Daniela da Silva of Blue House Yoga: “No needs to despair!”

I have five words actually: This too, surely, shall pass! A metaphor that I use when teaching headstands, is for not getting overly excited when finally taking the feet off the floor; otherwise, they will fall too quickly! In this case, when you are on top of the world, challenges are likely waiting around the […]

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I have five words actually: This too, surely, shall pass! A metaphor that I use when teaching headstands, is for not getting overly excited when finally taking the feet off the floor; otherwise, they will fall too quickly! In this case, when you are on top of the world, challenges are likely waiting around the corner, but this is life, business, marriage, kids, fitness. No needs to despair! I use the same principle for low moments. If I keep going, bad luck does undoubtedly pass!

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully, effectively, and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Aman Yoga Specialist Daniela da Silva.

Daniela da Silva, the founder of Blue House Yoga, grew up in Brazil but defining her origins is not so linear. Of Japanese descendance and living in London for over twelve years, her interpretation of ‘home’ first changed in 1996 when a fire of still unknown causes burned her place taking her twin baby brothers’ lives– ever since she became less attached to nationalities or addresses. Her lesson was harsh but direct: A house is not necessarily a fragile place but an emotion ready to be felt and unlocked with yoga.

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 got started?

Well, I actually started as a fashion model exactly two months after my house burnt and my brothers passed. I have to mention it because if it wasn’t for modeling, I would never have the opportunity to travel.

I was fourteen years old, looking back, I am sure I was a child, but I already had huge responsibilities. In Brazil, the eldest sister (me) has a kind of parental role and is taking very seriously. After the fire, my mother wasn’t fit for work; to find a temporary solution, she bought some goodies that I sold in a street market after school, that was my first attempt to build a business. I hardly had any time to grieve properly, but the hours were so long, and the money was so little. I figured that I would have to get paid much more than what we were getting. I didn’t think that I was beautiful, I only knew that I looked different (Asian), taller and skinnier than average. One day after my shift, I walked in and asked to become a model. To my delightful surprise, they took me in. One thing about Brazil is that it doesn’t matter how remote the town is; most certainly, you’ll find a modeling agency. In my opinion, the dream of being a model for Brazilian girls is what becoming a footballer represents to the boys, an escape from unfulfilled potential.

Many years later, they sent me on a rather unsuccessful modeling trip to Italy, where I did one paid job. With the money, I flew to Madrid. I am fluent in Spanish. Once there, like many years ago, I went door from door asking if they needed a yoga teacher, a waitress, a secretary, or a tattoo ink seller. I was accepted in most of these odd jobs, I liked the adventure but hated the fear, the instability, not to mention that at this time, I had a failing relationship and a beautiful five-year-old in Brazil. I called my family and friends, saying that I was teaching yoga at a studio in Madrid. It was such an accomplishment, but that was not the overall opinion. My attempts to pursue a yoga business were perceived as an escape from my real responsibilities. People made sure to added that ‘there is no money in yoga’. I still get the latter no matter what.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

In 2015 I was on holiday in Ibiza, feeling the biggest impostor syndrome ever. I had a few influential close friends. In itself, my ability to build genuine relationships with people from all walks of life was a vital entrepreneurial skill. I was close to powerful people who held disproportionate wealth, privilege, and skills. On the other hand, I had friends who were doing jail time or living on benefits, they also felt comfortable around me. I was conscious of not sounding like a bragging twat, but they all knew of my life. They were happy for me. Yet, around them, I also considered myself a hypocrite, someone who is always chasing and never satisfied.

I did not know what to do with myself apart from yoga, as cliche as it might sound! One day I saw a post on Facebook from a concierge auditioning for a yoga teacher, without thinking too much, I posted a comment saying that I was available along with the other fifty keen enthusiasts for the job. Shortly after, I received a phone call, with a carefully composed tone, I could still spot some anxiety. The concierge explained that her client was disappointed with all the candidates she sent. She gave more details, saying that she was ‘particular’. To overcome her type A personality for the last decade, she practiced with foreign gurus and American celebrity fitness instructors. The requirements were someone able tofit her character rather than to teach new tricks.Hours later, I went to the trial. Entering the villa, I spotted at least five employees and a black guy wearing white ethnic clothes. He happened to be a South African energy healer who travels with her. She was brusque and didn’t ask a thing about my background. During the class, I instructed her to practice the headstand. She rudely refused. I insisted. She announced that if something bad happened to her, I would regret it. I replied that bad stuff had already happened to her, she was stiff and unbalanced, and if she wanted to change, she would have to trust my instructions. For the rest of the summer, I came to the villa to teach her and her friends every day. Upon my return to London, some of her friends called me to enquire about private classes, and I understood my demographics. I spent years trying to figure out the political games of the yoga business, but if I wanted to thrive, I would have to decline the subtle invitations to engage in these passive-aggressive-spiritual-competitions so characteristics of the industry, no one talks about but it’s almost palpable. Instead of passive I changed gear to full-aggressive mode! My aha moment was when I realized that my talent was to teach at a niche level and sought after it.

In your opinion, were you a natural-born entrepreneur, or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Bob Marley famously quoted that we never know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice available. I switched his quote and placed entrepreneurial as the adjective. I had little choice but to invent my jobs and businesses if I wanted to live a life that I felt was worthwhile. I started with humble intentions but trying to ‘fit’ was the most competitive thing to do in many ways, from where I stood, it seemed that less people aimed to stand out, I decided to fill that gap.

Before moving to London, I worked in the health sector for five years, feeling miserable and performing unsatisfactorily. I wanted to start something that I was very good at, but my skills seemed hardly profitable. At least, that was the feedback that I kept getting. Yet, I couldn’t possibly bear to live like that another year. In May 2008, I handed my resignation notice. I said that an opportunity had come up on my side job. I was going to travel to Europe initially as a model and eventually teach yoga there. My boss at the time said that I was going to regret it. I was still young, she continued, but it was about time for me to mature and understand that I was a mother and security should come first. She encouraged me to have a rethink of my decision. I did not! The thought terrified me because when my brothers died in the fire, they were very young (4 years old) and healthy. Well, it’s our human condition that we have no guarantees of how long we are here for. Since then, I never equated a chronological time as a reliable system to consult when planning my life. In other words, how old or young I am do not bother me at all when starting or finishing things.

Death contemplation and initial poverty had a positive determining effect on my approach to entrepreneurship. Losing family to avoidable tragedy is one of the most painful experiences one can deal with. Yet, suffering is a powerful spiritual tool. These tools are phenomenal when applied to entrepreneurship: They compelled me to act despite uncertainty and against all odds. After losing so much in a way, you just don’t give too many f***

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

I experienced generosity and support on several occasions. I have a couple who allowed me to host my first skiing and yoga retreats in their eight-bedroom chalet in Chamonix for virtually nothing! Another time, a 40m yacht was available free of charge for a luxury sailing and yoga trip. In August 2020, despite problems in the hospitality due to COVID, Aman Sveti Stefan, manager Sven Van den Broeck still flew me over for another season. These things are significant, and they certainly helped me to shape Blue House Yoga’s identity, but above all, without my boyfriend’s advice and guidance, I would probably be done by now. I started my business in the same week that I met him, September 2016. In December of the same year, I hosted my first Blue House Yoga official event at the renowned Somerset farmhouse 42 Acres.

In essence, we couldn’t be more different. He is a sensible, down-to-earth type. I can almost get high with my ideas, but his pragmatic nature gained over the years he spent working in hardcore private equity pulled me back to face all considerations before jumping in! These differences can sometimes cause big beefs between us. In the past, I used to wrongly attribute his comments to a kind of unconscious white supremacy or male oppression (I have rebel-paranoid inclinations when dealing with him at times), but most of the time, he helped me to understand the volatile nature of ‘emotional investments’, and if not for his support, I probably would be broken by now, thinking it was something wrong with me, while clearly to be an entrepreneur is in itself is actually a path that involves trial and error: a fundamental requirement of problem-solving.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Though some yoga businesses are clearly luxurious, I feel that they are trying to disguise it somehow. I don’t. Growing up, lacking in pretty much everything was awful, but I tell you what made me even more annoyed was the reinforcement that my poverty had a divine purpose, and I should be proud of it! I never bought it! I wanted to give so much to my family. Considering that I am imperfect and a sinner, how could God in His infinite glory want us to suffer? He does not, pretty much the opposite. I soon realize that ‘paradise’ is here, especially if we combine good health, calming architecture, soft music in the background, bespoke treatments, and food from heaven. I don’t feel the need to disguise but emphasize that luxury services, superior quality, along with a pampered booking experience and spirituality go hand in hand!

You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I heard over and over again that it is not possible to work alone, that I was going to burn out, make mistakes, etc. Although I was close to burning out and made several mistakes, the initial statement is not true. My number one advantage is that I can deal well with loneliness and rejections which are the main characteristics of most phases of entrepreneurship. Starting a business is essentially a solo production. You are likely to find help in a different stage of the journey when you are already successful, but in the beginning, forget about it. You probably know that people prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. According to this basic psychology principle, expect to feel avoided. Hence, trait number one: learn to work independently.

Then, I always think of God as a guy with a huge sense of humour because trait number two contradicts the first. Learn to reach out for help. This one was tough for me. My strategy for asking for help is flawed. I invite someone for lunch and tell a story, hoping that the potential helper will decipher the real reason for the meeting before I use the expression, I dread the most: ‘I need’! So, my second piece of advice is also for myself. Finally, my third is: Don’t burn relationships! I am now working with a person I met over a decade ago, developing an online wellness course for a celebrity nutritionist. The thing is, he wasn’t my friend, but my friend’s fiancé, they separated months after their engagement party and after a while, he met his now-wife. At that time, my friend asked me to take a ‘side’, but as tempting as it was, I did not. Long story short, we never know when life will bring you an opportunity, and emotions are super volatile, ‘conserve your relationships’, be diplomatic. And when you have to use tip number two, you’ll count on solid networking to rely on. Also, send Christmas cards, it’s not nice only to call when we need stuff. Remember, we are all busy, so doing little things like that makes you stand out.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

There is no money on yoga! I once went to a mentoring session with someone influential in consulting. It was a gift session and the guy knew it, so he just wanted to perform his favour asap! It was around 2014, and he asked me what I wanted to do. I explained the Blue House Yoga vision; he was very condescending and said that I’d miss the boat. The market was saturated, and I should forget about it. For the next two years, I tried to. While paying hundreds of dollars for a pair of leggings, spending endless amounts in yoga memberships, and consuming everything from the books on my shelf to the energy balls I ate on the go from an industry that ‘was longer providing new demands.’ His advice delayed me, and I wish I had trusted, if not my instincts, at least my passions as opposed to letting him reinforce my insecurities.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

What is burn out? I mentioned earlier that I was close to burning out. Maybe I even did, I don’t know, but there is no other way around than working ridiculously hard to get things done. Some days, you will feel like it is impossible, and it probably is, but this is the process, I guess? I don’t think that avoiding feeling overwhelmed is possible when building something new, competing with multitrillion dollars companies, and looking at statistics, but what I know is that 1. You have to keep going and adapt when required 2. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll learn something or have the chance to practise humility 3. You must pick something you are interested in because the hours are going to be long and the payment is not guaranteed. If it still excites you, then you have what it takes to keep going despite feeling overwhelmed.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Specifically, for Yogapreneurs, my advice is to seek authenticity at all costs. Surely, you need training. You can’t get involved with yoga without insurance, a good understanding of human anatomy, philosophies, etc. However, I see some of my colleagues letting the industry get in their heads, making them feel like the most underqualified people in the world! Of course, this will reflect their pitch!

First of all, it is called the industry of yoga’ for a reason. They want to pressure aspirants to have 500+ hours and adopt an acceptable sober-vegan-non-competitive behaviour to ‘become credible’. Clients are consulting me because they are so affected by what to do next, in terms of ‘whom’ they need to train with, the best association to be part of that they miss the point. It’s the same paradox in business, you don’t need to have a Ph.D. at Harvard to start a business. In fact, many successful business owners don’t have degrees at all, the same way that some yoga teachers in India do not hold a 200hr-restorative-yoga-certificate-issued-by-the-True-and-Only-Universal-Yoga-Association’. Some courses probably are better than others, but they all value independent learning (quite convenient, but that is how it is anyway). However, if you don’t take action, then it is guaranteed not to work. To build trust, you need experience. They won’t give you that so easily (unless you do your teacher training at their school). So, make your path. As you get more experienced, you get results with some people, not with all people. Good, here you tapped into ‘demographics.’. After getting unswervingly good results from your public, you will have to figure out how to generate social proof without being obnoxious or intrusive, but that should not be too hard, something to keep in mind people share their opinions on things that they either love or hate. Give your best, they’ll love you. You have to think out of the box, not so much your ‘sequence’ but a palette of colours for your outfits for example (brains rely on familiarity and consistency to develop trust). Now and again type your name in and check if you come across as an expert, novice or if at all! Be Google proof! Follow some of this and you will soon accumulate enough data to establish your Authority.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

This is because we are at a time where there are fewer gatekeepers, I can now showcase myself eating breakfast if I want to. It’s not difficult to get noticed what is becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed without annoying the audience. We face unprecedented competition as well hence learning how to use diverse skills to deliver a clear message is a high-value asset to cultivate, regardless of the successes we accumulate when trying different things. To take a good picture, publish a blog post or build an online business today is nearly free but polishing our communication is essential to thriving.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

They always think that if it’s not working after the first year, then it was not supposed to be! As Jeff Bezos famously stated, all overnight success takes about ten years.Notice that he didn’t say one and a half or three. It takes time, more than we first thought. So, when you think you put too much energy, remember that you are still at the beginning. Perhaps what is required in these moments is resilience and adaptiveness.

Ok, fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills, and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur; you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

As I stated at the beginning of the interview, I had a secure job in Brazil’s health care sector. It was non-challenging and most people thought that I was fortunate to find a job that didn’t require me to make decisions. I, on the other hand, became fearful, I got that job in the same month that I got pregnant and kept it because I thought that I had no choice. I could feel bitterness taking over me now and again, and how that frustration was constantly interfering in the quality of my parenting, I decided to fight for what I wanted because of my daughter. The emotional cost of security was too expensive for me to pay, but the highs of having my thing pay off, the lows made me a better and more courageous person and I like to think that I am inspiring her. In the end, I continuously repeat to myself: In the entrepreneurial journey, you rather succeed or develop. So, it’s a win-win.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

In the last three years, I had exciting encounters and business deals. Many of my clients were looking for healing through breathwork. Successful figures have booked private sessions with me when they feel distressed, lost, or fragile. It is not unusual for some to share personal traumatic experiences. It is impossible not to feel proud when someone you admire reveals to you the things behind their fame. I remind myself of not getting too intoxicated by the power. I am a qualified CBT therapist finishing my degree in psychology. I am trained to get people extra-comfortable talking, but this is a tool for help, not self-promotion, and despite taking privacy very, very, very seriously, there is perhaps one moment that I can share– because they shared first. My guilty pleasure is to listen to Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, and Hanson –I was nearly obsessed with these groups. They became famous more or less when my brothers passed, so music was a big distraction for me. At school, I had a Spice Girls cover for a while. I chose to be Posh Spice. I cut my hair like hers and made an effort to memorize all lyrics (I am sure it sounded like a non-Italian attempting to sing ‘o sole mio’, it is certainly wrong but still will make sense). Not long ago, Victoria and David Beckham booked a session with me. I was nervous but prepared for the session as I do for anyone. On the day, they chanted, took pictures, and were one of the most loving family I’ve ever taught. She asked if she could share the class on her Instagram stories if I don’t mind…It was such a sweet request, as you can imagine, no, I didn’t mind at all!

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

In one of my first ‘serious’ meetings, I was heavily criticized for not having a spreadsheet with projections for the next three years! I was looking to partner with a hotel chain to design bespoke retreats, and I left feeling unprepared and stupid. Later that day, I said to my pity-self over a glass of wine (I do drink) that I wasn’t trying to impress investors at Golden Sachs and I didn’t need any business standards. After all, I was the talent, the creative force in that boring corporate world! Arrogance apart, there are reasons why someone decides to build a lifestyle brand instead of trade stocks. I am still working on getting better when dealing with aspects of my business that require me to make use of my analytical thinking skills as intended. Still, that day continues to be the ghost that visits me when I feel depleted.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

I started to comprehensively prepare my answers to hard questions. I also went back to school. I know it might sound embarrassing, but so did the meeting when I failed to answer some simple questions. So, after the incident, I walked in City and Guilds, an educational charity in London, and asked if I could enrol in their maths course. I am not trying to sound self-important, but it was a tough experience. Most of the guys there have just arrived in the country and could barely speak English. Others came from a tougher background than mine, who skipped school for a reason. In the end, it was such a humble and empowering experience. After that, I also enrolled for my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I could have chosen a BA with less focus on the Science and Mathematics aspects, but I wanted to challenge myself and equally develop my concentration skills.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

I have five words actually: This too, surely, shall pass! A metaphor that I use when teaching headstands, is for not getting overly excited when finally taking the feet off the floor; otherwise, they will fall too quickly! In this case, when you are on top of the world, challenges are likely waiting around the corner, but this is life, business, marriage, kids, fitness. No needs to despair! I use the same principle for low moments. If I keep going, bad luck does undoubtedly pass!

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

This question made me think of a book that helped to welcome my failures with ease. It is called Anti-Fragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The message I took from it is that people blossom when exposed to volatility, randomness, and uncertainty. An efficient way to build resilience is to cultivate adaptation ‘enjoying’ hard times when they arrive. Several cultural surveys suggest that overly praised children growing up without adversity had too little exposure to loss, which was good back then but probably explains the adult who lacks in confidence, decisiveness and resilience that they may become. Success occurs not despite our downfalls but because of it. In simpler words, I believe that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Simple, but that is my definition.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

The first 20 years of my life were tough. Early lives shape our brains, and most of my friends from home became impaired in certain respects. But I think that for me growing up in a stressful environment made me more adaptable in times of crises as more grateful for simple pleasures in life. I am not in any way implying that all the tragedies that I’ve experienced were good, but the feeling that nothing is under my control is familiar to me. When it comes to business or life in general, I feel that one of my assets is that I don’t particularly value feeling in control. I am highly functional under pressure, as I’ve always have been, I guess.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

The short answer is yes. But probably it doesn’t look like that from the outside. I can work myself to a terrible mood border lining anger when things are not working for a long time! But deep down, I am optimistic. I meditate more than usual when I need to get back on track, I also pray a lot. These two things help me build higher tolerance for ambiguity that I need to navigate in uncertainty. Ultimately, there are many moments that you simply don’t know whether triumph or failure awaits. I then repeat to myself: We have been here before, it is just a rough patch, and usually, that helps me to become more positive, grateful even.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

In 2017–2018 I worked mainly with businesses. Most of them were looking for solutions to enhance teamwork and cooperation across sectors. At this time, I’ve witnessed a common mistake: CEOs and managers trying to look after the teams while neglecting themselves. It doesn’t work like this. Negativity can be felt even if the door is shut, and the office is closed. This is not ‘energy-yogic-talk’ but biological psychology. If you don’t feel positive you can force a smile, but fear is involuntarily translated into micro-expressions easily detected by mammal eyes; Loops of negative thoughts can transpire a particular unpleasant smell–Don’t worry it is not something that can be captured by our nostrils, but a subtle hormonal scent; Yet, with the same repellent effect of a bad breath!

There’s a viral quality to our moods, for good or bad. A person doesn’t even have to ‘talk’ to express emotions; hence it is vital to invest time developing a genuinely positive attitude.

As a leader, a favour that you do to yourself and others is to only act from a higher mood.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favourite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

I have so many, but I find myself repeating a lot of quotes attributed to Einstein. It reads: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Growing up, I remember comments from adults worrying about my future. They openly expressed negative assumptions about my intelligence, achievements, personality, and mental health based on my background.

This is understandable; most western cultures equate a happy home to a brighter future! (unfortunately, it’s also a flawed assumption). At times I still play out on their prophecy. Especially if I am in a setting where my abilities are too different, I start to compare myself with people who are very dissimilar from me, and at times if I am uncomfortable, I can start to judge. This quote helps me to neither feed my inferiority or superiority complexes nor impair my capacity to see everyone’s uniqueness. Namaste ☺

How can our readers further follow you online?

I am more active on my Instagram @bluehous_yoga and website Bluehouseyoga.co.uk, but you will also find my profile at The Connaught Hotel, Mikas Models, BMA Models and some other gigs social media.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for the opportunity, it gave me the chance for self-reflection and hopes that some of your readers can find some value in the words above.

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