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Company with Northampton founders offers live, interactive yoga and meditation classes online

  • Sam Tackeff, chief operating officer, at Ompractice. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Lucas explains how Ompractice works. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Landry, Co-Founder and chief Marketing Officer, Chris Lucas, CEO and Co-Founder, and Sam Tackeff, Chief Operating Officer, at Om Practice, which offers on line Yoga classes. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Landry, Co-Founder and chief Marketing Officer, Chris Lucas, CEO and Co-Founder, and Sam Tackeff, Chief Operating Officer, at Om Practice, which offers on line Yoga classes. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Landry, co-founder and chief marketing officer, at Ompractice. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Lucas, CEO and Co-Founder, at Om Practice, which offers on line Yoga classes. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Landry, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Chris Lucas, CEO and cofounder, and Sam Tackeff, chief operating officer, at Om Practice, which offers online yoga classes. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sam Tackeff, Chief Operating Officer, at Om Practice, which offers on line Yoga classes. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chris Landry, Co-Founder and chief Marketing Officer, at Om Practice, which offers on line Yoga classes. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — For those who practice yoga, there are generally three options available: Practice alone, take an in-person class, or practice with the aid of a recorded class. A Valley-based company, Ompractice, however, is showing people another way.

“All the data shows that people want to be practicing more yoga,” said Chris Lucas, OM Practice’s CEO and one of its co-founders.

Ompractice allows people to get more yoga in by offering yoga classes online, through two-way video conferencing. Each one of these classes is led live by a teacher.

“A student is always seen by a great teacher,” said Chris Landry, another co-founder. “They can practice wherever they are.”

Ompractice also offers meditation classes.

Lucas said that many different options are available for those who use Ompractice, describing the service as “lineage agnostic.”

“It really is designed so that there’s something for everybody,” said Lucas.

Lucas, who used to teach at Shiva Shakti Power Vinyasa Yoga in Northampton, also got to teach yoga at the Obama White House as part of the White House’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, although he didn’t get to teach the first family himself.

“I don’t know why life puts those things in front of me,” said Lucas, of the opportunity.

Lucas is also one of Ompractice’s instructors. Currently all the instructors, save one in France, are American-based, although it is looking to expand to more instructors worldwide.

At the moment the service offers all levels and beginner classes, although it plans to introduce intermediate classes soon and advanced classes in the future.

Lucas said that there are 22 active teachers at Ompractice, “and a lot more in the pipeline.”

The other teachers at the business are all independent contractors, who get paid on a guaranteed rate.

“Doesn’t matter how many people show up,” said Lucas. “It creates budget predictability for everybody.”

The founders also take test classes with their teachers to vet them.

“This was not designed to say, replace the things that you like to do (with yoga),” said Landry.

Rather, he said it gives people the ability to practice more. He also said that having a real-time teacher creates “real-time accountability.”

“You feel like you’re in class because you are in class,” said Landry. “People stay right to the end.”

“That’s how you get the outcomes,” said Lucas. “You’re doing the work.”

It was also noted that no one has walked out of a class since Ompractice started.

Experienced teachers

Lucas has taught yoga for about a decade. He started yoga on his honeymoon, when he went to his wife’s yoga class and got hooked.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve done,” he said.

Lucas tried launching an earlier version of Ompractice about 10 years ago, but was stymied.

“The video technology didn’t work the way I wanted it to,” said Lucas.

However, last year his wife reminded him of the idea, and he realized that technology had caught up with his vision.

“The video technology totally works, we should do it,” Lucas recalled.

Lucas knew Landry through the Valley Venture Mentors program, and they batted around the idea. Lucas was then introduced to the third co-founder, Sam Tackeff, and they decided to launch the company together.

“I’m very lucky I have two people who are more talented than me who said, ‘Yes, let’s get going,’” said Lucas.

The Springfield venture fund invested in the company in December, and it formally launched last January 2018.

“Before you knew it we had payin g customers,” Lucas said.

Lucas and Landry both live in Northampton, while Tackeff is based in the Boston area. The company is based out of Springfield.

The company has two primary sources of business. Individual paying clients, and companies that pay them to make Ompractice available to their employees and/or clientele. Landry said that the corporate side of the business has been growing a lot faster than expected.

“We got a lot of interest,” said Landry.

About a dozen companies use Ompractice, with one such company being a health insurer that gives access to the 24,000 people it covers.

Individuals pay $39 a month for access to Ompractice’s classes, with about 700 individual users since January.

Lucas said that the company was designed to dispel the myth that yoga is for only one sort of person.

“That keeps a lot of people from getting benefits,” he said. “We have created an opportunity for anybody to access it.”

Landry does yoga as well, although he is more focused on meditation. He said he began meditating when his children were toddlers.

“I needed more patience,” said Landry. “I needed that little space between the inciting incident and the reaction.”

Asked about whether meditation has made him a better father — his kids are now in college — Landry said yes.

“It’s been essential,” he said. “Parenting is nothing if not a lot of surprises and challenges.”

Tackeff describes herself as once having been a “pretty sedentary book reading kid.” However, she began yoga in college and now runs triathlons and works as a personal trainer.

Tackeff worked in tech for many years, and got a job at Runkeeper, a fitness app, which started her running.

“There was a lot of positive peer pressure,” she said.

She is also currently on a more than 1,000 day streak of meditation.

“It’s changed my life as well,” she said.

On why she started doing meditation, she said that it stemmed from her tech career, and from working with other women on self-care.

Currently Lucas is the only full-time employee of the company, although Landry and Tackeff are also set to become full-time soon.

Tackeff noted how lucky the three are to work at something they are passionate about.

“Not everybody gets to feel that,” said Tackeff.

As for creating a physical space, Landry said such a move will be based on need. Currently the company is entirely digital, although the company is based in Springfield.

“We intend to stay in Springfield and be based in Springfield,” Lucas said, noting that this was a condition of getting money from the venture fund.

Landry said that while people don’t think of Western Massachusetts as a place where one starts a company, they’ve had a lot support.

“There’s a community here that really wants to support companies that are making the world a better place,” Landry said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.