You scroll through Instagram for fitness inspiration and stop on a photo of a beautiful woman on a white-sand beach doing an awe-worthy pose. You’re convinced this is what yoga looks like.
But, it’s not. Erin Motz, co-founder of Bad Yogi, is taking a culture that traditionally brings forth visions of unattainably bendy, “perfect” bodies and is turning it on its head with an inclusive online yoga community. Bad Yogi is for everyone from beginners to pros that never shies away from showing Motz fall out of her handstands and indulge in what makes her happy.
Today the platform includes an online magazine, classes, its own down-to-earth and super inspiring Instagram, and much more. So, how did Bad Yogi come to be? I caught up with the original Bad Yogi herself to talk entrepreneurship and why it is so important to flip the conversation in yoga.
You have such a strong message about how you can do yoga and still live your life how you want to – wine, cheese, and all. What does it mean to be a Bad Yogi and to be a part of this community?
Pretty simply, it means doing what you do and standing by your beliefs regardless of whether or not they’re palatable to everyone else. Being part of this community means doing that for yourself and believing other people deserve the space to do it for themselves, too.
Why is it important to change the conversation in yoga?
Yoga is a powerful tool that can empower, enlighten and strengthen us in so many ways. But a lot of people are turned off by it because of the exclusivity the yoga community tends to exude. That exclusivity may be loud, but it doesn’t represent the essence of yoga and what it means to be a yogi. So I always try to be louder than the bad attitudes in yoga and let people know that, YES, you belong here. You, the kale-loving vegan and you, the prize-winning deer hunter. We need the conversation to be inclusive because yoga is something that everyone can benefit from, not just one “type” of person.
Your journey goes from a desk job in finance to full-time yoga teacher to launching Bad Yogi with your now husband! What inspired you to take that step and start Bad Yogi?
The inspiration was desperation to leave a job I hated and then the sudden death of a co-worker who was killed in a car accident on her way to work. I thought, “If this was my last day on Earth, would I be happy having spent it doing this work?” The answer was a resounding “no.”
I was miserable in the job I had and in my desperation to find something else to do, I kept coming back to one realization: I’d only ever enjoyed doing two things, writing and teaching yoga. I didn’t have a way to monetize writing, but yoga I could figure out. I agonized over whether I could or should quit to teach full-time and pursue Bad Yogi as a business, and I reluctantly decided to go for it. I figured I actually had very little to lose. The worst that could happen was that I would just go back to the corporate life and get a new job. I decided to give myself one year to make it work. My financial licenses expired a year from when I quit my job at the firm, so I knew I could always go back to that industry if things didn’t work out. Thankfully they worked out but it was a painstaking decision to come to and I only did after many months of tears and back and forth arguments with myself.
What were the early days of Bad Yogi like?
I still feel like we’re in the early days! Not a whole lot about our working style has changed. My husband and I still work together every single day in the same space, but instead of that space being in Tampa, Florida, we’re in Nice, France. We film and plan courses and content just the way we always have only now we have better tools and more employees. I guess one major difference is that the early days felt more unsure. I was definitely less confident and much, much more self-conscious when I had to be assertive. I’d let people take advantage of me trying to be “nice” when I really needed to be more direct and protective of my business. So that’s probably the most glaring trait from the early days that I have less of now.
Let’s talk about self-doubt and fear of failure, which stops so many from pursuing their goals. When you were beginning Bad Yogi, what was your biggest fear and how did you overcome it?
Oh I majorly feared people would hate me. And I was afraid I’d burn through my savings because I’d be struggling trying to teach full-time. I didn’t really “overcome” it as much as I just ignored it. I really believe in feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Getting rid of fear is almost impossible, but learning how to live with it and knowing when to ignore it is more important. I still doubt myself and am afraid of failing almost daily, but I keep walking forward despite it. I let my fear sit in the back seat, but it’s not allowed to co-pilot.
Social media is a huge vehicle for you. How were you able to leverage it in an effective way to build your audience? Any tips for those just starting out?
Social media is a very different world than it was just three or four years ago so sharing what I did would be irrelevant today. And honestly, I didn’t do anything highly strategic anyway. I shared my thoughts and my life and my yoga practice, but that alone doesn’t work anymore. People are kind of numb to perfect, beautiful pictures these days. We’re so used to seeing them that we just don’t respond to that stuff like we did in the earlier days. I think being honest and vulnerable is a much better way to build an audience. What feelings or experiences do you have that you think would resonate with other people? Lead with that. Be honest and be real. Act from your gut and always, always pay attention to what your audience responds to. Whether you have three people watching or three million people watching, pay very close attention to what starts conversations, what sparks questions, and what your audience reacts to. And then go do more of that.
You recently launched The Perfect Body Yoga Program (PBYP). What was the inspiration behind this and what has the response been so far?
AH, yes!!! My baby! 😉 The inspiration was seeing all these other fitness programs that advertise six-pack abs and incredibly muscular physiques. The people promoting the programs are literal fitness models and just don’t embody the image most of us have when we think about being balanced and healthy. Yeah, they look amazing and there’s nothing wrong with looking that way or achieving those goals. But that’s not what most of us are shooting for, so instead of inspiring, it ends up being discouraging. I wanted to create a yoga-based program that celebrates the bodies we already have. And that’s why the motto is that the “perfect” body is the healthiest version of the body you already have. It’s not mine, it’s not a random fitness model’s, it’s not your favorite celebrity’s — it’s yours.
The response has been amazing. People were ready to feel like they were good enough exactly as they are before they even began. You can be fully wonderful and whole and beautiful while working on achieving a physical goal. It’s possible, and people really sense that within PBYP. Plus our private PBYP community is hands-down the kindest, most supportive, most hilarious group of people on the Internet. So that helps!
What does strength mean to you as a young female entrepreneur?
Wow, big question! I’d have to refer back to having the confidence to be direct and assertive when I need to be and not prioritizing the desire to seem “nice.” I don’t think it’s specific to my gender, but for me, strength means choosing to shoulder the weight of doubt and fear of failure and marching into the arena anyway. I always want to be the person who does the thing despite the fear rather than the one who has excuses. I love the quote that says, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I’d like to be able to say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” I don’t want to be the person who gets to the end of their life and says, “I could have done X but I never got around to it.” In other words, strength is knowing what you want and going to get it. Period.
For me, strength means choosing to shoulder the weight of doubt and fear of failure and marching into the arena anyway.
What are you most excited for next for Bad Yogi – and/or any other projects you may be working on?
It’s going to be a big year! We actually just launched our Bad Yogi Studio, which is an online studio where you can access all my non-PBYP, full-length classes in one place. The library will only grow from here because I’m adding new classes every week, so that’s a perfect place to maintain your practice. I’m also writing a book, which is a long-time dream of mine. I don’t have a release date yet, but I feel really proud of what I have so far, so I look forward to putting that out.
BONUS Q: Favorite yoga pose (besides shavasana, of course) – go!
Ooo, I’d have to say kneeling lunge or pyramid pose! Or honestly, anything that requires me to use a bolster and blanket, haha. Can’t ever have enough restorative poses!