Yogi, teacher, master of change
Amy Carmody knows how to pivot. It’s not just the 10 years of classical ballet, or over a decade as a much-loved yoga instructor that has helped her with this flex. It’s also her innate instinct to seamlessly adapt in times of change. We sat down via FaceTime, almost two months into Victoria’s lockdown, to discuss her burgeoning online yoga platform that has emerged in the wake of the pandemic, and what led her to make this pivot so early in the piece.
Amy is incredibly articulate and thoughtful in the way she talks about her life – from her beloved family and friends, to her business and her passion to educate both students and teachers alike in the importance of getting the fundamentals of yoga right. She tells me her yoga journey started as a teen when, like many, she was feeling vocationally lost. But a fateful yoga class with her dad steered this former classical ballerina onto an unexpected new path. Whilst in the interim years she dabbled in personal training, weight lifting and CrossFit, yoga was always where her heart vibrated the highest.
Those years of disciplined functional training has seeped into both her approach to business and her unique style of yoga. And it’s clear that it’s not just her loyal student base that has led to her success, but an eagerness to adapt, combined with a clear conviction in the product – a membership offering of daily pre-recorded yoga classes – that she is putting into the market.
It’s what sets her apart from many of her peers – a kind but no bullshit approach to her practice. It’s not about the music that is playing, the scent of the candles burning or the “vibe” of the studio you’re flowing in. Core to her practice, is the practice itself. Strong, slow, considered, informed. Amy Carmody Yoga is about strengthening the anatomical building blocks of the body, to help her students live a happier, pain-free life. I think Amy’s ethos is why I connected so easily to her practice. It’s smart, it’s educational, and dear god it’s hard. Just try one of her resets, I dare you!
Please finish this sentence for me, Amy Carmody is…
The yogi in me says Amy Carmody is just, I am. I attempt to not stick a label on what I am, of who I am. I know what I do. I teach yoga. I have been doing that for a decade. I am also a mum. I’m also a friend.
Why do you do what you do?
After I finished school, I just went straight to university and was studying something that I didn’t want to study and I didn’t feel passionate about. So I left pretty quickly and I just felt very lost. And when I moved in with my dad, I remember him saying, “we’re going to yoga, why don’t you come?” I had no idea about yoga, but I went, and I’ve gone every week since.
I had a very beautiful teacher pretty much from the get go, who I met when I was 19, and I think like all great teachers, she saw something within me, that I had something to offer and encouraged me to do my training.
When do you think you got to the point in your teaching where you were like, I want to educate others and I want to inspire others and this is where I see my career going, as opposed to the weight lifting, CrossFit or personal training?
I think it was a matter of slowly figuring out what wasn’t working. You start to strip it back to its basics and you think, what do I want from this practice? What is it as a teacher that I want to offer others? Simply, I want to educate others on how to make themselves feel better all of the time, not just for that 60 minutes they’re in the studio or on the yoga mat. If I can just teach them the basics of something like hip flexion and hip extension, so they’re not like hurting when they tie their shoes or unpacking the dishwasher. That to me is such a beautiful part of the practice that isn’t tapped into enough.
Yes, absolutely. Prior to COVID, what did your weekly routine look like, and what did you forecast for the year ahead?
I taught in studio six days a week. My day off was Saturdays and I taught across five studios in Melbourne, anywhere between two and four classes a day, and privates as well. For the year, I had a fairly big one planned with lots of workshops, but also wanting to go deeper into things like lectures. I found a real gap in the market that students, not just teachers, were also really hungry for a lecture style experience. It’s all just been put on pause for now.
I understand you were already looking to jump online to do something similar to what you’re doing?
Yeah, I think I saw it happening maybe in a few years time. But it’s great. As I was saying before, you’re just like, pivot. This is the perfect time to do it.
It seems like it took a lot of studios a while to start their online offering. I’m sure there were a number of factors to that, but why do you think you were able to get online so quickly? How did you know what you wanted to offer when you jumped online?
This is a good question. I have been practicing as a student online for a very long time, so I already had an idea of how online yoga works and what it should look like. I knew I had to act fast because every man and his dog was going to get online. I had a few things in my favour – my friend Jackson, who is also a student, does all the filming, my husband and another friend Drea built the website, and I planned the classes. So I was able to get the initial product out in under a week.
I was also very clear about what it was that I was selling. I was selling an online membership that had daily classes. I didn’t want there to be heaps of choice for people because when you’ve got a lot of choice it makes your product too wishy-washy.
I knew that I wanted something that was high quality and that comes down to everything from the video quality, to the teaching. You’ve got to believe in that product yourself, otherwise it’s like people are going to smell that.
It’s like in nature, like if you don’t adapt you die, so if you’re not going to change and if you’re going to stay rigid in your offering, you’re not going to survive.
Yeah, we’ve got to learn now as teachers that we can’t necessarily rely on an external studio or person for our livelihood. We have to step into our own driver’s seat. Otherwise we don’t have a career to fall back on.
How have you found that your community has grown since you’ve been online? And do you think you’ve found yourself exposed to or connecting with people that you never thought you would connect with or have a chance to educate?
Community-wise, obviously the main initial group who signed up were students of mine already. And then word of mouth is the best marketing tool ever! But a huge thing I’ve noticed is people within the household also doing the classes. The amount of boyfriends, husbands or wives who weren’t previously into yoga are doing it. Which is really cool because I guess it’s just something that might have previously been only the wife or the girlfriend’s thing. Now I’m reaching a target audience who weren’t comfortable stepping into the yoga studio.
And I love that because a big part of the way I teach is not about doing fancy poses that look good on Instagram. It’s like we’re learning how to move really, really well. And I would hope that there are some dudes that are doing the classes, who then carry it through to how they lift weights at the gym or how they do jujitsu.
What sort of an influence and knowledge do you hope to impart on teachers that learn from you?
I really want the teachers coming though to educate themselves and really investigate the yoga practice. Like the diet world, there are many myths and dangerous misconceptions within the yoga world, so I could really encourage people to expand their knowledge.
We also need to up the bar and hold the standard of teacher education a lot higher. There are a vast amount of bodies that come into the room that have this issue or that issue, and a student teacher wouldn’t know what they can or can’t do because they don’t have the knowledge. I think we’ve got to teach anatomy, environment clinics and sustainability movement in a really fun and clear, succinct way so that students have the insight to teach such a broad range of bodies.
And sometimes you do need to just learn the basics.
Yeah. And that’s a huge part of what I’m trying to encourage people, is master the basics, because the basics are very hard. I think it’s just quite fashionable now that people think the crazier the poses, the more difficult and fun the classes. Some of the most difficult classes I go to are just the basics done so well. If you’re working all the right bits that’s a very advanced and very sensitive way to move. Also, people appreciate your intelligence, not your capacity to do a really fancy pose.
I think just from doing those basics every single day that my body has completely changed – I’m subconsciously sitting at my desk differently and my back isn’t sore in bed, it’s amazing.
And that to me is the success of yoga, if it’s impacting your everyday life, it’s not just what you can do on the mat. You’re flexing and extending and that’s why your hamstrings are freeing up, and you’re biomechanically bending over in a more intelligent way that’s rippling into you not having pain in your back and being able to bend further.
How has this whole experience changed you – your weekly routine, your outlook on life?
I am actually really loving this. Since we’re filming half a day, Monday to Friday, for the first time in the ten years of my career, I’m home in the morning and I’m home at night. I haven’t had that since I was a teenager. I’m home to put my son to bed.
It’s been so beautiful, that whole process of slowing down. Being in the one place for work, not driving across the city all day and being at home in those more normal hours.
And then another really beautiful thing is we go outside once a day to go down to the park and get some fresh air on the grass. We’ve met so many parents and neighbours and it reminds me of when we were kids, when my parents knew everyone on the street. I haven’t really felt that since being an adult, meeting the people in your neighbourhood…from a distance.
It’s that sense of community isn’t it? I feel like we’re rebuilding that again.
Totally rebuilding it. I think we’re going to strengthen our home base a little bit more, which is really nice.
Do you think once studios do open you’ll keep the online thing going? What is your gut saying at the moment?
It will definitely keep going. I don’t see why I would stop, especially since it’s been really successful. There will definitely be like a divot in terms of people going back and doing what they were doing. But I’ll definitely keep going and in terms of the way I want my lifestyle to be, I definitely won’t go back to that day-to-day public classes schedule. I would also still love to offer workshops and trainings.
I feel it was almost like a little bit of a kick in the butt for some businesses. We needed to move into that next stage where we were embracing online for the right reasons.
Yeah. I mean, some normalcy will take place when we can re-enter the wild, but I think people have remembered what’s important and I think the expectation of physically needing to be at work is just such an old rigid way of thinking.
And then people will have a better work/life balance when they’re able to step away from that running around town. I’ve heard of so many wonderful stories about people’s wellbeing now that they’re not in that nine to five Monday to Friday sitting at their desk. So I hope there’s going to be this really lovely combination from what was and what will be. And just give people more trust to do their work.
What would your advice be to say someone who just got into their groove before COVID-19 hit and is now having to rethink how they operate or how they deliver their product or service and is maybe scared about this prospect?
To not dwell and compare. I think this has been a massive setback for people, but if you want your business to survive, whether you are a group of people or a sole trader, once you have mourned, if you want to keep going then you’re going to have to adapt and think, how can I move forward from this?
I keep coming back to that word adaptability.
Dwelling is going to stop people from seeing the potential of what could happen. It’s not the same and you have to stop comparing because it’s going to make you feel more shit. I think comparing is going to stop people from seeing how successful something could be.
You probably couldn’t have predicted that your online platform was going to be so successful. But unless you tried it, how would you have ever known?
Yeah, exactly. I remember that initial YouTube package and was excited when 10 people bought it. Then it was 50, then a hundred. That was when I was like, people want to do this. That was the encouragement for me to keep going.
And I guess you literally have nothing to lose at this point.
Yeah. I think when you lose your job it’s exactly what you need to get that little spring back in your step.
Like I said, I didn’t think I would be online for about three years time, but that’s only because I had a full time job. But I lost my job, so now it’s like, boom, I can dive into it.
What excites you the most about the next 12 months?
Expanding the online platform. I have big visions for it. More teachers on the platform. More diverse offerings that I can funnel my energy into. And giving other teachers that I really admire the chance to have good income through the platform.
Not that I don’t want to go back to teaching bodies in real-time and in the room. I can’t wait for that. That’s the most important part of the teacher-student relationship, being there in the room with them. But yeah, I think that if I want to expand my range, my teaching, my mission and my message then online is such an awesome way to do it.