Chasing waves in Mexico

To start 2018 off right, I’m featuring one of my favorite yoga teachers in an aspiring interview.

Hood River local, Victoria Williams, is the perfect embodiment of the Sideways Approach message. Not only does she rip (standing sideways) on a snowboard and surfboard but she’s brave enough to follow her true passions and calling in this life.

Victoria left her career as a lawyer to study Blissology yoga and share the beautiful teachings with others. I love that she took time off to explore what really called to her and adopt a whole new way of living that includes travel, nature, simplicity and yoga.

When taking one of Victoria’s classes or just being in her presence you can tell that she truly lives what she speaks and believes. I admire Victoria’s courage to take a different path than what was originally planned and to live a life of meaning.

Honestly, if I wasn’t doing the mom thing I’d want Victoria’s life. Traveling around with her dog and man chasing waves and pow sounds pretty amazing. Not to mention her important work of helping others unwind and slowdown from their hectic lives.

Connecting with herself, her community and nature on a daily basis is a beautiful and inspiring way to live. Read the full interview below and find out what Victoria’s doing down in Mexico right now.

You studied Blissology yoga, what is the philosophy behind this practice?
That ultimately our yoga practice is about connection – to our own true selves, to our communities, and to Nature. The practice we do on the mat is a way to deepen that connection. It’s a recognition that yoga becomes much more meaningful when we’re not just practicing for our own individual physical or mental benefit, but to access the energy within that enables us to be a positive force in the world.

Before becoming a yoga teacher, you were a lawyer. What made you decide to leave your law career?
I still think the legal profession is a really noble one. I just came to the realization that I don’t enjoy conflict,and so much of the conflict and negativity I was experiencing in my litigation practice seemed so unnecessary and draining. And it was harder than I thought to feel like I was making an impact. Even when we “won” a case, the clients often felt frustrated about having to litigate in the first place, or that it took so long and cost so much money. Ironically my law career is really what directed me to yoga. The law firms where I worked hired yoga teachers to teach classes at the office to help with stress management. Those classes became little windows of clarity and I started to seek more classes and read yoga books outside of work. And with the awareness that yoga inevitably brings, I realized that the lawyer life was not lighting me up.

Was the transition difficult or liberating?
Both! I decided I wanted to be a lawyer at a really young age, and so much of my life had been devoted to achieving that goal. It was really difficult to separate my identity from my profession. I remember meeting people during that transition time and dreading the question “what do you do?” because I no longer had a ready answer. And it was hard not to feel judged for walking away after all the time and money I invested in that path. But it was also exhilarating to start fresh and just explore what really makes me happy and gives me purpose.

Was it hard to slow down and unwind from the grind of a stressful career?
It was less difficult than I anticipated, partly because I made some big changes all at once that sort of forced a slowdown. After years of city life, my husband and I moved to a small mountain town (Leavenworth, WA) and my whole lifestyle changed. The pace there was much slower and I suddenly had amazing mountains and trails right outside my door. I spent a year or so exploring whatever called to me. I traveled around Hawaii for a couple months, worked at Stevens Pass Ski Resort and at a winery, and deepened my yoga practice with a new perspective – not just using it as an escape from stress.

What ultimately made you choose yoga as your path?
After realizing what a life-changing gift yoga was for me, I just felt really inspired to help pass it on to others, and I’ve always deeply respected the role of a teacher. And in a way teaching allows me to use some of the “lawyer skills” I enjoyed developing, like communication and persuasion. I feel like a big part of my task is convincing students of the power of connecting to their own heart and truth. And so often that means slowing down, which is really difficult for most of us!

Do you plan on teaching yoga long term or do you have other dreams you hope to chase?
I definitely plan to teach – and learn! – long term. After all those years of schooling I really embrace being a student, and there will always be more to learn about yoga. And I plan to develop and host more yoga retreats. They are such powerful opportunities for learning and deepening our practice. Going back to the difficulty of slowing down – it’s much easier when you’re in a different environment and away from your daily routines and stressors. It’s pretty magical to see people unwind the tension from their bodies and minds.

What drew you to live and teach in Hood River?
As it was for so many, it was initially the wind! My husband discovered kiteboarding and our visits became more and more frequent, especially as we realized how much else the Gorge offers. And I felt early on that this community is special. I love how strongly tied it is to the rhythms of nature. There’s a buzzing of energy when the snow is dumping or the swell is pumping. People get so lit up with excitement to shred and that passion is inspiring. I feel like there’s a real sense of gratitude and appreciation for where we live and that creates a great vibe.

Where’s your all-time favorite snowboarding destination and surfing destination?
I feel super lucky to travel often, but the Pacific Northwest really has my heart and I’m a major Canada-phile. I love the big mountain terrain in interior British Columbia for snowboarding and especially splitboarding. And Canada wins again for surfing! It’s cold, but Vancouver Island has stunningly beautiful coastline with giant gorgeous trees. And it’s one of the few places in the world where you might spot a bear on your way to surf! I love the wildness of it.

What brings the most meaning to your life?
Presence and connection. Committing daily to pause often to look around and notice how much beauty and joy surrounds us, and remembering that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It reaffirms that how we treat ourselves, and each other, and Nature, makes a difference.

What daily ritual or self-care practice can you not live without?
My teacher Eoin Finn says that the best thing we can do for our health isn’t actually yoga: it’s having an intimate connection with nature. In Blissology we do a practice called “nature appreciation.” You simply go outside, find something beautiful, and appreciate it, even for just a few minutes. The mantra is just “relax, breathe, observe, receive.” It creates a powerful, almost instant connection to a sense of awe and gratitude. It gets me out of my head and into my heart.

You have a retreat coming up in Mexico, tell us more about that.
I’m on my way to Baja now! I’m driving down with my husband and dog to surf and camp along my way to Todos Santos, the retreat location. It’s at an amazingly beautiful place on the Pacific side where the desert meets the ocean. I’m thrilled that it’s sold out and I can’t wait to share this experience with the group. We’ll dive deep into the heart of Blissology practice: presence, connection, Nature appreciation. I wanted to plan it for January so that we’ll all have this re-set to carry us into the rest of 2018.

And this Spring I’ll be teaching daily yoga at a women’s kite camp put on by pro kiteboarders Sensi Graves and Colleen Carroll. We’ll be on a quiet beach in a sweet little town on the Yucatan peninsula. Yoga is a pretty perfect complement for board sports and I love working with these inspiring women – they always attract awesome people.

The details on those and future retreats are on my website: www.yogawithvictoria.com

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