Meet our Local Love Lauren Jeffreys, founder of community organisation Yoga Hub Melbourne. Believing that yoga should be accessible to anybody, Lauren has created a wonderful assembly of yoga teachers who offer low-cost and donation classes across Victoria. We are so excited to welcome Lauren and her Yoga Hub Melbourne team to the Twosixmag Community!
Lauren, can you tell us a little about you and your journey to starting your own business in the wellness industry?
I think my interests have always centred around health and wellbeing, and movement. I danced from a young age through to my early 20’s (and on and off since). I’ve always been interested in nutritional health and natural therapies. I’ve practiced yoga for 15 years, it’s a part of my day to day life. So, it was probably inevitable that I would focus my energies in this area.
Yoga Hub Melbourne is definitely more of a passion-driven venture than a business at this stage! I decided I had to take this idea, or belief, and turn it into something when yoga classes suddenly became inaccessible to me. I became a mum and our income dropped back. For me, the benefits of yoga should be something that everyone should be able to access to nurture their spiritual, mental and physical self. The fact that doing yoga became a financial strain, and I saw this also with many friends, didn’t sit right with me and I wanted to change this.
What is Yoga Hub Melbourne?
Yoga Hub Melbourne is all about promoting low-cost and donation based yoga classes. We want to make yoga more accessible to all people, regardless of their financial position, and build more awareness around the need for this. There are a lot of people in the community who could benefit from a yoga practice, who can’t access classes.
At this stage we have focused on providing affordable yoga out to all community members. Our long-term goal is to then see classes open up to people who may have specific needs and can benefit from the practice, such as people with disabilities, mental illness, newly arrived migrants, aging populations, etc.
When I returned from India where I completed my first Yoga Teacher Training, I was thinking a lot about how my time in the ashram had changed me and the many benefits of yoga that I was just beginning to scrape the surface of. There was one point that my teacher had made that really resonated with me, that these teachings, this knowledge, don’t belong to us. It’s ancient wisdom and ancient teachings that we have to pass on, to share, and to help others benefit from. When I got home to Australia I noticed how the yoga industry felt like a business to me and with this we were losing the essence of what yoga was about.
So based on this and becoming a new Mum with less disposable income I started teaching $5 classes, using a hall at a local school that was available for a low cost in the evenings. Initially it was only a few people and I wasn’t sure if it was going to get traction, but my students were so beautiful and committed, and grateful for the opportunity. They helped spread the word and it grew from there. When I fell pregnant with my second child I brought on other like-minded teachers and yoga studios to continue the classes and grow, we currently have 13 classes a week on the timetable at locations across Melbourne.
Have you always been conscious of your own health and wellbeing?
I think I have been, it’s something my mother passed on to me (along with her love for butter!). I’ve certainly learnt more along the way about caring for myself. When I was studying and performing dance at Uni I was too self-concious and insecure, trying to meet both high expectations of myself and that of my peers in what is a highly competitive industry. Thankfully as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more accepting of myself, more conscious of both my physical and mental wellbeing and I truly want to look after my health and those around me.
Emma and I have found there is a huge focus on the physical, that most of us want to look fit and healthy, and yet we seem to have neglected the health of our mind. There is an enormous increase in mental illness particularly amongst young people. What do you believe is happening? Is it social media? Is it societies expectations? What are your thoughts regarding mental illness?
Good question… I can comment in relation to my views on yoga, but I’m far from being an expert on mental illness. First let’s look at how yoga has been interpreted in the west – it’s more physical than mental, which is in contradiction to the essence of what yoga is all about. We often don’t even realize the mental benefits that we gain from our practice. Yes we might feel good afterwards, ‘blissed out’, but do we truly understand how our mental state is affected positively, improved by our asana practice? This certainly isn’t the focus in your average class.Our culture is so fixated on outcomes and perceptions we forget about the quiet skills that can be attained – introspection, reflection, awareness of the spiritual self – for the health of our mind.
Our culture is so fixated on outcomes and perceptions we forget about the quiet skills that can be attained – introspection, reflection, awareness of the spiritual self – for the health of our mind. Then there’s our obsession with social media and image crafting, presenting ourselves as perfect. It’s a challenge to resist this when we also need these platforms to promote and develop our business ventures.
What are we doing for the next generation to prepare them for facing these mental challenges in life? I think we need to educate, raise the awareness around mental illness, lose the stigma. Talk about it.
Yoga asanas are not about making the body beautiful, they’re about making the mind…mindful. Meditation, mental health, single-pointed concentration are outcomes that should be our goals, not muscle tone or flexibility.
I have met some amazing teachers through Yoga Hub, people who really want to embrace all paths of yoga and make a positive impact through this practice. That’s been refreshing and I’m thankful for those teachers within the yoga culture.
When do you feel most balanced?
Hmmm… this is an obvious one, but after a yoga practice I feel pretty balanced! I’d like to say in the midst of the chaos of family but…
Actually, I do these 1-minute meditations quite regularly, they help me feel pretty balanced. For me as a busy Mum I initially got frustrated about trying to find the same level of time to do my practice. Over time I realized that I couldn’t expect the same, I had two adorable kids to look after, and adapted my practice so that I could continue in a way that was achievable and in balance with my life at this stage. I remember that my kids are my yoga.
What do you believe is the most important change people should make if they want to be kinder to themselves?
Well, I think it’s about acceptance. Accepting ourselves, accepting others, practicing Ahimsa – non-judgment, no harm (mental or physical), showing compassion to ourselves as well as all other beings. I try to keep this front of mind in all the little decisions that make up each day.
How do you balance career and baby/babies?
Ha! I don’t know if this is possible!
I’m constantly juggling, squeezing in an email here, a phone call there… I think for me it’s more about prioritising than balancing. And I am often reminding myself what is more important…and that’s my family, always my girls. So, work stuff gets put aside all the time. If I find I’m constantly thinking about emails and social media, instead of playing with my kids, then I know I need to re-prioritise. If my daughter has to repeat herself 5 times before I actually hear her then I definitely put the phone away, on silent! That task can wait.
And I’m also realising that I have to make time for me, for my yoga practice, to nurture me…so that I have enough to give back to my girls.
But, I’m building a venture that I really believe in, so that gives me the energy to stay up late some nights and work.
Without sounding cliché, what have you found to be the greatest change to your life?
Well, this is cliche…but, becoming a mother. It changes you in more ways than you can ever imagine. I am learning to be a better person, what I said before about self-acceptance, I’m really learning that now.
What was the best piece of advice you received before entering into parenthood?
“Just do what works. Don’t worry about anyone else, do what works for you and your baby.” From my mum & my sister…two amazing mamas!
Alone time is best spent…
Or, in a dance class (does that count as alone?). It’s like a moving meditation for me, it completely focuses my mind, frees my body, and gives me energy!
And practising yoga, I suppose I better add that one!
Lastly. Do you have any upcoming workshops for our readers to attend?
I just ran a prenatal workshop that focused on safe practice and self-nurture for mums in the first few weeks after baby’s birth. It was so wonderful and lovely to connect with the mamas to be. I’m hoping to run that again soon…keep an eye on Yoga Hub Melbourne’s page!
W: Coming soon!
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Head over to People + Profiles