By Ali Valdez
Sometime last month, I launched an extension of my in-person teacher training and in studio offerings to online: The Sattva Yoga Channel. This took a lot of quid, hundreds of hours of my time sans pay, a dev and project management team and of course some super awesome teachers. It is only one small part, that first baby step, into a grander vision to make the Sattva yoga brand of yoga more available and as Sattvists do retreats and workshops around the world a bona fide way to stay connected to the people they meet along the way. The journey of yoga is life-long one, one that cannot be captured in a weekend intensive or master class. It means the world to me to maintain real connection; I loathe the transactional nature of the yoga celebrity who drops into town, dazzle you for two hours with their brilliance, take your cash and is off never to remember your name, your body, or to connect in for the long haul. Those that can make connection that quickly are rare and kudos to them.
From that perspective, the channel was born out of desire.
I lead multiple teacher trainings, sometimes simultaneously. On some days I am teaching Hot Hatha, Meditation, Pranayama, Yin, Vinyasa, specialized Vinyasa techniques such as Universal or Tripsichore. I wanted to create an extended learning tool for my students for time during the week when maybe class times didn’t align, or maybe events like weddings, injury, etc required them to make things up without feeling left behind. We all know the Yoga Alliance “standards” are like eating communion crackers at a Saturnalia, so enabling students the time to go back and review content they may have not fully understood or to expand and provide them additional hours beyond the 200+ seemed like a good idea.
From that perspective, the channel was born out of necessity.
There comes a time when as a yoga teacher, it is just simply not enough to show up and pump out classes. There is diminishing returns in the relationship between teacher and student when the practitioner fails to grow in their yoga or the teacher’s teachings plateau or go into decline. It’s like a bad love affair souring by the second. There is something akin to a knot in the stomach or a scratching of the head when students complement you and your classes, then never return. Or when students come in on hearing great things and leave disappointed. Yoga is only meaningful when it is authentically shared between student and teacher. I wanted to create an environment where there can be no barriers to entry in evolving one’s yoga practice. As I was contemplating marketing bylines, the phrase continuously plugging into my mind and electrifying the field was “Now, there are No excuses.”
From that perspective, the channel was born out of expectation that evolution is a by-product of the practice.
We have some fine teachers; what we don’t have is famous teachers. Our teachers are required to continue in their studies, demonstrate a core set of values and exercise creativity and safety in their classes. I want people outside of the Sattva world to get a glimpse of what these incredible teachers have to offer. I want nothing more than to work hard and bring forth their fruit of their studies to a broader audience. They deserve it.
From that perspective, the channel was born out of love and support for my teachers.
Business remains business. I can see my channel teachers’ heads spin when I talk about ROI (return on investment), and the cost per unit, production values and monetization strategies. Even for me there is grit and slight disdain for applying business logic to these endeavors birthed from the soul as opposed to discussed with a recruiter or in the environment of high tech where I have spent a lion’s share of my adult and professional life.
This is the first chapter of my life where I am combining practical business application and applying it to the craft that I love and that resides in my heart and dharma. I have been teaching yoga and spirituality for almost twenty-five years. I have never wanted to do it for financial gain, even spending periods of time donating my profits behind the scenes.
The same heart economics apply to this project and others to follow but unlike past yoga related businesses, I want my gift to have legs, thighs of steel, the strength to endure, to run the long race, to continuously set the standard, to act boldly and to sustain me for my efforts. There is nothing wrong with honoring the integrity of the practice and honoring the heart and soul that pours itself into something but also yearns to remain whole and joyfully nourished.
Not that any of my other yoga-related businesses have failed. They all remain healthfully operating and continually expanding. But I almost consider this by providence or just plain bon chance. For years whilst maintaining a prolific and accelerating career in technology, eagerly gobbling up market share and honing in and developing new skills, I never really thought to combine the two and apply it to yoga or make yoga a full-time profession. But one’s dharma can only remain divided for so long. The schizophrenic divide between straddling two worlds is like riding two horses simultaneously while trying to draw your bow and hit your target. Let’s just say, my brain and my thighs were starting to hurt.
From that perspective, the channel was born out of my need to grow a set and take the leap.
At some point, what I stand to glean from the mature business world is already collected as a set of tools in my toolkit. Either the arrow is in the quiver, or I need to find someone to help me who has that arrow in supply. Some will translate nicely into optimized business models or differentiated meta-systems. I am grateful as a yoga teacher, I can close my eyes and compile complex systems in my mind upon which to execute and whose potential is limitless.
From that perspective, the channel was born out of a culmination of my life’s work.
My teeth still gnaw on the prospect of my technology career. I don’t have elevated status as a yoga teacher with a big title. I am a public servant, keeping grounded in heart economics; the two worlds complement but don’t always align. One of my former managers from Silicon Valley, a well tenured Vice President at a large technology firm who I greatly love and respect as a mentor and friend and I were talking the other day. Our worlds so different but our concerns similar. The desire to have global impact, to implement sustainable business practices, to do big things that are also good and transformative.
My merging of two disciplines last month left me feeling at times like a stumbling baby taking its first step and not wishing to fail but ultimately falling down for a moment. But the framework created from this venture is clearly defined in the perspectives shared above. I have learned so much. Mostly that my legs are damn strong, ready to learn to walk, run and endure the race ahead.