It takes drive and determination to build a company from the ground up especially when life as you know it gets turned upside down. This is the story of how Susan and Katie, founding directors of Yoginis Yoga Training are turning heartache into success.
When Susan and Katie met on their British Wheel of Yoga teacher training course in 2007, little did they know that twelve years later they would both be widows and co-directors of a yoga training company they had built from scratch.
Susan was one of the first children‘s yoga teachers in England having trained with ‘Yoga Bugs’ before they became famous on ‘Dragons Den’. After several years teaching their storytelling based yoga programme in schools and nurseries, she found it exhausting constantly coming up with new stories and also found that this approach didn’t suit all children. Ever entrepreneurial she soon started to develop her own teaching methods and created the “Kind Hearts, Kind Words, Kind Thoughts” promise the Yoginis Yoga Programme is based around today. Susan adds “This is how we co-regulate with the children. They connect with the promise and take it outside the yoga circle and begin to use it to self-regulate. Spreading kindness is key to happiness and so this is an essential part of our mission“.
Susan engaged with educators and began to study neuroscience and brain development, liaising with researchers in these areas specifically concerned with early years and found that children learn best through routine, structure and repetition in a fun, non-threatening environment and that the first seven years of life are crucial in determining the adults we become. She used this knowledge to move away from teaching yoga as a purely physical activity which was entertaining to children to actually using these ancient techniques to enhance children’s learning and to embed healthy habits and breathing and mindfulness techniques as skills for life.
Teaching in this new way proved to be successful and she soon became known locally as ‘Yoga Sue’!
Literally thousands of children have benefited from what has now become the core Yoginis Yoga programme over the years, both in mainstream and special needs settings. As people increasingly began to notice the effectiveness of this unique programme, more and more settings wanted to book sessions, but Sue couldn’t be everywhere and one day someone asked if she could teach teachers how to deliver these sessions, and the idea for Yoginis Yoga Training was born.
The majority of children‘s yoga programmes work by training yoga teachers or those with a general interest in yoga, but Yoginis Yoga are different, they believe that educators are best placed to deliver their grab and go programmes as they know the needs of the children and the yoga programmes can be used as full sessions and as part of school day and as such they specialise in children’s mental health and wellbeing training for educators of children aged 2-11.
At the same time Katie had been building her financial career and was working as part of the strategic leadership team at Greater Manchester Police, when tragically her husband lost his long battle with cancer leaving her a widow with a young child. Following the sudden death of her best friend only six months later she needed a change of direction and a more flexible work life to care for her daughters needs. Having also worked part time teaching yoga to children in nurseries for several years she decided to focus her attention on this and turned to Sue for advice. Between them they balanced demand in their local area but were still keen to be able to reach more children and so together they set about bringing Yoginis Yoga Training to life.
Both creative go-getters passionate about yoga, their other individual skills make them a perfect team. Whilst Sue is happy being the face of the organisation, networking and looking for new opportunities, Katie is happy to be the organisation behind the scenes, managing the business and strategy. When they come together to create their courses, the magic happens and they have transformed their grab and go programme into a multi level training course to enable educators to deliver 30 minute yoga sessions in their organisation that require no planning and that children take ownership of and begin to lead. Including children with special needs who otherwise struggle to access physical activity and who are calmed by the yoga techniques.
Katie adds “I had been teaching yoga for years having trained with a teacher in London, but when Sue showed me her programme, I knew she had something special and that we needed to get as many educators as we could delivering this in their settings both in nurseries and schools”.
The real turning point for the business came when they developed their online training programme. Sue adds “now educators anywhere in the world can access our programme and study anytime, anyplace anywhere“. Their global flexible offering is proving to be the way forward, not only does this lower their carbon footprint and reduce overheads due to their office on the cloud and Skype meetings, it has also meant their business is equipped for the future.
Getting to where they are today has not been easy, a further cruel twist of fate saw the death of Sue‘s husband in 2019 after a relatively short battle also with cancer. Two widows to cancer with dependant children building a business that hopes to make a difference to the world “sounds like something from a movie a bit like ‘First Wives Club’ but we lost our husbands to cancer not other women, and we are not that glamorous or crazy!” adds Katie.
Whats clear is that there is no stopping them from spreading their message of kindness as far as they can, they both agree that “there is nothing else we can see ourselves doing, this is our business, but it’s far more than that it‘s our purpose in life and we intend to follow it, that’s what yoga has taught us in our lives, who we are and what we can offer to make the world a better place, one child at a time”