Bliss Yoga Accra CEO shares insights on the sport

Nana Amoako-Anin, CEO, Bliss Yoga Accra

To mark UN designated International Yoga Day on 21 June, we went into our content archive and pulled out an interview we had last year with Bliss Yoga Accra CEO and a yogi, Nana Amoako-Anin. She shared some interesting insights with sheleadsafrica.com Executive Editor Efam Awo Dovi. We bring you excerpts:

Let’s talk about the practice of yoga. Many people in this part of the world associate yoga meditation, is there more to it?

Fantastic opportunity to finally put this on a platform for people to really understand what it is. Many people in particular associate yoga with a form of religion. When they use the word meditation, they ask us what we meditate on and if we associate with some type of spiritual deviation from their path.

I will say that I have been practicing for 18 years and I am also a Catholic. And so many of the students who come to our studios are from other religious affiliations. We don’t speak on religion here. You do not lose your own spiritual affiliation if you come to a studio of this nature. All we do is physically move with you and the result is, more calm. Meditation means breathing, generally. It’s just breathing techniques, which helps you settle down because the mind is a very elaborate place. And so we try to allow you to calm your mind by being in a very quiet beautiful serene space. That is the basics of it.

I am excited to be in Ghana because I think it is for the first time I am able to really give this a different platform for people who are curious and maybe a little bit nervous about being associated with this type of exercise.

I am constantly and always open to speaking to people. Anybody wants to talk to me, I want to speak with you because I feel like I am an ambassador for this type of environment and I really want people to know that it is a safe environment and culturally you are not conflicted. I just want them to feel well.

Why a yoga business in Ghana?

I lived all over the world. I spent most of my childhood as a child of diplomats, who are now
retired, and spent some time in some parts of Southern Africa and really were exposed to the world and where we can go and the potentials. So, I moved around with them in their travels and ended up in the (Washington) DC area, found my way into schools there and to New York City where I was Columbia student. All these adventures led into different careers. I spent much of my time in legal and financial industry after law school as a student in New York and ended up studying other things.

I was an Art major in college but found my way into the legal industry because I was working with children in New York City. That career moved into a space where I worked with the DA’s (District Attorney) office in Manhattan for sometime. But I lived a really exciting life and it was wonderful but very stressful. As a female executive anywhere, even working in an investment bank in New York City, you do find that your lifestyle turns to be hectic. And so yoga became my way of release. It has become my second friend, my best friend. So I practiced yoga and have been continually doing for about fifteen to eighteen years. I decided to move back to Ghana where I’m originally from with my husband and my daughter a couple of years ago. I had no plan of opening a studio. I knew that I loved yoga. So when we came to Accra many people were very curios about it. And after much curiosity and few private clients, it became obvious interested people wanted a space where they could come and practice. And so that is how this happened: I am an accidental business owner.

Read: Nana Amoako-Anin: Accidental Business Owner

How is the business doing so far?

Nana-Amoako-Anin

Great! Yoga is something that Africa has embraced in the last five to 10 years. There are studios, very few particularly in West Africa. When we started the business we were not really sure that we would have some students. One student became a few and we expanded after three months of operations and in two years we have had about seven hundred members come through this space. So there is so much potential here.

We discovered that it’s not about just yoga; it’s about the fact that people are waking up now in this environment to understand that they need to be healthy. As somebody who relocated to live in this environment, there are some wonderful things but there are so many stresses in the lifestyle.

Yoga is like a two hundred billion dollar industry internationally. People invest money in their health. They want to find ways to leave a very stressful working environment to come somewhere they can actually be with themselves. We found it a business, we learned that it is healthy and why not, why wouldn’t people invest in it?

This is not a very luxurious environment, would you say things are changing because of how we look at health?

Africa is an interesting space. We understand that we are in a developing country. Ghana is a developing country with so much potential and with different facets of that. But I have to ask you a question, have you ever woken up in the morning and just been paralyzed with stress, may be from just being over worked for having a project that took a long span of time? You might be interested in investing may be 15 cedis ($3.50) for one hour of moving a month.

Some people will take it a step further and do more in a space like this. But it’s accessible: we also offer donation base classes. We started that this year (2016) where people can come in on some days and take a class and donate and give whatever they can, that is slowly started to take root. We are trying to give everybody access. I will say that yoga is a luxury business. It is for people who have openness for this type of practice and they know about it. Maybe they have traveled so they have experienced it. But I do feel that now more than ever within our community people are trying to say, I need access to this, how do I make it happen? – Amoako-Anin-Leads Africa. — SLAfrica

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