We asked Yogamasti founder Aanika Chopra to give us some insight into how she started her Yoga business. She gives advice and suggestions for others with a Yoga dream of their own and talks about what inspires her. She discusses her background and influences, as well as describing the path she took to get to where she is today.
Introduce yourself and your background – where are you from and what did you do before Yogamasti?
I was born in Delhi, India and trained in classical Indian Kathak dance. I performed extensively as a dancer, choreographing for Granada TV and taking part in competitions, as well as teaching and running workshops. My background is a bit unusual to some.. as I went from being a dancer and teacher, to a Metropolitan Police woman to yoga instructor to yoga designer… to Yogamasti founder! When I first moved to England I served in the Met for two years, but the police wasn’t for me. (Could never get those handcuffs right!) Often people can’t believe that Hippy Aanika was a copper!
What inspired you to start a Yoga clothing brand?
When my Mum passed away she left me with 3000 pounds. At the time I was a Yoga teacher, so I thought – ‘lets make some clothes for my students! Back then I never knew that there was such a thing as Yoga show! I came across one by surprise and exhibited on a whim! And here we are now … from 6 styles to over 100!
What inspires your designs?
I was born Indian and have a keen eye for interesting styles. I wanted to wear spirited clothing – something different. I wanted to wear something which looks like a true Yoga garment, not just plastic sportswear or a generic garment I could find anywhere. I wanted mantras, Chakras, Vedic symbols of Yoga and to make an authentic garment. A garment which was fun and unique to Yogamasti(Masti meaning joy/fun in Hindi).
I felt that when you wear a Yoga garment it should not only feel comfortable and organic, it should make you feel like a Yogi. Yoga originates from India, but all the clothes I found were very western, mostly thick, stifling plastic. I don’t feel our Gurus back thousand of years ago either practiced in things like these or advocated for them 😉
How has being a Yoga teacher influenced your outlook and decisions with Yogamasti?
Being a yoga teacher and knowing so many students over so many years has given me an understanding of what a student is looking for. Yoga is a sincere practice but is also a fad among many. That is a sad fact but often true. Beginner students need a boost. Yoga as a beginner is not easy. Yoga, like it or not, is painful to start with. To keep the interest of a student going, you need props, inspiration, encouragement and attractive Yogawear. Something unique that also feels good, looks great and gives you a sense of the Yoga spirit. Plain leggings are great… but leggings with a holistic Yoga symbol? Now that’s good for a lil inspiration in a class eh…
Practicing myself I realised that synthetic fabric (recycled or not) is simply not breathable. But even the natural fabrics had problems. Really thick cotton gets stuck to the body while sweating and is not comfortable at all. 100 percent cotton feels great for meditation but Yoga? Nah. Again it gets stuck and heavy. A little stretch is a must as clothing has to move with you in a posture, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the natural fibers.
So my experience taught me to keep the following attributes in mind while designing: lightweight fabric – breathability – organic materials – beautiful designs – Yoga inspired motifs – soft waists – colours – loose but not riding up in inversions – seamless sportswear but in organic cotton – tight fits but breathable… and so on!
If you want busy, patterned look like those plastic leggings, we’ll give it! But in organic cotton with the Yoga spirit!
Describe a big obstacle you encountered when growing Yogamasti and how you overcame it?
I was never a business woman. A dancer, a cop, a yoga teacher, that’s all! So doing figures, importing goods, manufacturing… even designing was a real challenge, and still is! When I design I really have to get my head together, do a lot of research and meditate. Yes! Meditate! I get in the zone and a new feel and look comes to me. But yes, even now I go wrong with my designs sometimes, but that’s all part of fun right? That’s the creative process! When you guys look and feel great and leave us beautiful reviews it makes all this work well worth it!
Knowing what you know now – what would you say to your 2010 self?
You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of!
What is your favourite Yogamasti design to date?
Well, it’s difficult to have one favourite, so here’s my favorite from each of our collections…
Where do you see Yogamasti in 5 years time?
Serving loads of Yogis and learning to be better 🙂
Any advice for people with a startup or Yoga dream of their own?
Go for it! Never dream low and let no one tell you any different! But always keep Yoga as a way of life at the core of your dream, whatever it is. Build your dream on a core of Yoga principles and you’ll always travel the your path with integrity.
Any questions for Aanika about Yogamasti and starting a Yoga business from scratch? Let us know in the comments!
Look out for more interviews with Yoga teachers in the coming weeks folks. We have such wisdom at our fingertips and are so blessed to be part of such a giving community. So now we’re starting to share some of those connections with you! We’ll be interviewing teachers on what it’s like to start teaching, what obstacles they face and how they’ve adapted to the new Yoga landscape during Covid-19.
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