Victoria Woodhall is a yoga teacher, journalist and mother of two teenagers. She’s been teaching dynamic yoga for more than 15 years – in workplaces, on Zoom, at London’s Triyoga centres and on Instagram with Trinny Woodall. She spends most of her time in her ‘day job’ as Editorial Director of beauty and wellness online content platform Get The Gloss, as well as writing and editing features for national newspapers and magazines such as The Times, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail and Women’s Health. In fact, she was one of the first journalists to interview our founder Rebekah Brown. She has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the latest in health, beauty and wellness, which she loves to share.
We love this Phenomenal Women journal entry. Victoria has brought optimism and light to Part 2. And we can not wait to see all she does next!
First, tell us a little bit about you and how your yoga proposition came to life. What motivated you to create it? What moments, life experiences and perspectives got you to ‘here’? What principles drive its evolution?
As a young reporter in the nineties, I lived a fast-paced life and thrived on deadlines. Back then I didn’t have the tools to manage stress; I came close to burnout several times and my sleep suffered. The penny dropped when a close friend sent me a birthday card covered in fire engines saying “This reminded me of you”. I was clearly a walking emergency! A few people suggested that I should try yoga. Back then, it wasn’t as popular or widely available as it is now and the classes I found seemed to be aimed at slow-moving seniors in socks.
I dismissed yoga as boring – until I stumbled upon an Ashtanga yoga class in a gym in 2001. It was dynamic, fast-paced – no pose was held longer than five breaths, perfect for my impatient racing mind. While I hadn’t a clue what I was doing in those 90 minutes – I certainly couldn’t touch my toes – I hadn’t thought about work, or been lured into anxious thought loops, because moving in new and challenging ways demanded all my concentration.
By the end, I’d gone from tight and stressed to calm and energised. That night I slept better than I’d done in years. I knew then that yoga was my medicine and that – almost counterintuitively – dynamic yoga slowed me down. It met me where I was, but showed me a new way to be me. It got me out of my thinking mind and into my feeling body.
I felt compelled to share this life-changing practice and in 2006 completed the first of many yoga teacher trainings. For many years I taught my colleagues in the newspaper and magazine offices where I worked full-time. After our lunch hour sessions, we’d go back to our desks bright-eyed and smiling; people would wonder whether we’d been to the pub!
I’ve since completed more than 500 hours of yoga teacher training, with Rocket Yoga, an energetic and playful evolution of Ashtanga being my main focus. You can find me teaching Trinny Woodall live on her Instagram twice a week, at Triyoa London online via Zoom on my own platform and on Instagram live @victoriawoodhall. I run a regular online four-week beginners course too.
I’ve always kept up my full-time journalism work, specialising in beauty and wellbeing and writing for national newspapers and magazines and working as Editorial Director or Get The Gloss. I find that the busier I become at work, the more yoga I do: the latter enables the former.
How do you define success for what you do and also yourself individually
Success is having that punch-the-air feeling and that’s personal to everyone. It’s a feeling, not an external accolade (although we love recognition too, and it’s important to celebrate other people’s achievements by dropping them a message or a card). I know I’ve succeeded in my yoga teaching when people DM me saying how much better they feel, or that they’ve tried yoga before and never got on with it, but now something has clicked (this is what Trinny tells me). I focus on what yoga should feel like rather than what it should look like and when you lose the idea that you have to execute a shape perfectly or have to have a certain body type, you realise that it’s simply a way to feel stronger, calmer and lighter – a way to turn off your thinking mind and tune into your feeling body.
Has your definition of success changed over time as an individual?
Definitely, in the same way that it took me years to realise that yoga is not about the external look of the shapes, success is not how other people define it – it’s a feeling. That feeling for me is definitely linked to being of service.
What correlation, if any, do you see between age and ambition?
I have always been ambitious, if there was ever an achievement that was dangled in front of me, whether that was ace-ing my studies or writing a book on yoga, I would leap at it, often without enough thought about packing wisely the journey and whether had enough fuel in my tank. I would push on regardless, often missing out on things that would have brought me joy such as time with friends, all in pursuit of the goal. I’m still just as ambitious but more judicious about my choices. I go after things that I genuinely enjoy, with positive people and often I find that the rewards – both internal and external in terms of recognition - are actually greater. I think with age we realise that time is a finite resource that we have to spend well.
Many females in your community are navigating midlife and menopause. What conversations do you find them wanting to have? What bothers them most? What are they looking for? And what role does your offer play?
Many women come to my classes in mid-life wanting to become stronger, more flexible and to manage their stress. They have heard that yoga is ‘good for them’ but they worry that it’s for younger bendy bodies. They may have done yoga in the past, but now their bodies have changed, or their physical confidence has taken a knock, or they simply have been so busy with their families that they have fallen off the wagon and don’t know how to get back on. When I tell people I’m a yoga teacher, I often hear ‘I’m so not flexible, I can’t do yoga,’ as if touching your toes is an entry requirement. PSA, it’s not; if you can move, even just a little, and breathe, you’re already doing yoga, and it’s a lifelong practice of developing your body and mind.
Being in that same age group myself, and having gone through pregnancy, bereavement, menopause, redundancy and all the usual life stresses, I know how they can impact our body. And I speak to that. I also appreciate the juggle that women have had even to make it to the mat and so I’m mindful of delivering classes and Instagram content that is really targeted and useful, as well as inspirational. I’m much stronger now than in my twenties, and believe that everyone can be. Even if you only ever do it in your pyjamas!
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
I’ve just launched my 4-week Intro to Yoga Course (4x1 hour every Saturday, live and on-demand) for beginners and returners and it’s been a huge success. I’ll be rolling it out again in January as my passion is to give everyone the tools to feel ‘yoga confident’ to know that they have all the fundamentals to take them into any yoga class, whether that’s with me online or at their local studio. I will also be running an Intro to Rocket Yoga Course. It’s a fun style that can look quite intimidating, but I’m here to bust that myth and get you stronger and even a little bit braver.
What do you wish your younger self had known about:
Life: Don’t hide your light or not ask for something because you think you are underserving or not going to get it. Stand back and don’t think you need to solve other people’s problems to make their discomfort go away. Sometimes they just want to be heard. You need to keep your boundaries, and beware charismatic takers.
Love: Try to keep your heart open if you have been hurt. Heart-opening poses in yoga will be hard for you but keep doing them.
Health: Insomnia is a symptom of something not an illness in itself. Prioritise sleep, even though life is exciting and there are a gazillion things to do. Most of what you worry about won’t happen.
Work: Quality not quantity! Focus what do you want to be remembered for, you create your legacy every day.
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
I always say ‘put you mind in your body’ and we do that simply moving and breathing. When our bodies feel out of control, or when we feel we don’t recognise ourselves, the yoga postures - and crucially what we experience when we do them - help us gather some really helpful information about ourselves. They also train us to become comfortable with challenge, to try something tricky. Like ice baths, it’s a controlled stress that makes us more resilient (but as a cold-phobe, I find it infinitely more preferable!)
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
It’s not true that everything shrinks with age. I did my first drop back into backbend this year at 55 and I taught my dad to do crow at age 79. I love to travel and have adventures, but we are all so busy that’s rarely possible. However, with yoga, I’m always going to new places in my body and mind and that’s really empowering.
Finally, we all know that external stressors can exacerbate hormone fluctuations, whether your pre menopause, perimenopause or post menopause. And today’s world feels more stressful than ever - the fall out of the pandemic, heart-wrenching conflict, the cost of living crisis…unprecedented job insecurity. What have you done to better support yourself in the last 12 months? What have you learned?
I’ve consciously spent more time with women who are supportive, positive, which teach me something new and who make me smile, such as Chinese medicine practitioner Katie Brindle, whose Bazi reading was fundamental in giving me the confidence to grow my yoga business and not burn out. The MPowder community is a perfect example. I’m careful to look at positive content only on Instagram and I’ve taken up journaling. The Five Minute Journal is perfect for busy people and helps you count your blessings and set intentions for growth.
To find out more about Victoria and her work, click HERE now. Then, why not join her for an online class? From single sessions, to tailored courses for beginners as well as her energising Rocket Yoga classes, you can find them all HERE.
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