It is my privilege to set out why we have built The Present of Yoga and some of the thinking that has guided that process.

In a 2016 filled with constant competition for your attention I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to visit this platform. I hope you find it to be a valuable resource to share freely and generously with your peers and friends. Please do email me directly (niraj@tpoyoga.com) with your feedback – I would love to hear your ideas and comments. 

The Present of Yoga – How & Why

I re-engaged with yoga in 2010 when recovering from suffering a stroke at the age of 30.  As a child, growing up in the UK’s Indian community and attending a Hindu youth volunteer organisation it was normal for us to do surya namaskars and some basic asana as a part of our physical exercises. My yoga practice stopped as I grew into adolescence. 

In my post stroke recovery the only physical activity I was permitted to do was yoga. I enrolled on a 6 part foundation course in Iyengar Yoga because I literally had no other choice; it was do yoga or do nothing. Doing nothing was not an option because I had committed to getting back on a snowboard within a year. From the first session I immediately started enjoying the way my body and mind felt during and after.

Back on a snowboard!

Back on a snowboard!

After the Iyengar course, with the help of YouTube and a book given to me by my yoga teacher mother-in-law, it would be almost 6 years until I set foot in a yoga studio again!

When I started my first business in 2012 yoga became a daily ritual at home, often just 15-20 minutes of basic asana practice last thing at night, as it was the only thing that would calm my hyper-busy mind down enough to let me sleep. Of course the physical benefits were very welcome by-products but over the years it’s principally the huge mental benefits that have served me in abundance. 

Last year, in summer 2015, I wrote this blog post about my stroke, the aftermath, starting my first business and my intention to move my focus and energies to the healthcare or “wellbeing” industries.

In recent years “wellbeing” has largely become my way of life and identity but from summer 2015 I started really getting to know the sector beyond being just an avid consumer of it. I did this through advising some businesses in that space, evaluating a large number of investment opportunities, meeting lots of incredible wellness entrepreneurs and attending every industry event that I could get to. A year of immersion to try to understand all facets ranging from food, gyms, studios, fitness, technology, clothing and beyond.

During all of that progress I had never considered yoga as an area to look into. Although I had witnessed it gain huge commercial traction in recent years, for me yoga had always been something I did at home and I gave it no further thought. Often we don’t see what’s in front of our eyes…

In May this year, I got curious about the “business of yoga” but I couldn’t find the quality of information that I was looking for. “What interesting things are happening in yoga? Who’s innovating? How is the industry evolving? What is driving the growth? What problems exist in yoga? How are people’s needs and wants not being adequately met?” And so on… so I decided to build what I couldn’t find!

I quickly learned that the “business of yoga” is a contentious issue; the dichotomy of a pure and ancient spiritual practice that in the present day has been colonised, industrialised, commercialised, packaged and in some cases bastardised. A huge benefit of this latter development is that it has opened up the practice to millions. In a world overflowing with distraction, instant gratification, selfie culture and stress it feels like yoga – both in physical asana form and meditation – has never been more needed.

Utkatasana (chair pose) at a Planet Manna rooftop wellness festival, summer 2016. Image: Planet Manna

The Present of Yoga – What

In a nutshell this is intended to be a globally relevant resource sharing and connection platform whose goal is to empower yoga leaders and teachers around the world so that they may serve more people, more effectively.

I am joined in this endeavour by co-founders Dorry Golden & Ben Towns, both of whom have rich backgrounds in entrepreneurship and life that complement my own experiences. Each of us has started and run our own businesses, travelled and lived in different parts of the world and are dedicated to healthy bodies and minds.

We do not have backgrounds in publishing or journalism, which I consider to give us a degree of advantage. Firstly, it keeps us blissfully unaware of some of the challenges that lie ahead. Secondly, because we are applying a combination of logic, intuitive creativity and advice from our audience to create a genuinely useful resource rather than applying existing publishing or media industry knowledge and norms, which may have potential limitations.

urbanmeditation

Ancient spiritual practice in a modern commercial world. Image: Urban Meditation by our friend & renowned yoga photographer Alessandro Sigismondi.

We believe that over time the overarching principles of success and happiness do not change, but strategies and tactics do. Therefore we see it as a key part of our mission to draw out those principles, strategies and tactics in the stories we feature. I suspect that over time there will be a set of core narratives that we will revisit in different contexts. They may seem basic in their nature, but when applied they are highly effective.

As our interactions in life seem to become more superficial, with attention spans shortening as the pace of technological development quickens, we message, text or email instead of calling or meeting. We have social media friends who we know are not real friends. We are part of a society that is becoming conditioned to expect instant gratification. The Present of Yoga chooses to go by the maxim of “lower volume, higher quality”. Depth is important to us. We don’t intend to produce a huge volume of content, but will go deeper and draw out stories that are applicable and usable in the real world – not just the “what” but an insight into the “how”. 

This is our vision, no doubt the execution will evolve. We hope to stay true to our aims of unlocking usable ideas, knowledge and tools for today and tomorrow’s leaders in yoga. Thank you once again for your time, attention and support for us in this movement.  

With gratitude,

Niraj