Entrepreneurial Yoga Journey: Q & A with Dan Cook of YogaEarth
Dan Cook is not your typical Harvard Business School-educated entrepreneur. Before making the entrepreneurial leap of faith to create YogaEarth, a line of yoga nutrition products developed by and for the yoga community, Dan had worked in the corporate world at non-profits, and even in clean energy before anyone knew what solar panels were! Meet Dan in person and you'll see that he's one interesting dude. We talked to Dan about taking that entrepreneurial leap, his yoga and meditation practice, the future of YogaEarth and more!
MindBodyGreen: When did you first begin practicing yoga?
Dan Cook: I had been hired by a group of investors as CEO of a retail chain on the brink of bankruptcy in Southern Florida. The company was in crisis, weeks away from missing payroll and burdened by some dysfunctional relationships that had been created over years. I had been excited to get back to the entrepreneurial world but this was something else! It was an intense, all consuming experience, and my life was ripe for yoga. My first yoga practice was Budukon at The Standard in South Beach. After an over-the-top day working this company through its crisis, I would pedal my bike heavily to yoga. Emerging from practice, I will always remember the serene bike ride along Venetian Causeway. Gliding along the bridge, surrounded by water, palm trees and stillness. The short cycle evolution in mind and body just blew me away.
MBG: What does yoga mean to you? Why is it important to you?
DC: Yoga has added a new dimension to my experience. There is a saying in Spanish that comes from soccer, "parar la pelota." This means literally "stop the ball" (and observe the field). That’s what yoga does for me. It really gives me the space and the tools to get beyond the individual plays, scrums and experiences in my life and pull the pieces together by observing the field.
MBG: You went from Harvard Business School to LVMH to founding YogaEarth -- how did this happen? Did you have an "a-ha" moment?
DC: So far it’s been a series of "a-ha" moments – it keeps things fresh and moving. I was raised by a mother who is a heroic risk-taker. She’s inspired me to build the most interesting patchwork of experiences that I can wrangle together. So far this has included "work" fly fishing in the Bahamas, developing venture capital in Hawaii, solar energy in New England, nonprofit work throughout the emerging markets, and six years of wine in Argentina and Chile. If you look below the surface you will see the strands of all these past experiences woven into YogaEarth (YE). YE blends together the zen of fly-casting, the entrepreneurial spirit of VC, the social innovation of my nonprofit and clean energy work, and the connection with the earth and food from my days in South American organic wine.
MBG: How do you "shut-off" and relax? Do you meditate?
DC: Here on Venice Beach I unplug by taking a class at my favorite local yoga studio, Exhale Center for Sacred Movement on Rose/Main, breaking mid-day for a run along the beach, or kayaking or surfing the Pacific. I do meditate with my girlfriend on Skype – she’s an amazing companion, even 3,000 miles away. God bless Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis!
MBG: Favorite quote?
DC: My favorite quote is from Rudyard Kipling’s "If."
"If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
...If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
…If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man my son!”
MBG: What are you reading? Any favorite books?
DC: I am now reading Cawdor and Medea by Robinson Jeffers and Peak by Chip Conley. Favorites include The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, Tale of Two Dreamers by Borges, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway.
MBG: What does mind/body/green mean to you?
DC: It describes a fine-tuned way of being and relating to your world. It’s a precise level of integration and harmony that begins within yourself and extends to your relationships and surroundings.
MBG: Favorite healthy food? Guilty indulgence?
MBG: What's next for you personally and with YogaEarth -- any new products?
DC: YogaEarth will continue its journey. We intend to explore the incredible collective wisdom that yoga teachers and yogis possess in the world of mind-body wellness and nutrition, and make this the foundation of a conscious family of healthful products. We are evaluating and field-testing new nutritional categories with our community of yoga teachers. The range of possibilities is exciting, and spans across all kinds of organic, functional, healthy foods and drinks. Balance and Vitality (our pre/post practice vitamin, phytonutrient drink mixes) are just the beginning!
Personally, I’d like to play the trumpet at some point soon.
MBG: Why should we run out and buy YogaEarth?
DC: We are the first organization to explore the intersection between the practice and living of yoga and nutrition in any precise, meaningful way. We have recruited as partners the most amazing yoga teachers across the country to co-design, field test and develop our products. The teachers are relevant to this dialogue as they are extremely careful about what they put into their bodies, they are trained in mind-body wellness, and they see the impact that decisions on nutrition and health have in the lives of millions of students on a daily basis.
Interestingly though, we have seen YogaEarth extend beyond the yoga practitioner to any mind-body athlete. It’s an easy ritual that nourishes your body with a super pure blend of vitamins, minerals, organics and herbals and helps you make the most out your personal practice, whatever that may be.
For more on Dan Cook and YogaEarth: