“I’m eager to expand our platform into a worldwide one-stop yoga place”

Entrepreneurship was never a major ambition of one of the most popular yoga teachers worldwide on YouTube. But Esther Ekhart knows like no other just how a passion and a mission to make authentic yoga accessible to everyone can lead to a successful business. With her yoga platform EkhartYoga, Esther currently reaches over a million yoga enthusiasts all over the world, through various channels.

“Even as a young child, I meditated, although I didn’t know that’s what it was then. But I realised at a young age: if I don’t feel well, if I’m restless, it’s usually not the circumstances, it’s my thoughts. To me, Yoga is a form of meditation. Calming the busy mind. It allows me to step back from my thoughts and put it all in a broader perspective. It brings harmony, creates a better connection between body and mind. Yoga brings me so much peace and happiness. I wanted to share that with others.”

How it started

Around 20 years ago, Esther owned a yoga studio in Ireland, where she lived at the time. With great passion and delight, she gave her yoga classes there. “When my classes were full, and I couldn’t accept any new students, I had to look for other means to reach a larger audience. I decided to film my classes and share them on YouTube.” That proved to be a winning formula: Esther’s work was a hit, and quickly went viral. Esther became one of the most watched yoga teachers on YouTube. “That’s when I decided, together with my husband Bas, to set up our own online platform for yoga classes: EkhartYoga.com.”

Leading yoga platform

It made Esther one of the first to meet the demand for online yoga courses. EkhartYoga became a leading, international yoga platform. “We went live with the first yoga classes in three different styles in 2012. Today, we have put over 4,500 classes in 23 different styles online, and our team consists of content creators, video creators, copywriters, tech experts, marketeers and 40 international top teachers from all over the world.” EkhartYoga has members in 152 countries and an active community of more than a million members, followers and friends.

EkhartYoga - Marktlink

From beginner to expert

“On our platform, we offer authentic yoga to anyone who is interested in yoga and meditation,” Esther explains. “The classes fit all levels and various purposes; whether you want to improve your mental health, suffer from back pains or want to increase your physical strength. In addition to our classes, we share a great deal of knowledge about meditation, recipes, anatomy and philosophy. We have an Academy, offering online yoga teacher training courses. We also target companies that want to offer yoga as an employee benefit, for example.”

Do what makes you happy

The growth of the company, with Esther at the helm, happened fully organically, without the help of investors. But whereas yoga has always been Esther’s passion, entrepreneurship never really was. “If I had known just how big EkhartYoga would become, I might not even have started it,” she laughs. “Although I enjoy being an entrepreneur, it was never a major ambition. Freedom is very important to me. To do what makes me happy is just plain logic to me. It opened a lot of doors; this has been my path.”

Female founders

Because Esther wanted to keep expanding EkhartYoga, to introduce yoga to even more people, she decided to merge with another company: YogaEasy. Marktlink was involved throughout the process. “I had had my eye on this company for some time, but first, we let Marktlink investigate the options. Since then, we have merged with the German online yoga company. In Germany, YogaEasy is larger, and it has more professional tools and apps than we have, whereas we have a much larger international reach,” Esther observes. “We can now reinforce each other and scale up.”

“Together, we have a much stronger position in Europe, to counter the much more commercial, primarily American platforms. Like EkhartYoga, YogaEasy was founded on love for yoga, we share the same norms and values, that was very important to me. And the company was founded by a woman as well.”

Keep growing through buy-and-build

With a global reach of over a million yoga enthusiasts you could consider Esther’s mission accomplished, but she has many dreams yet to fulfil. “I am eager to expand our platform into a worldwide one-stop yoga place, with authentic yoga, professional content, and everything that comes with it. We will do so by means of a buy-and-build strategy, once we’ve found the right investor.

Yoga retreats under the Portuguese sun

Esther and her husband have lived in Portugal for six months now. Where entrepreneurship is concerned, she took a step back, she is no longer responsible for business operations. Otherwise, little has changed: she continues to teach, create content and work on the Academy. And organises yoga retreats. “Because Portugal is just the place for that!”

Photographer: Harold Pereira