After experiencing burnout from stress in her twenties, Naomi Wright left a promising corporate career in search of regaining her health, passion and positivity for life. She spoke with The Present of Yoga about her journey of transformation through yoga and entrepreneurship, to become one of the most distinctive meditation teachers in the world.
What kickstarted your transition from the corporate world?
I was a management consultant with Deloitte for about three years, specialising in customer strategy and marketing, but ended up leaving because I was really stressed out. I had a work hard, play hard lifestyle and realised progressively that I was suffering from acute stress and physical burnout. I felt really unfulfilled and made the decision to quit at the start of 2013. I needed to create space and time to really figure out what I wanted to do and revive my health, positivity and energy for life, and so decided to take some time out and go travelling around the world, ending up in Bali later that year.
When I was away, it was very much about getting out of the mental confines of expectations of what success looks like. So success outside of the premise of having a high profile corporate job and actually connecting with my inner self to say “What is it that really makes me happy? What is it that I can really do to help others?”.
During this process, I went on my own healing journey because I had a bunch of stress related disorders that I’d accumulated through my corporate lifestyle so I turned to meditation and yoga. As a Psychology graduate, studying mind-body health was actually a very natural transition for me. Then I started to see that I really wanted to do it full time, not only for my own benefit but also for the potential to apply the business skills I’d accumulated to help other people and businesses through health and wellness, to really make a big impact.
What started you on the path to teaching yoga and meditation to others?
I found a practice that I loved and that benefited me hugely. It made me realise the potential of the impact I could make in the world. I knew a bunch of really stressed out people back in the corporate world and really wanted to be able to help. People started asking me “Do you teach yoga? Do you teach meditation?” and were asking for my guidance. Because I was finding myself I had started to give off that energy.
I followed my heart and intuition, which in life and in business is essential. I had been gifted the teachers, and all the signs and synchronicities started to line up. So I decided to train as a yoga teacher and around that time I also learned the technique of Vedic Meditation.
What did you do after qualifying as a yoga teacher?
I stayed in Bali for the rest of 2013 and was hugely passionate about sharing my journey and everything I had learned. I was just hanging out and connecting with like minded individuals, it’s a very entrepreneurial place and a lot of people were doing very interesting things. For the first time, I was introduced to the concept of digital nomadic living and working, that was a new thing for me coming from a corporate background.
I was sitting on the fence about my new way of life versus going back to the safe lifestyle of the corporate world, but my heart told me that I was happy in the space of mind-body health that yoga gives. Then my two worlds collided in a beautiful way when I realised how I could combine both health and business.
There were some great people in health and wellness but they needed help to get clarity, direction and support with their businesses. I started to have informal chats in cafes and held workshops to give guidance on how to develop clear customer strategy, marketing, branding and advice about how to scale businesses.
From an informal start I realised I could do that for a living. I made the jump and it grew from there. I could now do my yoga and meditation, which were so intrinsic to me, but also help other businesses. It was enabling me to fulfil my purpose in being able to reach more people because I was helping others reach more people through their businesses.
You came back to London in early 2014, what was the continuation from there?
I’d had a very transformative year when I had been away, a lot had changed personally in my mind, body and also in terms of my career. People started asking “Who’s this new Naomi and what’s she been doing?”. They would come to me and tell me they were really stressed or that they wanted to get out of the corporate life. I began teaching yoga one to one, sharing my accumulated knowledge. I also continued coaching and consulting for small businesses in health and wellness which ultimately helped me fund my further training in yoga and meditation, which is what I really wanted to do.
As soon as I learned Vedic Meditation, I knew that it was going to be a life changing tool for me. At first I thought that I would use it to help me in corporate life to give me the energy and the creative intelligence to be great in my job. By the third day of training I realised that I wanted to teach other people. I have a relevant business background and I live in the real world, I don’t go and meditate up in the mountains. I felt relevant and young, and I knew a bunch of people that would really benefit from having these tools and techniques in their lives.
In early 2014 I started training to be a meditation teacher under the guidance and tutelage of Thom Knoles, the pre-eminent master teacher of Vedic Meditation, and his network of teachers. For more than 30 years, Thom was personally trained and mentored by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who developed the Transcendental Meditation technique and brought it to the Western world.
Throughout 2015 I carried on consulting with health and wellness businesses whilst continuing my education, teaching more yoga as my knowledge and experience grew. I was accepted as one of a few to train for 4 months in the Himalayas with Thom Knoles to become a Master of the Vedic Tradition. I graduated in April 2016 on my 30th birthday, receiving the special recognition and blessing of the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, “King of the Yogis” and India’s highest authority in this tradition of meditation, one of only 12 teachers globally to receive this acknowledgement.
Today I focus on shifting and changing consciousness away from our fear-based, stressed ways of living, and empowering people to find greater happiness and fulfilment within themselves through Vedic Meditation. People come to me to learn the knowledge about these ancient techniques and I make it relevant to how people can thrive in their modern day lives using the tools, which ultimately enable us to be the best and brightest versions of ourselves. I teach internationally in London, LA, New York and Asia.
With your background in marketing consulting you are well positioned to advise new yoga teachers. What are your top tips?
Your story is what people connect to. For me, having a corporate background enabled me to get to where I am today teaching CEOs and businesses. Because I have that background people can relate to my story – I was that stressed out busy corporate girl and I changed my life, mind and body. I’m an expert in vedic meditation and yoga, but I can relate all of that in a practical way to help people in the corporate lifestyle.
Teachers need to get super clear on their story, their unique selling point or awesomeness point and then use that throughout their marketing, branding and story because people will connect to that and then they will think “Oh she’s human, I want to go and speak to her because I’ve been through that situation.”
Ultimately, as yoga teachers and people in wellness, we’re branding ourselves. So this is why you have to do the internal work to understand what it is that makes you happy. What do you love?
I created my whole brand in business around nature because I love nature and also teach people to connect internally to their human nature. It’s about getting super clear of who you are and to then weave all that beautiful uniqueness through your work, because that’s what differentiates you from another yoga teacher. It’s who you are, there is only one of you.
Can you recommend some resources to help people get clearer on their story and translate that into branding?
I signed up to Marie Forleo’s business school, even though I had business experience the whole online game was new to me and I needed to learn how to leverage my skills and other people’s skills on an online domain. She really breaks things down, even if you have no business experience she does it in a really accessible way. She does videos, podcasts and she’s a resource full of connections in terms of things like books.
“The 4 Hour Work Week” springs to mind; Marcus Buckingham’s “Now, Discover Your Strengths” is a good one for doing some self-reflective questionnaires and it starts to give you the clarity on what your unique strengths are.
Marie Forleo has exercises that you can do, and they’re certainly exercises that I did with my clients intuitively, about sitting down with somebody and saying “When you are most happy and most inspired, what are you doing? Where are you? Who are the people that you are talking to?”. From there you can start to see trends and I did that with myself using just a sheet of paper.
How can someone know if they’re following their true intuition?
My biggest tip is to meditate because if you’re not connecting with your truest nature and your truest intuition, which meditation allows you to do, then how do you know whether your intuition is guiding you correctly or whether a stress or a fear based resistance is guiding you?
Stress blocks us from realising our fullest potential. Our incorrect and ingrained mental ideas and fears about ourselves stop us from becoming everything we know deep down we can be. For me, the work on reversing this, starts with the mind. Learn how to de-excite the mind from its habitual pattern of chatter, and the body will spontaneously follow into a deep level of rest. When the mind and body are sufficiently rested, the natural healing process can occur – the negative impressions of accumulated stress can be released, freeing ourselves with it.
In that process you get more connected to that intuition in your heart, your essential truest nature and that is your guiding compass. So the way that you can connect with that is to de-excite, create space, meditate, go to a yoga class, have that time with your body and your breath. Have that space away from that constant “doing” and start connecting with “being” because the foundation of all growth and intuition, creativity, intelligence lies in being. That’s what we are actually trying to access in our meditation and yoga practices – a state of being.
You went from seeing yourself in a long-term corporate career to someone who has embraced entrepreneurship in multiple ways, from consulting entrepreneurs to independently teaching first yoga and then meditation. What’s your view on entrepreneurship now?
I see entrepreneurship as one of the biggest windows into the soul that there is. Choosing to be an entrepreneur is choosing a path of continual growth and progression both personally and professionally. It’s often the case in wellness or as a yoga teacher that it’s just you, your message and the gifts you want to share and help people with. Then your business is you. You have complete freedom to be the person you want to be, explore ways to help others, help yourself grow, challenge yourself daily.
For my own journey, self-enquiry through meditation and yoga and also having this entrepreneurship journey in tandem with that has been an amazing dynamic. Something would come up with me starting or progressing as an entrepreneur and I would use yoga and meditation to get awareness and insights into maybe where I was carrying old behavioural patterns or perceptions about myself. It was basically my fear talking, and it was completely incorrect.
I think entrepreneurship is definitely a challenge but it’s also the most rewarding challenge that you will ever take on. For me it was a real journey about finding my voice because I was always happy to be the brains and the energy behind other people’s visions. I went from there to stepping out on your own to stand up for yourself and say “I’m here and this is what I believe in.”
The Present Of Yoga’s takeaways:
Mindset – to be commercially successful as a yoga teacher, it’s advantageous to think like an entrepreneur. Someone who builds their brand carefully and who considers how they present themselves to their customer base.
Resources – it is useful to check out resources from outside the yoga world, such as business courses and books, to learn specific skills to help you share yoga with more people.