All photos courtesy of Sound Off
We’d heard of acro yoga, laughter yoga, naked yoga and even facial yoga (yep, that would be yoga for your face) but until recently were yet to encounter silent disco yoga. Surely these three words were mutually exclusive. A silent disco? A yoga disco class? New York-based company Sound Off is set to prove otherwise, with its unique brand of Zen gaining traction around the globe.
At a Sound Off Yoga class, you’ll be hooked up to a pair of glow-in-the-dark wireless headphones that funnel live DJ beats and a yoga instructor’s guidance directly into your ears. We chat with Castel Valere-Couturier from Sound Off about what it took to take this concept from lightbulb moment to “explosive” business.
How did the concept for Sound Off Yoga arise?
We launched our company, Sound Off, almost five years ago, and although we primarily did silent disco events at the time we were always experimenting [with] new applications for our wireless technology. Last year when we were producing a silent disco at the Secret Island Party music festival in Hong Kong, I noticed there was a yoga studio – Yoga Bam Bam – that was hosting yoga events at the festival. I reached out to them because our stage – the beach – was the only area on the island where there was no amplified sound allowed. I figured it could be a perfect place to pilot Sound Off Yoga.
We collaborated on sunrise and sunset yoga sessions over the weekend, and each session was at capacity. Those who attended loved being able to be immersed in a sonic cocoon featuring live DJs with instructors whispering positions into their ears. Post-festival, we were booked to do weekly Sound Off yoga events in Hong Kong. That’s how it all began. A little curiosity, and a little luck!
What was the main thing you were hoping to achieve with your business at its conception?
When I started Sound Off I was just eager to share the experience I had during my first silent disco. I had never seen or done anything like it. It was truly a unique experience. The moment you put the headphones on your inhibitions are lowered, and you let the music take you on a journey.
Now onto the Sound Off Yoga classes – why yoga with headphones, and a DJ?
Cities are generally pretty noisy, so there tend to be a lot of distractions when you’re trying to practise. Be it the sirens driving by, dogs barking, or the person grunting next to you during plank position! Headphones allow practitioners to isolate the noise surrounding them, and focus on the instructor’s voice and the music. Each headphone has a volume control, which means everyone can tune into the audio broadcast at a perfect level.
Our headphones are also great for outdoor classes where amplified sound can create challenges. Sound permits can be expensive and time-consuming to acquire. Also, a lot of outdoor spaces don’t have great access to power, so not only do you have to bring in speakers, but you also have to bring in a generator to power the equipment. Also, currently all of our classes incorporate music. Music is a powerful medium and, when used correctly, can enhance the experience in a class. Our instructors will put together a playlist for their class or work with one of our DJs to curate the perfect sonic experience for their students.
What do participants love most about this experience?
I think most people are surprised at how awesome it is. They love the connection to the instructor, they love being able to practise outdoors and love being in control of the sound.
The concept is unique in the crowded wellness space – were you specifically aiming to launch something innovative?
We always want to be ahead of the curve and the wellness/fitness space is a very exciting place for us. What started with yoga has now branched out to other areas like Zumba, meditation and high intensity training courses.
With a brand new concept such as this, did it require any extra work in terms of getting the word out and explaining your offering to potential customers?
Once we figured out how our headphones were a good fit, it was important to us that we used our technology to enhance the experience first and foremost. We’ve been working with our instructors and DJs to curate the perfect Sound Off Experience for different yoga styles like vinyasa, ashtanga, and yoga nidra. Like anything new, it was a little challenging to get it started, but we’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing instructors like Elena Brower, Dray Gardner, and Jennifer Pansa who have helped us spread the gospel.
Did you have a marketing plan, or has the growth been fairly organic?
The growth has been quite organic, but explosive. We’re getting request to do events all over the world. It’s pretty exciting!
What has been the biggest challenge in getting your business to where it is now?
Because our team didn’t have much of a background in yoga when we started, it was a little difficult to figure out what was important to our yogis and how to deliver the best experience possible. We spent a lot of time having conversations with instructors and studios to find out what was important to them so we could finesse our experience. That really helped us to get over our initial challenges.
Your business is now gaining lots of traction – any tips for business owners?
We’ve been humbled to have as much press as we’ve gotten this year from publications like the Yoga Journal, Self magazine, and The New York Times. It’s been pretty amazing to have the media that matters latch on to what we’re doing and give rave reviews on the experience we’ve created. We’re small, so we have no PR agency – all of our press to date has been organic. I think if you set out to do something unique and treat people well along the way, opportunities will present themselves. That’s what we’re all about!
You now have offices in New York, Paris and Hong Kong to name a few – at what point were you ready to expand globally?
Our expansion has been centred around where we’ve found the greatest demand for our services. We have definitely capitalised on opportunities where they’ve presented themselves. Last year we were just in three markets in the US, now we’re in 12 internationally.
Any plans to set up shop in new markets soon?
We’ve actually had inquiries from a number of studios and yoga groups we’re hoping to work with in the near future in both Melbourne and Sydney. Stay tuned!