By Liz Oakley
Insta: @lizjoyoakley | FB: @lizjoyoakleyyoga | W: www.aahanayoga.com
I never actually wanted to teach yoga, and I certainly never dreamt I would work in the health & wellness industry after spending 4 years slaving away at my Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design. The very thought of teaching a classroom full of strangers terrified me, my heels didn’t even reach the mat in my downdog, I was rubbish at chanting and more importantly you could never make enough money to survive teaching Yoga anyway…right?
Well fast forward 2.5 years and I am, against all the odds, a full-time Yoga Teacher working in London, currently having to turn work down because my week is so busy! People often ask me why I chose to leave my secure job in Luxury fashion to become a struggling Yogi and I have to be honest, I didn’t really have a choice. I originally decided to complete my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to escape London and have a holiday! I remember sitting at my desk in my glamorous open plan office and thinking ‘I have to get out’. I felt suffocated by the modern world and all of its demands. I was an anxious wreck; stressed out, unhealthy, unfulfilled and deeply unhappy with the path my life was taking. The eureka moment finally came for me when I was signed off work with malignant hypertension from stress and the Doctor told I’d probably be on blood pressure medication for the rest of my life. I was 29 at the time and I realized that I needed to completely change my life and yoga turned out to be my answer.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it as it certainly hasn’t been an easy journey! Anyone who really wants to work as a yoga teacher professionally should be prepared to say yes to anti-social working hours, saying no to a lot more social occasions, being prepared to stand up in front a room full of strangers whilst pretending not to be utterly terrified & putting on a big smile when you are feeling really small. However, from my personal experience of teaching and practicing yoga you’ll probably also notice some pretty amazing effects like feeling happier in your own skin, noticing the small but beautiful synchronicities of everyday life, being more present and feeling calmer in your body, mind & spirit.
I was also very wrong about Training to become a Yoga Teacher being a holiday. I was not prepared to come face to face with the demons that I preferred to keep hidden under a thick blanket of wine red, social commitments, emails and dates. This experience quite literally split all the cracks open that I had desperately tried to keep stapled together. And it all came flooding out; I got sick, I screamed, I cried & I laughed hysterically. Strangers became my closest allies; new faces became trusted teachers and an unfamiliar land became my spiritual home. We’ve all got our own sets of hang ups and insecurities and this experience was like holding a mirror up to myself and having to face all the things I spent my life running away from….and I paid a pretty penny to do it!
Now – with the advantage of hindsight, I can safely say it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done and the most challenging. Anyone who imagines languishing around in Lululemon pants drinking smoothies is what happens on an intensive Yoga Teacher Training should book into a spa instead. Waking up at 5am to practice, learning about anatomy, spirituality, philosophy and exposing your deepest fears to a group of strangers is no comfortable feat. Yes, you have homework, yes you write essays, your body hurts, your heart aches, you have huge amounts of set reading, dedicated time spent in silence and a yogic diet is often part of the experience. It’s a time of transformation and growth for Body, Mind & Spirit.
Here are 10 life lessons I’ve learnt from becoming a yoga teacher which I think apply to anyone who is itching to make the jump into the Heath & Wellbeing.
- BE MORE MINDFUL OF THE COMPANY YOU KEEP. Work on surrounding yourself with people who inspire and support you. The energy and stimuli you have around you every day is hugely impactful, take the time to reflect on who you are giving your time and energy to. Are they supportive, encouraging influences who understand your changing outlook or are they holding you back? We all have them; old friends, family members, acquaintances who if we met them today, we would have nothing in common with, and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind to yourself and take a step back from influences in your life which are no longer positive. You may not have the power to choose who comes into your life but you do decide who gets to stay.
- WATCH YOUR WORDS. Words are very powerful things, they carry energy in them. If you listen to other people’s negativity you are giving those thoughts power and most likely planting seeds of doubt in your own mind. Be mindful of how you speak, putting out negativity isn’t going to help you get anywhere positive.
- LISTEN TO YOUR INTUITION. Stop listening to other people’s opinion and start really listening to your intuition. One way to start building a stronger relationship between your logical brain and your gut instinct is to practice listening to your body more, pay more attention to the way your physical body reacts in different situations. Notice your posture, your breathing, how you emotionally react to a decision. Starting to notice these subtle reactions in the physical body can help to establish a much stronger mind/body connection when it comes to decision making.
- WORK OUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT FROM YOUR FUTURE. To create a life of purpose and meaning you have to work out what your purpose is, which is not always easy. Finding your ‘dharma’ in the world can be challenging and our interests fade as we develop as people. Start assessing your Goals, what do you love doing? When was the last time you were so engrossed in a task you stopped watching the clock? Can you convert that into work in anyway?
Philosopher Alan Watts put it perfectly in his Lecture entitled ‘What if money was no object’, “What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like? When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things, you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track.”
- STOP PEOPLE PLEASING. To be successful in life can mean whatever you define ‘success’ to be. Successful in love, work, fulfilled, rich. It’s all contextual, I came up against a lot of criticism, from myself included, when I decided to change industries but what you have to remember is that no one else has to live with your choices but you.
- STOP PROCRASTINATING. Procrastination is your worst enemy, befriend it and make it work for you. Make a plan, make to do lists, set yourself goals and stop making excuses. If you want to make big life changes it takes hard work and determination, it’s very easy to settle for the easy option, when in actual fact it’s not easier in the long run and it’s going to get harder to change your circumstance the longer you allow yourself to grow complacent and comfortable. Stop talking about what you want to do with your life and start planning how, when and what is needed to make it a reality.
- START LEARNING. Read, learn, open your mind and develop a new thirst for knowledge. When we stop learning we stop growing and this is certainly not limited to intellectual pursuits. There is nothing more powerful than the human spirit on fire; learning, feeling inspired and stimulating your senses can do amazing things for your determination and passion. Put your iPhone down and pick up a book, make the time to start learning again because as they say ‘knowledge is power’.
- TAKE TIME TO REST AND RECHARGE INSTEAD OF QUITTING. When it feels overwhelming and you want to give up – and trust me these days will come – stop, breath and take a break. It’s also important to get some perspective; a quick exercise I find makes a big difference is making a list of 10 things you are grateful for now, at that moment, this helps to remind you of the beautiful things and people which already exist in your life. Remember that every invention throughout the history of this planet has come to existence from vision, determination and action.
- SET AN EXAMPLE. You will get out what you put in, if you want to see change in the world you need to become that change. It takes enormous courage to put your hands up and admit that you are not satisfied with your own personal reality when we are so conditioned to only shout about the good bits, tweet about our accomplishments, Instagram our weekends and hashtag our lives for all to see. Stop comparing yourself and only looking for inspiration in others, start setting an example that you would want to follow.
- BECOME A MASTER IN YOUR FIELD. Make yourself an expert by really committing to whatever it is that you want to Master. You will never be truly successful by spreading yourself too thinly. Make a decision, dedicate your time and energy to this and see the results speak for themselves. In Robert Greene’s book ‘Mastery’ he famously said “In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers. Feel motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.” Patience is also key, as Greene also rightly says in his book ““When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient.”
So, it turns out you can make wellness work for you and a lot of people are making the same jump I made and choosing their health & happiness over their wealth & security. The wellness industry is booming and with yoga studios, juice bars and meditation dens popping up all over the world now is the perfect time to make that transition!
References and recommended reading:
Alan Watts – What is Money was no object:
Well to do London – Global Wellness News:
Mastery – The Robert Greene Collection:
The Yoga Journal:
Your Gut Feeling Is Way More Than Just A Feeling. The Science Of Intuition: http://www.medicaldaily.com/your-gut-feeling-way-more-just-feeling-science-intuition-325338
How To Trust Your Intuition And Listen To Your Gut: