Emily Klein is a Wonder Woman.
Yoga practitioner, traveller and business woman, Emily is one of those women who rarely stops. Launching her online store, Akasha Yoga Pieces, Emily and her partner Luke have made a concerted effort to support the Guatemalan community that captivated them on their travels through the production and sale of their hand-woven yoga straps. This week in the lead up to Mothers Day and the Full Moon on the 11th, we invited Emily to takeover over our Instagram with her complimentary imagery and quotes as a blessing to our mothers and all the wonder women around us. Emily also took the time to chat to us about her personal journey and the inspiration behind her energising feed.
Interview by Kerryn Moscicki, Intro by Alex Birch, Images by Luke Della Santa
I loved the serendipity of how similar our paths have been. First working in Fashion and Product Development, then delving more deeply into your Yoga practice and branching out into your own business. Can you tell us more about your journey so far? What was the light bulb moment when you knew you needed to do your own thing?
I know! It’s as though our paths were destined to cross!
Almost three years ago Luke and I left the security of our Sydney lives to explore Latin America and somehow found ourselves captivated by a small idyllic village in Guatemala, located on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It’s a very spiritual place so naturally we began to explore our connection to yoga, through regular practice, mediation and many of the workshops offered in town.
With my background in design and Luke’s natural eye for beauty and craftsmanship, we had long been admiring the ancient Mayan weaving techniques of the region and really wanted to honour and preserve this vanishing art form. We also became integral members of the community that we lived in, volunteering at a local nutrition centre, where it became intensely clear, the endless struggles that many indigenous Guatemalans face everyday. We became passionate about supporting this community (our friends), by providing a sustainable income, empowering them to continue expressing their culture through art and by bringing awareness to the importance of mindful consumerism back home.
So all of these elements came together, as if the stars were aligned! We hired a local women’s co-operative of around four women, a screen printer, a photographer’s assistant, two tailors, and two washerwomen, not to mention all of the amazing señoras who help us source the second-hand straps from surrounding villages and teach us about the different designs for us.
Since launching our online store, we’ve received an amazing response. We’re now stocked in some of the best studios and retail spaces nation wide, as well as a huge international customer base. We’ve also been featured in the Australian Yoga Journal and Instyle Magazine Vogue. So it’s onwards and upwards from here!
Where did the idea for Akasha come from? Was it always about making just the one product or do you eventually see a broader range under development?
The idea for Akasha simply came from an admiration for the traditional belts worn by the indigenous women in Guatemala. We kept asking ourselves “what can we do with these amazing textile pieces?” And by connecting our two passions at the time, yoga and textiles, AKASHA was born. We never expected it to be where it is today! We’re now in our second collection, with plans to return to Guatemala later in the year to source the next range. We’re also in the process of expanding our range to include alternative yoga props, such as eye pillows and meditation cushions, offering a holistic collection to help incorporate the practice of yoga into every aspect of your life.
We love your Instagram feed and the breadth of imagery you present. Can you describe your process in creating your feed? What are your favourite places to research from? Do you set weekly themes or does the process evolve more organically?
Thank-you! It’s something that brings me so much joy and it’s nice to know that it shows through.
Surprisingly it evolves very naturally. I have always been a collector of beautiful images that inspire me. I am continually compiling imagery, so when I plan for the week ahead, often a theme comes through, which is always reassuring, as though the Universe is letting me know I’m on the right path.
And then from there I team the images together with quotes or thoughts for the day. I’m driven by the idea that a certain quote could resonate with someone in our Instagram community, helping them through a difficult time or simply lifting their mood in that moment.
As an entrepreneur and a practicing Yogi, how do you set a boundary between the two? Where does the practice end and the business begin?
It doesn’t! And that’s exactly what we want to share through AKASHA! The idea that yoga doesn’t end when you step off the mat; it’s a lifestyle and a mindset that should permeate every aspect of our being! This is applicable for our business practice also. We use the Eight Limbs Of Yoga to guide us, for example, ‘Satya’ representing truthfulness and transparency in our processes; ‘Aparigraha’ which speaks of non-possessiveness inspiring us to donate a percentage of our sales to the NGO we volunteered with in San Marcos, and ‘Ahimsa’ which signifies kindness to all living beings, including Mother Nature, which is why we recycle pre-loved textiles.
Do you find now that you are working in developing a yoga based range your practice has changed in anyway? What rituals and routines have you instilled in your own working life to help maintain balance?
Since starting AKASHA I have definitely been inspired to deepen my practice. Running your own business, as I’m sure you know, can be very daunting and full of uncertainty, so I find by incorporating yoga into my day, even if it’s just a few quick Sun Salutations, this has a really grounding effect and reminds me of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Another important tool I use to find balance in my day is breathing. It sounds silly to say, but breathing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a shallow breather, so I have to take pause throughout my day and remind myself to take deep belly breaths. It’s the easiest way to instantly feel better.
We have asked you to take over our feed for the week as a kind of offering to our community to keep self care rituals top of mind. Are there any simple home practices would you recommend people add to their daily routines to maintain positive energy.
In order to avoid distraction and really give myself to my at-home yoga practice I like to create a ritual around it. I switch my phone to silent, light some sage to clear the air, put on my favourite yoga-playlist (you can check it out here) and just flow and be in the moment.
I also like to keep a nightly journal, which I look at as my “prayer-time” or meditation. A time to reflect on the day and jot down what I am grateful for in that moment.
The daily quotes you partner many of your images with are very inspiring. Tell us about your favourite authors? What is your go-to book for self-care and preservation?
There are so many amazing writers and poets out there at the moment with such powerful words including Nayyirah Waheed, Cleo Wade, Pema Chodron and Yung Pueblo. And then of course the classics like Hafiz and Rumi. I believe that certain sayings cross your path when you need them, something that really touches you and speaks to you in that moment.
Books that inspire me aren’t always necessarily self-care books. I love a good autobiography that tells the story of incredible humans such as Jane Goodall or Patti Smith. These are books that make me want to be a better human or simply help me to look at the world with poetic gratitude.
It seems like you travel a lot - how does the travel inform your work? Any special teachers or studio’s you long for?
Oh there are so many amazing yoga teachers that I have met throughout my travels! San Marcos La Laguna Guatemala is an incredible hub for all forms of yoga and many of my favourite teachers are there. I also had an amazing month practising in The Sacred Valley Peru at Nidra Wasi.
When I’m back home in Sydney I always love trying out different studios; there are so many amazing options on offer and I believe certain yoga teachers come into your life to provide you with the guidance you need in that exact moment.
Next year I am planning to go and study in India too, so I’m really excited about that!
An event that definitely changed the way I approach business, and life in general really, was during our first stay in San Marcos when I had my Mayan astrology chart read. I was told that my purpose in life was to serve others. This immediately resonated with me and I became acutely aware of my energy when I was or wasn’t helping others. When I am in the service of others, this is when I feel my best; this is when my soul soars!
What does being ‘radical’ mean to you?
“Radical” for me conjures images of Change-Makers. People who are unafraid to speak their truth and to be their authentic selves. People who are mindful of their impact in the world and are focused on creating positive change in any way that is available to them.