After following each other on Instagram for a while, I finally got to catch up with Abi Carver, Creator of Yoga 15, one day this summer, just a few days before she jetted back to her quaint, costal home in Mexico. She described her post-London life as a much needed breath of fresh air; one that provided her with the platform to immerse herself completely and wholeheartedly into the creation of an App that would help busy people find time for yoga, and to see that it’s not just an exercise performed by hippies in a room.
Yoga, aside from it’s current hip, modern day appeal, is a vital ingredient to maintaining a life of balance, and when one goes from being Marketing Executive of a high-fashion, international magazine, escaping those deadlines by the ocean with some deep breathes and big stretches seems like an obvious answer, and an instant business idea. After considering this, Abi soon found her new purpose and set out to create an answer for people seeking to practise, and learn the art of yoga, on the go.
Fast forward to today, and Abi is carefully adding more and more elements to brand Yoga 15. Beautifully designed and 100% considered, Yoga 15 is everything you wish yoga to be in 2016. With an accompanying website, videos, and continual inspirational content, Yoga 15 will appeal to all, be it corporate suits, pro-athletes, and stay-at-home mums, thanks to its easy-to-use and step-by-step layout that, wait for it, only requires 15 minutes of your precious time.
We looped back in with Abi just before Christmas, direct from a recent stint in California to ask all the questions we were left wondering after our summer catch-up…
How did you discover your founding philosophy of Yoga 15? Was there some major ah ha moment one day?
I was born and raised in England and moved to Mexico in 2009. A few years later, I was living in a very remote neighbourhood on the outskirts of a beautiful town in Central Mexico, without access to a gym or to exercise classes. At the time I was a qualified personal trainer, used to creating programs for myself and for my clients in fully-equipped gyms and studios, and I saw this as an opportunity to try something different.
As an experiment, I wanted to see if I could achieve a high level of fitness and a strong, lean physique with the least equipment possible. I chose yoga for strength and conditioning and uphill sprints for cardiovascular fitness.
This turned out to be a pretty awesome combination, with benefits that I couldn’t have predicted for both my body and my mind. I was strong, lean, fast, and I noticed a significant boost in my levels of focus and concentration.
Unfortunately, I quickly became frustrated with the quality of yoga classes and videos available online. They were inconsistent, lacked structure and I didn’t really align with their focus on spirituality.
I decided to go to Guatemala to take my 200-hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Training Certificate and devise my own method – a comprehensive and efficient yoga program to train balance, flexibility, mobility, strength and relaxation in the shortest time possible. Essentially – efficient, athletic yoga.
Before Yoga 15, what was life like? I know from meeting you, your back story is incredibly unique and inspiring, and I think it lends so much insight into how and why Yoga 15 makes complete sense…
I studied English and Philosophy at Leeds University, spent my GAP year in Cuba and Barcelona, completed a Masters in Publishing in Oxford, and moved to London in 2006.
After a few months, I was hired as the Marketing Executive for the design, fashion and architecture magazine, Wallpaper*. My job was to collaborate on various creative projects with other exclusive brands and put on parties during London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks. My last party with the magazine was the Wallpaper* Design Awards, co-hosted by Kanye West at the Boucheron store in Place Vendôme, Paris.
For most people, I am sure this sounds like a dream job but unfortunately it didn’t encourage a very healthy lifestyle. After 4 years living the “high life”, I was pretty burnt out. In 2009, I decided to move to Mexico!
I trained to be a personal trainer, as I knew I could do that anywhere in the world, and left all my family and friends behind to find my place in the world. Six eventful years later and I now run my own fitness business from Sayulita, a beautiful, vibrant surf town on the Mexican Pacific Coast. Every morning I do yoga on the beach, climb on the rocks, swim in the ocean, stand up paddle board or go for a surf before I start my day. My work entails teaching yoga to action sports athletes, writing articles for publications including Cameron Diaz’s blog, The Inertia and Pink Bike and spreading the word about Yoga 15!
If you were to describe the Yoga 15 user, who would they be and how would they use it?
Yoga 15 is designed to be your own personal yoga coach. It’s for time-pressed, fitness-conscious, ambitious and efficient women and men who want to practice yoga at home or while they are travelling. It includes motivational tools to track your progress, earn rewards and share your success with friends. Essentially it’s for people like me who want to be in the best shape of their life, the most efficient way possible, and for yoga to be a part of that.
Still, a lot of people are hesitant to try yoga. The notion that only tree-hugging hippies practise it is now long gone (thankfully), but there’s still a stigma attached to yoga, and the many meanings behind it have been some-what diluted with a lot of big mainstream brands and yoga power houses now taking over.
Yoga 15 is a physical and mental practice, but not a spiritual one. I never felt authentic incorporating the ancient Indian religious and philosophical aspects of yoga into my classes, as I don’t feel I have a deep enough understanding or grounding in it.
However, I do believe that everyone should have access to the incredible benefits of the practice for building strength, increasing flexibility, easing aches and pains, relieving stress, increasing body awareness, improving breath efficiency, calming the mind and enhancing mental focus. I have tried to create a method that more people – both men and women – find accessible and beneficial.
What was your biggest learning experience in creating an App and building a digital brand in the active and wellness space?
Wow I had SO many, and I’m still learning. Please feel free to contact me directly if you would like to know more about the process of actually building the App, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll share a mixed learning experience with you.
I invested all my money into developing and designing my App, and it was incredibly expensive! I hired a top design agency in London through my contacts at Wallpaper* magazine and an excellent developer. Apart from the filming, I did everything else myself – from recording the audio in a professional studio, to designing the set, and even teaching myself to edit the videos. So when I launched earlier this year, I had left myself no budget for marketing and PR.
The upside of my rookie mistake, is that I have had to bootstrap all my own marketing efforts. Although this obviously takes a lot longer and at times requires Buddha-like patience, the relationships I have built up with publications, influencers, athletes and brands are much stronger because they are personal and authentic. If I had hired a PR agency, there would always have been a gatekeeper between myself and my network.
I also find marketing of the App – writing for publications, pitching collaborations, designing yoga routines with professional athletes and putting on events – immensely creative and rewarding.
When you get dressed for your yoga sessions, what are the main styles you look for to ensure you get the most out of your active days…
I only wear sports clothing to practice yoga, and as I live in a tropical climate it’s usually a combination of shorts and cropped tops or vests. I wear almost exclusively bright colours and something coral, probably every day! I love brands that are strong, fit well and breathe… and because I live on the beach, you are very unlikely ever to find me wearing shoes!
What is your favourite pose to do and why?
I have so many favourite poses – that’s what makes yoga so great!
If I want to challenge myself, I practice arm balances, but if I want to stretch out, I settle into deep poses like Head to Knee, Pigeon, Ragdoll or Folded Butterfly.
Sometimes I want to play around with headstands and handstands and because I find it hard to concentrate on breath meditation, I practice breathing techniques and body scan meditations every day for calm and clarity.
Your ultimate meal to have pre or post Yoga session…
I generally like to practice yoga on an empty stomach and eat a coconut afterwards. Coconuts are the only food I have delivered to my house. I cut one open with a machete, drink the water for hydration and eat the flesh for energy. Delish!
Finally… How do you see Yoga 15 evolving? Where to from here?
That’s a big question. The future of Yoga 15 is wide open. At the moment I’m focusing on specific series for adventure sports including surfing, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking and climbing. But I love almost every single form of exercise and movement, so I would like to collaborate across many different fields. My mission is to make yoga accessible to everyone who loves to move, 15 minutes at a time…
At Active in Style, we are big believers in Abi’s vision, and actively use Yoga 15 amongst our weekly fitness schedules. It’s the perfect answer to our busy lives, and for those times when you find yourself contemplating skipping that workout. Available on iPhone, you can download Yoga 15 via the App Store, or you can visit the website for all the information as well as follow Abi on Instagram for a dose of seaside yoga and a look at her life in costal Mexico (jealous).