Ottawa·My YouTube Life

Not very Zen: From city employee to 1 of Canada's top YouTube yogis

Kassandra Reinhardt's goal when she first started making yoga instruction videos was to get a job at a yoga studio to supplement her work with the City of Ottawa. Seven years later, she quit her day job and now has over 1.4 million subscribers to her Yoga with Kassandra channel.

Kassandra Reinhardt says the pandemic has tripled her viewership as people look to calm their nerves at home

From city of Ottawa employee to one of Canada's top YouTube yogis

2 years ago
Duration 3:07
Kassandra Reinhardt says the path to becoming an online yoga teacher is anything but zen, but she's happy to help people calm their anxiety at home.

CBC Ottawa asked people who make a living talking to the camera to share what it's like to be YouTube famous, in our series My YouTube Life. 

Kassandra Reinhardt's goal when she first started making yoga instruction videos was to get a job at a yoga studio to supplement her work with the City of Ottawa.

Seven years later, she's quit her day job and is now one of Canada's top YouTube yogis, with over 1.4 million subscribers to her Yoga with Kassandra channel.

"When I started I did not have these big, lofty goals of having one of the biggest yoga channels in the world," the 30-year-old says.

"But thankfully, very early on... I was able to see the potential," she says, adding that the pandemic has sped up her channel's growth. 

"It's really fun to be able to teach people from all over the world."

Kassandra Reinhardt, whose YouTube channel has 1.4 million subscribers, says setting up a rented office space for seven-hour marathon yoga lesson sessions was exhausting, particularly after a 40-hour work week. (Kassandra Reinhardt)

A stretch to find time for yoga

Reinhardt made her first video in 2014. Because she didn't have an appropriate space to film in her apartment, she rented office space by the hour, lugging her film equipment and yoga mat there to film marathon sessions.

Then at home, after her 40-hour work week with the city's emergency and protective services department, she'd log more hours editing, publishing and marketing her videos on her Yoga with Kassandra YouTube channel.

"Being a one-woman show, it was not all that Zen," recalls Reinhardt.

"On weekends, I would spend the entire day working on the channel. It was super grueling and not at all relaxing. So I think that's probably a big misconception about the work."

After three years of juggling both jobs, her yoga income surpassed her city salary and she made the leap to full-time yogi — with the support of her early viewers/colleagues. 

"Everyone is supportive, even though they don't quite understand how it works," she says with a smile.

In the early days of her yoga work, Reinhardt rented out an office space, filming six or seven workouts in a row during marathon sessions after finishing her work with the City of Ottawa. (Modella Media)

Safe during quarantine

By chance, Reinhardt planned a 30-day yoga challenge to run through April 2020. When the pandemic hit, she was poised to capitalize on the captive audience of anxious people looking for ways to safely exercise and relax.

"All of a sudden you had millions and millions of people at home, completely overwhelmed, very scared, and very also bored and not sure what to do with themselves," she says, which explains why her numbers tripled over the second half of 2020.

Reinhardt often teams up with fellow YouTube yogis, including Brett Larkin, saying it's nice to be able to share tips and frustrations with others who understand this 'strange career.' (Martin Wood)

She also noticed a change in the composition of her audience — from almost entirely young women to a spike in older men without yoga experience. 

"I got to bring yoga to people who maybe otherwise would have never even tried a class."

She says she gets 400 messages a day, many of them from men who started with her in April 2020 and have kept up the habit over the length of the pandemic.

Reinhardt, who is francophone and originally from Gatineau, Que., recently added some French-language videos to her channel. (Modella Media)

Yoga for the less flexible

But Reinhardt says teaching online yoga online has always been about reaching an audience that didn't feel comfortable in a yoga studio.

Over the years, she's heard from grateful viewers who didn't live near a class, couldn't afford $20 plus a babysitter to attend or simply didn't feel comfortable there.

"A lot of people are scared to go in a yoga studio," says Reinhardt. "They assume that you have to be young, fit, white and already flexible. They're worried they're going to be laughed at because they don't fit the stereotype of yoga, so they don't go." 

Early on she faced judgment from traditional yoga teachers about the value of online instruction, But since the pandemic set in a year ago, she says, that stigma has disappeared.

"I definitely got a ton of negative criticism from other teachers who said, 'That it's not real yoga.' ... Funny enough, because every single one of those teachers are now teaching online, and they're seeing how wonderful and beneficial it is," says Reinhardt, who regularly collaborates with other online teachers to create content.

Reinhardt was photographed on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., as part of a photo shoot to go with her 2017 book Yin Yoga: Stretch the Mindful Way. (Christopher Malcolm)

YouTube yoga famous

Reinhardt says her online prominence means that pre-pandemic, fans often recognized her on the streets, at least in the United States, where 70 per cent of her audience lives.

But now, it might be her three pets who've stepped into the spotlight.

Like others during COVID-19, Reinhardt and her husband moved to the countryside, a house in rural Cumberland, with a dedicated yoga filming space where her cats Cleo and Kitkat, and dog Luna occasionally interrupt the flow for a cuddle.

"I swear they are more famous than me," she says. "They're always more popular than I am. People really, really love to see them in there."

Reinhardt says despite being one of the top YouTube yogis in Canada, she thinks her cat Cleo is more famous than she is. She has another cat, Kitkat, and a dog, Luna, and they routinely wander into the shots. (Kassandra Reinhardt)

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