As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my lower back pain (and the anxiety that comes along with it) has kept me from many forms of exercise, even some I love. Yoga was one of those. There have been times in my life when I’ve done yoga quite often and other times when I haven’t done any at all. I’ve tried every type (Vinyasa, Power, Bikram, Baptiste, Restorative, etc.) and like them all for different reasons. I enjoy yoga for building physical strength, but more importantly for building mental strength! It forces me to concentrate, breathe and get inside myself. All of this being said, I had shied away from yoga for almost two years after having severe back pain, which I thought was caused by doing too much of it.

A few months ago I decided I wanted to give it a try again, and was hoping my husband would do it with me. I thought it would be a really good way for us to connect and take some time for ourselves (together!) one night per week. Shockingly, he agreed!! A friend recommended Lauren Haywood, because she is trained in Iyengar (focuses on form and alignment), which is great for my past back issues. Lauren and I met for coffee to chat and I knew instantly she was the right person for us. She is warm, kind, spiritual, thoughtful, and makes you feel completely comfortable and confident.  

As I learned more about Lauren, I knew she would be perfect to feature on LivLight. She is not only an incredible yoga teacher, but also made a major life change of her own when she became one. Yoga led her from being an “unhealthy” professional dancer and dance teacher (practicing all day, every day) to a much healthier lifestyle.  She was even able to clear up her own skin issues once she found this healthier lifestyle, which included better eating habits.

I was very unhealthy. Mentally and physically. I still love my memories as a dancer, but the pressure to be thin, late night rehearsals and not a lot of sleep wears on a body; it even showed up on my skin through psoriasis. –Lauren Haywood

As someone who has struggled with eating issues of my own at times in my life, I can certainly relate to what Lauren has been through. I love that she has found peace and learned to love her body through her yoga practice. When I asked Lauren about her eating habits these days (as we always do at LivLight), here’s what she told me (which I LOVE!!)…

Balance. I give my mom credit for teaching me balance even before yoga. Growing up we ate three healthy meals, and dinner was almost always spent around the table together as a family. She taught us to love our veggies but that life is way too short not to enjoy that bowl of ice cream. Must-haves in my house are bananas, almond milk, nut butter and wine. I love a daily green juice, but I will never turn down some chips and salsa.

I hope you’ll read on for my interview with Lauren…

Interview with Lauren Haywood

Making a career move to become a yoga teacher was very brave of you. What helped motivate you to do so and how has your past experience as a dancer helped you?  

I knew in my heart it was what was best for me. I took a year off from dancing and teaching and was a nanny for friends to make money. During that year I began to practice more yoga as a form of exercise but also to connect with my body and what it needed. Before the year was over I knew I wanted to teach. My heart is for my students and so now to be able to watch my regular students grow is such a blessing!

For those readers looking to take the leap and follow their dream of a career change or starting a new business, what advice would you offer them?

Listen to your heart. It sounds cliché but if you are not happy where you are, or desire a change, just go for it! Your heart will know if its right or wrong. If it’s a passion and you are happy, most likely its what you need to be doing!

Why did you choose yoga, what training program did you do and what type of practice do you specialize in?

I chose yoga because yoga allows me to move, breathe, play and connect. It has taught me that we must have balance in our life, that there is always more to learn in life, and that we have this life to live to its fullest! So we need to take care of our bodies and souls to enjoy and flourish! I felt the desire to teach and learn beside others.

I received my 200 hour training under Terry Brown at Triad Yoga Institute. I am trained in Iyengar, form and alignment, but my favorite to teach is a continuous flow class.

For someone new to yoga, how would you recommend starting out?

Find a studio you are comfortable in and feel connected. Be mindful of your physical abilities as you look at the classes. No matter your abilities, it is wise to start with a beginner class to become familiar with the basic poses. Then your body will let you know if you need more of a challenge or more calm and rest.

How often do you practice yoga and what other types of fitness (if any) do you enjoy?

I practice yoga every day, but my practice changes every day. Some days I take a powerful flow, or a sweet deep stretch. Some days I stay home and watch a video or simply sit on my mat practicing breath (pranayama), yes, breathing is yoga!

I love to move…walking, cycling, and running. Dancing, is my absolute favorite though (Zumba or Tracy Anderson anyone?) I am learning to love weight training and try to squeeze a session in at least twice a week. But sometimes a good belly laugh with friends is the only core workout I need.

How has your body changed from when you were dancing hours upon hours per day?

A lot. I was very unhealthy. Mentally and physically. I still love my memories as a dancer, but the pressure to be thin, late night rehearsals and not a lot of sleep, wears on a body; it even showed up on my skin through psoriasis. After a year of listening to the hunger signals my body was giving, then fueling it well, resting my feet while building arm strength and confidence, and being present and grateful for nights with family and friends…I was happy, healthy and took back control of my skin.

What are your favorite fitness apparel brands and/or pieces?

Onzie leggings, lululemon free to be wild bra, and any Spiritual Gangster top.

How do you like to mix in your fitness apparel with your regular everyday clothing?

Well, fitness apparel is my everyday clothing… but I’ve got my jean jacket and TOMs booties ready to throw on this fall for studio to street wear!

We know teaching and guiding others can become all-consuming. How do you incorporate self-care into your daily or weekly routine?

I read my bible and journal daily, I enjoy a cup of hot lemon and cayenne pepper water every morning, I go for long walks alone or with a friend. And snuggles with my husband and sweet dog are always a must!