How to start practicing yoga

As a yoga teacher I’m often asked for advice on how to start a yoga practice.  Here are a few tips:

Try different styles of yoga.

The variety of yoga styles that exist (Bikram, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Anusara, power yoga, restorative, yin, Iyengar, etc) can be staggering and difficult to navigate.  Try a variety of styles until you find one that you like. Each style has its own unique quality, but the most important thing is that you find a style that inspires you and motivates you to keep going back.

Try different yoga teachers, several times.

Just as a wide range of yoga styles exists, yoga instructors are all different, each with his/her own personality and qualities. If you take a class with an instructor and find that you don’t like his or her style, keep going to different classes until you find someone that you like.  You should feel a connection with your teacher, and your teacher should be someone that motivates and inspires you.

A good instructor will give students options in class to make their practice more accessible or more challenging, and will cue you so that you have proper alignment and attention to safety.  In my opinion, a good class should be balanced, with an appropriate mix of cardio, strength, flexibility, and agility training, and one that is comprehensive, with attention to core, the spine (moving the spine in all six directions:  forward, backward, twists right and left, and side stretches right and left), the shoulders, the hips, and major muscles (IT band, hamstrings, psoas, hip flexors, thighs, arms).

Also, keep in mind that as you grow your yoga practice, the same teachers that may not have been a fit for you at first may be great for you later.  I’ve experienced firsthand not liking a teacher initially and then that teacher later became my favorite teacher who inspired me to deepen my own yoga practice!

Don’t judge yourself.

When you first start your practice, it’s common to feel discouraged because the poses feel uncomfortable, or because one lacks flexibility or strength to do all the poses as beautifully as others in the class. Keep in mind that this is exactly why you are in class, so you can gain flexibility and strength. Remember that the practice of letting go of one’s own ego is also part of “doing yoga” (and is perhaps one of the biggest lessons to learn!).

Focus on the breath first.

In terms of the physical practice, if you do nothing at all, do this one thing: breathe mindfully. This means cultivating a long, slow, steady breath, and any time you feel stress or challenge, return back to that long slow steady breath. Learning to breathe is one of the greatest gifts yoga gives, along with helping you create more space in the body for more breath.

Consider private instruction.

If you feel really self-conscious about going into a yoga class for the first time, consider hiring a private instructor. Some beginners like having a few private sessions to understand the basics of stretching and fundamental poses. Others have to build up enough core strength in order to sustain a practice in class. Still others have very little “body awareness” and have a hard time moving their body according to verbal instructions, so a slower paced private class can help them get what they need out of a yoga practice.

Or, go online.

If private instruction is too expensive, you can also try some online yoga classes at home. Try any beginner Hatha class to start with.  Here are a few sites that have great videos:

Don’t buy a thing, unless you want to.

You don’t need to buy $100 yoga leggings to start a yoga practice (unless wearing sharp yoga clothes makes you more motivated and excited to go to class, in which case I am all for it).  You can wear a T-shirt and shorts.  You also don’t need a fancy yoga mat or any yoga mat at all; most studios and gyms have mats you can borrow or rent. Props are also usually available so you don’t have to bring them.  Sometimes chairs, sand bags, and bolsters are used as props for restorative and yin practices.

If you have started a yoga practice and want to invest in some gear, here are a few suggestions:

  • Buy a nice sticky mat that will last.  There is a huge difference between practicing on a cheap yoga mat and a nice yoga mat, and that could mean the difference between looking forward to your practice or not.  My personal favorite is the Manduka PROlite because it’s durable, sticky, and lightweight, but there are many others you can try.
  • Get blocks that are made of high density, durable foam.  Blocks that are made of foam that are too light are difficult to manage.  Blocks made of wood are uncomfortable.  I like these blocks from Hugger Mugger.  Blocks are often used in pairs so buy two.
  • Beyond a mat and blocks, other accessories are used depending on your interests and needs for a home practice.  Mexican cotton blankets can be folded and rolled to use as a prop for support.  Yoga straps help you extend your reach and can be used as resistance.  Bolsters and sandbags are nice for restorative practices.

A few related articles I’ve written about getting into yoga:

See you in class sometime?  Namaste!

Handling jealousy

I got an interesting question from someone this week:
How you handle jealousy?
There is only this one person that makes me jealous. She seems to have amazing luck and everything lines up for her so easily.  I work just as hard as she does, and I know for a fact that she is no better than I am as a designer and she has gotten everything I ever wanted. Of course, I appreciate what I’ve learned along the way, and the amazing people I’ve met, but I just can’t stop feeling jealous.
Envy is one of the top killers of compassion.  When people feel jealous of what others have, they want it for themselves and/or they think the other doesn’t deserve what they have.  Envy can be dangerous if it grows into hopelessness; when people reach a point where they don’t think they can get something, anger rises.
Envy comes from comparison, and comparison is all about conformity and competition.  When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of a collection of “alike things” or “alike outcomes”.   When we compare, we want to be the best out or have the best of our group.  Comparison pushes us to fit in to an established set of what is considered “successful”, while standing out amongst the crowd.  It doesn’t lead to a mindset of self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity.  It doesn’t allow us to be true to who we really are, but to conform to a preconceived notion of what is “best”.
When we spend energy conforming and competing, we lose the opportunity to devote that energy to creativity, gratitude, joy, and authenticity.  Comparison (and the envy that goes with it) is the thief to happiness.

Here are some thoughts on how to deal with jealousy:

  • Cultivate gratitude for what you have. Someone else may have more than you, but you have more than someone else.  One of my favorite TED talks is by David Steindl-Rast on gratitude.
  • Redirect envy into emulation.  When the Dalai Lama spoke at Santa Clara University earlier this year, he spoke about competition, compassion, and business ethics.  Competition can be healthy if it inspires you, but not if it’s seen with a scarcity mentality (e.g. there is not enough “of the good stuff” to go around for everyone).  Instead of seeing her as a competitor, see her as someone whose presence inspires you to be better. If she is getting promoted faster or is paid more than you, in a way, her success validates your endeavors, because it means that this kind of work is valued!  Also: what is it about her that makes her more “successful”? Is there something about her that she is doing or how she is being that you can learn from and use to improve yourself?  How can you become lucky like she is?
  • On the outside, she may seem more “successful” because it looks like she has everything you’ve ever wanted, but that is not true success. She may not be any happier than you. True success is when you are happy on the inside, authentic to yourself, without attachment to final outcomes.
How do you handle jealousy?

Job opportunity: Interaction Designer, The Hunt (San Francisco, CA)

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know the team at The Hunt; this is a great opportunity for an interaction designer especially if you are interested in how people shop.  In addition to having a thoughtful CEO and a strong product management leader, the current design team includes a user researcher and a visual designer.  Some articles about the company and their last round of fundraising:
Title: Interaction Designer
Company: The Hunt
Location: San Francisco, CA

We are looking for an Interaction Designer to join our growing team and craft high-quality user interfaces across both web and mobile platforms. As an Interaction Designer at The Hunt, your job will be to:

  • Identify tasks and create solutions based on user goals
  • Wireframe key interactions, flows and interfaces 
  • Create prototypes
  • Collaborate on usability testing and research

The ideal candidate will have 4+ years of interaction design experience and:

  • Love working at both the conceptual and detailed level. 
  • Have experience building social products for a passionate user base.
  • Be an advocate for our users. You should want to hear from our community as much as possible and want to create the best experience for them.
  • Have a portfolio that shows a wide range of interaction design and a thoughtful approach.
  • Thrive working in a fast-paced agile development environment.

Compensation for the role will include:

  • Salary of $125k-$175k
  • Equity ownership of 0.1% – 0.5%
To apply,  send your cover letter, resume, and portfolio to Shane Hall at

Job opportunity: Founding Designer, Homerun / OpenDoor (San Francisco, CA)

Title: Founding Designer, leading product design and identity.
Company:  Homerun (to be renamed OpenDoor)
Location:  San Francisco, CA
Hi, we’re “Homerun” and we’re redefining what it means to sell a home.
We will give homeowners a fair cash offer on their screen in under a minute, saving them 2 to 6 months of time and removing all of the uncertainty of selling a home. This is possible because we will literally purchase the homes ourselves (then resell them on the market). It’s a little bit crazy, but it makes for a much dramatically better experience for customers. In 10 years we hope we will be the only rational way to sell your home.
Here are two articles about us:
We want to hire a thoughtful, empathetic, and experienced designer to build and lead the design team and culture at Homerun.
You will craft the delightful products and identity that will come to represent us. We’re introducing a fair and trustworthy product to an industry known for dishonesty. Your challenge is to overcome that bias and create an experience that earns customers’ trust and love.
If you succeed, you and your work will help define a next generation high-profile startup that changes one of the world’s largest industries for the better.
– Leading the design of our “version 1.0” product
– Developing an iconic and beloved identity for a high-profile startup as it launches and grows. (Think Square, Uber, Tesla, Zillow)
– Developing products and tools for homesellers, homebuyers (for the property we need to re-sell), home inspectors, and internal teams.
– Understanding how and where to use data to improve products.
– Conducting and/or managing the outsourcing of customer research
– Growing and managing an elite and widely respected design organization
To apply:
Send your cover letter, portfolio, and resume to

DESIGN is… (What CEOs Should Know About Design)

I joined Khosla Ventures as an operating partner two weeks ago, focusing on design for the portfolio companies. At the annual KV Summit this week, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on design with the CEOs in our portfolio companies.

DESIGN is as important as TECHNOLOGY

Today, design is as important as technology. I was meeting with a startup last week when the principal architect asked me why is design more important now than ever before? And to answer that, let’s reflect on the evolution of automobile design.

When the Model T first came out, the focus was on getting the technology right. We labored over getting the car from point A to point B and laying infrastructure down to support automotive networks. Back then, consumers did not have much choice in the design of their car. Cars were offered in black, black, or black, in this style only. Then, as technology and infrastructure became good enough, design became the differentiator. It wasn’t enough for your car to be fast, but it also had to look fast, or expensive, or powerful. Design has become the differentiator for the car market.

Design has become the differentiator in the car market

Similarly, in the early days of the internet, the major challenges of the day were focused on getting it to work, reliably moving packets from A to B across proxies and servers and operating systems. Technology was so expensive that it required a lot of capital to form a company, and the technology was not yet widely in the hands of most consumers.

We’ve reached a stage where technology is now good enough. We have sensors and chips where we need them when we need them. We have compute cycles either in the device or in the cloud. We have storage for us to save every moment of our lives in high definition. Bandwidth is now fast enough that the internet just feels like it works. Not to say all the problems are all solved or that this future is evenly distributed across the planet, but the challenges of product development are now shifting towards building useful and emotional experiences that people get from using and interacting with technology. 

Another factor driving the rise of design particularly in enterprise markets is the consumerization of IT. As consumer users, we enjoy the simplicity and power of applications like Google Docs and Gmail, and we don’t want to spend 10 hours a day in Microsoft Office and Outlook anymore. Google had an explicit strategy of spoiling users at home so they would demand the same tools at work. Moreover, younger generations are just living on the internet, and this is what they know and feel comfortable with.

Microsoft Office and Outlook vs. Google Docs and Gmail


Let’s play a game… I airbrushed the logos out of some car pictures. Can you identify what car this is?

Some of these cars are easily recognizable. Why? They include design elements that get carried over from generation to generation, and across each model car in the portfolio. The design of these cars is so consistent that you instantly recognize what they are. The cars that are less recognizable suffer because they lack this consistency. Lexus, for example, changes their designs every 2-3 years, which makes our mental models of what the car looks like less stable in our minds and thus harder to recognize.

When we think of brands, we think of logos and identities. But these are just symbols that represent companies. A company’s brand is consumers’ perception of that company, and that perception is built up over time, through experiences. When a consumer is interacting with your company through any capacity, you are literally in the process of creating your brand. Because consumers are interacting with companies mostly through their products, the fastest way for companies to build a strong brand is through design consistency. Thus, design is the brand.

Logos do not make a brand; experiences do


Here are some products designed and sold by Muji. Muji is a Japanese company that sells common affordable household items with better design and lower cost packaging. Muji refers to its design philosophy as “Kanketsu”, which translates into “Simplicity”. Their aim is to “bring a quiet sense of calm into strenuous every day lives”. There is a Zen-like quality to their product design, and even though these products are simple and affordable, they don’t feel disposable.

Muji product design principle:  Kanketsu (simplicity)

… but SIMPLICITY is very difficult to achieve!

Simplicity is easy to say but hard to do. Let’s look at the evolution of the Google home page as a case study. This is what Google looked like in 1999….








It wasn’t until 2014 that Google truly achieved a simple home page, even simpler than what it looked like when it first launched. It took 15 years in the making of a company to achieve this level of simplicity, and certainly not because of lack of will or talent. That it took this long shows how difficult it is to achieve simplicity in the face of many people’s opinions, competing agendas, and growing product requirements and features. It’s a simple design, but was an incredibly difficult journey to get there.


Let’s look at the products from Braun produced in the middle of the last century, under the direction of Dieter Rams. Dieter Rams joined Braun in 1955 and had a forty year career there, eventually becoming their Chief Design Officer. The key principle that drove the design direction for all of Braun’s products during this era was “Less, but better”, the idea being that the products would be stripped down to only what is essential, that the essential would be amplified, and made better. These products are so streamlined that they are elegant and modern, and still relevant, even though they were designed decades ago.

Braun product design:  “Less, but better”

Whether we’re talking about product design or graphic design, great design is iconic. It’s not a fad, not showy, not trendy, not easily thrown away.

Timeless design


Design is all about the details, yet it’s the details that we often overlook, or take for granted, or forgo because we don’t have the time or resources. But there is no great design unless there is great attention paid to detail.

The details matter because they directly impact how we feel about a product or service after we interact with it. For example, here is a picture of a typical bridge with wrought iron railing. The vertical slats make you feel like you’re in prison. In Japan, when you look at railing, you get the sense that people are always thinking about how they can make even the mundane delightful.

Railings in Japan

Manhole covers are another example. A typical manhole cover in the US looks like this. Yet when you look at manhole covers in Japan, every single manhole cover is beautiful, inspired, and different, making the journey through the streets of Japan more entertaining and joyful.

Typical manhole cover in the US

Manhole covers in Japan

In some contexts, attention paid to design details means the difference between delighting your users or not. In other contexts, insufficient attention paid to design details can impact conversion, adoption, engagement, and user trust.

DESIGN is EMPATHY made tangible

Design details include not only how things look but also how they work, their ability to satisfy your needs, and the emotions you feel from interacting with them. To create a great experience for users requires tremendous empathy for others, an understanding of their needs and motivations.

Let’s look at another example from Japan. Here is a ticket counter at a subway station. At the edge of the counter is a plastic strip, placed there so one can rest their umbrella or cane there while they fish out money for their ticket. Whoever designed this must have had tremendous empathy and compassion for people to have the insight to include this detail here. And whoever was writing the check for the creation of these ticket counters must have supported whoever had that design insight.

Train ticket counter in Japan

Going back to the Google Apps example, we use Google Apps, not just because the apps are simple and easy to use, but because of what they allow us to do. The ability to collaboratively create and edit documents in real time, the ability to archive and search email, are functionality that people need, even if they didn’t understand that they wanted to do be able to do those things before they existed.


There was a study across 160 websites that looked at the impact of latency on the user experience. Just a delay of one second, resulted in a 7% decrease in conversions, 11% in page views, and 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.

Google really took this design insight to heart. While Braun’s design principle was “Less but better” and Muji’s was to “bring calm to people’s stressful lives”, Google’s main design principle has always been “Fast”. This principle has informed every design decision, and is reflected throughout the experience. For example, we show how long it takes to serve a search result. We strip away the page of clutter so users can better focus on the results. We know from human interface research that black text against a white background provides the best contrast for reading text on screens, thus enabling people to get to their destination faster.

Google design principle: “Fast”

While the insight that latency matters was very much a design driven insight, the commitment to speed went beyond the purview of the design team. This value permeated throughout the company, from billions of dollars of capital outlay to create infrastructure to make web search as fast as possible to company OKRs centered around reducing latency. This aspect of the user experience could not have been achieved without a company wide commitment.

When we think about design, we often think about how a product looks. As makers of technology we might also understand deeply that design is not just about how a product looks but how it works: components that enable people to use your product, and how it all fits together. All that cascades from your company’s strategy, values, and principles, and the scope of the problem you choose to tackle. All of that manifests itself in the design of the experiences you offer.

Design runs deep and reflects the company’s internal state (credit:  Jesse James Garrett)

Just as a person’s posture can reflect his or her inner state, so does your product’s design reflect the state of your company. I’ve seen org charts, power struggles, and agendas manifest through design. I’ve seen the absence of strategy, values, principles, and a clear point of view manifest through design. You need to think about design from the inside-out. You can’t fix your design without fixing these deep issues and this is why every CEO is a designer, whether they recognize it or not. If your expectation is that your design team can work around or patch over your company’s organizational issues, power struggles, and agendas, or lack of strategy, clear values, principles, or point of view, you’re shunning your responsibility in making design great for your users.

No New Tale to Tell

I’m a fan of 80s alternative music. While preparing for this talk, I was reminded of a song from one of my favorite bands from that era, Love and Rockets. In that song, “No New Tale to Tell”, they sing “You cannot go against nature, because if you do / go against nature / that’s part of nature too”. I think this is a nice way to think about design. You can’t not have “no design”. Because whatever you end up with, whether you pay attention to design or not, is your design. There is only careless design or thoughtful design. Choose to design thoughtfully.

Love doodles to a stepfather

I just rediscovered doodles my 11 year old daughter made late last year on a notepad Bradley received from the All Things D conference.  She never mentioned anything to us about the doodles, just quietly did them over a short period of time.  His name is printed on each page, so each doodle is like a gift to him.

Maybe we had pie that day?
Bradley was a gymnastics champ in his younger years
We have an inside family joke about eating M&M’s while drinking tea
Rashi 🙂

I’m joining Khosla Ventures!

I’m thrilled to be joining Khosla Ventures as an Operating Partner! As part of my new role, I will help portfolio companies build design-centric organizations, recruit the world’s best design talent, and lead them through a process towards great design. Helping companies create well-designed products and services goes deeper than people and process; design is a manifestation of the company’s vision, values, strategy, scope, and ability to execute — to that end I expect to work with founders and CEOs on all of these challenges.

As a design leader at Google, Yahoo!, Udacity, and Netscape, I’ve initiated, developed to scale, and managed some of the largest design organizations at world class technology companies. I’ve worked with the most senior executives at these companies to create conditions that result in well-designed experiences. I’m eager to share what I can offer toward new endeavors and the startup community.
I am especially excited to join Khosla Ventures for several reasons. Vinod has assembled a team with deep operating experience. Second, Khosla Ventures aims to invest in solving problems that matter, as reflected by the diverse companies in its portfolio. Third, Vinod and the broader team care deeply about design. Beyond being a competitive advantage for startups or a marketable service for potential portfolio companies, we simply want to see better design in the world, and we recognize that design needs an advocate and advisor at the highest levels of the company for it to be successful. 
I am grateful to take on this opportunity while remaining committed to teaching yoga, which deeply informs how I approach design and life in general. I will continue to teach my classes at Avalon Art and Yoga in Palo Alto.
I start at Khosla Ventures in early May.

Bringing Yoga to Schools: An Afternoon With the Non-Profit Organization Headstand

I spent the afternoon today in San Lorenzo visiting KIPP Summit Academy, where the non-profit organization Headstand has implemented a yoga program for its students.

Headstand aims to combat toxic stress in disadvantaged K-12 schools, through yoga, meditation, and character education. They do this by offering a training program for teachers who want to teach yoga in schools. The program includes a curriculum that offers a framework and toolset for teachers while giving them flexibility to adapt to the needs of the class.

San Lorenzo schools in general get a rating of 5 out of 10 on GreatSchools. But KIPP Summit Academy gets a rating of 10 out of 10, and when visiting the school, you can appreciate the gem that this school is. The students are well mannered, calm, and respectful. They walk from class to class in single file quietly. While it might sound like a military school, the environment is actually warm, supportive, and creative. The school’s support of the Headstand program is a reflection of how open-minded and innovative the adminstration is.

All students at this school attend yoga class at least once a week, and some attend twice a week, alternating with their Physical Education class. In addition to teaching mindfulness and yoga, Headstand’s curriculum also focuses on character education. I observed a fifth grade class in which the theme for the day was grit. The teacher opened the class by recounting two contrasting tales of people going through challenges: one who gave up and another who demonstrated grit. Throughout the class, the teacher returned to the intention for students to contemplate.

After the opening discussion about grit, the teacher led them through several movement exercises: first, a listening exercise in which they moved between child’s pose to tabletop to downward-facing dog; second, through a flow sequence and basic stretches; and third, with a game called “Yoga Benders” in which a classmate prompts the rest of the class with the name and number of body parts that are allowed to touch the floor (e.g. “two hands and two feet”, “one foot only”, “butt only”). The kids were engaged, happy, and had fun.

The class closed with simple floor stretches, followed by several rounds of long slow deep breaths, savasana, and meditation. Each student keeps a journal and was asked to write a few sentences describing what grit means to them.

The students took this intention to heart. Some referred to grit in the context of climbing a mountain, and that attending college was the highest mountain of all.

Headstand has gathered some compelling data that supports the success of the program: 98% of the entire student body reports feeling less stressed, less distracted, and more calm as a result of their regular yoga practice, and the detentions have dropped by over 60% since introducing yoga at the school. Researchers at UCSF recently received a grant to study the effects of this program on the students and school more deeply.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with founder/director Katherine Priore and observe Headstand in action. Learn more about this inspiring program and how to get involved at

The Lazy Bodhisattva

I discovered this lovely poem by my friend Chade-Meng Tan, in his book Search Inside Yourself:

The Lazy Bodhisattva

With deep inner peace,
And great compassion,
Aspire daily to save the world.
But do not strive to achieve it.
Just do whatever comes naturally.
Because when aspiration is strong
And compassion blossoms,
Whatever comes most naturally,
Is also the right thing to do.
Thus you,
The wise compassionate being,
Save the world while having fun.