How to build a community with Sahaja Yoga Mats
For Judes, State of Sahaja has always been about more than just yoga. From custom mats to yoga and meditation workshops, every part of the business was designed to give back.
With the support of the community she built around her business, Judes was able to weather the challenges of the pandemic — including the closure of her studio. Through all of this, she has managed to keep giving at the forefront by donating her time to host free workshops for B Corps. We spoke with Judes to learn more about what community means for Certified B Corporation State of Sahaja.
B Lab: What does the word 'community' mean to you?
Judes: The word community for me is a union of like-minded humans, who gather together as individuals and a collective in positive social action for the betterment of all beings. To support and elevate each other as agents of change, acting locally and globally.
B Lab: Why is community so important for a yoga studio, and as a yoga & meditation teacher?
Judes: The practice of yoga is so much deeper than stretching and touching your toes. When we step on the mat, we face ourselves. We get to work through the aspects of ourselves that we hide from others. We get to learn how to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. We learn how to harness and control our energies, fine tune our breath, to respond instead of react.
I call teachers 'space holders,' as we hold space for the students to have their own evolutionary growth in their practice. I love at the end of practices that we come together and share a chai, to share about our experiences, to have elevated conversations, to build community. I love watching students come together, especially people who don't know each other and they go from strangers to friends. The barriers fall away.
B Lab: How do you go about building community authentically?
Judes: For me it is about integrity, honesty, and authenticity. It is also about offering people quality teachings, workshops, events, or even our products like our yoga mats. Our yoga mats are created with so much love. Each yoga mat design is original, based on sacred geometry, and all from the heart. I call everyone who owns our mats 'Light Givers.' I receive messages from people saying how much they love their mat, how the designs' organic alignment cues have helped their practices immensely, how being on their mat brings them joy, how when they're in a bad mood and they look down at their mat, it changes their state straight away. I also love watching their faces light up when they find out they also get to give back, that is the best!
Our yoga mats are so much more than a yoga mat. They are conversation starters. I see it on a regular basis when there are a few 'Light Givers' in a yoga room and people go up to them to comment on how beautiful their mat is. I watch a conversation evolve from a yoga mat to life of the mat! How great is that? It creates an instant connection and rapport, and now it is up to me to solidify and deepen that connection by being truly interested in who is showing up in front of me. In what they have to share. To get to know them on a heart level.
Through Sahaja Yoga Mats, our marketing and promotion has always been focused on our Light Givers from the start. When I first started Sahaja Yoga Mats in 2017, I was told that I needed to have fitness models to sell my product or I wouldn't make it. I was told that is just how the industry works; beauty sells. Even saying that makes me feel ick. That isn't authentic to me, as fitness models aren't my primary users. Everyday mum and dads, grandparents, students, yogis are the ones who use Sahaja Yoga Mats, so that is important to show who our community are. Our Light Givers are showcased in our photo shoots because they are our product, they are our community. We share any workshops or events that our Light Givers are offering to the community to support them, we showcase our stockists as well to celebrate them too, and we interconnect it all.
From teaching workshops, yoga, or meditation class with our stockists, we're about building communities over competition.
I ended up closing my yoga studio at the end of December 2020, and whilst it was heartbreaking for me, it wasn't the end for the members and our community. I called the studio State of Sahaja, as that is what it is about. Living in a state of flow of life, an embodiment of everything we learn whilst on the yoga mat. I shared with the community State of Sahaja isn't a place, it is a way of being. It is the people, the community. So no matter where we end up, it will always be the State of Sahaja.
I took around seven months off after I closed the studio to take care of my mental health and nurture myself, as closing my second baby hurt. I am grateful to always have my first baby, Sahaja Yoga Mats, but I still wanted to grieve the studio. In that time, I went deep into my studies with my own teacher, into my yogic practices to embody the teaching within me. Then I started to reconnect with the community again and teach and connect from a place of integrity, honesty, and authenticity.
B Lab: Sahaja earned the Impact Business Model (IBM) for Designed to Give because of your giving program that helps to bright solar lights to communities in Mozambique. Tell us a little bit about why you chose to build giving into your business.
Judes: Giving for me is mandatory in both my businesses: the yoga mats and my yoga classes and workshops. Like all of us at one point of our lives, I went through a dark time. My mental health suffered and I was diagnosed with PTSD from years of abuse by my former yoga teacher when I was in a yoga cult. During those dark days, I received so much love and support from my family and friends. I moved back to the Gold Coast from LA and even strangers embraced me into their community to support my recovery. I am forever grateful to all the people who championed and cheered me on when I was ready to finish my time here on Earth, as If it wasn't for my family and friends, my community, I wouldn't be where I am today.
So for me, the giving is me giving back to others the love and light I received during my darkest days.
We give solar lights with every yoga mat sold to "light" up lives, metaphorically and physically. When someone purchases a yoga mat, they don't need to do anything other than choose the design that resonates with them the most. We do the giving on the back end. When they find out they have donated a light, their faces "light" up and you can see and experience the joy that they realised they have contributed to the good of another person's life. The families who receive the lights also "light" up.
Sahaja Yoga Mats is my way to say thank you and to pay it forward to all the love and light I received, to light up lives.
B Lab: How important is accessibility for Sahaja? Both in the physical and mental sense, tell us a bit about how you make your studio and practice accessible for all of the community.
Judes: Accessibility is super important to me. I never want anyone to miss out on yoga or meditation classes that can benefit their wellbeing, that's why I donate a lot of my time to the community to those who need it. I've donated our sample mats in the past as well as to charities to support those who are wanting to start on the yogic path or if our gorgeous yoga mats can help them raise funds for their causes. Health and wellness or taking care of your mental health is not only for those with money. Yoga is for all.
B Lab: Has the B Impact Assessment pushed you to think about anything you otherwise wouldn't have considered?
Judes: Totally! So much! I am even more aware of my conscious business footprint, when I am sourcing products, new suppliers. I ask more thorough questions since I've become certified. I want to support locally as well as globally, but I am also mindful of our eco footprint. I also try to support B Corps when I can, as I understand and value the stringent application process and what it takes to become B Corp certified.