Interview with Zoe Lavender
In our interview Zoe Lavender talks about how she left her high-powered marketing job to pursue her passion and became a yoga teacher, why Yin Yoga is the ideal way to finish a busy week at work and how professionals can use yoga to release stress and anxiety and perform better at their work.
Zoe, you originally moved from the UK to Zurich for your work as a marketing manager. What made you change your career path from the business world to yoga?
Hey there, thanks for having me. Well, I was working for ten years in marketing for GM. could be very stressful at times with long hours.. I had spent my whole professional career in the corporate world with the goal to one day become a marketing director or something like that. So most of my transformative years were spent climbing the corporate ladder and I felt that I kind of lost myself in the process. Over timeI felt very disconnected from myself, my body and who I really was. It wasn`t until I discovered Yoga that I started to question myself and my decisions a bit more.
I had already tried yoga a few times in the UK but I became really serious about my practice after I started Krya Yoga, which was a very slow practice with long holds and a strong focus on the breath. In the beginning, I did it really to improve my fitness and my physical health, but I soon discovered that Yoga helped me so much to get me out of my busy head and more into my body. I felt very quickly that I was much more focused and calm. So the decision to leave the corporate world didn`t come over night. I was practicing for many years while still working before I decided that I wanted to become a full-time teacher.
What would your advice be for people who work in the corporate world and feel like they are under a lot of pressure and have very little time?
I know that feeling of being constantly on the run, of really identifying with the job and the firm and having very little time. However, it is exactly in these time when we are super busy and stressed that we need yoga the most. Yoga and meditation can offer a safe space where the mind can calm down and where we can connect to who we are outside of our work. And it doesn`t always have to be a full 90 minutes class. Maybe you could just start with 3 sun salutations in the morning, or five minutes of coherent breathing to begin with. I love the headspace app which has a 10 days program where you can build your meditation practice minute by minute every day. Give yourself this gift of time and space, I promise you, this will be the best investment you have ever made (laughs). And not everyone has to go to such extremes as I did and quit their career to become a full-time yoga teacher. People love their jobs, they love their career and yoga is just an amazing tool to improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
At the YOGA LAB you are teaching a Yin Yoga class every Thursday evening. Yin is a very grounding and calming practice but some people might think that Yin is maybe too slow for them or that they are not doing enough during this class. We, of course, know that this is not true but can you maybe go a bit more into what is so special about Yin and why people should definitely give it a try?
Haha yes, I get this a lot. But honestly, Yin is an amazing practice and fascinating on so many levels. It works a lot with the Fascia, the connective tissue in our body. In Yin Yoga we are holding restorative, stretching poses for several minutes at a time. This means we are generally staying on the ground, allowing our muscles to relax and to sink really deep into the pose. Through that, we are not only stretching the muscles, but we also creating a bit of pressure on the tissue which increases the flow of fresh blood to areas that have been very tight for a long time. This has an incredibly healing and regenerating effect on the body. It`s like giving our tissue a good massage which is why this practice is so beneficial for everyone and especially for people who have been sitting all day and generally feel quite stiff and tired.
What is interesting about Yin is that it can offer quite a mental challenge because it requires us to stay still and really be with ourselves, with our thoughts without any diversion. Since we are holding the poses between 3-6 minutes we are required to completely surrender, stay still and to turn our focus inwards. This can feel especially challenging for high-energy people who love to do a 100 things at the same time but I find that they benefit the most from this practice as it allows their body and mind to take a rest, to calm down and to become present.
What does a typical Yin Class look like?
In my class we use a lot of blankets, bolsters and blocks to support the body and make the release come easy and natural. We light candles, the light is very soft and you can hear beautiful calming music in the background. In other words it`s the perfect place to relax, to get cozy and to allow yourself to rest and regenerate. I find the practice to be truly magical and transformative. We are also working a lot with releasing tension in the back and the hips. In yoga we believe that a lot of our emotions such as anger, stress, sadness and frustration is stored in the hip area. This is why hip openers and hip release is so important, both for our mind and our body. And it just feels amazing afterwards. It`s like a really good Spa treatment (laughs). The whole practice is just so restorative and calming. And you can really see it on people`s faces after the practice – that calm smile, the happiness.