When you realise your body's connection, you become very strong
Bored of her full-time job in the financial sector, yoga enthusiast Lee Tracey took a leap of faith and, within a few months, went from the concrete jungle of city living to the real-life Costa Rican jungle. Now a successful Jivamukti Yoga instructor, she tells our reporter why she's more fulfilled than ever
'It was a real leap of faith," Lee Tracey, 32, from Dublin says of the decision she made a little over four years ago, to pack in her permanent and pensionable job in the financial services sector, and travel the world, with the sole aim of growing her knowledge of both yoga and herself.
"I was doing very well. I had a really good career and it was going in the right direction, so it was a very conscious choice that I made to leave that," Lee explains.
"And it was a bit of an unstable time to leave your job, but I had this idea in my mind that I could do something different. Something a little bit more personal with my life, that would help me expand and grow rather than staying static."
Lee went with her gut instinct, but not before talking the idea through with her nearest and dearest.
"I spoke to those who are closest to me; my mum and my sister," Lee says. "We had a really decent chat about it and they both were really encouraging. I was expecting them to go 'Are you crazy? What are you doing? Don't do that!' but they were so encouraging and that really gave me the motivation to pursue it.
"I thought 'well if they believe in me this much, I believe in me too.'"
A short time later, Lee found herself in a jungle in Costa Rica surrounded by other yoga enthusiasts.
"I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for," she smiles. "I was very much just going on intuition; sometimes if you think about things too long you get a little afraid and back off, so I just went for it. It was an extremely scary experience, but it made me feel alive. It was one of the best things I ever did. I literally stepped from one side of life to another.
"I was used to putting on my suit every morning, going to my desk and having a set routine with my salary in the bank on the 23rd of each month, then all of a sudden I was in the middle of the jungle with people I had never met before, chanting and meditating and doing things that people would regard as quite strange in normal everyday life."
After Costa Rica, Lee travelled to New York City to train under Sharon Gannon and David Life, the founders of Jivamukti Yoga, a physical, ethical and spiritual practice, which combines a number of elements including vigorous hatha yoga, meditation, environmentalism and veganism.
"Once I had a bit of teaching experience under my belt and got to know what kind of teachers I was drawn towards and what style of teachings I enjoyed the most and felt more aligned with, I decided to go to New York to the Jivamukti school there.
"That was amazing; Sharon and David are unbelievable people," Lee says.
"They have basically been travelling the world and gathering as much knowledge as they can; they are the real deal and I feel so privileged to have trained with them. They are extremely transformational people, as soon as you are in their presence you can feel their energy."
The fact that yoga is such a wide and varied discipline is something that Lee is both fascinated and inspired by.
"One of the most beautiful things about where I have been and where I am going is that it is always continually moving forward," she explains.
"I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I feel like I have learned enough; yoga is such a broad subject, it is so rich and vibrant that there is always something new to learn. So it has been a personal evolution as well as a professional evolution for me; you grow yourself and then you spread the word to others."
And this evolution has extended to Lee's approach to food.
"Food is extremely important to me," Lee says. "I think that eating whole foods and organic as much as possible - no meat and no dairy - is so important for my body.
"A vegan or vegetarian lifestyle allows you to have quite a light body, so in terms of yoga, if your body is lighter it is easier to manipulate into certain positions. I don't like preachy vegans, who are very self-righteous because I think it's really off-putting, everybody does their best and that is all you can do, but I think bringing awareness to that aspect of food health and also the environment is very important.
"Jivamukti is about moving from an individual ego-based small self to a more liberated soul that is connected with the bigger self," Lee explains.
"We are all born as individuals, but there needs to be more of a movement towards a conscious collective, uplifting and enlightening, rather than just staying in the confines of commercialism or materialism, or living your life the same way as everyone else just because that is what is dictated to us."
In today's increasingly superficial and often primarily virtual world, Lee's Jivamukti classes have become a huge source of solace, particularly for those in the corporate and technology spheres.
"I have been very lucky, I have quite big corporate clients," Lee, who teaches regular yoga classes and mindfulness workshops throughout a number of companies such as Facebook and the Web Summit, explains.
"I think people - and big corporations especially - are realising now that it is very important to create a feeling of happiness and contentment within your workforce; there is no point in trying to squeeze the most out of people without giving anything back, that is not how to build a sustainable and happy workforce which is going to be productive and bring your company to the next level.
"I think companies are realising the rights of the individual and their talents by allowing things like mindfulness, meditation and yoga into the work place and recognising that people are people - we are human beings - and there needs to be a social, spiritual and emotional side to most things that we do in order to get the best out of us," Lee adds.
"Ultimately life is about creating happiness for yourself and others around you, and I think that people have realised that yoga and meditation - or whatever your own personal happiness practice is - that it is so important to have that in terms of your overall well-being."
When Lee first discovered yoga, over a decade ago now, her primary focus was on the physical benefits of the practice, which she says are just as far reaching as the other elements of the lifestyle.
"I was always naturally interested in being fit and healthy, so the first time I went to a yoga class it was because I wanted to do something physical with my body," says Lee.
"I actually didn't realise there was anything more to it than just moving your body at first, but after a while it really got under my skin; I began to question 'why do I feel so good afterwards? What is different about yoga than a session in the gym?' And it was only then that I began to explore the different reasons; the breath work, the meditation and that side of it.
"Jivamukti is a very physical form of yoga and you can build up a massive amount of core strength and flexibility with it, but a really important side of it is simply learning to have an awareness of your body; how your body moves through space, your connection with the earth, how your muscles move in conjunction with your bones, how the energy moves through you.
"There are so many different elements to it, but there is a connection that runs through your whole body and when you realise that you are not just made up of these individual parts put together, you become very strong," Lee explains.
"When we begin to feel and move our bodies in that particular way, we get this enormous respect and admiration for these beautiful vehicles that we are moving through the earth with; that for me is a huge part to the physical side of yoga."
Lee's daily routine
Lee's day on a plate:
Organic porridge with rice milk and walnuts and raisins.
Organic quinoa with sweet potato, mushrooms, peppers, chick peas in a hot tomato sauce and avocado and hummus on the side with some carrot sticks.
A lentil bake with lots of garlic, basil, tomatoes, broccoli.
Apple and almond butter or hummus and carrot sticks or a handful or raisins and walnuts.
Lee's daily exercise schedule:
Yoga Asanas (physical practice) 50-60 minutes.
Meditation 15-20 minutes.
Boxing for 60 minutes or a run. Specific yoga practice such as headstand or handstand for 30 minutes.
Health & Living