Back to school? Mel Enright: PR/yoga teacher

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In the second in our series, we learn how one woman coped with the increasing demands of living in London


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'I considered running off to the Himalayas to be a real 'yogi'. Photo: Kate Czuczman
‘I considered running off to the Himalayas to be a real ‘yogi’. Photo: Kate Czuczman
So, tell us how it all started.
I’m a freelance fashion and lifestyle PR director and yoga teacher. But, from the age of 11, I was fascinated by clothes and dressing up. In fact I spent my teenage years hanging out around the King’s Road at Hyper Hyper and Kensington Market, and then after college, I joined fashion PR company Modus, working with designers such as Katherine Hamnett, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein.

What made you take a fresh look at your career?
In 2003 I took a six month sabbatical and travelled to Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. There my interest in healing therapies and what were considered ‘alternative’ lifestyles blossomed. After coming back, I completed a 200-hour Quantum Yoga teacher training with Lara Baumann, a practice based on Ayurvedic principles.

I travelled to Kerala to study for six weeks with Greens Ayurveda hospital, where I learnt the basics of Ayurvedic theory, diagnosis, therapies and herbal knowledge. This March I was certified as a Rest and Restore Restorative Yoga teacher with Judith Hanson Lasater.

I’m currently on the Ayurvedic Lifestyle and Nutrition Consultant course at the Ayurvedic Institute UK, and teach vinyasa-style yoga on Surf Sistas surf and yoga retreats.

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'The teachings of Ayurveda resonated.' Photo: Kate Czuczman
‘The teachings of Ayurveda resonated.’ Photo: Kate Czuczman

Why the switch?
Well I haven’t totally switched as yet. I am a PR/Yoga hybrid – with one foot in each camp. Though very different, both professions are being of service – just in different ways. But I think the initial seed started way back when I split up with a longterm boyfriend and went away on a trip through America, learning about Native tribal history. That was when I first opened up to the concept of, and felt ‘spirituality’ for the first time.

What did you do next?
Back in London, to help me deal with the increasing demands of work, family and living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, I started attending yoga more and more and escaped to the coast on weekends surfing.

Like many people, I’ve often felt that it wasn’t sustainable to keep going at the rate I was. I loved my job and family but had a nature to push myself to take on too much and absorb pressure and anxiety. I recognized that yoga was a very practical tool box which brought me clarity, strength and release; a coping strategy for the pace of life.

To make me practice more I booked the yoga teaching course primarily to address my own imbalance, go deeper into the practice for self care. A big part of me thought I was bonkers and should be studying something which would make me money, be more useful and business based. And of course that I was starting this far too late.

But the teachings of yoga and Ayurveda resonated. However I had no idea if I would teach at the end of it, especially as I had so much respect for the teachers I had been blessed to practice with, and wondered how I could ever have that level of knowledge.

Mel leading a class. Photo: ME
Mel leading a class. Photo: ME

How did you begin to make the change?
At first I considered running off into the Himalayas to be a ‘real’ yogi but I remember one teacher saying that she felt the real test of yoga was to be able to have the mind and body calm and present in the midst of the your own real life, in the middle of a bonkers city with all its energy and challenges.

Where are you at now?
It’s been a long winding journey, and I’m still only at the beginning. For the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to work four days a week at my PR day job to enable space to teach on surf and yoga retreats in Bali, India and Cornwall with Surf Sistas and Soul & Surf. My interest in yoga therapy has led me to practice and study Restorative Yoga which I think is something every human being should have access to, as its effects are so deep and I love its supportive nature.

I think in the age of technology people need this kind of stillness and support more and more. The next step is to pass the Ayurvedic course so as I can begin to marry yoga with knowledge of using food as medicine, in a complete healing system for a client. I also hope to have an element of my work which is non-profit and donational.

Tell us a secret.
You are never too old. Really. Mary Granville Delany started her life’s work in her seventies producing 985 life size three-dimensional botanical mixed media collages which are housed at the British Museum.

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Mel’s Tips on Career Change

'The day job funds the study and progress to the future.' Photo:
‘The day job funds the study and progress to the future.’ Photo: Kate Czuczman

1.Commit

Be prepared to say ‘no’ to friends and invites to make space and time for study and funding change: that old adage, you only get out what you put in, is true. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, says to treat your new creative activity like a love affair. We all make time for an exciting new partner no matter what the odds: this makes me smile and allows a lighter, loving attitude to making time to study. I’m currently stealing myself away for secret Saturday and Sunday afternoons with my Ayurvedic books.

2. Be grateful

The day job funds the study and progress to the future. Also know that you can be both and that you don’t have to be ‘all or nothing’ at this point. Only you know how to best navigate your transition financially, practically and emotionally.

3. Embrace a portfolio career

Our parents’ generation espoused the idea of a ‘job for life’ but in the last few years, old concepts of security and success have changed: instead of doing one profession for your whole working life, it’s now even considered ‘trendy’ to have what’s known as a portfolio career. And if business forecasts are correct, this is the way the actual work force is heading: we may not have a choice but to have more than one way to earn a living.

4. Non-judgement

Don’t put pressure on yourself to have to be all or nothing or immediately to be making lots of money from your new career. We are in a culture of instant results which can make us our own worst critics. Remember you’re starting from scratch and any new career takes at least three years to get off the ground. The big question can be, is it a new career or vocation? Again only you can answer this. Take the pressure off, don’t immediately ditch your primary income, find a way for it to finance you so you can just enjoy the challenge of learning a new skill.

5. Take a calculated risk

Obstacles and setbacks will present themselves, financial, physical, practical, and god knows I have had them all in spades. But you just need to prepare mentally and financially for them. And stay off social media – you’ll save hours a week.

6. Embrace your vulnerability

You won’t change or move forward unless you make yourself open to make and learn from mistakes. It’s scary, especially when you have been an ‘expert’ at something else for years. But we all need to remember the excitement of the other firsts we have in life: a kiss, bike ride, and job. It’s just our minds sabotaging us.

7. Do your research and look for the best course, teachers for you and your chosen subject

If you’re laying down your hard-earned cash, then you want to make sure you are learning from, and attending, a quality and recognised course.

For more details on Mel’s courses, or for one-to-one restorative lessons see her website here. On Instagram follow MelEnrightYoga

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