Stepping off the corporate ladder with yoga teacher Zoe Lavender

If you’ve read my previous interviews with Emily and Claudia, you’ll already know that I have some pretty awesome ladies in my life. Well, today I get to introduce you to yet another of my insanely talented friends – Zoe!

Zoe is one of my oldest friends and we have plenty of shared passions, from Brandon Boyd and dancing in rock clubs to yoga and travel. When she moved to Zurich for work I was obviously sad to see her go, but seeing her flourish there has given me so much joy (that and I get to go visit her in a beautiful country!).

I’ve been right there with her, watching in awe as she navigated moving to a new country, marrying the love of her life and making the incredible decision to step off the corporate ladder and into life as a yoga teacher.

In this interview she talks us through how she did it, why she did it and why the universe has big ears…

To start with, can you give us a brief description of your career up until now?

For the last 10 years I have worked in marketing and communications for two international companies, in the UK and in Zürich. I have a Masters in Strategic Communication and also spent some time working in finance. So, in summary… corporate, corporate and a bit more corporate 😉

What are your career plans for this year?

Quite different from what I’ve been doing before! As of 2017 I started my career as a self-employed yoga teacher here in Zürich. I have been teaching part-time alongside my corporate job since doing my yoga teacher training in 2015 and decided for 2017 to focus on teaching full-time!

Why yoga teaching?

Yoga is a huge part of my life. I have been practicing on and off for over 10 years, but I really “clicked” with my practice in 2012, so around five years ago.

During my corporate career days yoga was immensely helpful for me. It calmed me down, got me out of my stress-filled head and taught me body awareness. It sounds a cliché, but when I started I really couldn’t even touch my toes, but with time I became aware of the muscles in my body, how to move mindfully and how to get to know my body and my mind.

It started off purely as a physical practice for me, but then I could see quite quickly the de-stressing and calming influence it was having. Then, once I moved to Zürich and found my teacher Shelby, I had my eyes opened to some of the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the practice. And from there my passion grew even more… workshops, books, online yoga classes, home practice, meditation, until finally I did my yoga teacher training in 2015.


I have found such immense benefits from my yoga practice and some of those benefits can be accessed with actually quite little time investment, which is great for the many busy people out there who could really benefit from yoga.

Because of that and because there are so many aspects to yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga for elderly, for kids, therapeutic yoga etc.), I really believe anyone can benefit from it. Whether you do two sun salutations a day, sit and meditate for five minutes every morning, or practice an occasional breathing exercise (pranayama). THIS is all yoga.

It genuinely doesn’t matter what it looks like or consists of. Focusing on your breath, moving mindfully and practicing calming your mind from jumping from thought to thought. Any practice you find that helps you do this is yoga. I believe the physical aspects of yoga are the more accessible ways for busy-minded people in the western world to get out of their minds and into their bodies.

As a society, we are sometimes very unaware… we reach for our phones without thinking, we can’t go anywhere without a podcast on (I know this because I also live this!!) but on those occasions when I come back to my body and really arrive in the moment, I feel so much better and calmer and more trusting. And I know many other people would benefit from that feeling too. So I hope with teaching people I can help them find their version of yoga, no matter what it “looks” like or what it consists of.


How did you come to the decision to step off the corporate ladder and pursue something totally different?

Making a big life change is super scary. Generally, there are so many expectations in our culture. What to study, where to study it, when it’s time to get a real job, when it’s time to settle down, when it’s time to get married, when it’s time to have a baby, etc. There are literally thousands of expectations for how to live a perceived “normal” life.

And on paper I have without doubt been following that “path”, I did the university thing (great fun), I did the graduate job thing (made some friends for life), I got married (and truly loved celebrating my love with my nearest and dearest). But as I’ve got a bit older and definitely through my yoga practice I question things more…

What makes me happy? What is the meaning of all this? What is important? What is viewed as important externally but not actually important to me?

So many questions. And these questions in time led me to think about wanting to do something different.

I love to work, I love to meet people, plan projects, achieve things. I am pretty type-A in that respective. But I realised at a certain moment that my current career path was not what I wanted anymore. It used to be. Big time. I had huge “traditionally corporate” ambitions. And then in what almost felt like an overnight change, I decided, I didn’t want that anymore.


So I am now six months into this new chapter and it is unbelievably scary and perceived by many to be a massive risk. But I got myself sorted, I took informed decisions, I had my savings behind me, the support of my family and closest friends. And in the end, because I wasn’t anywhere near happy in my previous journey and knew I didn’t want the next step on that path, I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t have anything to lose. In summary, I took a well-informed, type-A, list-filled leap into the unknown.

Even now after writing these paragraphs I want to add a million caveats like: “but let’s see how it goes”, “it’s just an experiment”. And really, I do believe these “caveats” to be true and I don’t ever want to feel bound to my choice.

And I don’t think anyone else should. I will decide to do something and then crack-on. And then one day priorities may shift for any one of us, or we may get an urge to make a change and then for me at least, I’ll make a million lists, do a ton of research and make another informed choice. And that is also, completely OK! And all part of the journey.

How do you think moving to Zurich has shaped your choices?

Yoga has been a huge part of my life here in Zürich. Within three weeks of arriving in the city I sought out an English-speaking studio and was lucky enough to meet my teacher Shelby Mcdermott who has massively influenced my love of the practice, and more than anything she was the one who encouraged me to look past the physical asana to the philosophy, history and really to some of the bigger questions… the ones that if you think about in a philosophical moment may make you go “wooooaaaah”. Meeting her was a huge moment in my relationship with yoga.

On another level, moving to Zürich has been a massive adventure. My boyfriend (now husband!) was keen to live abroad again having already spent a year living in Germany in 2006/2007 and when the opportunity came up to move with my job we jumped at the chance.

For a while we thought we’d have some time living apart between UK and Zürich, but in the end we both moved to Zürich within 24 hours of each other and I still remember to this day standing at the window in our new apartment seeing him walk round the corner for the first time with his big back-pack on! The adventure had begun.

Diving into this life adventure of course felt like we were taking a risk by giving up our life in the UK, but at that time we didn’t have any of the responsibilities yet which would have made it a bit scarier.

I am quite a risk-averse person by nature but moving to Switzerland really did feel like it was worth the risk. I always knew that if it didn’t work out that we had enough money saved to one side to get us home quickly, and I think that was the buffer and contingency plan I needed to make it feel less risky (see me, always with my back-up plans!).

Zürich also opened my eyes a bit more to the importance of quality of life. The culture here can be very hard-working but generally society is very family orientated. Travelling is encouraged and celebrated and experiences shared. Enjoying the mountains, the lakes and exploring is part of the psyche, at least here in Zürich. And this spirit of family, enjoying life has been a bit contagious. In the end, I think this perspective has trickled down into other areas of my life, such as my career.


What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career change?

My biggest piece of advice is listen to your inner voice. Meditate, journal, chat with friends, a therapist, mentor, whoever it may be and if needs be, give it time to settle in YOU and get to know what you want and how it makes you feel.

There is a ridiculous amount of noise around us about “living your dream”, “following your passion”, that can be very consuming. Hell, I am consumed by it too. But I think listening to yourself and combining that with some serious research, number crunching and practical experience to learn about your new possible career path will help you make the final decision.

I also believe in putting things out into the universe, tell people your plans, ask advice from people who’ve already done it, and in my experience, opportunities just start to come. My yoga teacher David always says “the universe has very big ears”. I promise you it really does.

Also, I know that this yoga teaching path may not be my path forever, maybe it’ll take me in a different direction, maybe I’ll want to balance it with other work for financial reasons, or who knows what may happen. But that is my other advice to anyone considering a big change, try and find a balance between being fully focused on what you want but also, not so focused that you aren’t OK with things evolving and shifting as they are meant to.

I think this is called trust 🙂 Trust that everything will be OK and whether you believe it or not (I definitely do), things really do happen for a reason.

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stepping off the corporate ladder


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