This is an interview with Paul Javid, former Microsoft product manager and co-founder of the fitness app Cody. Here Javid speaks on mindfulness, connection and the role of digital platforms to build yoga and fitness communities online.
What originally motivated you to do this work and what continues to motivate you?
Human capacity is limitless, and as long as we have the tools and resources we need, anything is possible. My desire to help people accomplish their dreams and give them the tools to do so impelled me to leave my job at Microsoft and start Cody with my co-founder, Pejman Pour-Moezzi. Four years later, what motivates me most is the desire to grow with the incredibly talented people I work with every day – the employees, coaches, and community that make up the CodyFam.
What, in your mind, is the relationship between a practice of mindfulness and greater social change?
With a practice of mindfulness we open up to love our neighbors, our communities, and even people we haven’t met before. When we take the time to connect with our innate desire to love, social change isn’t a task – it’s one of life’s greatest joys. When we love someone, we naturally start to give and support them. This is why love is, in my opinion, is one of the most powerful tools for social change.
Perhaps what’s often forgotten in the journey of love is the love of self. We must learn to love who we are, and find strength therein before we can give ourselves to someone else. We must first believe that anything is possible before we can teach someone else to believe the same. These deep-rooted feelings often require renegotiation with our own psyche, and this internal conversation can only be had with a practice of mindfulness.
Today yoga is a practice, a community and even an industry. How is yoga evolving in contemporary culture? What’s happening to the demographics, and to the teachings? How has your own practice evolved?
Ten years ago, Yoga wasn’t perceived by the mainstream as a rigorous physical practice, rather a slower, almost restorative form of fitness. Today, through the growth of social media, the world’s best practitioners are showcasing the incredible strength and control they have built through the practice of Yoga. Yoga has branched out from traditional methods and sequencing to a practice of whole health: integrating strength, flexibility, body awareness and mindfulness into a single practice.
While Yoga has grown to appeal to a wider audience, the intention of the practice has remained intact – transformation of consciousness, identity, and relationship with community. Yoga is my moving meditation – one where I grow stronger physically as I grow stronger mentally and spiritually.
What do you think the role of brands play in the shaping of the future of yoga and mindfulness? Can brands play a role in maintaining the integrity of the practice, and how are you contributing?
I believe that brands are the organizing catalyst for Yoga. Whether a person practices online or in person, there is one or more brands behind every instructor that have helped bring students to their classes and even define their message. To believe that Yoga brands could operate without a strong partnership with Yoga teachers is naïve, and to believe that brands would have a successful business without also insuring the success of their instructors is short-sighted.
Cody partners with the best instructors in the world, and has created over 200 hours of Yoga-based training. But our mission goes beyond creating great videos – we are changing the way Yoga is practiced online.
One of the biggest differences between an in-studio class and an online class is online formats traditionally lack community. But, when students train with Cody, they connect with other people and watch stories be told. Dialogue unfolds through likes and comments. Even better, they can interact in real-time with other students from around the world by taking one of our Online Studio classes. Our Online Studio community is so powerful that many students wake up in the middle of the night just to participate.
Are we doing a good job of keeping the practice’s spiritual authenticity intact during this unprecedented period of growth and evolution?
While we might observe that Yoga is getting more attention due to the physical or at times even acrobatic nature of the practice – the impressive handstands and arm balances – this is only showcasing the mastery that an individual has over their practice. I don’t believe this is overshadowing the spiritual authenticity of the practice, rather it might just appeal more, initially, to our physical nature.
I believe we are keeping the spiritual authenticity of the practice intact because I believe that the Yoga instructors who are growing in popularity, locally, nationally and internationally are doing so, not only because they are physically talented, but because they also have deeper meaning and teachings that they wish to share. At a glance, particularly on social media, it might look like all that is being showcased is a strong pose or a flexible position, often revered in higher levels of the Yoga discipline, but as we read further, we will often find a powerful story of personal growth, an inspirational message, or even gleanings into one instructors perspective on the path to enlightenment and equanimity.
What is your role and your brand’s role in making the practice accessible to more people to facilitate greater social change?
We don’t try to influence what someone should practice, with whom they should practice, or what style of Yoga to which they should dedicate themselves. Rather, we are the loudspeaker for the practice of Yoga in general. We showcase that Yoga has something to offer everyone; whether you want to build strength physically or mentally, practice self care, or reconnect with your spiritual nature. Whether you have a big or a small body, you are young or elderly, you are an athlete, or you are overweight, we believe Yoga has something for you.
In what ways do you think yoga addresses some of the societal factors at play in terms of the demographics of your consumers? In what ways does it not?
Our trainings are designed to help users tackle a variety of societal issues. For instance, the “EveryBody Yoga” plan by Jessamyn Stanley, a teacher who is familiar with the challenges of practicing in a larger body, is designed to help those with body image to gain confidence and embrace who they are. The “Making Shapes” course by Dana Falsetti, who found happiness through yoga after years of binge eating, encourages students to embrace their full potential without feeling limited by their physical body. And Ana Forrest’s “Freedom from Struggle” class invites students to recognize and break free from emotional and mental roadblocks, building self-esteem and strength.
Working with teachers who represent a variety of different traditions, backgrounds, genders and body types is a way we can truly encourage “yoga for everyone.” Cody is dedicated to solving the challenge of making online trainings an even more intimate, live experience between students and their teacher.
I Am Worthy with Dana Falsetti:
What are some of your ideas about or hopes for the future of service yoga in America in the next 10 years?
I hope that Yoga isn’t just another fitness form that has to compete for attention with other forms of fitness. Rather it’s seen as one of the only forms of fitness that has a traditional lineage with a powerful message. I hope that in 10 years Yoga is seen as a tool that can empower people and build their strength mentally and physically. My biggest hope is that in the next 10 years we start to embrace the necessity to move every day and see Yoga as one of the best ways to implement a daily routine, regardless of age or gender.
Join us in sharing the gift of yoga with those who can benefit most. Learn about ways to get involved with the Give Back Yoga Foundation.