This piece was originally seen in YOGI TIMES.
YOGI TIMES interviewed Vincent Chevalier, Nicole Vahlkamp and Raphael Harmel, the three founders of The Yoga Summit. The Yoga Summit is a 21-day online program that features all things yoga; from various poses and techniques to speeches from some of the most well-known yoga teachers in the world. This program is more than your typical exercise regimen; it also works your mental and spiritual health for an all-around experience (and is free for all to join!).
YT: You are a team of three running this massive summit. Where were you in your lives that made you decide to create a yoga summit
Vincent: I had just finished working on an exciting project with The Mindfulness Summit and thinking this format would be very adapted to Yoga as well. I worked at Udemy before, and I have always been passionate to find new ways to share knowledge and wisdom thanks to new technologies. That’s what excites me the most in The Yoga Summit.
How can we leverage social media and technologies to empower people and spread positive thinking? Not only through an online course, but with a format that allows more interaction between teachers and students with a real sense of community. The energy of the group is really important for yoga, and we wanted to build something that preserves this dimension, as well as some of learnings that you can practice from the comfort of your home and online.
Nicole: I’d been running my own business working as a consultant primarily for yoga retreats and other related businesses, but still had a few other clients in the non-yoga world. I was really asking the Universe to show me what was next in terms of how I could integrate more yoga and teaching into my work.
It was a pivotal point where I just felt that something was going to change, and I knew I was going to have to further integrate the yogic/emotional/spiritual parts of my practice into my professional life more, but I didn’t know what that would look like and I was nervous to take the leap.
When I reconnected with Vincent, who I was friends with in graduate school, he told me about this idea he had for a Yoga Summit. I immediately knew that this was the shift I’d been praying for and had sensed was coming. I intuitively knew that it would be a huge opportunity and honor to help create a yoga summit that would spread these teachings to potentially hundreds of thousands of people.
Raphaël: At that time, I was a digital nomad traveling the world while building Speecheo, a software for events. This travel lifestyle made me discover yoga and meditation, and it allowed me to connect with nature, as I am an avid surfer. My vision of success and the goal of life started to shift. While going to Big Sur in California, I had a spiritual awakening which made me see life differently. It made me realize that it was time for me to live life fully.
My references shifted at that time around core values: I became much more conscious of my thoughts and actions and their impact on me, others, and on the world. It was time for me to base my actions on purity and remove all the negative aspects in my life
I then went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in India and then to Burning Man in the US. These two events opened my mind and consciousness even more. It was now time for me to put all the aspects of my life in alignment and to start working on a project to make the world a better place. It was time to create The Yoga Summit.
YT: How did you come together?
Vincent: I met Raphaël when he was back from Burning Man and stopped in San Francisco last year, after his inner transformation. We went to Lake Tahoe together with a group of friends and discovered a common interest for meditation, yoga, and entrepreneurship. After this connection, we started nourishing the project to build something that mattered around Yoga.
When Nicole saw our preliminary Facebook page in February 2016, she contacted us, intrigued and curious about what we were doing. (Actually, she sent a Facebook message that said, “Vincent- I didn’t know you were a yogi…?!”). After talking with Nicole, it became obvious that she had the potential to bring this project to another dimension. And in March 2016, she joined the Global Yogis team.
What combined skills and knowledge do you have that enable you to put a program like this together? What are your backgrounds and what roles do you each play?
YT: Vincent: Firstly, we are all on our journeys to make life meaningful and to live with more awareness and intention. It’s hard to create a yoga summit if you aren’t already on a yoga-journey, because the summit is about seeking that process, and reflects, to some extent, where we are in our journeys. We’re all committed to creating things that will have a positive impact around us and on the world. We all built the format strategy together.
Secondly, we are very complementary in terms of our tangible skill sets; each one of us has a very specific functional experience: Nicole has background in yoga and meditation, but also in finance, strategy, and operations. She is responsible for the content: she created the curriculum, selected the speakers, and does all the interviews. She also created the course about the Five Fundamentals of Yoga that will launch towards the end of the summit.
Raphaël is an entrepreneur who spent his last years building several IT companies and online software products, with a focus on education, events, and media. He is in charge of the product and the infrastructure.
I run a programmatic advertising agency, Impulse Analytics, in San Francisco focusing on start-ups. I am in charge of the business: coming up with business models, marketing tactics, and partnership strategies.
YT: What is your mission? What would you like to accomplish?
We founded The Yoga Summit and the Global Yogis community with one unified idea: to make the world better through the practice of yoga. We strongly believe that the more people practice yoga and integrate yogic principles in their daily lives, the more love and light we spread throughout the world, and the more healing and peace we can bring about. More specifically, we wanted to go beyond what other online courses offer and introduce people to the way yoga can make every aspect of your life better – in addition to giving you strong muscles and increased flexibility!
We wanted to build an event where people would feel like they experienced a mini-yoga teacher training course and their minds had been opened and their approach to life truly transformed. We also want them to come away with practical ways that they could improve their lives and create their own home yoga and meditation practices.
Finally, the community aspect is really important to us: bringing yogis from around the world together to interact with each other, ask and answer each other’s’ questions, and ask questions to the speakers and to us, if they’d like.
YT: What is the larger vision? What are your future plans?
We will always have the vision of improving people’s lives with knowledge and practices that have a positive impact on health, happiness, and wellbeing. We want to keep engaging with the experts on important topics while creating unique educational experiences that help provide them with the audience visibility they deserve. We aren’t sure if we will continue to do other summits, create a platform for additional yogic learning or create a format that isn’t entirely defined yet in our minds, but we will continue to create! Right now, we are primarily focused on launching this summit!
YT: How do you think The Yoga Summit will benefit the yoga community?
Nicole: For the Western yoga community in particular, this is pretty revolutionary! We want to share all aspects of yoga- from physical to the mental, emotional, and the spiritual. Furthermore, a format like a summit, where yoga experts are gathered and share their teachings, is not common in the online yoga world.
The great thing about this summit is that it offers countless opportunities to grow. We are bringing the more “hardcore” elements of yoga – like Ayurveda, yogic philosophy, yogic music/chanting, the use of meditation and mantras, the concept of self-realization – to a mainstream audience.
We have speakers who present these very powerful practices in a way that is both secular and spiritual. They invite people to think about yoga not only as an exercise, but as a holistic system that can really improve every aspect of their lives. We’ve created content that pushes people a bit outside their comfort zone, knowing that these practices will optimize their yoga practices physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Why did you choose to do 21 days?
Nicole: 21 days is the right balance to be able to share some substantial learning and content, and at the same time it’s not too long so people can easily commit and envision. It is a perfect length to start building a habit or a regular yoga practice. Science of habits also say that you need 21 days to turn something into a habit.
You say that you want to “elevate the consciousness of the world” on your website. How do you believe that will happen through the yoga summit
Nicole: The aim of The Yoga Summit is to provide tools to be healthier, happier, and more peaceful.
By spreading wellbeing and peace, we want to help each one to feel more connected to others.
YT: How do you want people to walk away from your courses
Nicole: We want them to get a taste of what life is like when you live with greater balance within yourself, and in greater harmony with others. We hope our audience will feel that can start to make small changes in their lives that will help them to be happier, healthier, and more peaceful. We also want to slowly open their minds and hearts so that the yoga can work its magic. It’s the yoga that will change them – we’re just presenting them with the access.
Of course, we also want them to want more! Like all other transformative experiences, this is just the beginning of a journey…
Transformation has been used a lot lately and quite freely in the personal development arena. What does that mean to you? What kind of transformation can the community expect from this summit?
Nicole: Transformation, as we learned from our personal journeys, is how to switch from a life without real meaning and values to a life with greater awareness, a sense of being awake, and a feeling of purpose – which for us is to share this knowledge and create community.
We hope that The Yoga Summit will be a way for others to experiment a similar transformation and to find their true role in this world, away from selfishness and close to oneness.
What is the difference of what people receive in terms of transformation between the free and paid content?
Nicole: It was important for us to keep this summit free and open to all, so for 24 hours each day one interview is free. If you follow along everyday and are really committed, you will have the same transformation as someone who has the paid experience.
Yet, listening to some of these interviews more than once is a definite benefit – there is so much great information people will want to listen again to get everything they can out of it. Yoga is a practice. For it to really work, we must regularly be practicing; re-watching these videos and purchasing the Five Fundamentals of Yoga Course to build up your own practice can be incredibly beneficial.
YT: Last but not least, we had to ask…DO YOU YOGA? o;-)
Raph: Yes, it is totally part of my life: my daily morning routine consists of doing sun salutations and breathing exercises, and then end with meditation.
Nicole: My daily practice includes pranayama and mantra meditation, reading something by my teachers, Swami Sivananda and Emmet Fox (a yogi at his core!), and a few rounds of sun salutations. I go to full asana classes 2-3 times a week and teach yoga once a week at the Sivananda center in whatever city I’m in! I’m also a vegetarian and follow a pitta- balancing ayurvedic diet. Chanting mantras and listening to Kirtan music by Jai Uttal (who is on the summit) and Krishna Das are key to boosting my mood!
Vincent: My daily practice includes 10 minutes of daily meditation thanks to Insight Timer and a weekly Sivananda practice at their San Francisco center 🙂