How I keep well: Stephen White

Stonyridge winery founder Stephen White's yoga work has seen him rub shoulders with Richard Branson.

Stonyridge winery founder Stephen White's yoga work has seen him rub shoulders with Richard Branson.

Stephen White is a pioneer of the Waiheke Island wine industry, establishing Stonyridge Vineyard there in 1985. But these days you're just as likely to find him teaching at his Parnell yoga school, Yoga Tech. White shares his wellness tips:

Choosing yoga

Ditching partying in Valencia at the America's Cup for a yoga retreat in Santorini, Greece. 

I've been doing yoga for more than 30 years. People I was hanging out with at the time were into it and I was pretty alternative back in those days. 

But it was about 10 years ago that I made a strong move back into doing yoga every day. I'd achieved what a lot of people thought was great success; I was living well, owned a cool vineyard, travelled a lot and everyone thought 'wow that's great'. But I wasn't really spiritually happy and nourished. On the surface it looked golden, but it wasn't really. We are all looking for meaning in our life, aren't we? 

Then about eight years ago I became a yoga teacher, totally inspired by a Californian teacher called Shiva Rea, who was introduced to me by a friend. He was in Greece at his retreat, and I was in Valencia at the America's Cup. I was partying and he called me and said 'you should come over to Santorini and do yoga', and I said, 'but there's a huge party going on here'. He told me I needed to make a call, so I said 'okay, I'm going to go and do yoga' before the Cup had finished - before we lost. 

It was a pretty significant moment and life is like that - you can choose one way or another. I chose yoga and did Shiva Rea's teacher training and I've since gone on and trained in Bali at probably the most advanced yoga teacher training school in the world, called Radiantly Alive. That was about six years ago. I've been back four times since and I'm about to go again in two weeks. 

Nourishing the spirit 

Quite a lot of entrepreneurs don't realise they're looking for happiness based on what peer group pressure and advertising are telling them happiness is. They think it's going to be a car or a house or a boat that looks a certain way, even though these things may not really be in alignment with their true values. We all need to find out what our true values are and create our own personal blueprint of what will make us happy in a deep and meaningful way, not just with the trappings of success. 

They say there are three ways to be happy: one is being social; another is having a future plan or a dream you're working on - a bucket list idea; and the third way is having meaning in your life - some aspect of it where you're giving back and helping others. I've always been pretty good on the first two, but yoga has given me that third part. I've found the deepest happiness actually comes from helping other people, and yoga teaching gives me the platform to do that. 

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More yoga, more money

Keeping well is incredibly important in terms of my business life. You can't make good business decisions unless your brain is clear, and your brain can't be clear unless your body is in good shape. We talk about the body being the temple of the spirit, but it's also the temple of the brain. Headstands are great. I find if you get your heart rate up and then do a headstand, you get a lot of highly oxygenated blood into your brain, and I certainly find I make much wiser decisions and see things more clearly with more accurate intuition. 

When I see people who are really unfit and not breathing well, I just think the optimal time they have for making good business decisions is really limited. Their brain can't be making good decisions in a body that's struggling. Certainly the more yoga I do the more money I make. Yoga absolutely creates abundance.

The wine life

I do drink a bit too much wine, but I'm always trying to drink less and I try to have one or two or three days without drinking each week. The yoga helps with that, because I generally don't drink on the days I teach, so my yoga schedule provides a discipline structure.

The wine industry is great to be in and we put a lot of smiles on faces. But it only falls into that category of being 'creative'; we're not doctors, we're not saving the world, but we are putting smiles on the faces of the doctors and the nurses and the emergency workers. Our job in the wine industry and at Stonyridge is making sure people have a fun time and if we can keep those people happy then we're contributing to society. We're very serious about what we do, but what we do isn't that serious. 

The bucket list

I've got heaps on my bucket list. I want to do kiteboarding in Sri Lanka, hike Machu Picchu, I want to go and see the lemurs in Madagascar - heaps of things. 

In fact, I was just on Necker Island teaching Richard Branson some yoga. That came about through some friends in the Entrepreneurs' Organisation - an unofficial group of us went and stayed there and I was teaching yoga each morning for free and he asked if he could join us. So I taught him yoga too. 

 - Stuff

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