Photo: Ava Taylor
YAMA Talent is Nourishing Teachers
“It’s actually very empowering, exciting and beautiful that there IS a yoga industry because it means we as consumers are desiring wellbeing.”
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Related Article: Ashleigh Sergeant Altman Talks About YAMA Talent
Related Article: Conversation Ava Taylor, Part Two
Website YAMA Talent
A few days ago, Bloomberg Businessweek profiled hard-working, fresh-thinking YAMA Talent founder, Ava Taylor.
Describing her past, “working for yoga apparel behemoth Lululemon Athletica,” writer Marnie Hanel summed up Ava’s insight.
She thought the company’s climbing revenues were at odds with yoga teachers’ low salaries, which the job search website Simply Hired estimates to average $35,000 annually.
“When I got to know the teachers off the mat, I realized that many of them were struggling,” she says.
Begun in January 2010, her Yama Talent helps them book jobs and develop their own brands.
Over tea with The Magazine of Yoga at the cosmopolitan Crosby Hotel in SoHo, Ava charmed us with her easy going wit and disarmed us with her command of yoga philosophy and her thorough no-pulled-punches business methodology. When it comes to yoga life, Ava Taylor is intelligent, subtle, committed, playful.
And utterly, totally in her element.
The Problem Solver
Susan Maier-Moul Ava thanks so much for finding time in your busy schedule to talk with us! Lots of folks are curious about YAMA. Can you tell us how the idea of founding YAMA came to you?
Ava Taylor Well, in short, I identified a problem – that a career in yoga is not sustaining the teachers, and created a business to solve it.
Susan In response, you’ve created a way to pursue a full-time career in yoga, or, at the very least you’re making it possible for yoga teachers to actually make a living teaching yoga.
Ava Yes, by providing business services to specifically foster a career in yoga, the teachers truly begin to flourish. And the practice of yoga to continues to grow.
We are a catalyst for spreading the practice of yoga by helping teachers to do what they do best: teach.
By proxy, via YAMA Talent, I am also solving the following problems, which I identified after the initial light-bulb moment that something was amiss:
– yoga as a non-diverse industry
– yoga as a fragmented industry (no links between teachers, students and schools/institutions)
– yoga as an industry with no established market value in a time of maturation.
Susan I think even talking about something called “the yoga industry” is a hot button for many teachers and practitioners. “Industry” just isn’t a word that resonates.
Yet, in some instances, the very people who empower yoga have systematically been disempowered by our queasiness in coming to terms with how people earn a living.
Ava Old Econ major here: Yes, the word industry is a hot button – though it simply means the production (supply of a desired output – wellbeing in this case) of a service (yoga) in an economy.
It’s actually very empowering, exciting and beautiful that there IS a yoga industry because it means we as consumers are desiring wellbeing.
On a basic level, the queasiness to me has a very practical answer, if you teach yoga for a living, you have to make a living while doing it. “Make a living” is as it has been for eternity a relative notion – we all have a different comfort scale when it comes to financial security.
If you asked me a year ago what I thought about employing a “yoga agent” to help manage my business I would have scoffed and rolled my eyes.
I got in to this line of work to get away from people like that. You know, the ones that try to make everything … all about the money. The purpose of yoga is to awaken people to their true potential and to celebrate the gift of life together.
[Ava's] first priority is maintaining the integrity of the message.
- Ashleigh Sergeant Altman
Related Article: Ashleigh Sergeant Altman Talks About YAMA Talent
Susan Do you cultivate a relationship with the mainstream media? Do you feel they are serving yoga by bringing more mainstream awareness or by questioning how we present ourselves?
Ava I do cultivate relationships with mainstream media and I am proud and protective of it.
YAMA is the bridge between the teachers and the business world, at a crucial time as the yoga industry sophisticates and we see the emergence of mass media, increased demand placed on the teachers – and demand for the teachers – and enormous platforms for the teachers to spread their messages.
The increased exposure is absolutely serving yoga. The more people that get the message, the more people will practice, which will create an even greater sense of wellbeing. It’s genius really. I personally can’t wait to see yoga properly – by which I mean more than just how-to’s – on television – when the world’s most powerful medium of communication starts conveying the message, massive change will be possible.
It is important that we ourselves as yogis are directly involved in this maturation, if we do not help steer where the media takes yoga and how it is portrayed then we have no control in where it ends up.
Susan As an entrepreneur, you’ve identified challenges you want to be involved with. I know you are an avid practitioner – how do you see your work from the perspective of being a yogi?
Ava I am an advocate for the survival and nourishment of yoga teachers and for bringing yoga to the world.
Without the teachers to pass on the teachings, in all their modern incarnations, we lose our root to the source. The life of a yoga teacher is not as glamorous as it looks, (shockingly so) even for the most well known teachers.
It takes decades of studying, innovating and dedication to become a true teacher.
It takes a ton of preparation to offer even a single class – something that is often undervalued or misunderstood. When there’s two feet of snow outside, your yoga teacher still manages to make it to open the studio.
Susan That work – the time and the resources are a serious investment, and aren’t without financial cost.
Ava Yes, and we must care for the caretakers so to speak.
We are familiar with the ancient saying, ‘you can never step into the same river twice’: everything is always in a state of change.
It is equally true that wherever you step into a river you are always bathed by the river…
It is the same with that enduring stream of knowledge known as the parampara. Wherever we make contact with the lineage of teachers – from reading or chanting the works of the ancients to a class in a modern city – we touch upon the entirety of the wisdom.
Ava (continuing) I value the teachers and my relationship to the teachers above all else.
Susan You definitely see your work as a vocation – and part of your practice.
Ava Yes, yoga changed my life and I am grateful. As a student of yoga and therefore life, YAMA is my way to serve.
YAMA originally stood for Yoga Artist Management Agency – we dropped it to YAMA Talent for trademark purposes. It is a reference to the ethical restraints, or yamas that one living a yogic lifestyle adheres to.
My goal in making this reference is that yogis know that we are authentic and that as we usher in these business practices and modern times that we are doing so in the most ethical way possible – keeping the yamas in mind.
The YAMA logo is a tree. My goal in choosing the tree is to have a visible reminder of the root, the source from which we as yogis have come.
Everything we create at YAMA must be rooted to the source.
Tomorrow, in part two of our Conversation with YAMA Talent founder Ava Taylor, Ava talks about the “defining moment which led me to my work in the world,” and her vision for the future of YAMA and yoga. Plus a high energy testimonial from teaching marvel, Sadie Nardini.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.