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Change agent: Ava Taylor wants to make teaching yoga a paid profession

YAMA Talent founder Ava Taylor

It’s hard to imagine Ava Taylor screaming at her assistant to bring her a soy chai latte or to get her Shiva Rea on the phone lickity split. Yes, Ava Taylor’s an agent. But she’s a breed apart from Jeremy Piven’s egomaniacal Ari Gold on Entourage. Taylor has essentially pioneered a new profession—the yoga talent agent. And YAMA Talent, which stands for Yoga Artists Management Agency, is her one-woman CAA. But with her ebullient personality and winning smile, Taylor could take Gold to the (yoga) mat. As Diane Hudock, an LA based yoga teacher and one of YAMA’s first clients, said, “Ava is seething with enthusiasm.”

The notion of a talent agency exclusively for yogis would have been unimaginable even just five years ago. “Yoga has entered the mainstream, though we’re just at the very, very beginning of it,” predicts Taylor. Hudock says the number of Americans practicing yoga has doubled since 2005. Sports apparel companies didn’t used to think it necessary to cast real yogis when shooting yoga apparel ads. But America’s 15 million yogis asked for authenticity. For example, the public balked at American Apparel’s ridiculous campaign of a model doing yoga when she clearly didn’t know her ass from her asana. These days, when an ad campaign or a movie features a yoga teacher, they’re more apt to use a real one. “It just makes sense,” says Taylor. “And so many yogis are great teachers, which on one level is all about performance.”

Taylor, a Pepperdine grad, starting practicing yoga while working in marketing and public relations at Lululemon’s Beverly Hills store. She got transferred to New York City to help open the spate of city stores. Along the way, she met dozens of A-list yogis on both coasts. One thing they had in common besides Vinyasa flow? Problems with cash flow.

A natural publicist, Taylor nabbed the cover of Pregnancy Magazine for Hudock

“A lot of the teachers were struggling to make a living or to follow up on all the opportunities coming their way,” says Taylor. Agustin Aguerreberry, a NYC-based Hatha instructor, started plying Taylor with questions and he was amazed at her savvy career advice. “He asked me to be his manager. It just sort of clicked.” Heady conversations at Wanderlust with Kula founder Schuyler Grant  and her music manager husband Jeff Krasno cemented the idea and YAMA was born. Signing up clients was no problem. Hudock says, “Ava also has a vision. She’s also a yogi, and lives yoga herself.”

YAMA’s only officially been in business for two weeks. But Taylor’s already accomplished a lot: she organized touring schedules for teaching gigs that make good logistic sense for her clients, booked TV deals, and magazine covers. She landed Hudock, who’s about to have a baby, the cover and a four page spread in Pregnancy Magazine. She got Sadie Nardini a deal with Body and Balance, a television network that’s prominent in Europe. And she’s also stirred up a fair bit of controversy for making yogis celebrities, a critique primarily lobbed by anonymous people on the yoga-related message boards.

Behind the brouhaha is the simple conceit that yogis shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty when they become instructors. Like others who teach for a living, yoga instructors should have good health insurance and should be able to send their kids to college. So we’re a little baffled as to why many people on the sidelines of the yoga community are taking aim at YAMA.  For today’s yogis who count on teaching as a career, Taylor is more of a yogi’s advocate than an agent.

Are yogis the professional athletes of the future? Share your thoughts, here!

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Photo credit: Sabrina Haley