When was the last time you stopped and took a deep breath? This enlightening conversation with Georgia Hicks discusses the importance and value of that simple action. Filled with life hacks, Yogic wisdom, insights from a dance oriented upbringing and discussion of how Yoga changed Georgia’s approach to the world around us; this conversation is a must read for everyone, especially us perfectionists. Those who find that the stresses of life are overwhelming them more than they wish will gain so much from this post (I know I did). I couldn’t be more excited to share such profound thoughts from someone who is one of the wisest people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with.
Disclaimer* all of Georgia’s amazing insights could not be put into a blog post word for word. Hence, some of her answers have been slightly condensed with her approval.
What is your current profession?
I’m a Yoga teacher, however I prefer to think of my job as a ‘Yoga facilitator.’ I believe Yoga is a natural state of being that’s already within everyone, not something I can ‘give’ to students. I feel I facilitate the experience for people, but it is really just them remembering what is already within themselves.
What is your background with dance and Yoga?
At 3 years of age I began ballet, and like many children I also trained in jazz, contemporary broadway, musical theatre, and just about any other style you can think of. I also did competitions for both troupes and solo and did Ballet Summer/Winter Schools in every school holidays. I have such amazing memories of my life in dance, but there was also a darker side to it. For me, the darker side presented as perfectionism and unrealistic aesthetic pressures. From eight years old I was told outright I would never make it in ballet due to not having the right look (such as my knees being the ‘wrong shape’.) I struggled with meeting myself in the mirror with compassion no matter my appearance and the perfectionist mentality of dance followed me out of the studio into other aspects of life. I had this feeling that I had to achieve in order to be successful or to see value within myself.
I stumbled across Yoga by chance when we had a substitute teacher for our high school P.E. class. The teacher taught an Ashtanga Yoga class that day and though many of my peers couldn’t stop giggling at references to ‘Mulabandha’ (the pelvic floor lock) there was something about it that just felt right for me. I was moving, but without the sense of restriction I had felt in ballet and a sense of calm seemed to fill me. Since this was my only exposure to Yoga, I then proceeded to stalk down the teacher’s details and began catching a bus at 5:30am every day to take his class on the other side of the city! But after a while, I realised that there were in fact other styles of Yoga and other teachers and so began my journey into the deep world of Yoga.
Looking at old ballet videos for example of Margot Fonteyn, you can see that some ballerinas may not have had the ‘perfect’ facility or technique, but they had a way of moving the audience. In the same way, I don’t see Yoga as just doing the poses ‘correctly’, it’s a way of life and a way of connecting to a deeper feeling and meaning beyond the surface level. Yoga has supported me through all the ups and downs of life. It has been something that I can always come back to, even if it’s just the breath, the presence, or the trust in my body.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword, so if you could scribe one word to use as your weapon in life what would it be?
You can only control the present moment. We often get anxious when thinking about the future, and when thinking about the past we may experience regret or guilt. That’s because the present and past are beyond our control. However, in this moment, even if it’s a difficult moment, we have everything we need. There are so many things in life that take us away from the now; stress, busyness, devices… But if we can even just press our feet into the ground for a second and take a breath, we may find we have all the confidence and capabilities we need to deal with whatever life throws us.
What perceived ‘failure’ has turned into your most helpful lesson on your journey thus far?
It’s not a specific memory, but for a very long time I allowed my people pleasing tendencies to have a lot of power over my life. That desire to please is still within me, and that is a big reason why I teach, I love helping others through Yoga. Over the years there have been quite a few incidents within my own family and friendship groups where I have been bluntly rejected. When I was younger I really struggled with that. I wanted to change myself to fit back into the mold of what I ‘should be’, but it can become quite dangerous when your inner value is based on outward approval. Your inner monologue can become ‘Did I get a good review?’ ‘Did lots of people clap for me?’ ‘Did many people come to my Yoga class?’ (Or whatever it is for you.) If the answer is ‘No’ then this can translate into ‘You’re not good enough’. I think having a few of those experiences (even though it was ugly and uncomfortable in the moment) made me turn back to myself and say ‘Yes, I am good enough’ and I want to do things because it feels good for me, not because someone else is going to give me a ‘gold star’. Through these experiences I came to realise that there is actually a lot of power in walking your own path even if it looks a little different to what we have been told is the conventional way. I believe that’s what’s led me to live this creative life. If I hadn’t stepped out of that mold of obligation and conventionality, I wouldn’t be creating this life which I love so much, I would probably be doing something I felt I ‘should’ be doing instead.
Do you have a favourite quote/poem/piece of art?
“Nothing is so pressing that it can not wait for a moment of breath”- T.K.V. Desikachar
This quote reminds me to keep coming back to my breath no matter the situation. When I catch myself in a stress mentality and not being present, I remind myself to just stop for a small moment and take a conscious breath. For me that breath feels like the ultimate tool in life.
You recently had a scary experience with a house fire. Did the mentality you just mentioned (of remembering the breath) help you in this situation?
Absolutely, the reason we practice Yoga is to develop tools that can be used in real life situations. It’s not about achieving the handstand, it’s about the experience of what you learn in the pose. If you can be in pigeon pose and instead of tensing and thinking ‘I hate this, this is so hard’, you can tell yourself ‘I can do this, I’m in control, I’ve got my breath’, that will mean when something uncomfortable happens off the mat you’ve got the same practice of controlling your mind and thoughts. Over the years, I’ve found myself able to respond rather than react. It has become an instinct to take that breath and say ‘Okay what’s happening around me?’ ‘What’s the next right thing I can do?’ I think that’s the beauty of a Yoga practice, more so than anything physical or aesthetic that we see on the mat.
You started your Yoga journey quite early on in life. What personal values do you feel this nurtured that aided your dance journey?
Yoga helped me with the concept of moving using intuition and initiating that movement from the inside out. My Yoga journey began just before my dance journey ended and this felt like a natural evolution. I saw many of my dancing peers lose connection to their body and movement when they stopped dancing, whereas Yoga allowed me to continue the joy of movement, without the pressure of conformity. The Yoga philosophy of ‘Listen to your body and do what your body needs in this moment’, was very different to what I had experienced in the past. I came to understand that pushing my body beyond its limits for the purpose of an external ‘look’ was doing more damage than good.
Your university studies were quite varied, can you speak to that experience…
I did a Bachelor of Arts, but my subjects were quite a mixed bag. I took gender studies, politics, drama, and journalism and tied them all together in a very non specific way. I believe we need to stop asking 18 year olds ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ Instead we should start asking ‘What are you interested in?’ ‘What are you curious about?’ A career will always come out of your curiosity and your passions. If we feel we have to study certain things and follow a path that’s been laid before us, we don’t get the opportunity to truly check in with ourselves and see what interests and excites us.
Between cello, dance, and Yoga, being creative seems to have been a constant in your life. Do you feel these endeavours helped you find art in the everyday aspects of life?
I feel creativity is a way of life, not a career. Creativity is finding different ways to deal with a typical situation; it’s the flair that you put into your home, it’s having the patience to deal with your children and see their way of life. I think it’s even that more holistic lifestyle where you go to the beach and actually look at and appreciate the waves, it’s a whole approach to life. Being artistic has truly helped my career when finding new ways to do things. For example, organising a retreat and developing interesting ways to make that experience deeper. But I feel you are always permeating creativity/art into everything you do.
Your insta is filled with amazing pics of you hanging out upside down. I know this has more benefits than just being great content. Can you speak to those benefits and how artists of all calibres could use ‘upside down time’ to their advantage?
Yoga always has physical, energetic, and mental layers. Inversions are very refreshing when you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or your head feels foggy. They also bring oxygen to the brain (making them great to do in study breaks to help you focus). Mentally, inversions help us shift perspective. Energetically it can be a feeling of release or surrendering. Physically an inversion takes the pressure off our circulatory system and is therefore very restorative. An inversion doesn’t have to be a handstand, it simply means having the head below the heart, this can be hanging your head down in a forward fold or downward dog, playfully cartwheeling in the grass, or it can be a Yoga pose such as a shoulder stand or headstand.
As a business owner and Mum, I’m sure free time can be a commodity. Are there any non-negotiables in your routine, no matter how pressed for time you are? If so, could you please elaborate.
I’d love to say 20 minutes of meditation every day or an hour yoga practice, but realistically as a Mum and business owner I don’t always get that. But something that is non-negotiable for me is time in nature. If I’m inside all day and particularly if I’m on an electronic device, I get this itchy feeling under my skin like I need to get outside for a bit. It may only be 10 minutes with my feet in the grass, playing in the sun with my kids, or breathing fresh air down the beach, but it is a must for me. One of the premises of Yoga is we are part of nature (‘Namaste’ means we are all one). To simplify, I really just feel that the same rules for the care of a houseplant applies to my own wellbeing… Nourish yourself, get some sunshine, drink some water, make sure you’ve got room to move and breathe… and you’re going to be okay!
One of my favourite sayings from your classes is “it’s a Yoga practice, not a Yoga perfect”. With the dance world being a place teeming with perfectionists, do you feel this mentality has relevance in that world?
I feel we need to keep asking ourselves what our purpose is for doing something. Is it just to look a certain way, or is to ‘achieve’ a certain pose? If so, is that external gratification truly sustainable for our internal happiness? Not really. We need to find a deeper reason for our practice. For example in the ballet studio, you may have fallen out of your fifth pirouette for the day but if you think of everything as a practice you can see this experience as a way to practice patience, self compassion, humility and to check in with how you can bring more balance to your life beyond the studio. In a Yoga class we might be physically practicing Warrior Two but really we are practicing strength, dedication and confidence. If we can remember this is why we come to class, then whether we ‘achieve’ a pose or not is totally irrelevant. I think we can apply this to anything in life. Why are we doing it? What can we learn from the experience?
COVID saw you really practice what you preach, and take the challenges of life in your stride. Seemingly overnight, you had to change the way you operated and move to ‘YWG online’. Can you speak to which of your qualities this called on, and if any ‘yogic mentalities’ guided you through that transition?
I think the Yogic mentality of non-attachment has been a really important lesson. It’s about doing the best we can in the moment, not about being attached to something being a certain way or having a certain outcome. This frees us up to enjoy more of life. Humility was also really important because again there was no perfect way to do it. When I first started online, the WiFi cut out, my phone was wonky and then people couldn’t hear me, so I had to learn how to deal with online hitches very quickly. The experience was a good reminder that everything that doesn’t work out is an opportunity to grow and since my learning curve has been huge! I think this time of COVID has also been a time of surrender, we really haven’t known what’s coming next. We’ve simply had to be present and trust in what we can do now without having it all figured out.
Raw honesty is so rare in today’s world (especially on SM), however your page is filled with meaningful and relatable content. What tools have you used to stay true to yourself and your experiences in such a conforming-pressured environment? The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve realised no one has a ‘normal’ life. If we feel we need to portray a bland/basic version of ourselves we miss out on so much of the ‘gold’. All people have unconventional and difficult lives in their own way and by opening up about my own experiences it invites others to open up about theirs and have a real conversation with me. By speaking my own truth, I unconsciously give other people permission to speak theirs. Yes, social media can be superficial, but by not placing the filter on my own life I’ve been able to create some beautiful deep connections that wouldn’t have been possible without this platform.
Did you notice any ways an artistic lifestyle is influenced by the lens of culture when you lived in Bali?
Most Balinese people do an offering ceremony twice a day. Experiencing this helped me find so much more appreciation of my own life. On one walk down the street I might see this ceremony more than 10 times and often it was someone sitting outside their tiny shop (hardly bigger than a car parking space) genuinely giving thanks with a big smile across their face. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness and an approach to life that we don’t see here. Here it’s always ‘What more can we have?’ ‘What more can we do?’ and ‘Where are we lacking?’ Whereas there they might not have a lot, but they find all these little ways to bring gratitude into their lives. I believe this to be an artistic way of life. I now have an offering ceremony spot in the front of my house. I find a lot of joy and art in arranging it.
*An offering ceremony involves an offering box with some rice to symbolise being thankful for the food you eat, a sprinkle of water to be thankful for the nourishment you get from the earth, and incense on top which is to symbolize fire and the warmth of the sun.
Will you be taking any lessons from this crazy pandemic time with you when things go back to ‘normal’? If so, why?
Definitely. I will be carrying the realisation that nothing is in my control. I remember buying a year planner at the start of 2020 and I had written in all the things I was going ‘to do’. Looking back on that now it seems pretty funny! I have to remember I am not in control, but in realising that I also takes the pressure off myself. If I’m not trying to control everything, I can just stop paddling upstream and finally enjoy the ride a bit more. COVID also taught me I don’t need to tick all the boxes on my to-do list. I don’t need to achieve all my goals within a year. There is time, I can give myself a little bit more space, and maybe life will actually be more enjoyable.
Can you speak to your personal understanding of a holistic approach to life?
It all starts with the breath. In Yoga, ‘Pranayama’ is a technique of breathing and it literally translates to the ‘control of lifeforce’. If we learn to control our breathing, when stressful situations happen we won’t spin out into intense emotion, but will have the ability to take back control. I believe everything in life comes from the ability to respond rather than react, and the breath helps facilitate this.
I love that your onlines studio includes an ‘off the matt’ section. Moving our bodies and connecting to our breath on the mat is amazing, but doing so in the mundane can prove challenging. Do you have any tips for this?
Yoga is all about alleviating stress. I often find myself practicing Yoga when I’m having a confronting conversation (which in the past I’ve really struggled with.) Now rather than muting my voice and getting apologetic or reactive, I’ll find myself grounding down into my feet, becoming present and feeling this real spaciousness between my words. I also try to become really present when listening to that other person. Confrontational conversations don’t scare me anymore and that in itself is a practice of Yoga. You may be stuck in traffic and freaking out about how late you’re running, but Yoga gives you the tools to remember “Nothing is so pressing it can’t wait for a moment of breath”. No one said life wouldn’t be stressful, but if in those moments of stress we can find that quiet peaceful place within us, not outside us, then we are always in control.
What ways would you like to see readers’ minds expand with this interview?
You can’t fail if you listen to your instincts. I hope readers realise they don’t have to walk along a path that has been paved for them. They don’t have to achieve or succeed in the way that they have been told. They’ll actually go a lot further if they can take a few quiet moments each day just to check in with their bodies and minds. There is so much power in that realisation.
You can find Georgia on IG @yogawithgeorgia, email her at
email@example.com or check out her website at https://www.yogawithgeorgia.com.au/
Featured picture credit: Britt James (@_in_the_flow_)