One of my favourite parts of my blogging journey is sharing the stories of inspirational women who go through tough times and come out the other side to help others. I hope you enjoy learning about Tina Ward, the founder of Yogaward International.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
My childhood and teenage years were pretty tough, to be honest. I grew up in the small town of Kingsport, Tennessee, in the USA. My Dad was a severe and quite abusive alcoholic who left us pretty much penniless when I was eight years old. After Dad left, my Mom took two jobs as a waitress and worked 16-hour days so she could support us, leaving my 12-year-old sister and me to pretty much fend for ourselves as we couldn’t afford child care. Mom refused to accept any government support, I think because she wanted to teach my sister and me to work hard and be self-sufficient. In my teenage years, Mom encouraged me to submit an application to our state university and helped me apply for financial aid so that we could afford the tuition. I ended up achieving a bachelor’s degree in accountancy then later, a master’s degree in taxation. I also became a certified public accountant. I would not have grown up to be the independent woman I am today had my Mom not given me such an inspirational example to follow.
What was your first job/career? What did you learn from this?
My very first job out of university was as a Tax Analyst for Conoco (DuPont) in Ponca City, Oklahoma. I moved out to Oklahoma from Tennessee all alone, so it was during this time I learned how to be completely independent. It was also the first time I felt financially secure having grown up with so little in terms of material possessions. Receiving a regular pay check every month provided me with a sense of security that I had never felt before. I decided during this time that I would never depend on anyone else to provide for me so as not to be left in the same terrible circumstances my father had left my mother, sister, and me in.
What led to you setting up your business?
Yogaward is not a business as much as a passion. Perhaps because of my childhood, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life.
Over the years, I sought every avenue for relief from psychiatrists and medication to cognitive behavioural therapy, life coaches, acupuncture, personal trainers – you name it, I tried it! It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I finally found the cure to my anxiety. The most beautiful part of this discovery was learning that the answer was inside myself all along. I was so inspired I became a certified yoga teacher and set up Yogaward International in 2020 with the hope of hoping other people suffering mental health challenges.
What are your services?
I offer the following free services through the Yogaward International website:
- LIVE YOGA CLASSES: These classes are geared towards mental health, but there will also be classes that focus on improving flexibility, increasing body strength, as well as conditioning specific parts of the body.
- LIVE PRANAYAMA CLASSES: These classes are about learning to control your breath (which is essential to yoga). I teach techniques to calm your nervous system and steady your mind using only your breath.
- GUIDED MEDITATIONS: Access to step-by-step guided meditations. Each session will not only teach you how to meditate, but you’ll also get valuable and insightful tools you can use to train your mind to be still.
- CLASS LIBRARY: Access to recordings of all live classes.
- VIRTUAL SOCIAL EVENTS: Access to some really fantastic virtual social events. These are the events that give strength to our network. We’ll come together to discuss our own experiences and most of all, to learn and support each other.
- MONTHLY GUEST SPEAKERS: Acess to our monthly guest speaker events. These will be experts who will talk about a variety of interesting and helpful subjects – all surrounding the topics of yoga, mental health, and personal wellness.
- YOGAWARD BOOK CLUB: Access to our private Yogaward Book Club. This book club gives you the opportunity to get to know everyone even better and to also read and discuss helpful books that will make a positive impact in your own mental and physical health.
What makes your business special?
As I said, Yogaward isn’t a business as such but rather a safe online space where you can come and find tools to make you feel happier through four simple steps: Move, Breathe, Be, Belong. I don’t want lack of money to be a reason a person can’t reap the benefits from yoga, so everything offered on the website is currently free.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
The tips I would give come from my experience working for some of the most successful companies in the world, versus my experience with Yogaward. I would recommend creating a business plan before setting up any business – write down exactly what it is you want to do, and why you want to do it. Ask yourself who your target customers are and why they would want to buy from you. Estimate the costs you will incur to set up your business and the revenues you expect in the next 3-5 years. Ask people who are in the industry you are targeting for feedback. The more you see on paper, the feasibility of your idea, and the more positive feedback you receive, the more self-belief you will have.
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
I practice yoga, of course! I start every day with meditation and pranayama (breath work) and make sure to move during the day, either through a yoga class, walking the dogs, or some other form of exercise. The motto of my business is Move, Breathe, Be and Belong. This is how I practice self-care.
Who supported you as you set up your business?
My partner Lee has really supported me. I still work full time in finance, so between my job and Yogaward I have little time for anything else. Lee and I have no children, but we have two little dogs who demand a lot of attention and need care. Lee and I do not have any defined roles in our relationship. We are two people who work together to get things done.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
Throughout my whole 25-year career, I have been treated differently because I am a woman. I believe I have had to try twice as hard as a man to prove myself in the corporate world. I do not think that this will completely change in my lifetime, but I do honestly believe and hope that it will change for little girls who are growing up with ambitions and dreams today.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
Ah, this is so difficult! There are so many I would recommend. If forced to choose just one, I would recommend “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I recommend this book because it helped me see that the world that existed in my mind with all its worries and fears wasn’t real. The only thing that’s real, is now.
If you could recommend ONE website (to women, what would it be and why?
I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend Yogaward because my goal is for this to be a supportive space for women to come and find themselves through the concept of moving, breathing, being and belonging.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to add that I lost my Mom in December of 2016, which was the hardest and saddest experience of my life. She was my true hero. For all the single Moms who perhaps are reading this article, I’d just like to say “thank you” for all that you do. I know how hard it is to keep all the balls in the air and take care of your children at the same time. Please remember that you also need to take care of yourself too!