The women behind Mindfresh are making life at work better… one office at a time.
Chiyoko Osborne and Jen Kluczkowski are two yogis with deep roots in the business world. Each worked a decade in previous careers – Chiyoko in fashion at Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang; Jen in digital media as one of the founding team of the Pandora internet radio NYC office – before starting their own company.
They developed the Mindfresh 30-Minute Method: office-friendly yoga and meditation so people can de-stress and refresh at work. They’ve worked with over 40 of NYC’s most innovative and dynamic companies (think Facebook, SoundCloud, Percolate and Google) and will be in San Francisco by years end.
Why did you launch this company?
Jen: I spent years ducking out of the office during lunch breaks to get my yoga fix at Jivamukti in Union Square. I was addicted to how amazing I felt afterwards and thought there has to be a way to bring these benefits into offices. It took a long time – 800 hours of yoga teacher training later! – but I eventually left digital media to pursue the idea of brining yoga into offices in a way that was easy for everyone to do.
Chiyoko: That’s the best part of what we do… anyone can enjoy a mindfresh session, even if you’ve never done yoga or meditation before. It’s 30-miutes of basic stretching, breathing exercises and guided meditation. I’m passionate about bringing these things to people who might never step foot into a yoga studio and think meditation is way too hard. It’s amazing how many people say to us after a session, “So I’ve never done yoga before… where should I go for a beginner class?” YES. Mission accomplished.
As startup entrepreneurs, what have been some of your biggest challenges?
Chiyoko: How many am I allowed to list? Because there’s a LOT! One of the most personal challenges for me in the very beginning was feeling like I was losing my identity in the previous career I had. I was fortunate enough to have great roles at some heavy hitting companies; when I walked away from the fashion industry I was so uncomfortable answering the simple question at a cocktail party, “So what do you do?” In the beginning, when mindfresh was a very messy evolving concept, I’d ramble on and get flustered trying to explain myself and my startup ideas; I felt like I had to prove everything was going as planned. In retrospect, I can see that I was the one making this painful for myself. I should have been more comfortable saying, “I have no idea how this new yoga company is going to pan out – and I’m ok with that!” Easier said than done.
Jen: One of the biggest challenges is not knowing what each day of the week will bring. It’s hard to stay grounded when you’re running around NYC like a crazy person! We have to be open to new opportunities popping up and moving on them quickly. We often don’t have enough time to plan, think things through and do as thorough a job as we’d like. I rest easy at night knowing every day – no matter how wild things might have gotten – we’re simply doing the best we can.
What does one of these “wild days” look like:
Jen: Ha, where to begin? Let’s take one day last week. 6:30am we were on a boat cruising around Manhattan with 1,200 other vibrant souls dancing our faces off (sober!) to amazing music. This powerful, high vibe way to start the morning is Daybreaker and we’re so on board with their mission to energize people in a healthy way. It’s done by 9am and we were at the office cranking out emails. We popped into Jivamukti for a lunchtime yoga class. I taught a VIP mindfresh session at a new client while Chiyoko fielded conference calls. We had a meeting downtown, took our laptops to work on the go, then helped a good friend promote her new book by speaking at her launch event party. That’s 24 hours.
Chiyoko: I think Jen forgot to mention that day on the boat we connected with friends of friends who invited us to a new meditation club that was meeting later that week. Yes, meditation clubs are a thing and starting to pop up all over NYC! It’s amazing to be part of this movement. Our days are filled with tons of work and equal amounts inspiring conversations.
There is so much hype about meditation these days – in the media it seems celebrities and business moguls alike are swearing by it. Why is it important?
Jen: It’s so important to give your constantly thinking brain a rest. We are over connected to technology, working longer hours than ever before, and dealing with high levels of stress. Sitting in meditation allows all the chatter to quite, even if it’s just for a brief time. This is critical to hearing your own intuition and allowing creative thoughts to come to the surface. If you practice regularly – it can be just 5 minutes in the morning to start – you’ll gain a bit more perspective to the challenges you face. Increase that to 20 minutes and you’ll be focusing more and calmer throughout the day; when under fire you’ll respond from a place of clarity, not knee jerk reaction.
Why do you think people are gravitating to the mindfresh 30-Minute Method? What makes it different from other yoga and meditation classes?
Chiyoko: What’s special about our sessions is that we incorporate both stretching to release physical tension in the body PLUS guided meditation so the mind can get clear and clam. Most experiences are just yoga or just meditation – which are great but pretty impossible to include both during the workday. We found only through trial and error that creating something easy and brief that consists of both is very key. Believe it or not, we were offering 2-hour workshop sessions when we launched. That was not doable to say the least for many companies! Like any good startup has to do many times – we pivoted and kept working on our offering until we hit a sweet spot. We listened very carefully to client feedback. That’s how the 30-Minute Method was created and why it’s so successful.
Jen: People just need some kind of break during the workday. We cannot be sitting at our computers for hours on end and expect to be producing high quality work. It’s no secret sitting is the new smoking. Offering teams a chance to take a constructive 30-minute break together is powerful – especially if it’s one that gets blood and oxygen flowing to the brain, calms the nervous system, and allows tension and anxiety to subside. It’s the best way to get your mind fresh… no pun intended but that’s simply what it is!
For more information on how to bring Mindfresh to your workspace, check them out online.