Neelam Harjani, Founder of Inspire Yoga

A passion to provide individual restorative solutions for stress management, chronic pain, fatigue, back pain, low immunity, joint stiffness and poor sleep quality, Neelam founded Inspire Yoga.

What’s your story?
Previously an investment banker I had normalized being stressed all the time, years of internalized pressure left me suffering from anxiety, chronic fatigue and acute lower back pain. Yoga and meditation changed everything for me, it helped me release the physical tension from a sedentary lifestyle and find inner peace from the constant mental chatter. I founded Inspire Yoga with a passion to help others by personalizing programs around specific requirements to maximize the benefits of the practice. Now with a team of over 20 dedicated instructors, we offer private classes and corporate wellness to provide an accessible, relevant and mindful framework of yoga.

What excites you most about your industry?
Wellness is a relatively new industry, it’s exciting to contribute to cutting-edge systems to personalize wellbeing. We are challenging the status quo of health, it’s not enough anymore to be free of illness, we now conscientiously optimizing health on an individual basis to take a holistic approach covering physical, emotional and mental health. Our lifestyle has changed radically in the last decade with the introduction of smartphones which has had massive implications on our health and stress levels, we are at the precipice of relearning how to live with technology to revalue the human connection and reconnect with natural healing rhythms.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My parents immigrated from India to Hong Kong 40 years ago, settling down in the former British colony for themselves, their children and grandchildren, we are 3 generations connected to our Indian heritage that call Hong Kong home. I grew up instilled with strong Asian values of family, honesty and endurance which I teach my children today, the world might be getting more globalized, but these qualities are timeless and essential for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
To me, Hong Kong is a mecca of opportunity. It’s a confluence of hard work, operational efficiency and ease of funding that makes it great for business. Coming from humble beginnings my father found success in Hong Kong as an entrepreneur in the 70s, I witnessed firsthand how supportive the community is to new ventures. Local investors are openminded and forward thinking, actively looking for the next big growth story to finance. Its electric energy, the transparent judicial system, strong work ethic, low corporate tax rates and high standards of quality makes Hong Kong one of the best cities for business in Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I recently met Mark LeBane, a senior lecturer at Lingnan University, who gave me the courage to dream big and stand in my own truth. He empowered me to embrace my position as an industry disruptor by advocating an alternative to the ‘one size fits all’ approach taken by group settings and curating personalized yoga and meditation programs. He said, “focus on one key deliverable, drive your service with passion and scale it with systems”. As an entrepreneur, I realized it’s my greatest value to the business to set a clear authentic vision that attracts our clients, partners and staff to work together towards that shared goal.

Who inspires you?
I have been enthralled by Joe Dispenza and scientific methodology in explaining spiritual concepts of compassion, meditation and visualization using quantum physics, neurocircuitry and biochemistry. His work in anchored in technical explanations using modern technology to validate the practical application of meditation to explain how these ancient systems of healing work. He has inspired me to detail the importance of balance in our corporate wellness programs, we have seen a massive increase in engagement of the practice once there is a solid knowledge in the facts and data to prove the epigenetics of lifestyle on our health.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am fascinated by Shawn Achor’s work that statistically shows how being happy makes us more successful, more efficient and better learners. His research-based in corporate America shows that being content and connected to the present moment increases productivity by 31%. “An American multinational insurance firm enrolled in a yoga and meditation program and found that it returned 62 more minutes of productivity per week, per employee, which averaged out to be around $3000 per employee in productivity and a $2000 drop in healthcare costs. So, simply by getting people to do meditation and yoga, there was a $5,000 swing per employee, per year.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that every setback provides a valuable lesson for growth and presents a great opportunity for learning. Mistakes catalyze change to evaluate the course of action, reflect on the plan and adjust the strategy. As an entrepreneur the business is a reflection of yourself, the one thing I would invest more in during the initial stages is personal growth. Abolishing limiting beliefs, holding an inspiring vision, setting clear intentions all help to accelerate business growth, ignite leadership qualities, and arm you with the courage to sculpt your industry niche.

How do you unwind?
I love being in nature and the hikes in Hong Kong offer a magnificent immersion into the greenery. It’s incredible how you can go from being in a bustling city to scenes of waterfalls, sounds of birds chirping, steady on an earthen path all in 20 minutes! It’s a setting I love to practice walking meditations on my own, challenge my fitness with my husband on longer mountainous trails and enjoy family hikes with our 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son to appreciate time together, slow down and become aware of the beauty in nature.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, nestled in the thick rainforest there are beautiful beaches to explore, amazing snorkelling opportunities to appreciate, wildlife nature reserves to admire and of course scale Mount Kinabalu if you like trekking! I always feel a special warmth in Malaysia, with its sunny skies, friendly service and delicious delicacies, it’s truly a melting pot of Asian culture! I’m working on an exciting project of making it a tourist hub for wellness, there is amazing potential for gorgeous rejuvenating retreats- stay tuned!

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek, he conveys clear paradigms for leadership that highlight employee satisfaction as the direct determinant of corporate profitability. If you want your clients happy and loyal how can exhausted and frustrated employees be managing their relationship? His models are applicable for startups, small business and multinational organizations on how best to manage people, create value and form a competitive advantage. I was fascinated by his Apple case study, based on empowering individuals more freedom with high-quality technology. This steadfast intention enabled Apple its unprecedented growth and ability to transcend industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
Thriving in the information age requires the active ability to switch off from the constant over stimulus or we risk our health as 90% of illnesses are scientifically linked to stress. We believe that optimal health is catered to the individual, not the average which is why we adopt a bespoke approach for all our clients- corporate and private. Our mission is to motorize individual journeys of self-healing. We overcome anxiety, chronic tension and stress-related health conditions using personalized yoga and meditation programs. Our clients reconnect with peace of mind, freedom in movement and energy levels that inspire success.

How can people connect with you?
Our website gives you the best starting point around the company’s philosophy, services and vision, book your free consultation with me personally today.

Feel free to contact me directly on email, connect with me on LinkedIn Neelam Harjani and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @inspireyogaofficial

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This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

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