Tracy Gray decided 8 years ago at age 39, to turn her life around and swap her IT career for a yoga teaching career. With 3 kids, she manages to study everything there is to know about yoga, anatomy, yoga therapy and thai massage, teach her classes, run her own retreats, be there for her family, and still schedule in some time for herself. She says that one of the best lessons she’s learnt so far, is that she can’t be superwoman. I disagree. I think she already is a superwoman.
I met this lovely powerhouse during my own teacher training 3 years ago. She was my favourite teacher, and she still is. Here’s her inspiring life story.
PS If you’re looking for an amazing teacher, check out Tracy’s Awaken Your Core DVD or take her class if you happen to be in Brisbane (Australia).
DREAM CHASER is a series of interviews with women who are working hard to turn their dreams into reality. Women who choose their own path, who follow their hearts, run their own business, and do what they love no matter what.
Tell us how it all started. When did you know what you wanted and when did you decide to go for it?
Becoming a yoga teacher and yoga therapist was a gradual progression for me. I initially worked in IT for 10 years, but my interest in health and fitness also led me to train as an aerobics instructor (this was the early 90’s) which allowed me to work at the local YMCA gym a few hours a week as well as working in IT.
In 1995 I moved to the UK to work in IT and spend some time travelling around Europe, returning home to Australia 5 years later, married and with my 18 month old son. Fast forward 3 years and I had become a mother of 3 lovely boys and a full time mum.
After my 3rd son was born, I started attending yoga classes at the local gym. My reason for taking up yoga was to improve my flexibility and the thought of teaching yoga never crossed my mind until one day, when the instructor didn’t turn up, the members of the class urged me to take it, seeing as I’d been a regular in the class for several years by then.
That planted the seed, and I thought “I might actually be able to do this”, so I looked around for a yoga teacher training that fitted in with my family life and signed up for my first teacher training 8 years ago, at the age of 39. That yoga teacher training changed my life, quite literally. It allowed me to quieten my busy, analytical mind and tap into my deeper intuition.
That yoga teacher training changed my life, quite literally. It allowed me to quieten my busy, analytical mind and tap into my deeper intuition.
Svadhyaya (self study) is an important part of a yoga practice and as I looked closer at myself and my relationships this was the catalyst for my later divorce.
Once I started teaching yoga I loved it. I wanted to know more – how the body moves, how to keep the joints safe and how to best teach people with injuries or medical conditions as I felt this wasn’t addressed in my initial training. This led me to further training in yoga therapy.
I continue to teach group classes but now have more private yoga therapy sessions in which the yoga is specialised to treat specific conditions, varying from musculoskeletal injuries or nervous system disorders, to mental health and mental disability such as autism.
What were/are the biggest obstacles?
Definitely the logistics of running my own yoga teaching and therapy business and balancing it with family life and my 3 teenage boys. A vast majority of my yoga teaching and therapy work is outside of the usual 9 to 5 business hours, which means I am out teaching 3 nights a week and half the weekend.
Add to that weekend workshops and training courses and it can be really tricky to manage my work with being there for my kids and taxiing them to all their extracurricular activities. I am really fortunate to have family and friends that step in to be there for my boys, taking them to music lessons, soccer, band practice and debating when I am busy working or training. Without their support I would never be able to do this job.
Show us a day in the life of…
Each day of the week is different, depending on what classes or clients I have, but typically I get up around 6:30am (I’ve never been a morning person!), make sure my kids have some breakfast before they leave for school, then I can enjoy some quiet time before I head off to teach my morning class or get out on my bike to invigorate my body and mind.
Some days I have time after class to do an hour of my own practice, other days I head straight to a yoga therapy client for a private session, then back home to catch up on office work. Mid afternoon I might have another yoga therapy client, or take my son to his piano lesson, or just enjoy spending time helping my kids with their school work, then prepare dinner for the family before rushing out the door to teach an evening class.
Once I’m home from evening class, I might have to help some more with school work, answer some emails and hopefully get to bed by 10:30pm all going well! I can easily get caught up in the busy-ness of life, so I have to consciously schedule in some “me” time every week.
What do you do to relax?
The obvious answer for a yoga teacher is a yoga practice and this really does help clear my mind, but so does getting out into nature. Some days my yoga practice is getting out on my bicycle along the bike track that runs through the local wetlands to fully experience nature in this moment. Other days it’s attending to my garden, weeding, pruning and planting in bare feet, feeling the connection with the earth.
On the nights that I’m not teaching, I might indulge in my favourite TV show, allowing my body to rest while entertaining my mind. Or when time allows, I book in for a zenthai shiatsu or massage treatment to really spoil and nourish myself.
How do you define happiness?
An inner contentment. Happiness is a choice. We can either choose to let things get us down or we can take the “glass half full” approach and look for the positives and with that comes an inner contentment.
I always come back to a quote from the Dalai Lama: If there’s a problem and a solution, then why worry? If there’s a problem and no solution, then why worry?
What are your biggest fears and how do you deal with them?
If you’d asked me this 20 years ago I would have said the fear of failure, but over the years I have come to realise that I can’t be good at everything and that giving something your best effort is more important than if you succeed or not.
These days, I can’t say I have too many fears. Having a physical job means I have to look after my body, so I am always wary if I am doing anything that has a risk of physical injury.
The last time I remember being gripped by fear was on a surfboard in Bali last year, when I was picked up by a wave far too big for my beginner standard and all I could do was hold on for dear life as I was propelled towards the rocky shore.
Somehow I managed to get off the wave before being smashed into the rocks, miraculously tumbling through the following wave unscathed and then paddled like crazy to get out past the breakers.
Needless to say, I didn’t attempt to catch any more waves that day! But what also helped me in this experience (apart from the adrenaline running through my veins) was a belief in myself, that I had to paddle as hard as I could, no matter what, to get myself to safety.
Tenacity and a sense of self-belief are important if you are to succeed in anything and overcome your fears.
What are the best lessons that you’ve learned so far?
The realisation that I can’t physically do everything and be superwoman (even though I’d like to be!) and I need to pace myself.
There is more training that I’d like to do, more workshops I want to run, and I always have a “to do” list as long as my arm, but after years of getting frustrated because I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to (time and my kids just don’t allow it!), I’m now more accepting of myself when I have to put things off for another day, or even year.
Being an A-type personality it is all too easy to get caught up in constantly wanting to achieve, but I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself, letting go of some of my perfectionist tendencies, and instead judge success by the amount of effort I’ve put into something, rather than the outcome.
Things don’t always turn out the way we planned or would have liked, but that’s ok, as long as we’ve learnt something from the experience.
One of my favourite quotes that always fills me with optimism is from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – “Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end!”
What keeps you motivated and believing in yourself/your business?
My students. It is incredibly rewarding to see the positive impact yoga has on their lives and knowing that I have helped them achieve that.
Are there any dreams left that you plan to chase in the future?
Definitely more travel and teaching workshops overseas. There’s still a lot of countries I’d like to visit: Bhutan, Nepal, India, Iceland, South America. Once all my kids have finished school I’ll chase this dream more actively, but for now, I’m just letting this dream simmer. In the meantime, I’m training to become a zenthai shiatsu therapist to further complement my yoga therapy skills.
Any advice for anyone out there dreaming but not yet chasing?
What are you waiting for? My other favourite quote is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” by Lao Tzu.
Start planning, take that first step then enjoy the journey, wherever it may take you. And don’t forget to reward yourself for your efforts along the way.