what's in a name?

If any of you have started your own business, you’ll know that choosing a name for it can be an incredibly difficult and long drawn out process. It can even become a little fixating, as you trawl competitor’s information and consider what you believe will set you apart, and accurately encapsulate your offering in the marketplace best. Hanging a shingle that you invest a lot of time - and money - in, is therefore an important part of your branding and marketing strategy.

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The name of our studio, however, was settled upon after not too long a deliberation. I began with considering some Sanskrit terms - Ananda Yoga was my favourite - it means Love, and I just like the way it sounds. Also in the running, Ananda Shanti - Love and Peace. I wanted to evoke a feeling of warmth and safety, I suppose, for our students. And then, as I continued to teach, it became increasingly evident that much of the yoga that’s taught in the west is so very centered around Asana, and breath, or Pranayama, often gets sidelined. On rereading Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga and coming across his father, Krishnamacharya’s, affirmation, If you can breathe, you can do yoga, a light literally switched on in my head! That was it! Breathe! It’s all about the breath! The breath is the very foundation of the practice. The better the breath, the better the practice! Not only, I thought, would this name take the practice back to the fundamental essence of the breath, but it would also serve to reassure those new to yoga that they had what they needed already inside of them to begin a practice - Breath!

Once the name was established - oh and by the way, you will find hundreds of studios similarly named all across the globe - it’s not terribly unique unsurprisingly! - the next task was to design a logo - or, as I would continuously call it, a Yogo! How to get across in an image the idea of breath, of something that whilst not seen, not visible, is such an important element of yoga?

We tried all sorts of images, from wispy lines to dandelion clocks, to wavy figures in poses. And colors: we started with purples. Purples and greys, in different shades. Nothing looked quite right. And it was all too dark.

And then we came across the brush stroke open circle, known as Enso. I’d read some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, and his quotations were often shown written inside of this image. It flowed, felt airy, like breath, and when coupled with a beautiful teal and pale green color palette, just looked the part.

They evoke power, dynamism, charm, humor, drama, and stillness.”

Ensō (円相) is a Japanese word meaning circle, and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy. According to Audrey Yoshiko Seo, author of Ensō: Zen Circles of Enlightenment, “Zen circles are symbols of teaching, reality, enlightenment, and a myriad of things in between. Seemingly perfect in their continuity, balance, and sense of completeness, and yet often irregular in execution, ensō are at once the most fundamentally simple and the most complex shape. They evoke power, dynamism, charm, humor, drama, and stillness.”

As well as just finding the image itself appealing - it’s organic, fluid nature - I liked the cyclical nature of both the shape and meaning - life is a cycle, and so is breath. When we are born we take our first breath, and when we die, we take our last. When we come to our mats, in Ashtanga for example, we take our first conscious breaths as we raise our arms in Surya Namaskar, and we let go of the breath in Savasana, corpse pose. Each breath cycle is a chance to begin again, for rebirth. Sa Ta Na Ma - Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth.

And thus, our logo began its cycle, was born, and I am still as excited about it as in the beginning. And as our beautiful website undergoes a rebirthing process, I thought it might be interesting to read about how it came about. We officially launch the new site on this, the first of the year, again, the start of a new cycle, and I am excited for the future of our studio and moai - community - and what we can achieve together. I’d like to give credit to Designer Luna Tiongson who herself went through many cycles to design the Breathe Logo, or Yogo, and many others for us since. And finally to Kate and Kimber of Custom Ideation who have delivered a stunningly clean, crisp and peaceful new website that I hope you will enjoy. Let us all move through the cycles and phases of our lives peacefully, joyfully and with grace.

Namaste,

Sue Whitmarsh