Finding Isvara's Interview with Kino MacGregor!
Finding Isvara recently had the honor of interviewing world renowned Ashtanga yoga teacher Kino MacGregor about her newest project OmStars! Two weeks ago, Kino and business partner/best friend Kerri Verna launched a Kickstarter campaign for their OmStars online yoga platform. Within 24 hours of launching, their campaign hit their $50,000 goal and became fully funded! With 20 days left to fundraise, the OmStars campaign has raised an astonishing $97,432... And it just keeps growing.
After hearing about OmStars, we had more questions and were lucky enough to ask the lady herself... Check it out!
FI: OmStars sounds like an extraordinary platform for furthering spiritual practice. How has this project brought about spiritual growth within yourself?
KM: Making a yoga TV show has been a dream of mine for over 10 years. I shopped the idea around to numerous traditional media outlets and they all turned me down. The idea for a show evolved into a yoga TV channel. Then, after I filmed classes for a few different yoga platforms online, I pitched the idea of making a TV channel about the yogi life to them and they also turned me down. Universal Studios reached out to Kerri and I to partner with us to build OmStars and then pulled the deal. A British technology company offered to partner with us to build the tech side and give us full creative control only to cancel after Brexit. We then decided to do this on our own and hired a technology start-up web team to build it out for us—they took our life savings and failed to deliver the project or our money back. Finally, we found a great company that is currently building the site for us—but we couldn’t afford them! So we are now in the midst of our kickstarter to build out the world’s first yoga TV channel.
I’d say that facing ten years of failure and deciding to never give up has been one of the greatest spiritual lessons of my life. I’ve learned how to face a mountain of doubt and decide to push forward anyway. I’ve learned how to believe in myself even if no one else does. The steady perseverance I learned on the journey to handstand prepared me for this epic struggle to build a yoga TV show. Pressing up into handstand only took five years—this has taken more than ten so far and we’re not done yet!
FI: What place will this channel have in the already overflowing online yoga community? What will make your channel and format stand out?
KM: One of the key distinguishing features of OmStars is our unique practice tracker which logs practice hours spent on the mat while logged into the channel. Your time spent on the mat accumulates to build up Reward Points and staggered user levels. Once you reach a certain level, your Reward Points will turn into vouchers for use in our online store. You can then choose to use your points to purchase products or donate them to a list of charities we support. We created the Reward Points and Practice Tracker to build accountability and incentivize the practice.
On a content basis, all our classes and episodes will be organized into series and courses to have a feeling of a journey and be more like Netflix. You’ll never have to sign on to a single random class, instead you’ll be guided along a curated journey by Kerri and me. OmStars will also be the exclusive platform for Kino and Kerri’s premium online yoga classes going forward.
Once we meet our stretch goals, either in the campaign or within a short time of our business being launched, we will introduce Premium Memberships where we will connect with you a virtual teacher to support your practice with regular email and video call support.
Lastly, we will have a unique genre of content which is called Culture. Here we will get to play with reality style series and have fun exploring the behind the scenes aspects of the yogi life. There isn’t a yoga reality show anywhere online or on a network and we seek to create a whole library of fun watchable content built around the yogi life.
FI: Both you and Kerri are beautiful, fit, healthy, and physically able. You both perform advanced asanas and make them look effortless. How will you cater to those that are beginners, have physical disabilities, those recovering or suffering from illness, and those that are overweight?
KM: You might not know this about Kerri, but her journey has taken her through chronic pain and being overweight into the person that she is today. She suffers from fibromyalgia, sciatica, debilitating migraines and a host of other physical ailments. She is teaching a series called ‘Yoga for Chronic Pain’ that draws upon her practice and the experience of healing through practice. I may not have had the physical ailments, but I have suffered from clinical depression since I was nine years old. It is through the spiritual journey of yoga that I was able to heal and live a sustainable, resolved and happy life. Both Kerri and I believe in making the spiritual benefits of yoga available to all. It's not about the pose, the handstands, or the backbend. It’s about what’s in your heart. On a purely practical level, we will produce classes for all levels and invite guest hosts with special expertise to target specific groups of students. But truly, it is in our reality content that we will show our down-to-earth true selves and tell the story of who we (and all yogis) are—meaning we’re not these perfect beings, we struggle too and we want to be open and transparent about it so everyone who watches will feel like they have a friend on the yoga path to walk with them, step by step.
FI: Yoga, in our modern western culture, has taken on many different meanings to many different people. How inclusive will the OmStars channel be of viewpoints differing from your own, and what sort of standards do you have in place for what viewpoints are included and which will not be?
KM: We believe that yoga is a spiritual practice and also a deeply devotional and personal one. The single thread that unites all the different hosts and content we will feature on OmStars is a commitment to the spiritual journey and the heart and soul of the practice. We will be looking for teachers based and rooted in lineage and tradition while at the same time being open to more contemporary styles that have a spiritual foundation. In our reality content we plan to have a talk show framed like The View or the Oprah Show that encourages dialogue and discussion about issues relevant to the yogi life and to our contemporary world. We aim for inclusion and discussion not exclusion and conformity. That being said, we aren’t aiming to please everyone. We are aiming to be true to the spiritual core of yoga.
FI: You and Kerri obviously love sharing yoga on large, wide-reaching forums. How is that rewarding in ways that are different from sharing yoga on a smaller scale?
KM: Sharing yoga on any scale is rewarding. There is an equal joy in our hearts when we see one inspired student as when we see 1,000. The difference is that when we see a large scale movement toward the yoga practice we see just that—a movement. We see OmStars as a global movement that embraces the spiritual heart of the yogi life. That movement is built on the inspiration of one dedicated yogi at a time.
FI: Do you believe it is possible to have an effective yoga journey via online learning alone?
KM: The online world of yoga is meant as a support for the journey not a substitute for developing a teacher-student relationship. The reason we are placing so much emphasis on categories of videos outside of just practice is because we want our channel to be a support and reference for all aspects of the yogi life. It is actually these areas—diet, wellness, business, communication, culture—where we need the most support off of our mats. Since we also believe that every student of yoga needs a teacher, we developed our Premium Membership option which we seek to develop when we meet our funding goals. For our members that cannot find a local yoga teacher to support their journey, we will connect them with one of our network of qualified teachers so that they have remote, but live and personal access to a teacher. This is a crucial component of our philosophy of authenticity and integrity in the practice.
FI: You and Kerri’s friendship is inspiring to watch! What is your secret for working together so well?
KM: Kerri and I love and support each other as equals. We are totally non-competitive with each other and we celebrate each others success. We are also perfect compliments. Usually if I’m in a bad mood, Kerri can cheer me up and if she’s grumpy I can make her laugh. We share a deep spiritual connection to the true inner light and we let that be the foundation of every action we take. And… we both love handstands and the beach!!
Thank you so much Kino! Also, if you haven't already, click the link above to visit Kino and Kerri's OmStars campaign... There is still time to donate! Every little bit helps. Thanks for reading!