August 17, 2015

Yogaia brings yoga instructors into your living room

Yogaia is the world’s first interactive online yoga studio. It offers dozens of live yoga classes a week and users can choose to share their webcam feeds with the instructors to receive personal feedback.
Yogaia is the world’s first interactive online yoga studio. It offers dozens of live yoga classes a week and users can choose to share their webcam feeds with the instructors to receive personal feedback.
Yoogaia

Despite good intentions, plenty of excuses can come between you and attending of a yoga or fitness class. Yogaia makes sure not having time to go the gym is no longer one of them.

Sit-ups in the living room or stretching in front of the TV is nothing new, but what if you could turn the same space into a yoga class with a live instructor? Finnish online yoga studio Yoogaia makes this possible. The startup offers interactive fitness classes ranging from yoga and pilates to kettlebells and deep stretching, all streamed live to your web browser. No gym trip necessary.

“We offer an easy access to dozens of live classes every week,” explains Mikko Petäjä, the founder of Yogaia. “If you would like the instructor to see what you are doing, you just switch on your web camera. You can also watch recordings of the live classes whenever it suits you.”

How the classes work is deceptively simple. A yoga instructor enters one of the company’s studios in Helsinki, London or Hong Kong, and instead of a group of people is greeted with video equipment. The class is then streamed in real time to Yogaia users around the world. A huge screen shows all users who have opted to broadcast their webcam feeds (only visible to the instructor) which allows them to receive personal guidance from the instructor.

“No one else offers live group classes, not to mention our interactivity,” Petäjä says. “Obviously the instructor cannot walk to people and physically instruct them, but they can see everybody’s names and give individual instructions.”

“Although yoga is our ‘thing’, we are very open minded in the sense that we offer a variety of different styles and lots of beginner classes. We have noticed that for many we are the first yoga studio they attend,” says Mikko Petäjä, founder of Yoogaia.

“Although yoga is our ‘thing’, we are very open minded in the sense that we offer a variety of different styles and lots of beginner classes. We have noticed that for many we are the first yoga studio they attend,” says Mikko Petäjä, founder of Yoogaia.

Yoogaia

Recordings of all classes are available on Yogaia’s web service and on its new mobile app for easy access on the go. All the customer needs is an Internet connection, monthly Yogaia subscription — and maybe a yoga mat.  

Downward dog brings upward growth

Yogaia’s approach takes home exercise to a new level and it has quickly found a growing audience. Since its international launch in November 2014, Yogaia has gained over 40 000 users in 50 countries, raised almost 600 000 euros in funding and now employs 15 people in its three studios.

Not bad for a company which started as one man’s passion project only two years ago.

Back then Petäjä, who had got into yoga to reduce problems with his back, was struggling to combine class schedules with a busy career and family life:

“One morning in a car to work after a yoga class I realised that the day hadn’t even started yet, but I was already stressed about how much time it had taken out of my day,” he recalls. “I thought it’s comical to get stressed about something that should be good for you.”

Petäjä started to sketch a service which would make it easier to be active and save precious time. Within months Yogaia was up and running in Finland and the first classes were streamed live in September 2013.

What makes Petäjä particularly happy is that the service has succeeded in making users more active: “When somebody starts to use Yogaia, they also stay as users and attend classes several times a week,” he says.

Localised wellbeing

Currently most Yogaia subscribers come from Finland and the UK – classes are taught in these languages – with interest growing in Germany, the US and Australia. International needs are catered for with a class schedule designed around different time zones, hence Yogaia’s studios in Europe and Asia, and a drive toward continuous expansion:

“We will launch classes in German in the beginning of September and probably classes in Spanish later this year,” says Petäjä. “Our way to scale is to broadcast classes in new languages from the existing studios.”

While localisation is one way to face off competition, Yogaia is also busy trialling new services such as special classes, themed workshops and nutrition lectures.

“The challenge is that people do know how to eat and exercise healthily, but making it part of their daily routines is hard,” Petäjä explains. “Our competitors are Netflix, home sofas, all those daily choices. We want to create a service which is approachable and effective so it makes physical activity a natural part of as many people’s lives as possible.“

Yoogaia’s online service offers both live and recorded yoga classes in Finnish and English. According to the company, most users mix and match depending on what suits their daily needs best.

Yogaia’s online service offers both live and recorded yoga classes in Finnish and English. According to the company, most users mix and match depending on what suits their daily needs best.

Yoogaia

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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