Find great people to do what you’re not great at… You can’t be everything for everyone and you can’t do everything for your business. The parts of your business that you don’t enjoy or fall short on will be a place where someone else can shine and thrive. I wish I’d learned this sooner. Outsource!
Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Rudick.
Lauren Rudick is an international yoga teacher and the founder/director of Yoga Academy International. She runs sold-out yoga retreats globally and teaches yoga to NHL players and her school has risen to be one of the best yoga educational institutions in the world. Lauren is a leading voice and inspiration for women trying to chase dreams and live their passions, sharing her journey through Instagram.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Sure! It’s a bit of a long one- but I’ll try to condense it for you. Basically, I grew up in a somewhat conservative community. There was a set “path” we were meant to follow- go to school, find a career, meet a guy, get married, have 2.5 kids, and live in the suburbs. Sound familiar?
I tried hard to live that path, but I never felt like I fit in. I was always a free spirit, always a little wild, always curious and inquisitive. Anyway, at 23, I was finishing up my degree in Uni, I had met the guy and it seemed like I was perfectly on the path…until I got DUMPED. You know your first heartbreak when you feel like you’re going to die? This was it for me. It felt like my life was over (well my life as I knew it was….). I didn’t know how to pick up the pieces or now to get back “on the path”. Nothing and no ideas seemed to fit. I wanted to RUN AWAY.
I had been practicing yoga for 5 years, mostly at my local gym, sometimes at home. I had never heard of or set foot in a yoga studio. One day, after a particularly frustrating practice, my teacher came and checked in on me. I immediately burst out into tears and said, “I’m a LOSER! My boyfriend dumped me, I just finished school, I have no job, no direction…” and she calmly said, “You should go be a yoga teacher.” I looked at her and replied, “Susan, that’s not a thing.” She said, “Lauren. You love yoga. You’re great at this. Go be a yoga teacher.” Her conviction was so strong that I started googling “HOW TO BE A YOGA TEACHER”. Eventually I understood that there was something called a 200hr training and that seemed to be what to do. I also noticed that these programs could happen abroad! I found a spot in Mexico. It was on the beach, we would love in tents. There were no phones, no wifi, no electricity… I figured it would really fuck with my head and I couldn’t stalk my ex on facebook or reach out to him. So I decided to go! Once there I was introduced to a way of living I never knew existed. I fell in love with EVERYTHING about yoga, meditation, music, self-inquiry, anatomy, the postures. All of it. My peers in class were all women. They were all older than me. Many of them were not married, had travelled the world and you know what?! They weren’t losers or hags (like I had been led to believe unmarried women over 30 would be). I never intended to be a yoga teacher myself. I just wanted to heal and figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I was so inspired by these women that I decided I was going to travel the world on my own until I figured it out.
On on of the days off from yoga teacher training, I went to an internet café and applied for every single international job I could find, preferably that would pay for my plane ticket and stay. Yoga training finished and when I taught my first class, everyone said, “WOW.” I felt like the absolute best of myself when I taught that class and it was clear that others saw the best of me… Anyways, I got home from Mexico and 5-days later, with just $200 to my name, left on a 2-year odyssey of trying different jobs, traveling the world alone and discovering myself. I got my first credit card. It had a $1500 limit. I figured at worst, I’d be in debt for a plane ticket home. At best, I’d have a good adventure. I had no plan beyond that. I ended up traveling to 23 countries alone, across 4 continents. I worked on cruise ships in the Caribbean and Alaska, I taught English in China and was a Nanny in Italy. I saved up my pennies and travelled on the cheap between jobs or on breaks. The funny thing is, when I met other travelers and they asked me about my story, I would always say, “I’m teaching English for now… but ACTUALLY I’m a yoga teacher. I’m Nannying for now… but ACTUALLY I’m a yoga teacher…” I guess I was so proud of myself for the personal growth and the journey that I went on in yoga teacher training that it felt so important to me to define my sense of self by that huge accomplishment. Then people would ask me to teach! In hostels, I taught for free in the common areas to other travelers. In China I taught to expats at a local studio (in exchange for free spa treatments where a few times they tried to bleach my skin during a “facial!” haha). I taught to the mom of the girls I nannied for in Italy and for free to the crew aboard the ships. Whenever I was teaching yoga, I just felt my best. I had a knack for it- a talent for storytelling and choreographing class sequences. I decided I wanted to learn more and pursue yoga as a career, so I went to Australia and did an advanced yoga teacher training and then returned back to Canada to start teaching yoga full time.
I hated it.
The schedule was terrible, I was running around to 10 different gyms and studios each week and I wasn’t making enough money to support myself the way I wanted. I missed travel. I missed the freedom I’d felt. I missed myself. I came home and I was trying again to fit in to the box that had been long laid out for me and I just didn’t feel like I could. One day I was reading Yoga Journal Magazine, and there was a gorgeous photo of a woman in a yoga pose in it. I googled her. I saw that she had workshops and something called “yoga retreats” all over the world. I actually yelled, “ YOGA AND TRAVEL IS A THING!?” out loud in my living room to no one, “I HAVE TO MAKE THIS MY THING!!” I started following her career and other international yoga teachers. I started applying to conferences, festivals, teaching my own specialty workshops in my hometown and trying to get published in magazine and newspapers. After a TON of NO I got a Yes or two and also caught a majorly lucky break, helping at a massive international yoga festival. Eventually I used my contacts and connections with them to teach at the festival and that’s how I got on the yoga map internationally!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
YES!! The story of how I started my yoga school: So I started leading my own yoga retreats. I was still living back in Canada and still wasn’t making much money, but at least once or twice a year I was traveling to teach! I had a retreat in Costa Rica in December of 2013 and I decided to stay after and live off of the profits until they ran out. I figured I’d be there 2 weeks or so… I ended up finding a small apartment that happened to be next to a local yoga studio! One day I was walking to go surf and I heard a woman on the phone who was having some problems with a staff or something. I walked by and said, “Are you okay?” She said, “Ya. honey I’m fine.” I kept walking and she double took and said, “WAIT! Are you a yoga teacher?!” “Yes.” I replied. She told me she needed someone to sub a class in an hour. Could I do it? I said yes. 20 people showed up and my class got rave reviews. I was paid commission per person. I had just made more in that yoga class than I’d ever made in an hour in my life. The studio ended up giving me 5 classes per week. This was also when Instagram was new and I was sharing my journey and experiences there. Other hotels in the area had seen this and asked me to teach for them too! Before I knew it, I had more classes than I could handle and was making WAY more money teaching in Costa Rica than I ever had in Canada. Also, being so well connected to the hotels, I started running private yoga retreats, with as little as 2 people where I could bring students to me! My retreat business started to thrive as well. Eventually the pressure to run my own yoga teacher trainings started to build around me. I didn’t want to. I didn’t like the structure of most yoga schools. I felt that there was so much misinformation out there, so much terrible quality education… I didn’t want to be more noise in that space. One day I was meditating on the beach, like I did every morning, and I just had this VISION. It was SO clear. SUCH a huge conviction. So vivid. I don’t know how long I was sitting there. Maybe a minute, maybe hours… but I got up and looked at my dog and said, “I’m going to start an international yoga academy.” I walked home, immediately searched the domain, “International Yoga Academy” It was taken. BUT Yoga Academy International wasn’t. The acronym was YAI… like YAY!!! YAY!!! I was doing it. I bought the domain. 2 weeks later had build a website by myself and 3 months later ran my first training, with the slogan “Rising to a new standard of yoga education.” And we really were. I asked colleagues and mentors to teach for me! They said yes! The school was born.
The lessons? TRUST YOUR GUT. FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION. SAY YES When opportunity presents itself. We never know how life may unfold. Keep walking your individual path. Have a little faith and trust and your life could turn out better than you ever possibly imagined!
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A big mistake- not having contracts or getting things in writing. If I could offer ANY business advice, it is GET THINGS IN WRITING. It helps clarify terms and there’s always something to look back to. Contracts aren’t bad or scary, they protect all parties and clearly lay out the expectations. Also- be careful what you put in writing, it can really come back to bite you in the ass. I still make this mistake…
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Aside from the obvious, creating yoga teachers, I strongly believe that when we heal ourselves, we can heal the world. Self-inquiry, the journey to yourself, the journey to self-love, and acceptance is the most important path you will ever take! The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is the journey of the self; through the self, to the self.” When we get to know ourselves, heal ourselves, we can be our brightest shiniest selves and shine those lights on the world. A tiny flame can illuminate an entire cave in darkness. Each of us has a unique gift to share with the world. By knowing ourselves we can polish and share that gift. A big part of the work I do is helping people peel back their layers to uncover this light within. We focus a lot on self-inquiry and self-empowerment and self-love at my yoga retreats and yoga teacher trainings. The more people who come through our programs and leave shining, the brighter the entire world can be. Each is like a little beacon, a little twinkle, as they leave Yoga Academy International and head to the next place on their journey, they create little lights everywhere, like a starry night- beautiful, inspiring and magical.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
1 . MEDITATE DAILY — Meditation is proven to reduce cortisol, your stress hormone and increase your resilience to stress. Meditation has changed my life! Helped me become more tolerant, more calm, and more accepting. You don’t need anything to do it! Start for just 2 minutes daily. Sit comfortably, lengthen your spine, listen to your breath. It can be that simple.
2 . EXERCISE DAILY — whether it be a walk or a full workout, moving your body will increase your dopamine and serotonin, feel goodie chemicals! MOVE YOUR BODY EVERY DAY.
3 . BRAIN DUMP or JOURNAL Usually at the end of my day, I just take a journal page and write: “How I’m feeling” and let whatever comes up come up and on paper. I write until I’m done, close the book and go to bed. It really helps me process the day and let go of what I need to.
4 . SUNSET- speaking of letting go… when I first lived in Costa Rica, I got into the habit of watching sunset daily. Sunset was like a religion to us. Every evening the whole town would gather to watch. I learned that whatever happened that day, whether good or bad, when the sun set, that day was over and gone. I consciously put to rest each and every day (for close to 3 years). It was a beautiful practice.
5 . ACCEPTANCE- Yoga has really helped me to learn self-acceptance. It is hard and it is a constant practice! But let yourself feel your feelings without throwing them at someone else. Let yourself eat the cake without feeling guilty, let yourself fail and cry about it without trying to blame someone else… self-acceptance feels like self-respect. It also feels like strength.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Get the world to meditate every single morning! Like a global meditation stream…
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
5 things I wish someone told me before starting an international yoga school:
- It’s lonely at the top, being a leader can feel lonely! Building a business can feel like you’re running up a mountain with no teammates or ropes. Find mentors and friends who are doing similarly big things with their own businesses or brands so you can have people to bounce ideas off of and have peers or colleagues in your circle.
- Trust your instincts and not those who have your best interests at heart. The people around you who love you don’t want to see you fail. They don’t want to see you get hurt. But mistakes and failures are a BIG part of succeeding BIG. So trust your instincts, rather than those who encourage you to play small so you don’t fall harder. Everyone who has succeeded big has also had some massive failures. In the end, it’s not about how much you failed but how you turned those challenges into lessons and rebounded from them. Your resilience will lead to your success!
- Find great people to do what you’re not great at… You can’t be everything for everyone and you can’t do everything for your business. The parts of your business that you don’t enjoy or fall short on will be a place where someone else can shine and thrive. I wish I’d learned this sooner. Outsource!
- You’re going to be in a relationship with yourself for the rest of your life… so make it the best relationship you’ve ever had. Work on this relationship before anything else.
- It will all work out the way it’s meant to. You can’t see the future and you have no idea how spectacular the journey will be. Just keep walking.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health- because I am intimately familiar with the struggle. When your brain is sick it is not like having a cold or a broken leg, you can’t see it, but it is just as — if not more debilitating. It is hard to explain to others, and moreover hard to trust yourself when you can’t trust your own mind. It can be terrifying. I know what that suffering feels like.
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.