Stride Stories: Corporate life to yoga life

Stride: Eliza, you recently made a big life change – moving from corporate life to life as a yoga instructor. Tell us about it?

Eliza: Corporate life started just after college. I had this idea that I needed a traditional career, Monday thru Friday, 9-5. I was working in the restaurant industry then, so I was excited about getting nights and weekends off, and having sick and paid vacation days. So I moved to San Francisco and launched right in – before I knew it, I had two internships and was working as a waitress. I remember calling my mom seven or eight months later, really upset and saying, “Everything in my life looks great on paper but I feel so miserable. I just didn’t know why.”

Stride: What did you do?

Eliza: I shifted things — I started working contractually for one of the intern companies, but remotely from San Diego. I traveled back-and-forth to San Francisco and got a glimpse of a better lifestyle – of being here-and-there, working about 25-30 hours a week. It felt amazing, and that was the first time I realized that life was possible.

Stride: But you ended up doing such a good job they wanted you back full-time in San Francisco?

Eliza: Yeah, that company moved me back to San Francisco, and I began full-time work again, this time with a focus on recruiting and retention. I really loved it. I developed wellness programs for our employees — team events, yoga instruction, massage, etc. It was very important for me to do things sincerely – I saw how hard people were working because they cared, and I also saw that taking a toll on them.

Stride: When did things shift, when did you decide you were better off on your own?

Eliza: The direction of the company shifted drastically from what I signed up for – all of a sudden people were working insane hours and office morale really hit bottom. This was hard for me as I was heavily invested, and felt devoted to my work, the company, and those I worked with. It was a slow progression, but I began to realize I was no longer aligning with my work.

I felt the same question come back – why does everything look good on paper, yet I’m still unsatisfied? Corporate life can be great for some people in the right environment, but if you’re working 50-60 hours a week and can’t turn-off at the end of the day, it may be time to start questioning things. Eventually, I reduced my hours to 30 and decided to take a yoga teacher training class. By the end of the training, I realized that corporate environment was no longer fulfilling or healthy for me, so I quit my job and became a yoga instructor. And that’s where I am today [laughs]! Yay! It’s been about a year now.

Stride: Wait, back up, was the yoga teacher you hired for the wellness program an inspiration for becoming a teacher?

Eliza: Yes, she and I became close, and she told me about some great teachers in the city. I wasn’t a stranger to yoga, but I didn’t really understand it. To be honest, I was put off by the sweeping yoga culture trend - it seemed hyped-up and disingenuous. I viewed yoga as another form of exercise, good for toning the muscles and increasing flexibility but with no real awareness of the spiritual aspects. By working with some really great teachers, I suddenly starting seeing things more clearly, specifically in regards to how unhappy I was. I began to see that yoga was more than Lululemon yoga pants, and decided to explore it a bit further, but I didn’t know it would become my work.

Stride: But now it is your full time job. How’d you make that happen in a year?

Eliza: It’s definitely been a bumpy road [laughs]. Even after the 200-hour teacher training, I didn’t feel prepared to teach. I battled serious self-doubt in seeing myself as a teacher, but I also recognized there are many “qualified” teachers who don’t teach from an authentic place. I wanted to work against that, to teach from a place of authenticity, to fully understand what I’m saying and really help people.

Stride: How did you get over that confidence gap to where you are today?

Eliza: I started trading private yoga lessons on Craigslist for other services. I wrote a full disclosure… I’m a new teacher, so we’ll be helping each other learn our trades. I only had three clients at first, but it was great exposure to teaching beginners. I started really building the business after that, but I gave myself time. At first, I was surviving off savings and babysitting income.

Stride: What was your biggest challenge in getting going?

Eliza: Rent prices in San Francisco are a huge deterrent for people working independently. Every time I felt overwhelmed and started looking for part-time work, I’d transfer that energy into finding a new place to live. I knew if I could reduce my rent, a lot of my stress would be eliminated – it would make pursuing my dream a whole lot easier.

Stride: As you’ve gotten older and pursued your inner voice, have you figured out what makes you fulfilled?

Eliza: No [laughs]. No [laughs]. No, no. I’m constantly working on what I call my “grass is always greener complex,” thinking about where I could be instead of where I am. The meditation I practice in yoga has taught me to explore what I want from my present life. I am getting better at identifying and weaving certain joys into my life - spending time in parks, singing with my nephew, traveling, live music, dancing, amazing conversations when we least expect it... it's just life, and the most fulfilling things are often the most simple. Life is an endless exploration, but I feel more patient in my pursuit these days.

Stride: How can we get some of that patience?

Eliza: Give yourself space. I see how important it is to give things time and let them play out… create time for reflection. Before, I was always trying to find an answer, trying to plan the next thing. I’ve tried to let myself fall into a rhythm of not over-planning, not worrying much about what’s to come, and just let things naturally fall into place.

Stride: What’s the number one way yoga has changed your life?

Eliza: It has given me more confidence and clarity into who I am and who I want to be. In our 20s and 30s, we are constantly comparing ourselves, judging ourselves and others. Yoga has helped me let go of that a little bit. Or at least recognize when I’m experiencing that and approach it differently – to just have that confidence and be less swayed by who everyone else thinks I am or should be.

Stride: As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and working on wellness, what societal health issue concerns you the most?

Eliza: The amount of hours people are devoting to work. Stress is a killer and people are just not prioritizing time for themselves.

Stride: Why are people not taking much personal time these days?

Eliza: One is ego. There’s a sense of wanting to please, to constantly perform. It’s very satisfying to the ego to be in a position of power at work… people become blinded by it. Second, with the progression of technology, it’s easier to be totally career-driven, chasing the next promotion, pay-raise or deal – around the clock. Everything is about work these days. It’s crazy. I just want to say to people, at the end of your life, are you going to wish you had devoted more time to the office? I highly doubt it.

Stride: Is the solution to care less about work or to care differently?

Eliza: We have to recognize taking time for ourselves will actually make us better and happier in both our professional and personal lives. But people think that taking personal time is a sign of laziness or not caring about your work. Societally, personal time isn’t important, which is causing burnout and serious health problems.

Stride: Interesting. Speaking of health issues, how did you find out about Stride?

Eliza: I did a service gig with Postmates at the beginning of the year. They sent me an email about Stride. The Stride website was super easy to navigate, and I felt like I was getting the best possible deal that I could never have figured out on my own. I attribute that to Astrid’s help (customer service) – her help combined with a good, easy to use website was key, especially when dealing with health care [laughs].

Stride: Okay, we’ve gotta know, what’s your favorite yoga pose?

Eliza: Oh! Hmmmm… my favorite, that’s a hard one! Headstand is one my favorites because I had a lot of fear around it. When I figured out how to do it step-by-step, I’d come home and literally start doing a headstand instead of having a glass of wine. It felt so good and could take the edge off. By the way, headstand is also great for curing hangovers and getting rid of headaches. Another favorite is a restorative pose called Supta Baddha Koṇāsana — lying on your back with feet together and knees apart in a butterfly position, with a cushion along the spine. That’s probably my favorite pose ever.

Stride: Awesome. Any last thoughts?

Eliza: If you’re venturing out on your own, hopefully you feel that work is an extension of you, so just be yourself. People will be drawn to your services if they connect with you on that personal level. Try to allow your personality to shine through everything you do.

*Wanna take a yoga class with Eliza? Check out her site!