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Interview with Emily Bent, Founder of Othership


 

Have you ever tried meditation? If you're like most people, you've probably tried it after reading about its benefits and then going to a class or using a meditation app. But if you're like most people, you probably found yourself getting distracted and didn't really feel the promised benefits right away. For Emily and her husband Robbie, they realized that guided breathwork was the most effective way for them to quickly transform their energy levels and focus their minds. I'm Betty, the founder of Upright and you are listening to the Upright podcast, where we interview thought leaders and innovators like Emily Bent, who are making a positive impact in the world. Upright’s vision is a world where health and sustainability are accessible to everyone. To get there, we're launching a high protein instant oat milk that's as nutritious as dairy but without the cow, as well as this podcast series where we can highlight the amazing things that other founders and brands are doing to make the world more inclusive, healthier and more sustainable. In this conversation, I talked to Emily, the co-founder of Othership, which is a platform that includes a physical space and a mobile app to create positive change and address the problem of loneliness and the detrimental effects it has on our individual and collective health. They combined a transformational breathwork app and physical spaces built around sauna and ice-bath classes. We talked about how Emily and her co-founder and husband Robbie got started with breathwork through online videos, and got more and more into other wellness practices like taking ice baths, until they found themselves hosting neighbors in their DIY backyard ice bath in Toronto, and then quickly having to switch to Zoom when the pandemic hit to lead their breathwork classes. She shared the health benefits of breathwork, saunas, and ice baths and described what the experience is like for someone to use their app or to go to their physical Othership space. She also shared some great advice on the importance of asking for advice and learning from others.

 

Betty:

Alright. Hi Emily thanks so much for joining me here today.

Emily:

Oh thank you so much for having me I'm excited to be here.

Betty:

Now I'm super excited to get the chance to talk to you, so I need to start off I would love to learn more about your personal journey with breath work and I'm curious you know when did you start doing breath work in and wife.

Emily:

Yeah so. It's a great question. We first started doing rather actually I think our very first exposure was with Wim hof I don't know if you've heard of Wim hof and the Wim hof method before. Yeah so. My my husband actually struggled with addiction, for many years and he came back from a psychedelic experience actually that was extremely transformative for him, and we were looking for more health practices that could help to support him in his sobriety journey and we came across the Wim hof method and breath work, as well as hot and cold and that was our initial exposure to the whole industry, and I have a background in health and wellness, so I think naturally health practices were of interest to me particularly so yeah we found one of Wim hof some breath work videos on YouTube and more of an F regulated style and Robbie and I would do the same video every single day so that's how we got started.

Betty:

So cool um well, so you mentioned, you were watching these videos and I've done a lot of guided meditations in the past, myself and often there's like a guided breathing part of it as well, so I'm curious for myself and for other listeners who aren't sure where you know meditation starts and breath work begins. Can you like the differences between the two between meditation breath work.

Emily:

Yeah absolutely, both are you know mindfulness practices, of course, and I think the main difference that I usually touch upon is that meditation is more of a passive practice, you are sitting usually in observation and not actively trying to do anything not trying to actively change your thoughts, but more observing what is coming into your field of view and so with breath work you are actively changing the speed and pace and depth of your breath, and this is a listing of physical effect in the body.

Betty:

Got it, thank you, that was super helpful okay so um no I heard that you know about now you and your husband learning about breath work using it to you know promote health and wellness and and support you know, especially his journey, I guess, through sobriety and I'm curious and what what was the moment that led you, and this is one moment or maybe many moments, but what inspired you to create other ship.

Emily:

Yeah, many moments I think you're right, I mean what I was just talking about before either we found the Wim hof method and actually one of our first day it's without. This huge Wim hof seminar in Toronto, he came in, he brought these massive kitty pools and filled them with ice and you know 20 people got in at one, so it was really fun. And so that was one of our first exposures to doing ice bath and then we also found sauna separately through just looking for places that we could go hang out while being sober I think it's kind of natural at night to want to go to a bar restaurant and you're usually exposed to alcohol and those situations, and so we were you know going to different bathhouses and really enjoying the hot and cold as a way to connect with each other connect with friends without alcohol so that's how we were introduced to the sauna and then we created an ice bath in our backyard actually when we moved back to Toronto Robbie was really looking for a community of healthy friends as well and we put the ice bath in our backyard and people just started coming I think you know I would be making my morning coffee and I would look at back and there would be people using the ice bath in our backyard, so we started combining that with more meditative techniques, with the sound bull and learning that the ice bath could be more than this kind of you know, physical physical only experience, where you get in you have this intense experience kind of like you see with athletes. No one look like they're enjoying the ice bath experience they're just getting it and suffering through it and getting out to get the benefits. But that you could actually combine all of these techniques and make it more of this extremely powerful meditative practices well. And so it being Canada, we had the iced out of it are begging for the summer and then fall came around and we were wondering. Well, we were going to do with it and we actually ended up converting our garage into this teeny makeshift bath house and we got an infrared sauna as well. And Robbie's Anson amazing interior designer so she designed the facility and Ravi sister, as well as a is in fitness so she showed us how to just you know put up a little mind body account and create a little business, so we we created the Center for our Community, and it was the initial other ship testing site.

Betty:

That is incredible oh my gosh. And so, you know what what's next then so you've got this ice bath in in your garage and you've set up a mind body cancer, people can can book it online and just to give a timeline when when when was all this.

Emily:

Yeah so hilariously enough, this is like our biggest month was the month before the pandemic before we had set everything up things we're building and starting to go well, I think we started like three months before everything got shut down and so that led us into the same breath work because. You know everything in Toronto close we had really intense lockdowns here, as you might have heard. And so we're looking for a way to continue these practices and support our Community, who is really going through such a tough time I mean we all were at the beginning and ice bath and sauna is not the easiest thing to do, online. We were actually offering breath work at the space as a you know, one of the modalities that we were using with hot and cold, and so we started hosting. Sunday zoom getting breath work every Sunday afternoon and we started, you know 20 people came and then 50 and then 100 and then 200. And our Community was asking for the recordings and so we created this little kajaki website and hosted all the recordings started creating different styles different lengths different speeds. And it just it just grew and grew from there, so for us the pandemic was really challenging for the physical part of our business, but it was really a blessing for the digital side.

Betty:

Amazing oh my gosh yeah I'm so glad to hear that you're able to take such a negative event rate with the code that you're able to use that to catalyze. The the digital part of your other ship, now that the app component and so you know for anybody who's not tried it out before, can you describe the the experience somebody would. Have if they were to login to the Othership app.

Emily:

Yeah absolutely so we took some learnings from our original platform and I think on the original website people were hoping that we could turn it into an app there's definitely a barrier to going online and searching for the website and logging in so the ability to have it right in the mobile app was important to our community so we've been starting to build that and we launched it about five months ago. So some of the the interesting features that we wanted, and we took from the feedback that we've been getting are these daily session so right when you open the app. There's different categories, we have up down all around, and then we have body and brain as well, and so. The up category are really these energizing sessions ways to boost your mood boost your energy boost your focus and attention and really replace a coffee in the morning, or a coffee after lunch and get that energy that a lot of people are looking for and that's something that isn't necessarily associated with breath work, I think I hear a lot Oh, I thought it was just for relaxation or for grounding so that's a really interesting feature of the app and then we have the down category which are slow relaxing breaths styles really taking long X hills which can be very calming and grounding and we have all different links of those as well, we have ones for falling asleep ones for winding down after work. And those are some of my personal favorites as well, and then we have our all around sessions which are more like if you've heard of Allah Tropic breathing. Longer sessions that are geared around getting you to that place where you can. Really shut down the mind and have these experiences of feeling oneness and more gratitude having some beautiful life insights. And we pair those with guided meditations as well to direct the sessions and in different ways, or to think about different things in your life so Those are the three main, and so the up and down right when you open the app we have our daily practices that we try to keep. Around 10 minutes, so that they're accessible for everyone, and then we have the weekly practice, which is the all around the longer session until we recommend doing those less frequently but about once every week or two.

Betty:

Amazing, and I know it sounds like there's so so much within the app. But I know that you also have recently opened up a physical location that's moving beyond just your garage now that too, and you know I was, as I was on Google images of it looks like like the most beautiful physical location on Adelaide street in Toronto and I'd love to share, you know about the experience that somebody walking to that location would would also have it, what what would they be doing there. Yeah, we are very excited that we were recently able to open up yeah our first location that's out of our garage which is really exciting and it does look absolutely beautiful it's been an amazing journey. And we really wanted to create an experience for people where you were just getting completely outside of your day to day, you know you enter other ship and you feel like you're really escaping your day to day life and you're going on an adventure so when you first come in everything's very grounding lots of wood. Soft colors and right away with you are winding through this hallway to get to the change rooms and one thing that we had taken away from. So so many bad popes and sauna experiences that we had done is in Europe, men and women, actually have a shared change room, which is a really nice part of the experience when you're. Going together if you're with a partner friend of the opposite sex that you can have your separate changing styles, but that you don't actually have to separate and so that's the first experience is that everyone has this shared locker area, and then you continue winding around in your journey and you'll come into. A tea room that has this beautiful stadium seating so everyone can have their own areas but you're also in this communal area where you can socialize and connect. There's an area to get tea there's a fireplace and it's very cozy and relaxing and then we have our beautiful 50% sauna it's a really it's amazing to see it turned out so beautifully. And within the sauna we have different experiences, so we have free flow classes, where you can go and use the space, however, you like you can go back between the ice bath area we have four ice baths if you keep going around the hall. And so you can go back and forth, however, you like use the space whatever feels right to you, and then we also have guided classes and so these are something definitely Newton North America. Where there's a facilitator guide with you the whole way, and they will curate different class styles so bring you into the sauna you might do sharing together they'll do essential oils over the stove towel waving to move the heat around and down on our guests. And they might give different prompts to do vocal toning or releases are stretching or so many different things can be done in the sauna it's a really amazing experience and so similar to the APP, we will have classes that are up that are energized and classes and classes that are down that are more relaxing maybe for the evening, some stretching some grounding breath work techniques in the sauna and then we'll have all around same like more for emotional release or social connection, and then we have our Four beautiful ice baths as well, and so they will be incorporated into the class and there will be a guide there to support you know a lot of people are extremely nervous, especially when you're trying, but I stopped for the first time they can be a very confronting experience. And so there will be a guide there with you to coach you through the whole experience to let you know how much time is left we usually encourage two minutes for an ice bath to get all of the benefits so it's nice to have that support.

Betty:

Oh, my gosh there's so much going on in there. Oh, my goodness, well, I think you did such a great job of describing the benefits of breath work earlier, and so, for for the physical location now. And you talk about the benefits of going through through the sodom ice baths and cycling between hot and cold, I mean, especially when you mentioned that people get nervous going into the ice bath like honestly I would 100% put myself in that camp, as well the thought of. Submerging my body into like freezing cold water like somebody has to tell me why it's good for me to convince me to do it so yeah i'd love to hear more about the benefits of why you know cycling hot and cold or so so powerful for your body.

Emily:

I completely understand that I think. Hearing you know that it's healthy for you can really enhance the experience and I think the number one thing that is true for the ice bath and that is kind of the most commonly thought of benefits is reduced inflammation so that the cold is extremely powerful at reducing inflammation throughout our entire body we also get this boosted a neurotransmitter called Nora ephron which creates this feeling of just energy and power and it's really beautiful to watch people go through the experience, because I find that. You can see it happening, when I coach people through the ice bath maybe they come in they're extremely nervous maybe introverted. And then they have this experience and then they come out and they just feel super alive or so chatty they want to tell you all about it it's it's really one of my favorite parts of watching people go through the experience. 10 so that's one of the amazing amazing benefits as well this feel good feeling and I think the other part that I really, really resonate with is that because we've created this more meditative experience within the ice, you can really reach these places of meditation that you can't get to in your day to day life so I've had people. Tell me that they've been trying to meditate for years and they finally fell to the sense of stillness and peace and it's because when you go through this really intense place and you learn to relax into it, you just reached this place of extreme stillness and focus and it can be really, really nice to have those experiences there's also the longevity effects of both. Both hot and cold they've done. Research on cold water swimmers and they have a higher life expectancy and for the sauna as well, I mean besides just relaxation. There is many health benefits, specifically the risk of cardiovascular disease goes down, it can really be beneficial for high blood pressure and also neurodegenerative diseases they're starting to do more research on both hot and cold how it can be extremely beneficial for these conditions.

Betty:

Oh, my gosh we're sharing all of that, I mean you know it gives people no reason to not not going there. I'm definitely me well I'm still probably nervous about going to an ice bath but you know hearing you talk about all the benefits you're like why why wouldn't you do this.

Emily:

You'll do great it gets so much easier, I think the first time can be more overwhelming there's a lot of nerves involved, but then after that you just you really do adapt to it and it becomes a lot users, make it part of your routine.

Betty:

I'm really excited and okay well you know I'm sure he said how did you decide on the name of your ship for for your company for for the brand.

Emily:

We're actually her original name was Inward. We had Inward in the garage sales and Inward breath work was our breath brief app and we felt that we were limiting our brand by just focusing on. This experience of going inward which both all of these practices do, however, we also wanted to have this social element of our physical space. This lifestyle element that wasn't really captured in in the word and words so we worked with some of our close friends that have an incredible branding agency in Toronto. And they presented a few different options for a new name and originally we right away, we all gravitated towards other chef we have five partners, and we all thought it was super cool just a really interesting combination of words and then that night we all went home and totally panicked it was absolutely hilarious that all of us came back and we're like oh my gosh it's too crazy, I think. It's very grand and the vision felt like a lot to step into and it took us a while to come back around and realize know that our initial instinct was right and other ship just encapsulates this view that we're all we're all others and we're looking at this experience to create this sense of oneness and the ship, the other ship is the the ship you're going. You're taking on your journey, and so, whether that journey is towards creating more friendship, or better relationships or more leadership there's all of these practices can have huge benefits in whatever you're working on. I think the name is absolutely perfect and then the first time I heard it it just it conveys this um. It's amazing how words can have such a powerful impact, but yeah as when I first heard it, you know it can be credit this sense of like almost and. Even I didn't really know too much about it, you know you bought elements of what you just talked about just from the name itself so.

Betty:

I think it was it was perfect and and you know I'm wondering, then on that note, you can talk a little bit about the the vision for the brand and and interest you know what's next in Division one what's next for other show.

Emily:

Yeah next we are. Finding more locations like think. That the exciting thing Next, I mean for this year completely dialing the experience, so that we know every time, one of our. Community members comes other ship, they are having an amazing time and all of our sessions are exactly the way we want and really working on just perfecting this experience and then sourcing new location so it's really exciting time.

Betty:

Very exciting I'm curious what, what do you have I can you talk about where you're scouting right now, what is it also going to be in Toronto, are you looking. To somewhere else on two years and we're also in Canada, or in the US or you know somewhere else in the world.

Emily:

Yeah we're looking for more locations in Toronto, as well as expanding to the US. Super exciting.

Betty:

Well it's so impressive to see you know how far you've come from starting out with like a pool in your in your backyard to you know, seeing pictures of this this incredible like it looks like a giant wouldn't spaceship I love the location and the app and, just like the range of experiences you offer. And so I'm curious, what is the best piece of advice that you've received as a founder that that you give to other founders were earlier on in their journeys. 

Emily:

I think that Robbie has really showed his other CEO of other ship also my husband and. The thing that he does best and that I've learned so much from is that he will just source an expert in whatever topic that you want to learn about. You know okay, we want to expand with us let's talk to three people that have done that successfully. Or yet let's talk to three people that have opened a second and third location and ask them about what experiences they had with this what regrets they had with that is there anything that we can learn from. Say we want to start working with affiliates in the app will talk to people that have done that really successfully, and so I think instead of reinventing the wheel, each time there's always someone out there, that has done it and done it extremely successfully and. People are so willing to talk to you if you reach out, I think you know you think that people don't have time or won't want to talk to another founder but that's definitely not the case everyone's extremely happy to share their own experiences and share wisdom with you and I can be just so extremely helpful. And I'm on the flip side of that, I would say that there's a lot of advice that that's offered to you as a founder and so to really use your own filter and decide is that advice coming from an expert.

Betty:

Really really good advice and yeah absolutely as a founder you're always going to be the most you know deep in the problem and and understand your situation better than others so.

Emily:

It's still extremely true, I think that you know year so steeped in. This specific topic, and so you can just use your own lens, and I mean that can be a strength and a weakness, maybe your your have blinders on to certain things. But I think that, because you're so in it that you are already considering all of these things that someone might not might not be considering yet.

Betty:

Hundred percent amazing well Emily for our listeners, who are interested and where can they go to find other shift to learn more about your company and all the like transformative experiences that you offer. 

Emily:

Yeah absolutely well, you can find us on social media, we have two different accounts, we have our physical space, which is Othership to right now and we have our app which is Othership dot app. And then, our website is other ship.us So those are the main places to follow us and see what we're up to and yeah Thank you so much for having me it's been really fun to chat about all of these things.

Betty:

Amazing no I'm again I'm so grateful to have you here and again I'm so impressed by what you and Robbie and the rest of your team have have built them. Now, like I mentioned early I'm going to be in Toronto, at the end of the month, and so I'm super excited to do a class at your physical location and hearing that all the benefits of the ice bath especially I'm excited to get over my fear of that and hop in so thank you again I'm super excited as a fellow Canadian of their former Toronto to watch your continued success.

Emily:

Thank you so much, and we can't wait toast you in Toronto, it will be a ton of fun.

Betty:

I'm excited.

 

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Please also check out this episode's feature, Othership!