Integrity. This is one of the most important qualities an individual can have. I place the highest value on living with, acting with, and conducting business with integrity, which attracts others with integrity to form supportive business relationships.
The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.
In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashton August.
Ashton August is the founder and content director of YogiApproved.com, a leading yoga and wellness digital magazine. She is also the founder of YA Classes, a five-star rated online yoga and fitness membership platform that plants a tree for every class a member completes. Ashton is on a mission to inspire, empower, educate, and cultivate community both locally and globally through her work as a motivational speaker and author, distinguished yoga teacher, and entrepreneur.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me! I am a Colorado native, born and raised — which is a rarity! Nature is my happy place, particularly the Rocky Mountains, and I grew up exploring the woods behind my grandparent’s house. My grandparents ignited my first two life passions: travel and writing. Every summer, they would take me on road trips in their Winnebago. They were both very creative — Pop loved to tell me stories, and Grandma encouraged me to write poetry. I moved a lot as a child and was always the new kid in school, which was hard on me back then. Now, I’m so grateful for the courage and confidence it taught me.
Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?
Yoga and a Food Communications class inspired me to prioritize all aspects of my wellness. I was 19 years old. I’d just started practicing yoga, which had an immediate and immense impact on my mental health. Throughout my childhood and teens, my anxiety was utterly debilitating at times. I know many people can relate. Yoga taught me mindfulness and presence and deepened my self-awareness. Many aspects of the practice, from the breathing to the meditation to the focus while in physical poses, became potent self-soothing tools I’ve regularly used ever since.
The fateful food writing class came next. I majored in Communications and minored in English writing, and honestly, I took this class because it seemed like an easy A. Also, I assumed (and fantasized) that I’d be writing about delicious cake. Ha! Joke was on me — instead, we kicked it off by reading Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma followed by Fast Food Nation, which led me to watch Cowspiracy. I was on a big Burger King kick at the time, but after watching that documentary, I haven’t eaten fast food — or meat — since.
That class opened my eyes to food ethics, animal rights, and how central what we eat is to how well we feel. It only took a few days — yes, days — to feel the difference in my body from not eating meat or fast food. I am not advocating that everyone immediately become a vegetarian (for the record, I’m a pescatarian). Everybody’s body is different and wellness is not one-size-fits-all. I’m simply sharing my story, my journey, and what has worked for me.
Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?
That’s correct, which is why I have a go-to in all of these categories!
- Wellness activity: Having a wellness routine is key because it creates a customizable container for your specific needs and wants. I thrive on structure, so my go-to wellness activity is my routine: In the morning, I wake up and slowly sip a full glass of room temperature water. Then, I ritualize brewing my coffee before reading a daily motivational excerpt. Currently, I’m working through Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart, which is an oldie but goodie. This primes my mind for meditation, and I’ll take anywhere from two to 20 minutes to meditate each morning. Most mornings, I move my body in some way, whether it’s a hike with my dogs, a yoga flow, or a workout. Finally, I complete my simple yet mindful skincare routine before starting my workday. I cannot stress how important it is to carve out moments of calm, especially in the morning. It sets your mind and attitude up for success!
- Exercise: Yoga. Hiking and HIIT workouts take second and third place.
- Beverage: Good ol’ H2O! Boring I know, but I drink half my bodyweight in ounces every single day, which works wonders for mental clarity, organ functions, and even radiant skin! I also enjoy a good tequila. Tequila in a wellness article, Ashton, really?! I think it’s important to be real. Too often, particularly in the yoga and wellness space, people get put on pedestals and treated as if they are somehow superior, which is both a false and reckless notion. I feel it’s important to remind people that even the wellness experts or influencers you idolize are everyday people. Your girl loves a good tequila!
- Food: I really enjoy cooking. Someday soon, I will compile all my favorite recipes into a clean eating cookbook. For now, here are my go-to staples: kale, all the peppers (particularly poblanos — yum!), nutritional yeast, fresh figs, beans, and quinoa. My go-to supplement is adaptogenic mushrooms: lion’s mane, reishi, and cordyceps.
To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?
As you now know, I’ve been passionate about my personal wellness since I was 19. My wellness journey started morphing into a career when I received my 200-hour yoga certification a few years later. Soon, I had a handful of private clients who wanted more than yoga. They started asking me for wellness coaching, too — everything from healthy recipes and nutrition to mindfulness practices for anxiety.
I realized that teaching yoga was just the tip of the iceberg. Plus, at this point I had received my Masters in Creative NonFiction Writing, and I wanted to find a way to merge yoga, wellness, and writing. That’s when the concept of YogiApproved.com was born.
Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I was first launching YogiApproved.com, there were so many challenges! Starting a business, building it from the ground up with no funding or deep pocket backers, leaving my new career as an English professor …
Yet my biggest challenge was the lack of initial support from friends and family. This is a challenge that many entrepreneurs face. We expect our loved ones to show up for us the way that we would for them, but that isn’t always the case. Whether they fear for your security or future, if they just don’t get it, or maybe even envy your path, you won’t always receive the support you want, need, or deserve. That’s ok because you can do this anyway.
And when you do do it, your actions speak for themselves, your loved ones relax a bit, and you learn how to support and root for yourself! As you look upon what you’ve built, you see that you not only persevered and succeeded, but you inspired countless others along your path to do the same, whether you witness it or not. And that is an incredible ripple effect!
Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
This is why I do what I do! Being of service and having a positive impact on the world is my passion. It’s what we are all here to do, each in our own unique way!
YA Classes, our online yoga, fitness, and wellness membership platform by YogiApproved.com, plants a food-producing tree for farming communities in West Africa for every class our members complete. So far, we’ve planted over 250,000 trees, which brings me so much joy to write! Our tree planting initiative helps these farming communities transition into more sustainable farming practices. Our members love knowing that when they step onto their mat to do good for themselves, they’re also doing good for others. It’s a win-win.
In addition, YogiApproved.com offers thousands of informative articles to support you in all aspects of your wellness journey. We also offer a sampling of free online yoga classes on our YouTube channel. Between the decade’s worth of in-person classes I’ve taught, along with all of my online classes, I’ve had the privilege of teaching yoga to millions of people. Whether it’s running into someone who has practiced with me or our online students who reach out to share their gratitude, it means so much to know our work is making an impact. If I know I helped just one person, my work has been worth it. Knowing we’re impacting the lives of so many people from around the world is the fuel that keeps me going and grateful every single day.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I just finished writing my second book, so I’m still riding that wave and can’t wait for it to hit the shelves this winter! It’s a year-long companion for women to boost their motivation and self-confidence. My first book, Learn. Grow. Shift., is a 30-day workbook for personal growth available on Amazon.
My on-going project is the newest category offering on YA Classes called Mindset Wellness. Our mindset is everything. It impacts our mood, our health, and our entire reality! The first Mindset Wellness offering we created is called Mantra Mindset. It’s a 5-class program with my dear friend and fellow female wellness entrepreneur Youmie Jean Francois. I am so passionate about this project and can’t wait to continue creating more meaningful and helpful content in the Mindset Wellness category! I’d love to hear from your readers — what would you all like to see next?
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Thank you! My defining characteristics: Passion, drive, and integrity.
I am a fiery, passionate person. My Leo energy definitely shines through in my passions. My drive is my dedication to seeing these passions through. Integrity is non-negotiable for me. It’s how I operate, it’s my guiding credo, and it’s what I look for in anyone or any brand I choose to collaborate with.
My passion is what inspires me, my drive is what keeps me going, and my integrity is how I make decisions and navigate life, both personally and professionally.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?
I want to start by stating what wellness is not. Wellness is not a luxury, a privilege, or a destination. It is not reserved for certain people, and there are no qualifications needed. It doesn’t need to be expensive, elusive, or complex.
Wellness is a birthright, a lifelong journey, and a commitment to and for yourself. Wellness is all-encompassing mind/body/soul health. It is your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. It is a multi-faceted way of living with intention and dedication to being and feeling your best in all of these areas.
Wellness is your health, which covers not only your physical health, but also your mental health, which is equally important. Wellness is our quality of life and how much we commit to self-care. Disclaimer: if you love a good bubble bath, awesome, do that, but when I speak on self-care, I’m talking about daily habits we establish to cultivate and sustain a greater level of overall wellness.
As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?
“Your health is your wealth” is an absolutely true saying! Without our health, what do we have? Health is just one pillar of wellness. Because wellness also encompasses your quality of life, your level of satisfaction with your life, and your mental/emotional/physical/spiritual well-being, if you aren’t prioritizing wellness, you simply are not prioritizing yourself.
If you’re running on empty, how can you give your best in life? I don’t speak on what I haven’t experienced or learned for myself. I ran on empty for years, telling myself it was a worthy and noble sacrifice for building YogiApproved.com, until I ran myself into the ground physically, mentally, and emotionally. Only then did I finally make a lasting change, as a commitment to my wellness. Don’t do that to yourself — learn from my mistakes!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- 4 P’s: Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Persistence
Technically, I listed more than five, but hear me out.
- Vision is key for creation. When I first conceptualized YogiApproved.com, I wrote my plan out with the tiniest details like our website’s colorways and font and titles of articles we’d want to publish. Without a crystal clear vision of the career or business you want to create for yourself, building it will be hugely daunting instead of exciting and rewarding.
- Intention encompasses your motive and your why. What is your purpose and the motivation behind it? Next, what is your intention for your career? Finally, why do you want it?
- Finding your niche is crucial in the ocean of health and wellness businesses! I get asked this question about a career in the yoga industry, and my answer is the same — when you want to be a part of a hugely popular industry, it’s so important to find your niche and let it shine. Not only does this allow you to focus on where you excel and love doing, but also it helps you stand out from the crowd and find your unique demographic.
- Passion, patience, perseverance, persistence. Passion is like the air that inflates a balloon — without it, you just fall flat! Patience, because building a career takes a lot of hard work and typically doesn’t happen overnight. Perseverance, because there will be setbacks, letdowns, failures, and disappointments. And that’s ok! You want that! This is when you thicken your skin, increase your grit, and double down on your passion to carry you through. Finally, persistence. Ask anyone that knows me, and they’ll confirm I am incredibly persistent! If you fall, get up and try again. Like the Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
- Integrity. This is one of the most important qualities an individual can have. I place the highest value on living with, acting with, and conducting business with integrity, which attracts others with integrity to form supportive business relationships.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ll share a two-fold vision I’ve held for many years now. The first part is bringing yoga and mindfulness to elementary schools across the country to start — then, it’s the world! I took part in bringing a yoga program to an elementary school in Colorado, and the children loved it. When we interviewed them at the end of the year to ask how yoga helped them, their answers blew me away and remain my motivation for pursuing this vision.
Next, no disrespect to sports fans or athletes, but when I see sports stadiums filled with tens of thousands of fans, I like to imagine packing the same size arenas with people who came to meditate or breathe together instead. Imagine garnering that same level of excitement and passion for meditation and wellness practices as people have for sports!
If our society introduced our children to meditation and mindfulness at a young age, the magnitude of impact would be immense in a single generation. Here’s to this vision becoming a reality!
We are 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Wow, no pressure, eh?! There are many interesting, influential people that I would gladly talk to and learn from. I’ve personally always gravitated towards the older generation — our elders — for all of the wisdom and experience they have to share. If anyone out there reading this is intrigued by my story, I would love to connect!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
If you haven’t already, check out YogiApproved.com! As the founder and content director, you can see a vast display of my work and passion. Subscribe to our email list for weekly article reads, an introductory email from yours truly, and more awesome goodies.
If you’re interested in practicing yoga with me and dozens of other incredible, relatable instructors online, check out YA Classes and use code Authoritymag for 20% off as a thank you! We also have a big presence on YouTube and across social media: Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, so there’s plenty of ways to follow and connect with us.
Finally, you can connect with me personally on social media @iamashtonaugust.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!