19 Minute Yoga: I fell in love with yoga when I was working in public relations in Manhattan. We were launching cutting-edge campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. The work was exciting and rewarding, but also high-pressure and stressful.
After getting sick and rundown one too many times, I searched for a way to recharge. I went to my neighborhood yoga studio and felt instantly more relaxed. It was so cozy and inviting (#hygge). I took a slow flow class set to awesome music and moved with intention for the next hour. The room was dark and I was in the back, so I focused on the teacher’s voice as she guided the flow.
I emerged from class with a clear head and full heart. I felt like a better version of myself. I probably needed yoga more than ever, but making it to the studio was going to be tricky. I was lucky if I attended one class a week, but I loved it.
Yoga is therapy. If therapy also gave you abs and good posture.
Victory Rituals & Lavender Lattes
I wanted to practice more frequently, but I didn’t have 90 minutes a day (or even a few times a week). Also, I wanted to deepen my practice and learn more about the fundamentals, but one-on-one training wasn’t in my budget. This is when I first wondered if I could build an app, but it wasn’t in the cards yet. So I rearranged my compact NYC apartment to create space for my yoga mat.
Developing a home practice became the cornerstone of my morning (victory) rituals.
With no barrier to practice, I’d walk a few steps to my mat and start the day with sun salutations. On my way to the office, I slowed down to enjoy a beautiful (decaf) ritual at the local cafe. I increased my daily steps by walking most places and enjoyed lots of warm, roasted veggies for lunch. I made my space feel more cozy with textured blankets and pillows, bright green plants, and colorful flowers. In the evening, I’d practice gentle poses like “legs-up-the-wall” to decompress from the day.
As I witnessed the impact of these simple rituals, I thought it would be fun to create a newsletter, like a helpful note from your friend, filled with personal resources and tips. I launched a daily newsletter and started building community around healthy lifestyle values. The newsletter quickly grew and developed into a business.
At the same time, I worked with my partner, Jason Keath’s conference company, Social Fresh. I supported PR and sponsorships and eventually helped run operations. Exciting things were happening and suddenly I had my first big brand partner for my newsletter (thank you Katey and P&G!).
Loss & Silver Linings
In the midst of everything, Jason’s Dad got very sick and ended up in the hospital. Jason’s family is from North Carolina, so we started going back and forth from NYC to NC. I was already working with Jason on the upcoming conference, so we adapted the best we could. I negotiated venue contracts from the waiting room of the hospital, while Jason managed speaker calls in between doctor’s appointments.
Heartbreakingly, Jason’s Dad passed away that winter. Jason had the kind of Dad who was always checking on him, showing up for him, and cheering him on (he joined Twitter in 2008 just to follow Jason! :-)). He always treated me like a daughter. I wish I had more time with him, but I’m grateful I had the chance to know him.
We sublet our apartment in the city and went to be with Jason’s family in North Carolina, as Jason managed the estate. I searched for some kind of silver lining. I wanted to make something good come out of the heartbreak. As I searched for a local yoga class, it hit me. I should take yoga teacher training. I had wanted to take it for years.
It was the right decision. The program helped me begin to heal and challenged me in new ways. The physical practice gave me “feel good” endorphins and the meditative breathwork was so relaxing. I started feeling better and more clear. On a weekend trip home to NYC, I went to my favorite yoga class, and for the first time, I cried in pigeon pose (hip openers are famous for releasing emotional stress). I felt recharged.
Make What Your Missing
I was deepening my personal practice and I wanted to master the nuances of each pose. I searched for a resource to help me fit yoga into my schedule (I was still running my daily newsletter and producing events with my handsome collaborator). I found videos, but I wanted something different.
Instead of stepping out of alignment to watch a video, I wanted something closer to a real yoga class. I wanted that voice guided, step-by-step instruction. And the classes needed to be short, to fit into my schedule. I needed short yoga classes with audio-guided instruction.
It did not exist.
I decided to start building my own classes. I researched postures, studied alignment, signed-up for more teacher training classes, and designed what I call capsule classes. I wanted the program to feel like a yoga class with your favorite teacher in your local studio.
I recorded the ugly first draft of what would become 19 Minute Yoga, and I started getting into the groove of regular practice. I was psyched. Classes were short, so I was able to practice in the morning before work. The audio-first guide was such a relief. No more craning my neck or stopping to rewind a video.
I set out to create the most useful and accessible yoga app, handmade with TLC. Empowering newbies and OGs to deepen their practice. Always focused on accessibility, I designed my program to feature short yoga classes. All the classes are less than 20 minutes, hence the name. 19 Minute Yoga classes are shorter than an episode of Younger (#TeamJosh) because short yoga classes are easier to commit to and stick to. And, it turns out, they have serious benefits.
This is the part where I got nervous. I had to start sharing the program for some initial feedback (run fast a break things, right tech friends?). First, I had to turn down the volume on my inner critic. The one that mocked, “Why do you think you can build this? How are you going to finance this? Who do you think you are? And by the way, you have no idea what you’re doing.”
I decided it was OK. If no one liked my new short, audio-first yoga class, it didn’t change the fact that it was helping me. I was using it.
The First Beta Testers
The first time you publish a new project, it’s slightly terrifying, and app testing is awkward, but I was able to get some early feedback from fellow certified teachers and students. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm from my early testers. I saved all those notes! #Team19
I think it’s important to mention, of course, a few folks didn’t get it. I decided I would keep putting it out there, let more people react to it, and learn anything I could. Moving beyond a small group made a big difference.
When I opened the next round of testing, I hit a stride. I started waking up to new Tweets and Instagram posts from people using the app and loving it. I have zero chill when I see these testimonials (as I gleefully reshare them). The first time you see someone–you don’t know–Tweet and Instagram about how much they love this thing you made and how it is genuinely improving their lives… it’s something I’ll never forget.
The App Creator Struggle Is Real
I’ve learned so much creating 19 Minute Yoga.
Making an app that is easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing, and functions well is hard (who would have thought?).
I’m proud of the app we’ve built so far. It took months of research and iteration and, of course, there is more work to do and more features to add. As I write this, I’m happy to say we’ve entered public beta and 19 Minute Yoga is now live in the App Store (YAY!). I’d love for you to try it–let me know what you think @NikisNotes!
Building an audio-first yoga app created other challenges–some that required me to expand my skillset. Since audio quality is so important for an audio-first app, I started working with a voiceover coach to improve my sound and speech. That was a growing experience for sure (introspective/strange/fun).
After working on this program for more than a year, I understand why it didn’t exist before. It takes a long time to build and test all the pieces–everything from a cohesive class experience and step-by-step instructions to professionally recording audio and matching the audio track to the pose illustrations, but it’s the format that makes it so accessible.
Even though it’s challenging/intimidating/expensive to create my own roadmap–often through trial and error–it’s been worth it. The program is helping people (!!!! :-))
Sneak peak of my new yoga app! If you're brand new to yoga, start with my "Gentle Intro to Yoga" program and the "Gentle Flexibility" class. One thing people keep mentioning is the music during the planks. 😍 @19minuteyoga #yoga #5daysofpractice #yogachallenge #yogachallenges #movenourishbelieve #developerlife #founder #entrepreneur
Yoga is a Superpower
Developing a home (yoga) practice is the best thing I’ve done for my health.
Yoga does more than increase flexibility, build strength, promote weight loss, and reduce stress (which is awesome, I agree!). It helps you get unstuck. Yoga helps you break free from old patterns and unhealthy habits.
Yoga invites you to focus on the present. To let go of circular thinking, as it relates to the past (depression) and the future (anxiety).
Let’s be honest. Yoga is a superpower.
Practicing at home, or wherever I am, allows me to cultivate these benefits daily. And it doesn’t take a big time commitment. Research determined that three shorter practices per week are more beneficial than one 90 minute class per week.
I’m on a mission to make yoga more accessible. I’m still in the early stages, but I want to help democratize yoga and its superpower. Learn more about my short, audio guided yoga app here.