By Mira Olson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO— Becoming a revolutionary, trendsetting athletic apparel designer for the yoga world was never in the plans for Carioca Ana Bugarim Santos, founder of Shakti Activewear. “It just happened; I was part of the process of following my heart,” says Bugarim.
Since 2003, Bugarim’s company has been at the leading end of yoga apparel fashion for men and women, selling garments worldwide through its online store and at yoga studios and events throughout the United States. The colorful and innovative tops, shorts, pants and leotards are all manufactured in Brazil and are distributed through the company’s small base in New England.
Having completed her university training in theater, Bugarim’s true passion is acting. To complement her theater training, she acquired a technical degree in Dance and Movement from the Angel Vianna Dance School in Botafogo; as a result of her practical training following the completion of the program, in 1995 she became a certified Hatha yoga instructor.
As acting wasn’t allowing her to make an adequate living, Bugarim moved to the United States in 1999 to give entrepreneurship a try. She had lived outside Atlanta, Georgia as an exchange student at age sixteen and describes that returning to the US was very much like returning home.
There, she designed a line of Brazilian-inspired bikinis in response to what Cariocas often refer to as the “giant American bikini” and launched the company Gold Rio Swimwear. For nearly four years her bikinis sold successfully on both coasts, including at well-known stores like Ron Jon Surf Shop. Nevertheless, the success was not fulfilling: “I didn’t like selling bikinis. It wasn’t my passion. Business wasn’t feeding my soul.”
To counter this, while in the United States the actress/designer/yogini immersed herself in yoga, teaching and taking as many classes as she could fit in her travel-filled schedule. At her base in Melbourne, Florida, she discovered Bikram Yoga, an intense style of yoga that follows a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises and is conducted in room set to 104 degrees to increase flexibility and detoxify the body.
In Spring 2003 Bugarim decided to attend the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, where for the next nine weeks she would spend three hours a day in the “hot room”. “I needed to wear something between a bathing suit and an aerobic fitness outfit, so I created several colorful little side-string shorts and tops,” says Bugarim.
She recalls that from the first day of training she had so many requests to purchase her designs from fellow students that she had a hundred short/top sets sent to training; “I sold everything in five minutes.”
Later that year, Bikram founder and guru Bikram Choudhury invited Bugarim to have a vendor booth for Gold Rio Swimwear at the First Annual Yoga Expo and Bishnu Ghosh Yoga Competition; Bugarim accepted, and at the event officially presented Shakti Activewear.
After the birth of her daughter in 2008 and gaining US citizenship in 2009, Bugarim moved back to Brazil, but continues to follow her dreams. In 2009 her three passions, acting, yoga and Shakti Activewear, came together through her participation in the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You”; she played both a yoga instructor and coached actress Scarlette Johansson and extras for the scene in which Johansson is teaching yoga, where a Shakti Activewear banner can be seen in the background.
Currently Bugarim teaches yoga at Gestos in Jardim Botânico. She has also returned to acting, and is rehearsing for the play “Escola de Molieres”, which will open June 19th at the Teatro Tom Jobim within the Jardim Botânico. In the near future, she plans to establish Shakti Activewear retail venues in Brazil.