• Dom Catto

Our Vula Yoga Story

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

I started teaching Yoga about 14 years ago. My first teaching job was teaching some family and friends in their homes. I think most Yoga teachers start out that way. After my first teacher training in Durban, I went back to my home at the time in Johannesburg and started phoning all the Jozi Yoga studios looking for a teaching slot. Every single one of them said they only hire teachers who have done their studio’s teacher training. Had I known that before I would have definitely done a local teacher training. Instead, I started teaching at Virgin Active. Back then, it was quite difficult to teach anything in the way of spirituality and Yoga philosophy at Virgin. I wasn’t even allowed to chant Aum to open my classes. But I did get invaluable practice firstly on teaching beginners and secondly on learning how to teach Yogis at different levels of their practice all in one class. From people who had never been on a Yoga mat before to advanced practitioners, I had the responsibility to make sure they all had a balanced, yet challenging class. So, I’m super grateful for my time teaching there because it really made me the resilient teacher I am today and really helped me fall in love with teaching beginners.

At this stage of my life, I was pursuing Yoga as a full-time career but not being “hireable” to any studios made this very difficult. I started my first business then, named “Mobi-Karma”. I was a travelling Yoga teacher and massage therapist. I would come to your home and teach you and your family or friends Yoga or give you an amazing aromatherapy massage. I loved doing this work, but to make any impact financially I was teaching 20 classes a week and trying to fit in a massage a day. I was absolutely shattered and constantly physically exhausted. This was definitely not sustainable.

At this point, I decided I need to deepen my own practice and learn more for the sake of my students. I applied to do a second teacher training at Living Yoga, then run by Cherryl Duncan and Sarah Bentz. The first class I took made me realise I was HOME. THIS is what I had been looking for. It also made me realise that I had previously just been an asana (physical poses) teacher as opposed to a YOGA teacher. Living Yoga and it’s remarkable Jivamukti teachers taught me that there was SO much more to Yoga. I fell in love with my teachers, with the pratice and with the Jivamukti tradition.

After my three-month teacher training, Living Yoga offered me a mentorship under Cherryl Duncan and I grabbed this opportunity with gratitude and excitement. The mentorship involved attending classes, teaching along with Cherryl in her classes, and attending lectures and workshops, all the while receiving constant feedback and suggestions on how to be a great Yoga teacher for Cherrylji. It was such a challenging period of my life to be asked to really look into myself, dig into all those closed off, dark places and invite them into the light. To really look at myself, my ego and to learn how to be of service to the humans that choose to come to my classes. It was life-changing as a human, a Yogi and a teacher.

Then, as if by magic, I got the opportunity to travel to New York and take the Jivamukti teacher training with Sharon Gannon, David Life, Jules Febre, Lady Ruthji and Jeffery Cohen. I could not believe that this was happening to me. I spent a month submerged in the teachings of Yoga with my incredible teachers and 120 other teacher trainers from all over the world. I called it the Yoga Bubble of Love. We learned Yoga from 6 am to 11 pm every day. It was challenging, emotional, exhausting and the most magical, beautiful month of my life. I cannot tell you the number of epiphanies, realisations and lessons I had. From a sentence from my mentor, Lady Ruthji, that shattered my view of the world to hours of lectures on Karma and how it works. This is what Yoga truly is.

I came home from this amazing experience and was determined to make Yoga my whole life. Another remarkable opportunity arose in my life. I was karmically blessed enough, with the help of my father and my teachers, to open a second Living Yoga studio in Northcliff. My dream come true. A yoga studio of my very own, in which to share the incredible, life-changing teachings of Yoga with as many people as I possibly could. I invited some of my fellow teachers to teach with me and my heart was so full up. Everything was exactly as it should have been.

Then, real-life hit and the realisation that teaching Yoga, even just running a profitable Yoga studio in South Africa at that time, was actually unachievable without income from another source. After two years of running my studio at a loss, I had to admit defeat. I offered the studio to two of my fellow teachers who had alternate forms of income and they accepted. They changed the name of the studio to Maitri Yoga Studio and it is still, much to my heart’s delight, running today.

So, what now, I asked myself? I’ve taught at Virgin Active, I’ve started my own mobile yoga business, I’ve taught at different studios and I’ve opened my own Yoga studio, but in each instance, I could not financially sustain myself. I felt like I’d failed. How could I get this amazing message of Yoga to people and still be able to support myself, having no other tertiary training or qualifications? It felt like an unachievable dream.

Finally, I decided to change my situation and move to Cape Town. I made the decision to teach Yoga but have a different source of income as well. Amongst a myriad of different jobs (working at a tea shop, a film studio, a gin distillery and in my husband Nick’s print business), I managed to keep teaching sporadically. Although these other jobs provided for me financially, none satisfied my need to share the teachings of Yoga and only being able to teach a couple of classes a week limited how many people I could reach and how much time I could dedicate to my practice.

How do I reach as many people as possible without totally depleting myself emotionally, physically and financially?

Around the time I moved to Cape Town, Nick was saying goodbye to his father and taking over his business. He spent many years learning how to run a small business, educating himself on many of the concepts formulating on the internet, like SEO, algorithms, buying specific domain names, building websites, CRM, integrating direct email campaigns, following thought leaders and teaching himself how to be a business-person.

Along with this, Nick comes from a famously musical South African family. He has spent many years making music with different members of his very talented family, as well as other South African musicians. At a point early last year, Nick, his mom Julie and his brother Matt decided they wanted to expand on Julie’s in-person musical harmony workshops and teach people how to sing harmony via an online course. They got together often to script, sing and record their course and found a course platform, on which to host the course.

One evening in bed, Nick and I were joking about an upcoming printing industry exhibition, saying I should come along in printed Yoga pants, on a printed mat and teach Yoga in front of the stall to attract more people. We were joking around, but the idea got us thinking about businesses we could develop that were Yoga related, like Yoga pants. I think the idea probably hit us at exactly the same time. ONLINE YOGA! Let’s set up an online Yoga course. We can record the course once, put our absolute best work into it and because it’s online we can reach thousands of humans!! This is perfect! I have all the Yoga teaching expertise and Nick has the business wisdom...

Immediately we found a domain we liked (www.yogaforbeginners.co.za) and settled on the name for our business, Vula Yoga. Vula Yoga comes from a very special place in South Africa, our home country. Both our families have holiday homes on the border of the Kruger National Park, literally two farms away from each other, and we’ve been going on holidays there all our lives. Mansimvula is Nick’s family’s farm and it’s where Nick proposed to me. Mansimvula means “to Open the water”. As this very special corner of the planet is so important to us we decided to incorporate it into our name. In Xhosa and Zulu, Vula means Open, turn to, to become Open, to Open for each other. We thought this was the perfect energy with which to infuse our business. To encourage beginner Yogi’s to be open to the life-changing practices of Yoga.

We bought the domain name and started putting the curriculum together. That was in August 2019. We approached an investor and have put this incredible online resource together in five months. We had our course as well as our tutorials professionally shot and edited by Bruce Meissner of Love Made Visible who took on the herculean task of over 140 hours of editing. Nick and I built the website ourselves, have figured out direct email, are learning how to be Instagram influencers *cue hair flip* and are building our community from scratch.

When we started out we didn’t realise what a massive project this would be. Together, we have never been this proud or this excited for our future. We are able to make a living income, while reaching thousands of people, affecting and changing their lives with Yoga, and all the while doing what we are so passionate about.

Each experience and situation in our lives, together and separately, has lead us to this point. It has lead us to create this amazing online business that we care deeply for, are so passionate about and have no doubt will go out into this world and change people. We truly believe that it is a selfish act to live in this day and age and not be in service to others, not try to help others, not do meaningful life-changing work, not helping the planet become healthier, happier and more conscious. This is why we started this business. To bring the life-changing teachings of Yoga to YOU, to as many people as possible, to help change the lives of strangers, to do good work at sending love and compassion out to the planet, to build a community of like-minded humans ready to make the changes this planet and this world needs to survive.

In the building of this business, we have connected with amazing humans in person and online, we have built an incredible product and we have deepened our connection with one another. We are now so much more than a couple, we are a conscious husband and wife entrepreneur team using our advantages, privileges and knowledge to change the world.

Welcome to 2020. We invite you to take a look at yourself and your life, be proud of who you are and where you’ve come from, looking to the future see what decisions and changes you can make in your life and to yourself that will effect change beyond yourself, change that will save a life, change the world and show love to someone who needs it most.

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