Interview by Carolina Rodríguez Hernández for JOLIEGAZETTE
Photos by Hailey Wist
A wife of hedge-fund businessman Paul Tudor Jones, Sonia Jones is a Founder of Sonima and Co-Founder of Sonima Foundation. Sonima Foundation brings health and wellness to schools across America, helping thousands of children, focusing on the under-served. Her inspirational yoga journey began when she devoted herself to restoring her health after having four children and a back surgery. Jones and her husband are both noted for their philanthropy across many causes and groups including Robin Hood Foundation, the Everglades Foundation and of course, the Sonima Foundation.
Can you describe to us a childhood experience, which influenced your business career, especially your relation with the wellness industry?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, where so much was naturally healthy and organic. What I mean is I spent so much time outside, especially at Bondi Beach. Aussies are very outdoorsy people. Also, I grew up eating so many fruit and vegetables. It was just our lifestyle to eat what was in season. So in a sense, my whole childhood experience influenced my business career.
Could you give us an insight into the creative process behind The Sonima Foundation?
There is the Sonima Foundation and the Sonima website. The Foundation, which came first, came out of my own experience with health and wellness. After my fourth child, my body was pretty broken—four Caesarean sections and a back surgery. Slowly, one day at a time, I had to rebuild my body and spirit, and I did it with yoga, meditation, the Egoscue method to relieve pain and restore proper posture, and good nutrition. I was so transformed by my experience that I wanted to make it available to as many people as possible, so I started my foundation to bring health and wellness to under-served children throughout the country. So many of our children are in crisis mode—poor health, poor grades, difficult home situations, terrible levels of stress. And it’s been proven that improving their health and wellness will help them address those other issues more effectively.
The Foundation was so successful then that I was inspired to build the website to freely offer people access to the health and wellness experiences that made me better. It really is that simple. It’s cliché now, but the internet really does make it possible to reach millions, and my goal was to give authentic health and wellness experiences that I knew to be effective to anyone who wanted it.
Who inspired you throughout your career? Why?
To say only one person has inspired me would be insufficient. I have been inspired by a collection of people along my journey to a healthy body and mind. It started with the nuns in my Catholic childhood schools. They taught me to look within to find stability and strength. As I said above, I was also inspired by my typical Australian childhood of the fresh outdoors. Along the way many others inspired me, and some in unusual ways. My husband inspired me because he was completely uninterested in health and wellness. So he taught me how to talk to and reach people who had no concept of health and wellness and didn’t even consider it as a worthwhile option. Then I met people like Pete Egoscue, Patthabi Jois, Sharath Jois and Deepak Chopra, real giants in helping people achieve their best bodies and minds.
What are your challenges?
There are so many. But my biggest challenge is mental flexibility, that is, being open to new experiences. I like routine, I like knowing what’s coming next, and I like not being surprised. So it’s hard for me to be carefree, easygoing and less controlling. Discipline is not at all a challenge for me. My problem is that I’m over-disciplined, too committed to a single path. Unfortunately, sometimes that also leads me to being judgmental, but it’s certainly a problem I’m aware of, and I am working on it. We’re all works in progress.
What is the single most inspiring video you have seen addressing today’s biggest challenges, which include: climate change, food security, poverty reduction, and quality of life for all?
I recently saw that video of Pope Francis washing the feet of Syrian refugees. It reminded me of when he first became Pope, on Maundy Thursday, he washed the feet of some young prisoners in a local prison, and I saw footage of that. That single action has had the largest impact on me. It speaks to his humility and to our calling for all of us to serve others, especially the least among us. If we do that, and if we make that our commitment, then the world will truly improve on a vast scale.
What role does music play in your creative process?
I’ve always loved music. I grew up singing in my hairbrush and thought I was the lead singer of Abba, Agnetha Faltskog. I also pretended I was Barbara Streisand and Olivia Newton John, a real Aussie icon. I knew I didn’t sound like any of them. I played their records and shrieked their songs, but I loved them. To this day, maybe my greatest highlight was my best friend’s mother getting me and her tickets to the Abba concert when I was nine. They actually inspired me in a serious way, though: they helped me realize that there was a larger world than the one I was living in. I loved my world, but they helped understand that there was more. So that’s the role music plays in my creative process: it helped me and continues to help me expand my horizons.
What advice can you share with the world on the importance of empowering others to reach one’s full potential? How do you empower others in your daily life?
I don’t feel I empower anyone. I feel that at the most, like Pope Francis, we just need to be examples of what we want others to be. If we want to inspire love, then we should behave in a loving way. If we want to inspire health in others, then we should live in a healthy way. The most I can do is find out what my passion is and do it. I discovered that my passion was health and wellness, and I do it, and maybe my example empowers others, but if it does, it’s not because I’m on a pedestal, which I shouldn’t be. It’s just because I’m doing it and showing them that they can do it, too.
Which is your favorite destination to disconnect from work?
A yoga mat. I could be in the middle of the most crowded street, but when I start my yoga practice, all goes silent. It all starts with focusing on my breath.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is complete gratitude. When I’m grateful, I’m happy, no matter what’s happening. And when I lose my gratitude, which we all can do, then I’m not happy, no matter what’s happening. But I must admit that I’m really, really happy when I’m most grateful for the simple stuff I take for granted—my family around me on a sunny day with healthy food and plenty of water to drink, looking at the ocean.
How would you like to be remembered?
As somebody who tried to make the world a better place in whatever small ways I could.
Who are your top three living thought leaders?
Pope Francis and, honestly, my husband and my eldest daughter, Caroline, a fantastic musician. I’m not in any way putting them on Pope Francis’ level. I’m just saying that their ideas and points of view influence me more than anyone else and inspire me to be a better person.
What is next for Sonia Jones?
Growing the website and reaching and helping more people be the best they can be no matter where they are in their lives, physically and mentally. Just want to continue to play my small part to make the world a better place.