Indra Kubicek is the creator of om exchange, an online platform to connect yogis to yoga experiences. Her day job is Director at The Raspberry Pi Foundation, building an international tech education programme teaching children coding and digital making skills. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, with roots from both India and the Czech Republic, she moved to London in 2007 and teaches yoga in East London.
Indra spoke to The Present of Yoga about how and why she started this project and where it’s got to now.
What is om exchange?
I started om exchange as a community driven project with an aim to share yoga with more people around the world, to connect yogis, yoga teachers, advanced practitioners and novices alike.
Our platform allows yoga teachers and event organisers to post their events for free. People can share and find yoga retreats, festivals, workshops and a variety of other events. Anyone can add an event that they want to share, not just the organiser or teacher.
Many yogis and yoga teachers have been involved in the evolution of om exchange to make it what it is today. All of them are passionate about bringing yoga to more people and supporting yoga teachers to reach a wider audience.
We’ve just launched a lot of new functionality and are are still testing the site so we’re asking everyone to try it out, be patient, and please let us know how you get on!
Why did you start it?
It started with a pure love of yoga and wanting to show my gratitude to a practice which I owe so much of myself to. I first came to a yoga mat about 10 years ago when I was still living in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada. I was looking for a way to de-stress during some tough exams as I trained to become a Chartered Accountant. I really just wanted to be able to sleep for the nights between the 3 days of the exam and I thought “Maybe I will try yoga for a week. It can’t be that hard, right?”.
Little did I know I was about to embark on a lifelong journey. I have always had a very active mind, the kind that never stops. I remember being completely overwhelmed after that first vinyasa class, firstly by the physical challenge of the practice but then beyond the physical it was the way I felt after I left the studio. As I drove home I remember feeling something had shifted, as if I was moving through the world in a more calm and balanced way. My mind felt different, clearer and more relaxed. All that noise just seemed to slow down and take a bit of a back seat. It felt incredible. I felt more myself than I had ever been. I decided then and there that I needed to keep going back. I wanted to figure out what was happening to me. That’s when the journey began.
The idea to build om exchange came in late 2012. After taking a leap of faith in quitting my job in finance with no idea what to do next, I found myself connecting more to my yoga passion. When I thought about how important yoga had been to me and what a gift it can be for all of us, I realised I wanted to help other people find this too.
I had trained as yoga teacher earlier that year but at the time I did not feel ready to teach, I was still a bit too shy. But I really wanted to share yoga with more people – a lot of people. During that time friends were regularly asking me about where to go on yoga holidays or how to find other yoga events because over the years been to many of these. I found myself constantly making recommendations.
That was when it dawned on me that there was a real lack of the use of technology within the yoga world. I realised I couldn’t find a good online yoga resource with this information so I decided to create one! I thought it would be so wonderful if this was done in a community sourced way.
In 2013 om exchange began as a blog, with me writing about things happening in the yoga world and then many others in the yoga community wanted to contribute too. We had around 40 bloggers contribute in the next 2 years. Unfortunately then I had to really focus on my new job and had to let om exchange take a back seat for about a year. However it still lived in me and I never totally let it go.
Earlier this year I decided to give it another shot and I am happy to say the platform I have always wanted soft-launched this summer. There are definitely a lot more online resources for yoga now than when I started this journey but I still believe we offer something different and valuable.
What mistakes have you made that other yogis can learn from?
The first mistake was that I moved too quickly into designing a complicated build which never transpired into a functioning site. What I needed to do was slow down and stay focused on solving a specific problem with a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP). The site we’ve just relaunched is a more simplified version of the original ‘plan’ and focuses on yoga events. I think it is a simpler and more inviting site.
There are so many ways you can build a business, a project, or anything you choose to do with your life. There will always be people telling you their opinions, which can be helpful, but also you need to know what feels right to you.. You need to be sure that those choices are aligned with your personal values or you can get side-tracked very easily on a path to someone else’s dream. As us yogis know, through the practice of yoga and meditation, we can stay focused by keeping connected to ourselves and our deeper calling.
If you were starting again from scratch now, what advice would you give yourself?
To believe in myself more. I was so intimidated to put myself out there. I had the idea nearly 4 years ago but it has taken a while to fully formulate since I never thought I could be someone who could build something from scratch – mainly out of fear, shyness and an overall lack of confidence. When I look back, I’ve learned so much by having to face those fears and put myself out there time and time again. The only thing that kept me going at times was that I believe so much in the benefits of yoga, on and off the mat. I felt I owed it to the world to share a way to find it, no matter how hard it was to get over my fear.
What excites you about the next steps in its development?
What excites me most about the project is that there is so much potential for more people to get involved and benefit from the platform. We are always looking for other creative ways of involving more people. It makes me really happy to connect and share more of all the great yoga stuff happening out there.
Om exchange has been a personal investment and passion project for about 4 years and I recognise that in order for it to grow and develop into what I want it to be, it will need more investment. So I am thinking about ways the site could be both open to the community and also have a paid element. I would consider “freemium” models so that there is always some elements of the site which are open and free for all to use.
How can people connect with om exchange & you?
If you are based in London you can usually find me out and about at yoga events! I can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit the site, follow us on social media where we’re always sharing fun, upcoming events or invite us to attend a yoga event you’re running. We do our best to get out to support the local yoga community!
The Present of Yoga’s takeaway
Simplicity and focus – were the key to Indra’s eventual progress. It’s tempting to try and be everything to everyone, but today’s successful offerings almost always start by finding a small niche to serve and over-delivering in it.