Co-Founder Vicky Interview: Discusses Her Journey from Office Life to Yoga Therapist
"Make time for practising self-care... nobody else is going to do this for you. We have to remember that this thing called life is more like a marathon than a sprint, and if we want our bodies and brains to be there for us later down the track it’s the little daily, consistent things that we do that will make the difference."
Vicky, tell us a little bit about your journey since university?
I studied English at university and had some vague notion of pursuing journalism but a short work experience stint at the BBC made me realise I wasn’t really cut out for the fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled world of news media. Rather unpredictably I ended up working in the videogames industry for nearly 8 years. To be fair my brother was co-director of an independent games studio called Introversion Software so maybe it wasn’t so unpredictable! I actually loved it – we had a lot of fun, I got to travel a lot and meet and work with people who had a real passion for what they did. Eventually I came to envy those who had found a way of getting paid doing something they loved and that was probably the catalyst that led me to search for my own calling.
You left a corporate job, left the UK and took up Yoga in a place you’d never been before, can you talk a bit about what prompted that decision and how it felt to make such a dramatic change?
To be honest a large part of where I am now is down to my Mum! She was the one who encouraged me to consider doing a yoga teacher training – before that point it was honestly not something I’d ever thought you could even make a viable career from doing. I left the UK in 2009 to attend a yoga training in Thailand and bought myself a one-way ticket to Australia where I ended up staying for just under 8 years. Looking back on the months leading up to that move to Australia I was very restless, I didn’t have a whole lot of money, work with Introversion was starting to dry up and I had this deep down sense it was time to shake things up a bit. At the time I didn’t really see it as a gamble – I guess I felt that I had nothing to lose and I was in a very privileged position to just go with the flow and see where life would take me.
Working freelance for most of your career must have had its challenges, how do you stay motivated?
I joke about it but I suspect even if I wanted to find a job working for someone else I’m probably virtually unemployable these days. I think when you get a taste for the freedom of being self-employed it becomes very difficult to go back. That’s probably a big part of what motivates me to keep going. I’ve been very lucky to have avoided the typical 9-5 work desk-bound lifestyle and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible! I suspect it also has a lot to do with my upbringing as I was bought up in a family of business owners – my mum, dad and brother are all self-employed and even when I was technically employed by my brother there was an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom.
I think there’s a certain kind of personality-type that is probably more drawn to the self-employed life. Many of the self-employed people I know seem to have this wonderful combination of optimism, persistance, self-discipline and a bit of a rebellious streak! I think being self-motivated is critical as you end up working by yourself a lot – nobody else is going to breathe down your neck to get stuff done and you also need to know how to pick yourself back up when things aren’t quite going to plan. Having a good support network of friends and family around you is pretty important too I think – both to bounce ideas off of, but also for the support during the inevitable emotional rollercoaster ride of starting up a business.
You now work as a yoga therapist, how did you discover this particular discipline and can you explain what it is and the benefits of it?
I had been teaching yoga in gyms, yoga studios, and corporate environments for a number of years and was starting to get a bit burned out at the monotony of teaching endless vinyasa classes week in, week out. I also had this sense that there was a whole demographic of people who would really benefit from yoga but were too indimidated to attend group classes because of their age, size, physical limitations, injuries or health condition. I feel really passionate about the idea that yoga should be available and accessible for everybody. I often tell clients if you have a body and you’re breathing you can do yoga, even if it’s something that to the outward eye is very simple, it still has value. So, I decided to train as a yoga therapist, which means that I’m able to adapt and apply the many different aspects of yoga practice (such as postures, breathing exercises and relaxation/meditation techniques) to suit each individual’s unique cirumstances. I really enjoy the intimacy of working with a client one-to-one and creating tailor-made yoga practices that really serve their needs and goals, and my feeling is that clients often see better results and in a more timely fashion when working privately. That said I still teach public classes too, often with a therapeutic theme or intention such as yoga for lower back care, as some people really enjoy and benefit from the community and camaraderie of a group class.
As a female entrepreneur and business woman what are the things you find most challenging about running your yoga therapy business?
I think the world of yoga therapy is still quite new particularly in the UK and trying to educate people about what I do and how my work differs to a regular yoga class in a gym is challenging. I had a fairly thriving teaching career in Sydney so moving back to the UK this year and starting all over again has definitely required a bit of courage, determination and patience. Other than that I think many of the challenges I face from a business or self-employed perspective are not unique to my industry – getting yourself out there in an increasingly saturated and competitive market, wading through the never-ending to-do lists, making my own health a priority and managing the unpredictable cash-flows of a service-based business.
How do you think the skills you learn in yoga transfer to business?
Ah, I think yoga informs and seeps into my life in so many ways and my yoga practice has been a great source of physical, mental and emotional support over the years both personally and in business. On a practical level yoga has helped me to be more focused and present and I think that single-mindedness has made me more productive and efficient.
On a deeper level I think that an ongoing yoga practice gently awakens us to the idea that everything changes, everything is transient. I think this has given me so much more mental resilience to ride the inevitable highs and lows of running your own business – to really celebrate the wins as they happen but also to recognise that the more difficult moments won’t always be this way, that this too shall pass. I also think yoga has given me the confidence to listen to that inner voice of wisdom that we all have and to trust my gut more in the decision-making process – when I do this everything seems to work out so much better.
What’s one piece of wisdom you’ve learned as a yoga instructor that you would want to pass on to others?
To make time for practising self-care, whether that’s taking a yoga class, going for a run, eating well or taking a power nap in the afternoon. Nobody else is going to do this for you – your health has to be a priority and if that means certain things don’t get done on the to-do list then so be it. We have to remember that this thing called life is more like a marathon than a sprint, and if we want our bodies and brains to be there for us later down the track it’s the little daily, consistent things that we do that will make the difference.
You offer Yoga Therapy through several clinics, what are the common problems you find business people suffer from now when they come to you for support and how can yoga help?
On the physical side of things I see a lot of musculo-skeletal issues as a result of our desk-bound, computer-based work. Common issues I’m seeing include lower back pain, neck and shoulder tension, headaches, dysfunctional breathing patterns and muscle weakness particularly in the glutes and abdominals. On the mental side of things many of my clients are also trying to find ways to manage their stress levels and anxiety seems to be a growing issue. My aim is to provide a yoga experience that is physically rejuvenating, whilst at the same time offering clients an opportunity to re-connect with their bodies and their moment-to-moment experience in a more meaningful way.
What are the main messages or take-aways you’d like women attending the Finding Balance in Business Women’s Retreat to take away with them?
One of my goals for the retreat is to offer women lots of practical tips and ideas for little things they can do in their day to help them function at their best – whether that be taking a quick stretch break, drinking more water or improving their postural awareness. I think when we’re looking to make changes in our lives we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make these huge sweeping changes and we have unrealistic expectations about what we’re going to be able to do in the time available, particularly when you’re running your own business. I hope to inspire women to take ownership of their health and happiness and to see that it doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming – that a 10-minute yoga practice, or 2 minutes of abdominal breathing will not only improve your health but play a huge role in the long-term success of your business.
If you’re interested in learning more about Vicky’s private yoga therapy sessions or group yoga classses please head to www.surreyyogatherapy.co.uk.