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Change-maker interview: Emily L’Ami

Friday, November 11, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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I believe we can make all our choices into acts of conscious change.

Even the ones that might seem superficial, like what we wear. And as it turns out, ‘what we wear’, like ‘what we eat’, is not superficial or trivial at all.

The fashion industry is huge, in 2008 consumers in the UK spent £46bn on clothes and shoes alone. Yes, I said forty six billion pounds. Billion.

Oh. My. Forty Six Billion.

This is big business. And some of the fashion industry’s practices are having a huge and negative impact on the planet and on the people who work in the industry. So choices about what we buy and what we wear are no small thing.

This is the kind of conscious change that can feel small when we think about only our own choices. But when we think of all of us making different choices. Forty six billion pounds of different choices.

That is big.

So when I buy clothing I try to find either second-hand clothes, or new clothes made using organic or re-used materials. I like to know that the clothes I wear didn’t require the use of harmful chemicals and that they were made by people earning fair wages in healthy working conditions.

Let the record state: I’m far from perfect.

My boyfriend is much stauncher than I am and some of the compromises I am willing to make appall him. The other day we woke up early in a strange town and set out on a long walk to an unknown location. I hadn’t even had my tea yet. I assumed we’d pass a wee tea-house or cafe on the way. We didn’t. Until about 60 minutes into the walk, when I spotted a Starbucks. Now we wouldn’t usually choose Starbucks, but I don’t think they are terrible and so I told him I was going in for a tea. He was horrified.

Why would I support Starbucks when I could wait, have a cup of tea when we got home? Why would I chose to spend my money on a company that represented, to him, the expansion of mono-culture at the expense of local businesses?

I didn’t get my tea.

But if I had been alone I probably would have. Sometimes I don’t take as firm a stand as I might. As I could. As some of you might even think I should. Actually, I plan to write a lot more about the many ways in which I am not perfect. So stick around if you think reading about my imperfections might help you feel better about yours.

But despite my occasional slide towards expedience (I plead lack of tea as my defense!) I do care about the effect of each choice I make to consume.

When it comes to choosing the clothes I wear to practice yoga that seems even more important. Yoga is a holistic practice, it encompasses all the choices we make and the way we behave off the mat as well as on it. Which is why I was thrilled when I discovered Bodha clothing. And why I want to introduce you to the founder of Bodha, Emily L’Ami. Our change-maker this month.

Emily L’Ami: change-maker

Like me, Emily believes in the power of conscious choice. And she understands the potential of yoga to bring us all home to our true selves, and in doing so transform us all.

Yes. I did just assert that yoga can transform you. And I don’t just mean your body, although it will do that. I mean that yoga can change our relationship to ourselves. And that, as some of you already know, changes everything.

Emily created Bodha clothing, a range of beautiful (and very comfortable) natural yoga wear that is made here in New Zealand and which I love, love, love. I wear my Bodha leggings to practice in and then under my favorite dress to get me through the vagaries of a Wellington spring day.

Here are Emily’s answers to my five questions for change-makers.

1. Emily, what breaks your heart? And what are you doing about it?

The pain and suffering that comes from people being disconnected from themselves and each other breaks my heart.

Yoga offers everyone a way to reconnect with themselves and in turn others.

I want to create beautiful yoga clothing that celebrates yoga and inspires people to ‘come back to themselves’ through dedicated practice and I want to do this in a way that deepens my connection to myself and the world around me.

2. What fills you with joy? How have you built that joy into Bodha?

Connection and relationships fill me with joy – with others, with myself and with something bigger.

Bodha is an expression of this joy on many levels.

By creating Bodha I connect with my deepest passions and values, I connect with a family of suppliers and customers and ultimately I hope to inspire and support people to connect with themselves.

3. What do you do to take care of yourself and make sure your work with Bodha is personally sustainable?

I am still figuring out how to bring Bodha to life in a way that nourishes me and those around me. I know I have a strong Pitta dosha, so I try to ensure I do a few simple things to take care of myself like maintaining a daily practice (no matter how small), blending and using essential oils, cooking, and spending time with friends.  I also teach a community yoga class which I’m sure I get much more out of than the students!

Making sure my work with Bodha is personally sustainable is also evolving.

Ensuring each piece we create is beautiful and functional as well as financially sustainable is a real balancing act, especially when producing in New Zealand – but every time I feel like it is impossible the universe seems to provide a solution. I once read that ‘believing is seeing’ and the more I learn to let go the more this reveals itself to be true.

4. This is a series of interviews with change-makers. I see you creating all kinds of positive change with Bodha – but how do you see yourself as a change-maker? Do you see yourself as a change-maker?

Wow, I am very humbled that you see me as a change-maker!

I hadn’t thought of myself in this way, I just know I have always been searching for a way to do something that has purpose and meaning.

Something that is bigger than me.

Figuring out what this is has been a long and difficult journey of which I’ve only taken a few small steps. My ultimate dream is for Bodha to contribute to positive change by inspiring people to ‘come back to themselves’ through dedicated practice.

5. What would you tell someone who wants to do what you’ve done? Someone who wants to build a business which nourishes and sustains not only themselves but every person touched by the business and our planet?

I would say go for it! It is going to be hard and scary but like you once told me ‘the voices of doubt get loudest when you are approaching your true purpose’.

I think if you do something you are passionate about with authenticity the journey is the reward – and as Mark Twain said ‘we regret the things that we don’t do more than the things we do’.

Join the in-the-know crowd

Bodha is about to launch a gorgeous new e-store which I imagine will become one of those places I go online to just soak up the loveliness from time to time. If you join Bodha’s mailing list you’ll be the first to know when the store launches and the first to hear of any special offers or new ranges. You can join the list here.

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3 Responses to "Change-maker interview: Emily L’Ami"

  1. Clare says:

    Super post Marianne… thanks for introducing me to Bodha and the lovely Emily. I love your ‘change-maker’ series! thank you…

  2. Roxanne says:

    Thank you for this interview with Emily, Marianne. It is terrific to find out more about her work. Thank you also for being so honest about the difficulties of consumption choices – a lot of this resonated with me.

    I sometimes struggle with how my lifestyle choices align with my beliefs and the causes I support. But, in this aspect too, self-kindness can be crucial: It is ok to sometimes want the Starbucks coffee (or, in my case these days, the Max Brenner ice cream.) Mary Oliver has wisely written in Wild Geese: “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” And while informed consumption is necessary, an indulgence every once in a while can be necessary too.

  3. Immy says:

    A lovely post Marianne! I just got some pieces from the Bodha range and they are really beautiful – flattering even for a very un-yogi like body, and super comfy. Highly recommended. Its aweosme to be an informed consumer AND enjoy the indulgence of gorgeous clothes too.

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