A brief, not so distant history of Yoganomics.
The word Yoganomics seems like a foreign term in relation to yoga, doesn’t it?
When Yoganomics came to me, there was only one thing clear to me: the big yoga corporations were (a.) Inflating the worth of yoga as an industry and (b.) the actual doers of yoga (the teachers, studios around the country) weren’t getting a quarter of the credit they deserved.
The economic tides were in a constant mind (flux), during a searingly dark time for our country. I am a heretic by nature, and the inside of me hardens at hearing abundant words, or positive sales spin on every situation – even though there is some value in those types of terminologies, I could only see my own glowering realism as the predominant point of view.
In the four years I was working at Yoga Journal magazine, I underwent a large amount of changes personally, as well as learning to accept working in a truly corporate environment. My yoga teachers meant the world to me. I went from being a true novice to practicing to exhaustion, to finally getting an understanding of my discipline. I had the same five regular yoga teachers for all four years I worked there: Sarana Miller (Ana Forest), Charu Rachalis (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar), Jason Crandall (Iyengar based Hatha Vinyasa), Richard Rosen (Iyengar), Stacey Rosenberg (Anusara). On the rare days that a teacher couldn’t make it, other regular teachers were Deb Burkeman (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ana Forest), Jennifer Rodrigue (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – Iyengar Influenced) and Dina Amsterdam (Yin Yoga), and Chrissy Graham (Anusara Yoga). As a rule of thumb, I tried to make it to yoga usually 6 days of week, and most weeks I succeeded, however doing yoga all the time can take its toll on you emotionally as well as physically.
I handled the largest number of small business advertisers within Yoga Journal:
- Yoga Journal Directory
- Yoga Classifieds
- Online Marketplace
- Living Well Section
All of these sales arenas allowed me an extremely close view of Yoga Journal and the yoga industry as a whole. I knew hundreds of studio owners world wide, developed the yoga studio directory into a more lucrative position for the magazine, wrote the business model for the video podcasting and made it profitable. I created the name for the “iPractice” iPhone app, (which actually Yoga Journal has now trademarked… iPractice Trademark Serial #: 77869400). I am a natural business thinker and Yoga Journal benefited a lot because I could read trends before they happened.
What I heard from my advertisers was ‘less sales pitch, less assumed results and more concrete results and factual data about the yoga industry.’ Because of my approachable demeanor and my ability to talk small business with my advertisers, I was embraced with warmth and positive feedback. From that point on, as the times of the recession kept getting worse, any success I had at Yoga Journal was because of my customers and a realistic approach to life. Many of my customers were small business owners, sole proprietors or Limited Liability businesses, living in the very real economy, and they were hurting. They said they needed more information based decisions, to allow them the freedom to easily identify problems. Yoga Small businesses need workable solutions that are based in reality, not just a sales sheet. I find that people respond well to my realistic approach.
During the four years of working at Yoga Journal more advertisers visited me than perhaps anyone else there. People would fly from all over the world to have lunch and catch a glimpse of the offices of where Yoga Journal the largest and most successful yoga specific media entity was published.
Yoganomics is a by-product of my time and employment at Yoga Journal. When I came up with the term in 2006, while at my own home, I knew it was directly influenced by conversations I have had with some of the employees, but especially with friends like Les Leventhal and Ex-Yogi Times San Francisco Editor – Lisa Maria, as well as actual conversations I had with many of my advertisers.
I didn’t need any prompting, I laid the groundwork, thinking that Yoga Journal would completely support the idea. I even got a Yoga Journal editor to collaborate with me: Diane Anderson Senior Editor of Yoga Journal. We filmed two episodes of “Ordinary Yoga™” & “Yoganomics®.”
Once they were completed and edited, Diane and I “viewed” them with my boss Bill Harper, publisher of Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times, the GM of the Active Interest Media “Healthy Living Magazines,” Pat Fox, Diane Anderson (co-collaborator and Senior Editor of Yoga Journal) and Lisa Wolford, my immediate boss.
I covered products in the first episode of Ordinary Yoga and interviewed Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi, from Laughing Lotus, for the second episode of Ordinary Yoga. The videos weren’t shot professionally, and I wasn’t really familiar with the whole concept of filming yet. Even though the response was of interest and I was almost commended for expending the effort… I was inevitably shot down.
They did, however, like the business plan I had written for the episodes. Within six months Yoga Journal had yoga podcasts on yoga classes, using, of course, the exact business model that I had created. It honestly baffles me how they did not see the vision of Yoganomics, but what are you going to do? The past is over for a reason. Let’s move on.
And I did move on… I was committed to Yoganomics by purchasing the domains, and continued to work for Yoga Journal. As I later figured out for myself, the real reason they didn’t want to support Yoganomics, wasn’t because they didn’t see the validity or the need, it’s that Yoga Journal is already an established business, and Yoganomics inevitably does not fit into the scope of Yoga Journal’s pre-established business.
As time went on I felt compelled to start Yoganomics. Business-wise it made sense, and business to consumer-wise, it made complete sense, but my immediate boss Lisa Wolford, the publisher Bill Harper, and the company that owned Yoga Journal, were monotonously not interested. Believe me… I tried every angle I could to get Yoga Journal to throw some money at the Yoganomics idea to start it, but they repeatedly and quite consistently said no.
There was something that changed for me about six months after they said “no” the last time. After a pivotal discussion with a colleague in a separate industry, I made a conscious decision not to go above and beyond for work any longer. No more staying late unless it was necessary, I knew it then, just as I know it for certain now, that I had drawn a line and it was just a matter of time. I also knew it would have been utterly counterproductive for me to start a side business for Yoganomics when I had already pitched to them. They had already made it very clear that whatever I did while I was at Yoga Journal belonged to Yoga Journal. So after Yoga Journal laid me off, I felt I had no choice but to start Yoganomics.
In 2009 I had accompanied Les Leventhal to the first Wanderlust to film him. One evening after we met about the logistics of our business relationship, (since I was still working at Yoga Journal), he looked at me and said, “Can’t you feel it? We are right on the edge of something big… Something is happening and it’s exciting.” For once, I was slow to answer, because I felt like I had been told “no” so often I had learned not to trust the excitement I felt. After he left, I walked to the park and I could hardly sit still. I knew he had been right, but not about us teaming up together, but about me finally having the courage to do what I should have done years before… start Yoganomics.
Without knowing it, the idea for Yoganomics the business was given to me and had been percolating in my head through talking to my customers. I had no idea where to start, and so far, I have made tons of mistakes.
Hecklers and the naysayers of yoga tell me all the time that the term Yoganomics doesn’t have a place in yoga, because “money and yoga don’t mix.” I understand what people mean, and I disagree with them for mainly two reasons.
- There is money running throughout yoga, and for the most part, yoga is ruled by the yoga corporations that have the money. Corporations are not strangers to money, in fact, they have fooled most people into believing that “corporations” are spiritual entities. People refer to actual product companies as being spiritual entities. In truth, their marketing is really good and the consumers bought into it. The result is that the actual teachers and small studios have very little influence on what is shaping yoga.
- For years, successful yoga teachers have been their own boss. That means that they became solution focused entrepreneurs. Anyone bogged down in the semantics of “classifying” yoga has blinders on as they ride the bus. It isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about how you can grow… how you can surpass your own limitations. Instead of being led by pseudo spiritual corporate marketing, earn more money by getting smarter at the things you should have been doing in the first place.
If I didn’t feel strongly about Yoganomics, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. And trust me… most of the reasons I didn’t do it sooner was because I was just plain scared. But in my “exit interview” at Yoga Journal, I specifically asked both my boss, Lisa Wolford and General Manager, Patricia Fox, “if Yoga Journal had a non-compete agreement,” and they responded with, “No, Skip [Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Active Interest Media] doesn’t believe in “no compete agreements”.”
So I had all the permission I ever needed, the only thing that was left to be in my way is me.
In comparison to other jobs I have had, I love Yoga Journal and most of the employees. YJ is hands down one of the best “jobs” that I have ever had. In many ways it’s where everything started for me, where I noticed my niche with Yoga Teachers and Studios, and it eventually left me with no choice but to start Yoganomics.
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