise to Green Monkey shortly after the lockdown in 2020.
“Corpo closed because of the pandemic,” she says. “I started teaching at Green Monkey. I was giving feedback to the owner, Eloy de Armas, about social media, workshops, and teacher programming, and he gave me a marketing position.”
Feeling the stress of the increased prices for commercial spaces, de Armas wanted to close the studio. But rather than close entirely, he offered Bilanchone an 80 percent share in the business, which eventually grew to total ownership. Bilanchone accepted the offer after a short reflection.
The business never closed, but customers and some instructors didn’t trust that 30-year-old Bilanchone could manage the studio.
“I was never a boss before, so I needed to step up and be a leader,” she adds. “I started to let go of teachers, and I started to hire teachers who wanted to grow and saw the vision. The culture and the community started to change.”
Now under Bilanchone’s ownership, Green Monkey made two significant pivots last spring. First, the studio moved to 736 Sixth St. — formerly Miami Life Center, owned by legendary yoga instructor Kino MacGregor. Secondly, Green Monkey, which Bilanchone calls a “meaningless moniker,” transitioned to Hanu Yoga, named after the part-human, part-primate Indian warrior god Hanuman.
Hanu Yoga, formally Green Monkey, is one of Miami Beach’s largest yoga studios.
Photo by Daniel Silva
“It was like the chimp evolving into a warrior who represented courage and self-discipline,” Bilanchone explains. “We shortened it to Hanu, which represents how Hanuman took a hit to the jaw. It was like how we were taking hits but kept going.”
The new location totals 4,000 square feet, making it one of the city’s largest yoga studios. “We never closed for even one day. There was no grace period for training. All of a sudden, we were changing the ACs, painting, dealing with the city and contractors.”
However, some customers rejected the idea of going to a studio that had to undergo renovations. “I realized that instead of catering to the crowd, I needed to let them go,” Bilanchone says. “You’re here for yoga, for the soul, and I started to say, ‘This is the journey, and you’re welcome to cancel your membership.'”
This became a red-letter day for Bilanchone, who wants to eschew big egos and $200 yoga mats. Instead, Hanu is meant to be what yoga has always been: organic energy.
A new yogi can pay $15 for a drop-in class, and Hanu’s most popular option is a six-month auto-renewal for $133 a month. Members also get perks like discounts on all events and workshops, mat storage, and two guests a month. “I actually brought down our prices,” she adds.
With around 15 instructors, Hanu offers classes beyond just your typical power or vinyasa classes, opting for breathing practices, heated and nonheated options, and the more obscure hatha yoga, a slower-paced practice.
“Most corporate studios are all power yoga and burning calories, and it’s sad that there aren’t any more yin or meditative classes,” Bilanchone says. “I added weekly breath [and] meditation classes, 30 minutes of just breathing, and it’s one of our most popular classes.”
Hanu Yoga is still in the midst of growing pains, but resistance, and a healthy dose of serendipity, are part of any yogi’s routine.
“Most of my friends told me not to be a business owner, but my childhood best friend told me to do it,” she says. “It’s a sweet deal. This opportunity never comes around.”
Hanu Yoga Studio. 736 Sixth St, Miami Beach; 305-397-8566; greenmonkey.com.