Brendan: hello everyone. Welcome to Episode 6 of the Australian Health and Safety Business Podcast. I’m Brendan Torazzi the founder of the marketplace. Today we join you from Fiji. I’m here with Emma Barr. Hi Emma.
Emma: hi, how are you going?
Brendan: I’m well. I’ve just nabbed Emma before she rushes off to her next location. Tell us a little bit about what you do Emma.
Emma: I have a business called Yogi Peace Club. It is about four years old now. We focused on products that are not only beautiful in design but also have an ecological sustainability part of the business. We do whatever we can to try and minimize waste. We use compostable packaging when we ship out all our orders. We also buy products that have got more sustainable materials in them. The yoga mats are PVC plastic free. They’re made of natural, recycle tree rubber. The yoga clothings are made from certified organic bamboo cottons. Really just trying to push this emphasis about sustainability but also providing products that fit so good fit, quality, comfort and a bit of color. Real fun too.
Brendan: what got you into the yoga line? Tell me a little bit about your story how you got to where you are today and what was your inspiration in starting I guess a business that ultimately benefits people's health?
Emma: I have always been in the surf industry. I worked for Roxy for about 10 years. I was their Head of Women's for Australasia. That really put me in a good position to start my own business because I saw every aspect of working for a big brand like Quiksilver. Then working with Reef, that was also I supposed the catalyst for understanding more about what ecological products can do. You can choose materials that are not going to have as greater effect as some of the other brands that are using plastics.
Brendan: is that a big costing position to go that extra mile?
Emma: yes, absolutely even compostable bags are eight times the price but I choose them because they're made in Australia as well. It is a definite cost for business I see it as an important part of the strategy for the business going forward. The products have sort of evolved over time and I’m just getting better with it but going back in time to working for Reef and now four years into Yogi Peace Club I feel as though if you don’t have a sustainable outlook on your business you're going to be left behind in the next five years.
Brendan: you're finding that your customers are becoming obviously they're fairly health conscious to start with but they also care for the environment I take it.
Emma: yes, definitely but then in saying that too like from the health conscious perspective our products like I designed a mat that is thicker, wider, longer, super grippy so very supportive for people's practice so that when they’re on their mats they're not going to move. They’ve got all the support underneath to make sure that they're feeling confident to move with their asana practice and they’re not going to be slipping and sliding which can cause injuries.
Brendan: I understand that you had few injuries as well. Tell me a little bit about what happened and how that led you into to shape because you're teaching yoga as well right?
Emma: I’ve been teaching yoga for four years. I did it at the time of healthy yoga. My yoga teaching was changed when I had a serious accident. I’ve been practicing yoga since my teens. I supposed my practice was more on the physical side. Then I had a really serious back injury. I had a prolapsed disc, 12mm disc bulge which is pretty significant. I had physios look at me and say we don’t want to touch you. You probably won’t be able to yoga again. I had surgeons telling me this is a very significant situation you’re in. You're going to have to have surgery to go forward. I did not listen to that.
Brendan: Emma's way.
Emma: my invention. I’m always inventing things.
Brendan: Emma's invention. That is right. I remember you telling me this.
Emma: I just found someone that I felt very confident in them. I feel as though with any injury. I don’t know personally a lot of it is mental. I’ve been definitely reading a lot on pain management and how you can sometimes resolve issues if you're thinking in a positive mindset. I don’t mean to simplify things too much because pain is pain. It's horrible but when people tell you that you're not going to get better you can’t help but absorb that and think you're not going to get better. I just decided to find someone that had a great supportive I supposed initiative for me that this is what I needed to start with. She was a physiotherapist in a hospital close by to where I live. She’s got tons of experience but she believed that I was going to get better. That was the difference for me getting better. It just took time.
Brendan: how long did it take? Like what was the journey from being injured through to getting to a palace where you are happy with the level of pain or the pain went away?
Emma: the pain went away after about 15 weeks however the pain is always carried with me but it makes me a more mindful person. It definitely has given me so much more empathy to teaching yoga. I feel for example yesterday I was practicing in a room. There was a yoga teacher at the front and there was a person in the room that had a back injury. I was at the back. I could see that she was struggling and I would not normally do this but she was actually in a lot of pain. I just went over to her and adjusted her. I knew what to do because of my experience and gave her support through her lumbar, spine and showed her some simple exercises. That is sometimes all people need. They just need to know that they're supported in safety what to do. The journey can be transformative if you're surrounded by people that believe that you're going to be okay rather than okay, surgery, drugs. Don’t do this. Don’t ever do yoga again.
Brendan: that is sort of the way a lot of conventional care is going isn’t it? It’s just drugs, needles, surgery. It doesn’t make it better.
Emma: this is my second major back injury. I’ve had one prior to that as well which I self-managed through McKenzie’s which is one of the only I think certified physio practices they’re using in hospitals in Australia. They use the McKenzie's Theory. It’s basically just knowing these certain exercises to do to self-manager and to heal. With belief, time, patience you can certainly get there. I feel as though we live in a fast pace society so everyone just wants that quick fix. When there is a substantial back injury people think right, I want to get fixed. They go searching for someone that will fix them today. It’s a lot about acceptance and knowing this is a slow healing injury. It’s not going to be resolved with massage. it’s full and out of the disc so it needs to heal. It takes time. That acceptance and patience is where you get the healing.
Brendan: 15 weeks sounds pretty quick to me. You’re able to turn around really quickly.
Emma: people live with these for the rest of their lives. There’s just simple things that you can do like I always travel with a lumbar support. If I’m having any issues with my back I know the exercises to self-manage that. Travelling definitely exacerbates it. I flew here with my daughter sitting awkwardly in my lap so I came off the place I was like, oh my back is sore. I come straight into my McKenzie poses, some yoga of course and yes, just making sure that posturally I’m sitting well. I’ve always got those lumbar supports to keep my back in a neutral position. It’s all those small, little steps that you can get through life with spinal disc injuries. Don’t be too sad about it because it can really affect your mental state.
Brendan: that is amazing. There was a blog post that you were talking about. We might link back into that with the show notes. Was that like six tips?
Emma: I just have some tips. It’s just sharing my journey. I think I highlight a few points like of course slow healing, being patient. I feel a big one is acceptance to go yes, I do have this but it's okay. I will get better and always be grateful that whatever situation you're in you're still here so just take whatever you can and turn it into some sort of positive. For me the outcome was learning how to be more empathetic to people with injuries. As a yoga teacher that has taught me so much. I feel like I can confidently step into a class at the front of the studio. I check in with my students are there any injuries in the room before they enter then once again I’m at the front of the class before we go anywhere I want to hear your body. Check in with your body. If something doesn’t feel right don’t push it. If you've got injuries just notice them. Don’t attach to them too much but just notice that they're there and don’t push through anything.
Brendan: a lot of people these days want to go faster, harder over time and something ends up snapping.
Emma: totally and the two most common injuries in yoga would be hamstrings so a lot of people have that, a hamstring injury from all the forward foldings. Definitely there’s a lot of discal issues as well and then shoulder. They’re probably the three things that I was checking particularly with for example guys that surf. They are really stiff often through their shoulders so making sure that you're applying the right asana movement to their body rather than making them do something that is going to pinch and feel uncomfortable.
Brendan: what would you recommend for people fi they would just look, they're interested in yoga but thought it was a bit inaccessible? What is a good way of a start for people?
Emma: I think definitely finding the person that you can feel comfortable with because you don’t want to be going to a class that is too spiritual or on a different tangent. You’ve got to find that one person that you can connect with and probably with my teaching the main thing that I want is connection so connection with the body, breath and mind but then also connection with the student so whenever I am standing at the front I want to feel that that person feel like they’re supported and there’s a connected between myself and them. That is the number one thing. If you don’t feel like you're comfortable in a class you're not going to come back.
Brendan: that is exactly right.
Emma: probably that. I think just finding the right teacher because if you've got a good teacher they can attend to whatever situation you're in.
Brendan: I think it’s great that you're actually teaching yoga and have a yoga brand because I would imagine that would connect together. You get to see people using your products.
Emma: yes and the studio I teach at you walk into the room and it's filled with my mats. It’s like this is a proud moment.
Brendan: are they mats that your students have purchased?
Brendan: it's got a loyal following.
Emma: most of the time I don’t know who they are and it's growing but it's organic growth. I don’t want to push that either. Just letting it unfold.
Brendan: what sort of things are you doing to get because I was really when I did a yoga class a couple of days ago I went and looked at one of your mats and I found out later oh my God. This is so beautiful. This is really striking. How did you come up with the design ideas?
Emma: I just have a love affair for patterns, color, print, tropical. It’s just me.
Brendan: it's an extension of your personality.
Emma: look at how I’m dressed. I dress like this. My hats look like this. This is just me. This comes very easily to me. A lot of things in life don’t come easy to me. I was thinking I wish I could do this better. I wish I could do that better. I do that all the time with my brand but at the same time I have a very clear vision and if I would just put it into one sentence I just want to make products that make people feel happy. That is it.
Brendan: that is very cool.
Emma: just to make them feel happy and that's it. If they're happy then I’m happy. If they're not happy then I’ll kill them with kindness and fix the problem.
Brendan: do you find that people are coming back and buy, repeat customers are huge and the word of mouth...
Emma: repeat customers is probably one of my biggest, actually sometimes I think no one will buy from me again. I want some new people. I’m just kidding. They come back and they love everything. I think they know that they're going to get those three things quality, fit, comfort and they're going to get this ecologically sound product as well. It’s not perfect but it's a work in progress. If anyone has got any ideas for me I’ll continue to become more eco with whatever I can do.
Brendan: that is fantastic. I’m just going to ask some question to wrap up the interview. These are kind of putting you on the spot so I hope it's okay.
Brendan: how old are you now? You could give me a low ballpark if you like.
Emma: I’m in my forties.
Brendan: you certainly don’t look that Emma.
Brendan: what do you do to keep fit?
Emma: yoga. I walk to Bells. I lived at Bells Beach.
Brendan: beautiful part of the world.
Emma: I walk to Bells. It’s up and down but yoga at least four to five times a week, home practice. That is basically all.
Brendan: how many hours sleep do you get on average?
Emma: definitely eight.
Brendan: that is fantastic. Have you got any personal goals that you're looking to achieve in the next 12 months?
Emma: I’m going to open my own yoga studio at my house as well as having where I teach. I teach at an amazing studio so I want to continue that but open my own studio from home to teach people that are just friends or like a more connected practice. Authentic, small class, eight people max. Just really soulful yoga.
Brendan: finally, what would you like to be most remember for on a business front?
Emma: to be authentic. Definitely to be authentic. That would be the main thing. Never fake it. It’s from the heart. I don’t want to pretend that I’m someone I’m not. It’s all me.
Brendan: that is fantastic. If people want to find out a little bit more about Emma, how do we find you?
Emma: I’ve got a little bit About Us page on my Yogi Peace Club website. There’s a little video of me and my other co-worker. I have two part time girls.
Brendan: your website address so people can link in.
Emma: it's YogiPeaceClub.com because I want to be for everyone.
Brendan: okay Emma, thanks for taking the time to come on the show.
Emma: all right. Hope to see you again soon. Yogis namaste.