Sarah Drai (also known as @thefrenchyyogini), has been leading the success of Yogi2Me, the on-demand, at-home yoga lessons app, for a few years with passion. As many seem to have picked up yoga at home recently, we couldn’t think of a better person to interview about her own journey and to share some advice to beginners and yogi lovers in general.
Can you tell me a bit more about yourself, how did you learn yoga and what’s been your professional experience with yoga?
I was living a stressful corporate life in New York City, where I worked as a banker with JP Morgan for 12 years. At the time I was addicted to Bikram yoga. When I left NYC in 2012 and became a financial advisor, I was still practicing yoga a lot. It’s when I went on my first yoga retreat in Thailand that I thought there might be more to life than my 9 to 5 job, as good as it was…I took a teacher training with Stewart Gilchrist, and a second one in Thailand. After that, I decided not to go back to work and become a yoga teacher. With my intense, go-getter attitude, I felt burnt out after months running around London to teach as many classes as possible. And one day, while chatting with a masseuse who came to give a treatment at home, I got inspired to create Yogi2Me: a platform to teach private, 1:1 yoga classes at home. It felt very relevant at the time as yoga had become very competitive and quite intimidating for some people. Traditionally, yoga was always taught on 1 to 1. So, I felt like it was the right thing to do.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 situation? How was it like for you?
My living room has literally become a yoga studio. The entire set up has changed and I bought a TV for the first time so I could better teach online. I thought I would have more time to tune in, but with the business having to adapt so much to the current situation, I have been extremely busy. For Yogi2Me, it feels like the community of teachers has been strengthened. We lost teachers but we have a strong core team. It is very energising because we all realised it was the time to serve. All the teachers are on the same wavelength, they wanted to teach free classes from the beginning, and we are all passionate about the donation-based classes we organised to support the Beder Charity, dedicated to raising awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.
On a side note, I think COVID will increase the number of people who want to practice at home. The relationship between a teacher and a student is fundamental in yoga. Once you know the person, you can better direct them and it is very easy on a screen.
What does your routine look like during COVID-19?
During the first hour of the day, I freshen up, drink my hot lemon juice, and practice yoga for about 40 minutes (this practice is in the other yoga room, the one without wifi!).Then I meditate for 15-20 min. Then I make myself the best breakfast – although unfortunately papaya is getting hard to find during covid! After that I allow myself to open my phone, then check the news, then social media. I am trying to stay away from social media even more than usual. For me Zoom is more about real connection. In the afternoon I teach classes online and then manage the business. I also have a ritual in the evening. I love to use Inside Timer, the meditation app – there is always some calming music or conscious talk to listen to. I also watch Gaia, the ‘holistic’ Netflix if you like. Finally, I do my second meditation of the day which resets my energy level.
As a yoga pro, what advice do you have for the yoga beginners who seem to be practicing even more frequently than usual now?
Keep in mind that yoga is not a race, it is a marathon. It is about the journey, the practice. It is easy to get stuck in the physical aspect of yoga, wanting to show your perfect pose to the world; it can get competitive but it is not the point, so don’t be hard on yourself. You will see, it will allow you to increase mobility, flexibility and you will get healthier. Be gentle with yourself.
Can you give examples of different types of yoga practice you would recommend for different goals? What is your favourite type of yoga?
I agree that with different goals you can get into different practices. For example, if you want to get fit, dynamic vinyasa yoga is helpful; if you’re anxious you can use yin yoga. But we underestimate how much we need yoga in all its shapes. Given our stressful lifestyles, most people probably need a balance: some vinyasa and ashtanga to release the pressure and get the energy flowing, but also some yin yoga to take the time to chill. Combining the two will help clean up the body so that you can reach more mind space. I must say that I love all types of yoga. I think that as you grow as a person, you will find that different types of yoga match your different needs at certain points in life. When I started, I wanted to feel the intensity, I needed to sweat during the sessions. Now I do not necessarily seek that. It depends on the individual’s journey.
What is your diet like?
I describe myself as a flexitarian. I am not a strict vegan – I eat eggs and Japanese food sometimes – but 90% of my diet is plant-based. I used to be a big meat and junk food eater when I was leaving in NYC. The actual yoga practice got me out of my junk food habits. It helped me discover the taste of fruits and vegs. It has been a very interesting journey diet-wise, because Bikram yoga straightened my diet habits up for me. I am much more balanced and healthier, and I feel great in my body.
Aches and pains are part of a regular and intense practice of yoga. How do you prevent them and how do you care for yourself when you are in pain or feel some discomfort?
I am in love with my acupuncturist, so I would have sessions regardless of whether I have pain or not. It is preventive and relaxes the whole body. Otherwise, right now I am just self-massaging my neck and shoulders.
What are your favourite self-care products?
I love guascha. I do face massages every day with it. Sometimes I keep it in the fridge, so it is fresh on my face when I use it. Since I cannot go to my acupuncturist, I love using the WholyMe Relief Balm for my shoulder, head and neck pain. I use it in combo with the guasha, they are actually perfect together!
Given the current lockdown, what do you miss most?
Being able to travel and see my family.
How do you keep positive and productive?
Meditation helps me to zoom out. I can get stuck in the details easily so stepping back helps. Gratitude is also a powerful feeling that helps me stay positive.
You can find Sarah and the Y2M teachers on the Yogi2Me app or website here – they offer many classes of different types of yoga, but also of meditation, reiki and more! Yogi2Me is the only player to offer both group classes and private classes with high-level instructors able to give customized advice to clients.