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SNEWS Qs: Manduka CEO talks yoga popularity and reaching out to non-yogis

SNEWS chats with Manduka CEO about yoga's rising popularity and how to successfully reach out to non yogis.

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The yoga market is booming. As of 2012 there were 16.3 million yoga practitioners, according to a study by U.S. research firm MRI, and more and more products to serve them are landing on specialty retail shelves.

We were happy to chat with Manduka CEO Sky Meltzer about why he thinks yoga has taken off so swiftly, what customers are demanding in their products and how the industry can reach people hesitant to try yoga for the first time.

Meltzer tell us that his company was founded in 1997 on the idea that a better yoga mat can make a world of difference. Yogis all over the country use its signature product, the Black Mat Pro, and Manduka now offers a full range of high-performance and eco-responsible yoga products.

Why do you think yoga has become so popular?
As a society, living healthy is taking center stage. And the definition of fitness is evolving to include mind, body and soul. Yoga is an efficient way for people to develop physical and mental performance and find time to connect more deeply to themselves.

How can the industry get more people interested in yoga?
By emphasizing the benefits of yoga. Whether it is cycling, climbing or surfing, yoga can improve a person’s performance on the road, mountain and water. It builds strength, agility and concentration … like cross-training for body and mind.

What is your advice to people who are nervous or scared to try yoga?
Ask somebody they trust to recommend a good teacher and try it. Make sure to take at least three classes before you form an opinion. Yoga isn’t just for the ultra-flexible or ultra-fit. It is a practice that meets you wherever you are in your process, stage of life, size, etc. Yoga can bring your body into peak physical condition, but there’s no such thing as being “good” at yoga.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the fitness industry and how can we overcome them?
Redefining what fitness means. It isn’t just about physical health; it is much more holistic. We can overcome this challenge through education and making mind/body health more accessible to more people.

What are some trends in terms of what consumers want in yoga accessories?
They are looking for value and performance. There is an understanding that quality makes a difference to what they experience in their practice. They are also looking for brands whose values they align with. Our authentic roots in the yoga community and dedication to practice has given us an edge here.

How do your products fit in with these trends?
Our products are designed with the highest standards of quality, performance and eco-responsible manufacturing. Our mats are built to balance the people’s varying needs for support versus cushion or grip versus ease. The Manduka PRO series is made in a zero-emission manufacturing facility in Germany and come with a lifetime guarantee. Our towels are made with Cocona fibers, using recycled coconut shells to improve moisture wicking and reduce odor. We’re not looking to give our customers products so much as tools, and good tools help people do amazing work.

Are you currently in any specialty fitness or outdoor retailers?
We currently sell to REI, Sports Chalet, Eastern Mountain Sports as well as yoga studios worldwide.

What makes your products different from other mats on the market?
Our line is designed by yoga teachers and is the highest quality gear on the market. We serve a wide range of people coming to yoga for a wide range of reasons. We care, we last and we think differently.