Yogaia was originally founded in Finland by Mikko Petaja and his wife, Anu. Mikko was frustrated with the dilemma of trying to fit yoga into their busy life. With careers in advertising business and three lively boys to raise at home, getting to yoga was causing more stress than relieving it. That dilemma sparked a dream of an online yoga studio, one that would offer yoga classes that fit your life.
That dream has turned into reality and a business that is growing fast and has already taken the Petaja family all the way to London. And as it seems now, their next home might be all the way across the Atlantic…
In her own words, Anu tells us the story so far:
My yoga story started 15 years ago when I had my first baby. As a new mother I wanted to find a new way to take care of my wellbeing. So, I ended up buying a yoga VHS from a local store. I decided to give it a go and started to do a short yoga class every day while our baby was taking a morning nap. Doing the same 15 min practice all over again was a bit boring after a while. That’s when I started to go to a local yoga studio over the weekends to get inspiration to my home practice. My relationship with yoga grew deeper over the years, so five years ago I decided to do my yoga instructor training. Afterwards, I started to give classes to my colleagues in the advertising agency I was working at.
When a hobby becomes a family business
Practicing yoga at home had a huge impact on what me and my husband Mikko do for a living today. Mikko used to take yoga classes in a local studio in the mornings before going to work. One day he was sitting in a traffic jam after a yoga class – and felt stressed out – even though he had just done a practice that ended in a relaxing Savasana. He started to look for an online yoga studio that would provide live yoga classes to our home and help him in building a yoga routine, but he could not find one.
Mikko started to develop an online yoga studio of his dreams and soon he had created Yogaia’s first web page. And it wasn’t long before I found myself teaching yoga classes from our living room via Skype. The first participants were our friends, but soon we started to see new faces behind the camera. The popularity and growth of Yogaia exceeded our expectations and only a year later Yogaia was a full time job for both of us.
Bringing wellbeing to everybody around the globe – except ourselves?
There seemed to be a growing demand for Yogaia also outside of our home country Finland. We got some financing to make Yogaia grow internationally. This meant moving to London with our three children. Moving abroad was much harder than we thought. Our children did not speak any English and felt unsafe in the new environment. Everyday life was extremely challenging without a proper support network. Sometimes we felt that we were building wellbeing for everybody else at the cost of our own family.
The internationalization process did not go smoothly. In addition to London, we also had a studio in Hong Kong and opened a new one in Berlin. Soon the expenses were growing faster than incomes and our focus and energy was spread to too many directions. Financial insecurity made life a whole more stressful and sometimes even kept us awake at night. We had to make difficult decisions and focus on developing the English speaking service. That meant closing down the studios in Berlin and Hong Kong. It was especially difficult to let some of our dear colleagues go – we had worked so hard together and achieved a lot.
Following a yoga dream to America
The hard decisions and better focus started to turn into results and our business is now developing into the right direction. Also our family life feels more balanced now when our kids are enjoying school, have own hobbies and our whole family has found lovely new friends in London.
With that being said, there’s once again potential for a big change in the air. We recently opened a studio in Los Angeles with a global yoga brand called Manduka. Our next goal is to keep expanding our business and bring interactive live yoga classes and wellbeing to the homes across America. And we hope that this time we can take on the challenge without forgetting the wellbeing our own family.
Anu Petäjä is the Marketing and Communication director of Yogaia and a mother of three boys. She has been trained as a yoga teacher, but has decided to focus on increasing her own wellbeing through yoga for now instead of teaching others.
Ready to join us on the mat?
Try us now to access free yoga classes. Anytime, anywhere.