Go ahead and chuckle at the slightly naughty-sounding name: Mother Trucker Yoga.
Company founder and powerhouse entrepreneur Hope Zvara does it all the time. After all, she originally coined the phrase as a joke anyway … only to turn the tongue-in-cheek moniker into a highly successful company serving the fitness needs of drivers.
“I went to a local business mixer here in Wisconsin with my husband,” Zvara explained. “I met a guy and I just started talking to him, and I’m trying to pitch him corporate yoga — and he looks at me and says, ‘Do you have anything for truck drivers in the cab of the truck?’
“Now, I think I’m funny sometimes, and I threw up my hands and I was like, ‘Mother Trucker Yoga!’ just trying to get a rise out of him, trying to make the conversation fun,” she continued. “Instead, he looks at me, sticks out his hand and says, ‘That’s brilliant. You want to go into business together?’ We shook on it.”
Since then, Zvara has shed the partner and accelerated Mother Trucker Yoga into a formal yoga workout program designed specifically for truck drivers. While it’s not the first health and fitness service aimed at the trucking industry, Mother Trucker Yoga is unique in that all of the poses and stretches can be done in and around the rig itself.
Best of all, you don’t have to be in great physical shape to get started and succeed.
“Everything else I was seeing was people slapping gym exercises onto truck drivers,” she said. “I was like, ‘This isn’t working; this isn’t what they need. This isn’t practical for them.’ I wanted (Mother Trucker Yoga) to be ground-level.
“I’m not looking for the drivers who are already into health and fitness. I’m looking for the drivers who feel like there’s nothing out there for them, like they’re a lost cause. Because that’s how I’ve felt in my life, for so many years,” she continued. “I know what it’s like to be overlooked and underestimated. Even in the yoga world, I always kind of felt like I didn’t fit. So, those are my people.”
In addition to working with trucking companies to help maintain driver wellness, Mother Trucker Yoga offers individual subscriber options for drivers who want to give it a try on their own. With more than 200 yoga videos tailored specifically to drivers on the road, Mother Trucker Yoga provides sessions short on time and long on flexibility (no pun intended).
“There ain’t nobody on the planet — I don’t care if you’re a truck driver or not — nobody wants to sit down and do a 60-minute or even a 20-minute workout. Nobody wants to do that in today’s culture,” she said.
That’s why every Mother Trucker Yoga exercise is designed to be completed in five minutes or less. In addition, Zvara offers meditation exercises to help drivers achieve better sleep, relaxation and more.
“Mental health and stress is a huge thing, not just for truck drivers but for everybody,” she said.
Zvara says she has experienced the physical and emotional benefits of yoga firsthand. In fact, she shared, yoga first “found” her when she least expected it — but it was when she needed it most, at one of the darkest points of her life.
“I was 18, 17, somewhere around there,” she said. “I had an eating disorder and drugs and alcohol and depression, anxiety, just lost. Really lost. I was an addict. I had done everything, had therapists; nothing was working because I wasn’t ready for it to.
“I was working at a local pool as a lifeguard when a co-worker randomly looked at me and said, ‘You look like somebody that would practice yoga.’ And something in me that day just kind of tripped. I went home and I was like, ‘I think I’m going to practice yoga,’” she recalled.
Out of nowhere, Zvara cuts loose with one of her trademark laughs.
“Full disclosure: I don’t even think I ever heard the word ‘yoga’ prior to that conversation,” she said. “But I believe things happen in life or a reason. So, I went home and told my mom. She knew I was struggling, and she said, ‘Well, I did yoga in college. I’ll go with you.’”
During that first yoga class, Zvara recalls she stood out because she was the youngest participant by 25 years — as well as the one with the least hint of what she was doing. Nevertheless, she left amazed at the peace in her mind and the way her spirit hungered for more.
“I remember looking back into the room, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, my mind was clear,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about hurting myself. I wasn’t thinking about what should I eat, or what am I going to drink? Nothing. I was hooked; I just kept going and going and going.”
Years later, after that chance meeting at her husband’s business mixer, she perfected the basics and debuted Mother Trucker Yoga at the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show.
Not having a background in trucking (either before or since), combined with no idea how to become a public speaker, might have spelled disaster for the new venture. But then, as now, Zvara preached the benefits of yoga with an evangelistic zeal that has won over converts and taken the program nationwide.
“I was always around blue-collar workers,” she said. “My dad was a sewer pipe layer. I love the men and women that have the jobs that keep this country running strong, and I don’t say that as a cliché.
“I’ve felt that way my whole life, because my dad was ashamed of what he did,” she explained. “He felt underappreciated, and I feel so many similarities between watching my dad (when I was) growing up and truck drivers. I love those people. Those are my people.”
Even though Zvara says she’s not comfortable with public speaking, she has conquered this fear, along with many others during her life and in her Mother Trucker Yoga venture.
“When I stepped into trucking, I had no fear. It was like, ‘I know this is going to work. I know that this is what they need,’ she said. “(I had) so much confidence that I knew I could help these men and women.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.