Soul People: We love all of our guests and hear a lot of incredible stories around the villas both in Kerala and Sri Lanka. We wanted to bring these to the Journal, starting with Jen and Tom (a.k.a. “Stretch” – he’s 6’6”)
Words by Emma Brown | Photography by Alejo Achaval | 27th November ‘16
Jen and Tom came to Soul & Surf in Sri Lanka to take a break from their busy schedules as full time yoga instructors and business owners. They are currently undergoing a design build of their brand new yoga space and home in Cornwall. We talked to them about how they started their business; what it’s like working together as a couple; what inspires them; and other fun bits about this dynamic, and gracious couple.
What do you guys do?
We both teach yoga full time at our studio Oceanflow Yoga and run an online yoga clothing (and accessories) shop.
Newquay, Cornwall in the UK
How did you come to be at Soul & Surf?
We were looking for a trip that would be fun, sociable and included our favourite hobbies – surf & yoga! We’d never visited Sri Lanka before, so to have the guides take us around to different breaks and share their knowledge of the area was invaluable.
We believe in the importance of making time for yourself and doing the things you love. Travel is a high value for both of us, so what better way to travel than to combine a visit to a new pace with our favourite pastimes!
How did you first get interested to start surfing and yoga?
Stretch has been surfing since he was 3 years old! He grew up on the surf beaches of North Cornwall so not too hard to learn at a young age! Jen started practicing yoga 15 years ago and fell so in love with it. Becoming a teacher seemed natural to share it with others. Stretch quickly following suit, so we can work and play together! In both practices, there is the moment where the whole world falls away and time becomes still. Whether it’s the focus on the caught wave or mastery of a pose – the experience of ‘now’.
Give us a brief overview about what you’ve done to get yourself to where you are today?
We had a big epiphany about 4 years ago where we were both living to work in jobs that didn’t fulfil us, and actually living in a lot of stress that we didn’t truly recognize until we left it. Our bodies and minds were exhausted and failing health is always a sign that you’re not living your purpose. It took a lot of faith and courage to trust the signs we were getting to move on but SO glad we did. We had no idea what it was we were supposed to be doing but we let a higher force guide us in our decisions. We set up our own yoga businesses that have proved to be highly successful, building a huge yoga community in the space of 3 years and this is just the beginning.
What inspired or motivated you to start your own yoga business?
Knowing how much yoga has helped us in the past with body issues, injury recovery and dealing with mental and emotional challenges, we were incredibly motivated to create a space where we could share that with others. Creating our own studio provided a sanctuary where people can come to classes, workshops or private sessions with us to learn what it is they need.
How is it starting a business and working together as a couple?
Both amazing and terrifying in equal measures really. We put all our energy and finances into this project and had to trust that it would work. It was brilliant to have each other to lean on and we both had different skills to bring in to the business that ended up being quite commentary in making it run. We have to have some rules though about when talking ‘shop’ is off limits so that we can simply enjoy each other’s company, which can be challenging as we work and live at home!
You are currently working on expanding your studio and opening a new space – how has the process of designing and construction being going for you?
It’s turning out to be quite a long process – what’s in your head doesn’t necessarily translate well to paper and there are a few compromises having to be made! We’re just at the planning stage at the moment so until that first brick gets laid, I’m sure Stretch will be trying to change things about to how to get the best design for our home and studios.
Tell us a little bit about your yoga studio and teaching style.
We have converted our home to create the studio - we knew as soon as we saw it that it was what needed to happen! You have to visit to really understand! It's a 4 story building where the top floor is the vinyasa studio where Jen teaches and she works in quite a unique style. Having training with traditional Chinese medicine, her vinyasa and relaxation classes always have an intention to bring an energetic balance to people, through movement and connection to the environment (the seasons). Stretch teaches beginners up there too with a real passion for alignment in vinyasa flow but with emphasis to be accessible and inviting to people new to yoga. As a surfer he loves teaching surf-yoga, trying to get people to warm up before they hit the waves! We also have a Hot studio down in the bottom of the building where we get the Bikram lovers and we both teach here too. In the building, we also have our shop which we run online mostly, an office, changing rooms and finally our bedroom! We have also started to build our team to reflect the addition of classes and styles so there will be six of us teaching here starting in 2017!
What inspires you about your work?
To help others in our community and to offer guidance whether through yoga, meditation or just simply talking and listening to what's going on for them. When we work with ethnocentric intention, it is always a joy!
Is there an inspirational moment or something that you've learned during your stay at in Sri Lanka and/or at Soul and Surf that you will bring back with you and be able to use in your everyday life or business?
We have enjoyed every single part of our trip here and really can't thank Soul & Surf enough. The customer service you all have here is impeccable and it has inspired us to take that back to our business. Nothing has been too much trouble, no matter what we've thrown at you! Additionally, the special moments - from celebrating birthdays and the first time someone stood up on a wave – have been met with genuine excitement and enthusiasm, even though the staff must see it every week! The authenticity that the staff shows is incredibly inspiring and very moving.
What does Soul mean to you?
Soul is true essence, of feeling deep connection with where you are and what you're doing. It's effortless and light. When you are guided by your soul, every experience is sweet and easy.
Check out www.oceanflowyoga.co.uk to learn more about Tom & Jen's studio and community in Newquay and stop by for a visit or a drop in class if you are in the area.