Walk me through your transition towards becoming a yoga instructor.
After graduating from university with a degree in Spanish & Italian, I was still a bit confused with what I wanted to be when I grew up, despite already being grown up, so when I was offered a job running private & corporate events for a group of London venues I took it. Even though this was not what I wanted to do I thought I would do it until I realised exactly what it was I wanted to do. But I got stuck in the security of a good salary while waiting for what I wanted to do to just fall into my lap, but of course life does not change if you just sit around and wait for it!
There were few days I enjoyed of that job, I used to come home from work everyday stressed and not myself. Working in a club is not the healthiest environment to be in, you only realise that most clubs have no windows when you have to work from them!! On top of this, I used to work very long hours, till 1-2am some nights and I felt a lot of pressure during these events. I am a quite organised person who would always finish my school essays long before they were due as I hated the feeling of last minute pressure and knowing I had something hanging over me to do. Events was the opposite to this, no matter how organised you were, there was always last minute pressure and unforeseen problems that needed solving right there and then. Drinking a glass or two of champagne with the client was the norm at the events too, and although it felt like a fun at the time ultimately I knew this was not me, and it was not a healthy lifestyle. Looking back now, my body and mind were so totally disconnected but I was completely unaware of this fact, I had forgotten what it felt like for my body and mind to be connected and I was just on autopilot, work, party, sleep repeat. I tried to go to the gym, but I really had to force myself to go, and it was not a type of exercise I particularly enjoyed or felt motivated or inspired by. My mum suggested I try yoga as she actually used to teach yoga herself. Initially I thought it would be a good idea just to get my body moving and I was primarily attracted by the physical side of yoga, increasing my strength and flexibility and of course mastering the amazing poses, but as I started to go to yoga regularly I realised I would walk into class stressed and with my shoulders hunched up by my ears, and by the end of the class I had forgotten all about my day at work. Yoga helped to give me space in the midst of a hectic city life, and to deal with the stresses at work and also the stresses of a job that was not my passion. On top of this it also made me feel physically great – after hours of standing at events in heels my back was crying for some love and care and yoga was just what I needed.
Despite seemingly having it all in life, a ‘great’ job with good pay, lots of responsibility at work, a flat in London, Jimmy Choos & a prized Prada handbag, a certain joie de vie was missing from my life. The spark had gone and the only thing that seemed to re-ignite this spark was yoga. I started going to yoga 4-5 times a week and it helped me to realise that it was this job was holding me back. Yoga was the only thing that I would look forward to in the day, and when Monday morning came the only thing that got me through the day was knowing I had my evening yoga class to go to. Finally after 4 years I couldn’t take it anymore, even though I still didn’t know what I would do I could not waste any more of my life being unhappy. I left my job, and of course I felt a huge sense of relief, but it was also a very scary and confusing time too. I had a mortgage that needed paying, and the bank are not quite so understanding when it comes to matters of soul searching happiness!
Yoga was the only thing in my life at the time that made sense and that I was really, truly passionate about and I knew I had to delve deeper into it. I took a huge leap of faith into the unknown and off I went to India to spend an intensive month learning about yoga. During this training there was sweat, tears and laughter but ultimately lots of joy. I knew I had found my path. Despite knowing that yoga was what I wanted to do, it was still not plain sailing. After the teacher training I got back to London, and back to reality, and spent a few weeks not really know what to do with myself. It slowly dawned on me that I could spend my time fighting (a very un-yogic use of my time!) with hundreds of yoga teachers to teach in a stinky gym, or I could come to Malta and try to start something small myself. Although I am Maltese, I had never actually lived here before but I had spent lots of summers here so Malta has a special place in my heart. Despite this special place I wasn’t sure I would be happy here permanently as I felt it might be too small, but I followed my heart home and I haven’t looked back since .
LahLah Yoga was founded in June 2014. Lisa-Lah was a nickname my dad used to call me when I was younger and LahLah Yoga was me returning to myself, so it felt very appropriate. To begin with it was mainly very supportive friends & family who were coming to my classes and to them I am ever grateful! They helped me to build my confidence as a teacher, and taught me probably more than I taught them . They made me realise that I could really help other people with yoga, just as it had helped me. Slowly but surely my classes began to grow!
Yoga helps me on SO many levels. What started off as a purely physical practice very quickly progressed to a daily necessity for my body, mind & soul. Yoga gives me the space to be me in this crazy world that we live in, just that hour on the mat gives me the time to become present in myself and to reconnect my body & mind. Ultimately, learning more about yoga philosophy has taught me to LOVE this body & mind. ‘Ahimsa’ is a Sanskrit word for non-violence and is one of the key pillars of yogic philosophy: non-violence in our actions to other humans, animals and the world around us, but also non-violence to ourselves in both actions and also thoughts. This principle of ahimsa really helped me to take a step back from my work, party, sleep repeat lifestyle, and to realise that this was not being kind to myself and was also one of the factors that prompted change in my life. Not only was I not being kind to myself physically, but doing something that did not fulfil me was certainly not kind for my mind and soul.
The space yoga gives me helps me to accept things in life which cannot be changed, but also the courage to change those which can be changed, for example my job & lifestyle.
What does yoga mean to you?
Once I really got into yoga it became so much more than just an hour on the mat for me. The connection that is made between mind & body during that hour on the mat is something that stays with me throughout the day and affects my whole attitude to the day. Studying yogic philosophy has also changed me and my whole perspective of the world around me and how I deal with the world. This sounds cliché, but it really is a whole lifestyle not just an hour of exercise.
What impact has it had on your life, and the people around you?
Whilst doing yoga did not drastically change my life from day one, for example it did not mean that I had to totally give up meat and alcohol and all the naughty things, but it certainly is true that by doing yoga I have become more connected to and more aware of my body and my consciousness and consequently I have naturally begun to want these things less. As mentioned above, I began to want to be kinder to myself. I am now more aware of what I am putting into my body, and as I grow a deeper connection with myself everyday I am much more conscious of how different foods/drinks affect my body both physically and mentally and ultimately this makes me choose the good option 9 times out of 10, although of course I still have naughty days!
Studying yogic philosophy has certainly changed me and my outlook of the world. Aside from ahimsa, one of the greatest teachings yoga has given me (so far), which has in turn had a big impact on my life, is ultimately to love, and to love every single thing and every single person (even those that you don’t want to) because ultimately everything grows with love, and love has the potential to drive positive change in today’s turbulent world. This love doesn’t have to be big, romantic love, but little acts of love and kindness everyday: a real smile & hello can change someone’s day and they in turn may then spread this to someone else. Loving & respecting our Mother Earth by picking up a piece of litter if we see it rather than walking by thinking it’s not my job. On the contrary, it is everyone’s job to care for our Earth.
Patience, understanding, love & kindness bring more balance to every relationship. Yoga has helped me to find these things in myself which has consequently reflected on all of my relationships.
Yoga also gives me the space to examine any fears I may have & realise the positives and important things within in these fears. Trivial things that would have once worried me I now realise have zero importance in the grand scheme of things and the worrying only affects me and has no affect on the outcome of the situation. Prada handbags and Jimmy Choos are certainly no longer of any importance to me .
Lastly, yoga has also helped to change my perception when it comes to taking care of myself. I have realised that taking care of my mind is just as important as taking care of my body, and whilst we may think of self-care as being indulgent but it is absolutely necessary as if we are not 100% then how will anything we do be 100%.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love sharing the amazing feeling & benefits that yoga gives me with others. Sharing my yoga practice with others gives me the opportunity to spread a little bit of peace, love & joy into other people’s lives and I hope that by doing so they also then spread this to those around them. I also hope that yoga may inspire and give confidence to anyone who needs it as it did, and continues to do for me everyday.
It feels wonderful to spend my days sharing this passion and helping others rather than sitting at a computer doing a job I had no passion or drive for at all. Previously when I had no passion I felt mainly motivated by money, of course bills still need to be paid but my motivation now lies in helping others get the same benefits that I receive from yoga, alongside developing my own practice. This has actually given me a real sense of freedom.
How has yoga aided in overcoming fear?
Fear of the unknown has always been something I have struggled in, even with something as trivial as swimming in the sea – if I could not see exactly what was below me I felt very scared – but now as these underwater pictures show I feel a huge sense of ease in the sea, and actually very comforted by it even though it is still a huge unknown! With regards to more serious life fears, quitting my job and not knowing where my next pay cheque would come from was a big fear. I had no idea what I would do, moving to Malta was a step into the unknown, and it even felt like an identity change – would my friends all still be friends even if I became a bit hippy and stopped caring about handbags?! I’m pleased to say that they have!
Fears will always be around, and of course things are still scary no matter how many hours of yoga I do, but the way I deal with these fears has changed. Rather than avoiding and fighting my fears at all costs, I try to face them, examine & confront them, and keep confronting them until most of the time I realise that there really is nothing to fear, and that fear is just an illusion of the mind. Imagine how much we could accomplish in our lives if we weren’t afraid, it really would be incredible. We are the only ones holding ourselves back with these stories of fear we create in our minds of which I am guilty too.
Even now after I have taken a short break from teaching yoga to deepen my own practice and studies I no longer have my old location to teach from, and I am not 100% sure what direction LahLah Yoga will go in which is scary, but I have learnt to trust the universe, not allow my fears to take over, and I have a feeling that exciting things are in store and that everything will be OK. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end !
Clothing: Carla Grima Atelier