With a background and Masters Degree in Interactive Media for Children, Marni knew it was time to bring her two favorite worlds together. While her career in Interactive Media and Advertising has given her the opportunity to produce work for organizations such as Nickelodeon Films, Disney.com, HBO Family, 4Kids Entertainment, Sesame Street, Teletubbies/PBS and National Geographic – she can’t think of anything more interactive than a Kids Yoga Class! As a mom and kids yoga teacher, Marni believes that learning and growth happen best through play and founded Monkey Do! on those principles. Her desire to bring yoga to children, led her to the Radiant Child Teacher Training program which included training in Yoga for Autism, ADHD and Differently Abled Children. Marni truly believes that yoga is an important way to help all children, including those with sensory processing disorders reach their full potential. After practicing yoga for over 20 years, Marni is thrilled to have the opportunity to help foster a community focused on children’s health, confidence, imagination and overall well being.
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Can you tell us a little about your background and how and why you started Monkey Do Yoga?
A studio for kids is something I had been thinking about for years. I wanted to bring two of my passions together, yoga and working with kids, it just seemed natural. I started practicing in college, but looking back, its something I wish I had for myself when I was younger. The idea shifted from a dream to reality when I was on maternity leave, looking for these types of activities to do with my daughter. I realized that there was actually a need to fill.
Professionally, I work at a creative agency in the digital advertising/marketing world. My interest has been in working with kids’ media because that’s an arena where we’re more free to experiment and bring in elements of playfulness. My Masters Thesis focused on designing interactive media for kids, so it’s something I’ve always been thinking about.
You have a lot of experience in interactive digital media and specifically those for children. Has any of those experiences helped you with Monkey Do?
Absolutely, our studio is an interactive environment. Whether we’re talking about media or yoga – I believe that kids learn through interactive play and creative expression. I’m sure that experience also shaped the way I think visually and the interior design of the space itself.
Additionally, I believe managing the agency work has helped me to think creatively in terms of solving everyday business challenges that I come across in my own business.
What is the thing you dislike the most in running your business? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?
The thing I dislike the most is the feeling that there’s never enough time in the day, and something else always needs to be done. That never really goes away.
The best thing is when I see the impact. For example, during our first class we had a school group of 15 ten-year old girls. After class they were talking about how calm, happy and strong they felt. There’s nothing better than that. I actually got a little choked up seeing it.
The biggest challenge was balancing construction and managing the contractors while I was still working fulltime at the agency job and caring for an infant. I did a complete renovation of the space. The vision kept driving me forward, but there were days where I thought construction would never end, and it was a full-time job on its own.
How has becoming a mom changed how you work?
A number of ways – the most important is the inspiration. When my daughter was born – immediately I knew I wanted her to see an example of someone who worked hard and followed through on her dreams. Previously, I didn’t really take myself and this idea seriously, but suddenly I felt like there were no excuses.
I’d also say being a mother has made me more efficient, the amount of things moms have to get done in a day is pretty incredible. I think we’re all thinking creatively all the time, in order to ‘just-figure-out-how-to-make-it-happen’ whether thats making dinner, getting your kid dressed, launching a business, getting that strategy deck done for your clients, or figuring out how to get in some time for yourself.
Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?
That’s a constant challenge. One tip I have is to be vocal about your needs, and unapologetic. I’m extremely lucky to have a supportive work environment at my agency in terms of both extended maternity leave, as well as supporting a what’s now a part-time schedule in order to make the studio a reality. But that wouldn’t have happened without having the discussions first. Everyone’s work situation is different, but I believe that having the conversation is the first step.
It also helps me to think about blending work and life rather than making such a distinction. If you can be in the moment at work, and realize that it’s an important/valuable part of your life, it’s a little less of a battle that way.
What creative activities do you like to do with your child?
She’s 1 now, almost everything is an opportunity for creative play, it’s really fun. We sing while we’re changing diapers, drum on tupperware containers, try different flavors at meals (she just devoured apple kimchi).
Why is yoga important for kids and is there any element of creativity involved?
I think of yoga as a toolkit for kids – its gives them the opportunity to self-regulate. They learn how to get the energy out when they have a little too much, to raise it up when they’re feeling blah and to bring calm and focus when they’re anxious or scattered. I love all of the connected technology resources our kids have, but I also think it’s important for them to be able to unplug. Our classes are a time to do that.
And yes, it’s 100% creative! The poses allow kids to play as animals, trees, boats, etc., a yoga class is an adventure. Older kids and teens might try journaling or working on a drawing after a few minutes of meditation. In this case meditation could be as simple as listening to every sound you hear for 60 seconds. Thats good for adults too. Those are just two simple examples, but I believe movement in general is creative. I could go on for hours on this topic…
Do you have any advice for moms thinking about taking the plunge into owning your own business?
Write a business plan, even if no one sees it but you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts organized and make sure the finances are realistic. And, this one might feel like your kid’s art project, but I also think creating a vision board is truly helpful. Take a bunch of old magazines, a pair of scissors and see what happens. You’ll start to see patterns and a mission appear.
Both of those things work together to help you shift your ideas into reality and give you concrete goals to work towards.
Fill in the blank:
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would use 30 minutes hanging out on the floor being silly with my daughter, and 30 minutes of sleep!
My new year’s resolution is to… Resolutions don’t work for me – I use the New Year as a time to think about everything I’m grateful for in the past year.
Checking your phone while someone’s talking to you is a current pet peeve of mine.
The invention of a clone would make my life so much easier. It would be a big help to be in two places at once.
One person I would love to meet (alive or dead) is Joan Ganz Cooney, the creator of Sesame Street & one of the first female execs in TV.