PICTURED: Jacqui Burge working with a client. Photo submitted

by Emily Dodi

Jacqui Burge would love five minutes of your time. Burge is the founder and CEO of Desk Yogi, a website featuring quick videos designed to help ease the toll that work life can have on our bodies, minds and overall wellness. “People think, ‘Oh, five minutes aren’t going to do anything,’” says Burge, sitting in her Ojai office with her dog, a rescued boxer named Bumper, dozing at her feet. “You’d be amazed at what five minutes will do. How much better you’ll feel [especially] if you sit at your desk for hours and hours.”

“The goal is to help people create the habit of taking a five-minute break every day. The goal is not to make you an expert in yoga or help you lose 20 pounds or achieve enlightenment. The goal is to help you feel better.” Burge adds, “History tells you that when you spend time each day for a moment of self-care you feel better.”

Desk Yogi offers a wide-range of video and audio content, from yoga and meditation to strengthening exercises and breath work, that you can do in your workspace. It offers personal and corporate subscriptions, including one challenge per month containing 12 different videos. Individuals and businesses can personalize the content according to their needs. “Some people do a video every day. Others ‘Netflix it’ and do several at a time . . . some companies watch mindfulness videos together before a meeting so they can all land in the same space.”

Burge had the idea for Desk Yogi when she was working at Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). She was teaching a weekly onsite yoga class, but not everyone who wanted to attend could get away for lunch. Burge asked the Human Resources department if she could broadcast an online yoga class that everyone in the company, in all its various locations, could follow without leaving their desks. Burge launched her weekly 15-minute “yoga mash-ups,” combining yoga, meditation, breath work, stretching and a little bit of fitness. They were a hit.  

“One day, this guy came up to me and he just didn’t seem like a yoga guy. It seemed like he was always working and never had a chance to see the sun. He told me the favorite part of his week was the yoga mash-ups. I was like, alright, he’s not the demographic I’ve been picturing in my brain. That’s when I decided to leave Lynda.com and start Desk Yogi.”

That was October, 2014. Desk Yogi launched a year later and today it has subscribers all over the world. With Desk Yogi, Burge has created a customizable wellness platform that’s accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime. But she soon began to miss teaching in person, one-on-one. So, in 2019, Burge opened Move Sanctuary, a brick and mortar studio in downtown Ojai. She leads small classes that incorporate her vast knowledge and experience, and that tap into various exercise philosophies — from ropes work, TRX and mobility exercises to meditation, yoga and breath work. She sometimes shakes things up with balance boards and giant Jenga blocks. The focus is always to strengthen “the deep core for grounding and stability to meet all the challenges of life. The work is both gentle and impactful,” and is suitable for “every body.”

Desk Yogi and Punk Wellness founder Jacqui Burge. Photo by Simone Nobel

Burge is also a sought-after speaker, who gives talks and classes in Punk Wellness, or “radical self-care for a happy work life.” The name is a reference to when she played in punk bands after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College. Burge is like many people who have what she calls a “big life,” filled with family, kids, pets and work. She insists that establishing a routine for self-care is a necessity. It’s “protected time that is non-negotiable.” She carves out time for self-care — yoga, meditation, quiet time to think — in the morning before her kids get up. “I want to be the first one awake; the first heartbeat.”

In her Punk Wellness events, Burge talks about “the fallacy of work/life balance,” so she developed an approach to wellness that “recognizes the overlap between work, family, friends, all of it.” She offers tidbits about fitness, mindfulness, sleep and nutrition. “It’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve because [life] is stressful. We’ve all had the experience of walking into a meeting knowing it’s going to be unpleasant. So how do you set yourself to be present? [How do you achieve] mindfulness instead of biting your nails and envisioning the worst?”

Whether she’s teaching a class at Move Sanctuary, developing something new for Desk Yogi or speaking to a room full of busy professionals, Burge knows it’s possible for anyone to feel better — whether it’s a stressed-out customer service rep on “the other side of the screen,” or a working mom who makes the time to come to class. “Everybody has stress,” Burge says. “Hopefully you can find five minutes.” A little goes a long way.

Desk Yogi: www.desk-yogi.com

Move Sanctuary: www.movesanctuary.com

Punk Wellness: jacquiburge.com