Pardon the pun, but I don’t see Mindfulness as a Moment. I believe it is a Movement. I am passionate that how healthy and well we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially as educators affects our ability to teach and how healthy and well our students are affects their ability to learn. Therefore, it is absolutely essential in order to thrive academically, that as educators we take the responsibility within our school day to make time to care for ourselves and give our students the resources and tools to care for themselves. Unfortunately, this type of thinking (prioritizing the whole child) has taken a backseat to academic based standards achievement movement over the past 30 years. Baseline, how can we teach and how can we learn if we are not well? Of course, I am biased, but I believe that Yoga Ed. as a mindfulness practice has the real ability to transform our school communities through its impact on educators’ and students’ overall physical, mental, emotional, and social wellness.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brynne Caleda, M.Ed., E-RYT, a leader in the field of yoga education. As CEO of Yoga Ed., Brynne champions the efficacy of innovative, evidence-based yoga programs for schools to establish lifelong foundations for student’s fitness, wellness, and productivity. Over the past decade, Brynne has worked closely with educators, health professionals, and parents to enrich school communities with yoga tools to more authentically and effectively teach to their students and children. A pioneer of yoga education in Hawaii, Brynne is also the founder of Stretch Your Imagination, a non-profit that creates sustainable yoga programs for Hawaii’s schools.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Fresh out of college and interning in Washington DC I stumbled across a hot yoga studio across from my apartment in Northwest DC. Instantly, I was hooked to the classes not only for the way I felt physically but more importantly how I felt mentally and emotionally after a class.
Quickly, I found my yoga classes getting in the way of a Friday night happy hour, or a Saturday night out in Adams Morgan. Amazed that my yoga practice gave me clear tools to manage my impulsivity, I was left feeling happier than a cocktail, and more fulfilled personally than in a relationship with a man. I knew I was acquiring a skill set that I should have learned in school.
So I took a left turn red heron, left DC, my future in International Relations (sorry mom and dad), and went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in education with a focus on Yoga and Mindfulness in Education.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I had the pleasure of joining Yoga Ed.’s Founder (Tara Guber), and her husband at a LA Dodgers Game one evening. When I was shown to our seats, Tara said “Here, you sit here next to one of my best friends Cookie and her husband.” As I sat down in my seat Tara introduced me to Cookie and then, she taps Cookie’s husband on the shoulder (Magic Johnson), and says, “Magic, have you ever met Brynne? Brynne is the CEO of Yoga Ed. now,” Magic looks over at me extends his hand and says, “No, I have not had the pleasure, hi Brynne, I am Magic,” Shaking my hand (that nearly covers my entire arm). I smile back and say, “Hi, Magic, it’s nice to meet you I am Brynne.”
For me it was this amazing aha moment that regardless of your successes or statuses, we are all people, we are all CEO’s, and we all matter.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A silly mistake I love to share is that early in my position as CEO, I was in a marketing meeting with a social media consulting firm, and I asked the CEO and Founder what their company handlebar was. I was quickly mortified by their sweet corrected response, “Brynne, in the social media world, the @ symbol is called a handle.” I quickly began the inner critic record player, “You are so dumb, how could you say something so stupid, what kind of CEO does not know what the hell the @ symbol is called.” But as the collective laughter got louder, I was able to stop the record and remind myself that we are all learning no matter what our position is within a company. It seems like such simple learning, but it was really big for me and has stuck with me to this day.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
At the time that I took the position with Yoga Ed., I had been working with the company as a Trainer for 10 years. With my own success of working closely with public, charter, and private schools around the globe, I felt that I had the vision and experience to help Yoga Ed. scale its work sustainably.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I don’t think people realize the amount of “space” that an executive holds for a company. There are so many moving parts to a company that a CEO oversees and keeps their eyes and hands-on at all times. A lot of these are items that other leaders, managers, and employees of the company don’t think about or see but would immediately notice or be affected by if a part were broken or missing.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
I absolutely love the ability to inspire people to be the best versions of themselves.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
For me, the biggest downside to being an executive is the overwhelming amount of responsibility I have to my team. Not only does my team depend on me for vision and clarity, they also depend on me to ensure the fiscal performance of the company so that at the end of the day they are able to go home and take care of themselves and their loved ones. No pressure Brynne.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
The expectation that the CEO knows or should know everything about how to do their job and run their company because they are at the top of their career, and/or have extensive education, and/or have the experience to lead the company to major success.
The bottom line, being a CEO is hard and you are constantly learning from mistakes, having to iterate fast and make the best decisions at the moment for your company; sometimes these are not based on your experience or education.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
As a mother of two small children and expecting my third child in the new year, I have to say the biggest inequalities I have personally experienced (in my seven years of being a CEO), or have seen, are the inequalities that women executives who become pregnant and have children encounter versus males executives who have children. For example, if you choose to be a breastfeeding mother in the first year you clock about 1,800 hours breastfeeding. A full-time job with three weeks vacation is 1,960 hours (Motherly). Imagine going back to work as a CEO after three months of maternity leave and maintaining both schedules at once.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I have had to learn that NO job is below me. In fact, it has been my responsibility as the CEO of Yoga Ed. that I know how each and every job functions so that I can oversee the success of every department within the organization. This is inclusive of not being above rolling up my sleeves and cleaning a toilet.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
- Not taking things personally. Taking things personally drains your energy, the most valuable thing you have as a CEO.
- The ability to control your emotional impulsivity. Responding reflectively rather than reactively is game-changing for you and your team.
- Knowing that no does not mean never, it’s not right now. You will hear more no than yes, and some of those no turn to yes years later.
- You can’t be afraid to ask. We are often afraid of the ask, but if you never ask, you will never receive it. As a CEO, you must ask for what you and your company need and want.
- Passion, Focus, Discipline. CEO’s need to have a deep passion for their company’s mission, the ability to stay focused on achieving their company goals, and the discipline to show up day in and day out to execute.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Prioritize your wellness throughout your workday. How healthy and well you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially is going to deeply impact your ability to perform at work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Julia Bond, my business partner and VP of Operations and Tech at Yoga Ed.. Hands down Julia is the smartest, most strategic person I know. Julia is one of those people who listens more than she talks and when she talks, everyone listens. So while I am the very forward-facing person of our company, there is no way that Yoga Ed. would be where we are today without the brains behind the operation, Julia.
On a very personal note, Julia and I have been working together for seven years, and over our seven years of partnership, Julia’s and my relationship has turned from a business partnership into a best friendship. And whether or not we make it big or close tomorrow the most valuable thing I have from Yoga Ed. is our relationship.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
In my time as CEO at Yoga Ed., our work has empowered 8,948 schools, 75,133 classrooms, and 1,502,660 students, in 32 countries to thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially through evidence-based yoga and mindfulness training and curriculum.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Find Funding (in the start-up phase). If you are going to start a company, you will need to either have your own funding or find outside funding because it is incredibly stressful on the company to require it to pay your salary in its start-up years.
- Take Care of Your Mental Health. Find a therapist, and commit to monthly therapy sessions, and if you have a business partner(s), commit to partner therapy.
- To Compare is Not Fair (to you, your company, and your employees). You are on your own journey and it will unfold in its own way.
- Give the Middle Finger to Self-Doubt. Too many what-ifs lead to mental chaos and a lack of clarity for you and, more importantly, everyone you work with.
- Listen. More than you talk.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Pardon the pun, but I don’t see Mindfulness as a Moment. I believe it is a Movement.
I am passionate that how healthy and well we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially as educators affects our ability to teach and how healthy and well our students are affects their ability to learn. Therefore, it is absolutely essential in order to thrive academically, that as educators we take the responsibility within our school day to make time to care for ourselves and give our students the resources and tools to care for themselves.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking (prioritizing the whole child) has taken a backseat to academic based standards achievement movement over the past 30 years. Baseline, how can we teach and how can we learn if we are not well?
Of course, I am biased, but I believe that Yoga Ed. as a mindfulness practice has the real ability to transform our school communities through its impact on educators’ and students’ overall physical, mental, emotional, and social wellness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Faith is the bird who sings while the sun is still dark.” Rabindranath Tagore
The last 7 years as CEO of Yoga Ed. have been “brutiful,” one of the most beautiful and at the same time brutal things that I have ever done in my life.
In the darkest of moments, I have continued to trust in my belief in Yoga Ed.’s mission, which time and time again has shown me the sun will still shine even on the darkest of days.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Andy Puddicombe, Founder of Headspace.
I feel like Andy and I have known each other for years, because we hang out together most mornings between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. when I practice my morning meditation ritual. But in-fact, Andy doesn’t even know who I am, I mean what a creative genius. To make someone he doesn’t know feel loved and adored. Not only is Andy an amazing entrepreneur who has found a way to skillfully and sustainably bring mindfulness to millions he’s deeply rooted in his own personal practice and teachings which fuels his mastery in business.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.