Caroline Lafon Tocan (SKEMA 2014), Founder of Carayama Yoga

21 February 2024 Interview

Meet the founder of Carayama Yoga: an unconventional career path, a search for meaning.

After a career in human resources, Caroline owns today a yoga centre, where she teaches. In this interview with SKEMA Alumni, she speaks about her unconventional career path.


Can you tell us about your studies at SKEMA and your professional experiences after graduating?


I joined the Sophia Antipolis campus after completing an undergraduate diploma in Marketing Techniques (DUT Techniques de Commercialisation). I had originally chosen the school for its international outlook and the specialisation it offered in tourism and hospitality management. A few months into my programme, I chose a Psychoanalysis and Management elective with Florian Sala. This was a turning point in my career! I have very fond memories of this course and of this inspiring professor who gave us a different perspective on management and inspired me to continue my studies in human resources.

Then I decided to spend the 2nd year abroad (6 months on the Suzhou campus and 6 months as an exchange student in Gothenburg, Sweden). It was a very culturally- and personally-enriching year that confirmed my taste for travel, meeting new people, respecting and valuing different cultures...


When I got back, I opted for a gap year and a third year in an HR apprenticeship on the Paris campus, with two major audit/consulting and insurance firms.


I was lucky enough to land my first permanent position in expatriate management at EY, where I had worked during my gap year. I learned a lot in the four years I was there, then chose to join the Textile division at Hermès in Lyon, as Recruitment and Training Manager. I stayed there for four years, too.


What prompted your decision to retrain and become a yoga teacher?


I discovered yoga during the semester I spent in Suzhou! I’ll always remember the little studio opposite the school that offered Pilates and yoga classes (in English!). I went there out of curiosity and yoga never left me. I continued my practice during my exchange in Sweden, then in Paris, and also in Lyon. These wonderful encounters led me, after 10 years of practice, to deepen my knowledge of the discipline by embarking on a 500-hour training course dispensed over 4 years at Institut Français du Yoga. The format allowed me to continue working on the side, and this was the first step toward my desire to teach. I started running a few classes in a studio near my home, then moved up to 90% to teach more classes. The final turning point was the COVID-19 period, which gave me time to think, and which is also when I became a mother. After my son’s arrival, the stars aligned, making the decision obvious and the transition possible. Carayama Yoga was born.


How have the skills you acquired during your business school education proved useful in your new career as an entrepreneur? Also, how has your experience at SKEMA helped you in setting up and running your own business?


The practical skills in accounting, marketing and business were useful in conceiving the project and starting to set up the business (logo, brand, advertising, differentiation, etc.), but it was mainly the mindset of agility, flexibility and entrepreneurship which my education at SKEMA gave me that was a great help.


What was the transition from the traditional professional environment to entrepreneurship like, and what were the main lessons you learned during this transition?


The transition between the 2 "worlds" was not so easy, and from a personal point of view it was a big change. I went from a very comfortable, well-paid management-level position where I was surrounded by a lot of colleagues, to being an independent business owner and operator, a status that is not very secure from the point of view of finances and social protection, and one that is administratively complex with high taxes and social contributions. Reality is not always a source of serenity, even for a yoga teacher :)


That said, I’m lucky to be able to do work that is meaningful to me, and that has always guided me. Because of that, I’ve never regretted my choices. I feel like I'm contributing in my own way to building an interconnected world, and giving my students not only the tools they need to find serenity in their overloaded daily lives, but also breathing space and authenticity in a culture of immediacy and virtuality. The exchanges and the relationships I build with them on a daily basis also help me grow, both as a teacher and a human being.


What advice would you give to graduates considering a similar transition to a career in wellness?


I'd advise them to take their time in making this transition and to stay true to their values and what drives them. Behind these "wellness" professions, there's an often-precarious environment, many hours of visible and invisible work, competition and physical fatigue. The transition can be great, as long as you choose the right location, figure out what differentiates your business from all the others already on the market, and ensure your training is of a high quality and recognised.


It can also sometimes be tempting at first to seize every opportunity on the market, accept to run classes that are poorly paid or far from home, create content that will generate a buzz on Instagram to get more followers, etc. But I think it's important to stay true to who you are, to what feels "right" for you, so that you don't spread yourself too thin and end up chasing after the wrong goals.


How does your current career as an entrepreneur/yoga teacher fit in with your personal and professional goals and aspirations?


I really feel there is alignment between what I offer my students and what I deeply believe in. Accompanying them on the path of yoga and passing on my knowledge is a great source of satisfaction. I have a very varied clientele, with students aged 20 to 92, and I run classes in different locations (companies, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.). That means that I never get bored; I can keep innovating, thinking and training. It's also great to be self-employed and to have flexibility in how I organise my working days. This allows me to spend time practising yoga for myself, enjoying my family, and so on. I enjoy each moment and every day much more consciously than before.


Contact: Caroline Lafon Tocan - Founder of Carayama Yoga