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Hello, it's Elizabeth Day here, and welcome to this one off special mini series of how to fail.
Now, one of the things that you wonderful listeners have repeatedly asked me to do is to feature normal people as guests on the podcast. But of course, there's no such thing as a normal person.
We are all unique and interesting and resilient and contradictory and loving and wise and funny and sad and experienced in our own particular ways. We all have our stories to tell. So in the next four episodes, I'm doing something slightly different. You'll hear from people who aren't necessarily household names about who they are and the moments that shaped them.
You'll hear from them about what it means to live victoriously. It's a different format from usual.
We're not discussing three failures, but we are talking about resilience and what it means to live a fulfilled life. We're talking about difficulties that have been overcome, lessons that have been learned, gratitude that has been earned, and the joy of celebrating the every day. This is how to fail, as you've never heard it before. Ordinary people, extraordinary stories for weeks for different lives, because we can learn from everyone if we just listen carefully enough. This week's guest is Rebecca Anderson Davies.
I'm Rebecca Anderson Davis, 34 years old, and I am an investment banker, stroke, yoga practitioner, stroke, Instagram, a stroke mother slash author as well as author.
Yes, I should add that onto the list.
Rebecca is so lovely to have you on the podcast. Yeah. As you rightly identify there, you do a lot of different things. And I'm super interested in how an investment banker becomes a yoga sensation on Instagram.
And as I mentioned, you've just published your first book, The Book of Yoga Self Practice.
So tell me about why you wanted to publish a book about self practice specifically.
It very much links back to the fact that I'm very busy doing all sorts of stuff, most of which involves being in an office for a while, not these days, but normal life, extended periods of time. And so when I fell in love with yoga kind of five years ago, I was working even kind of crazy hours and self practice really became the way I could consistently fit yoga into my life. I learn in classes and I love going studios and things, but even in central London and one hour class would kind of require a two hour time commitment because you've got to travel, you've got to get changed and, you know, all that kind of practical stuff.
Whereas being able to roll out a mat in my kitchen and as in Australia will attest to with my cats, was a way I could sneak five, 10, 20, 45 minutes and sometimes bigger chunks of time without having to travel or having my needing my schedule to fit in with studios. And so it became the way that I could really fit yoga consistently into my life. And I learned to, you know, through lots and lots and lots of trial and error.
And when I did my teacher training, I pitched up with pretty strong self practice and was very surprised to see that that wasn't the vibe amongst my teacher training that most people practiced in studios. And over time, I just got more and more questions through my Instagram community of kind of how I knew what to do. And so I started teaching workshops, which I loved but wasn't very sustainable for me from a time thing either. And so I thought I'd put it into a book.
Did I just hear a cat behind you?
Yes, they're both they're both in a dangerously like my cat is also behind me sneezing.
So we might have a whole Kasauli, you know, back seat. It's so interesting.
I love following you on Instagram because I've been doing yoga for how many years now? For about seven years. And I always went to classes a bit like you and then locked down, forced me to change that. And I started doing a lot of Zoome classes and OnDemand classes. But what I like about what you do is that you meet yoga unintimidating. And I think so many people are intimidated by the idea of rocking up to class, never having done it before, being surrounded by all these gorgeous glamazon and Lululemon leggings and everyone knowing what to do and then sort of being stuck on the edge, not understanding any of the Sanscrit postures.
So how important was it for you to attack that idea of yoga being exclusive and intimidating? Very important.
And that's why I kind of started my yoga Instagram community. So I have my account and then I have a community account called yoga s practice because Instagram got me into and kind of supported me as I fell in love with yoga. But that kind of six or 12 months are really, really hard because, you know, I was in my late 20s, I was recovering from a nasty bike accident and I couldn't touch my toes. I couldn't get press up like I'm not a naturally sporty person, as it were.
And even I felt kind of excluded. And to be very frank, like I am slim, I am white, I am what a lot of yoga Instagram looks like. And yoga? S practice is really about normal people doing normal practices, which don't involve putting your leg behind your head or having a beautiful beach to film on or all of that stuff. And so I really I struggled with it and I have a lot of those privileges. And so I really, really wanted to kind of show that this is accessible for everybody, no matter what body you're in, no matter what you look like, no matter what level of practices, and also no matter whether you can commit full time to being dedicated to your yoga practice, you can't travel to India, you work in an office or you work for a big corporate.
You can't be vegan. We can all commit to these practices in different ways.
And at least, you know, from the study that I've done and I will continue to do, I do believe that still authentic towards the practice of yoga, one of the things that I love that you say is practice, not perfection.
And I wonder how hard you find that, because as someone who is incredibly professionally successful in such a high pressure environment, I imagine you're a bit of a perfectionist in that side of your life. So how difficult is that for you?
It was so it was it still is hard, but at the beginning, I mean, it was crushing. And I when I started, I was recovering from. I got hit by a van cycling to work, and so I had quite like this cat and I had quite a really clear cut reason to go to yoga, but I could only manage one class a week because intellectually and emotionally, it was so stressful for me to be so awful at something.
You know, I designed my life around getting rid of all the things I was bad at and getting paid for the things I was great at. And here I was worst in the room and deeply, deeply embarrassed about it. And while now I have a reasonably advanced practice, it's been so humbling having been pregnant and had a baby and recovering, I think it's something that's very especially important for women because whether you're pregnant or not. But our bodies change so much more on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis than men do.
And I just think it's such an important thing to deliberately practice that experience of change in your body and in your mind. And so, yeah, it was a lot harder than it is now, but it's still something that trips me up on the regular.
Tell me more, if you don't mind, about that bicycle accident that you had.
So you were working very, very long hours, as I understand it, and cycling to and from work was your way of getting in the necessary exercise that you needed for your mental health, is that right? Yeah.
I mean, I've been cycling for six months when I had the accident. So up until then, I've been kind of dabbling in the odd spin class, yoga class, whatever, but nothing consistent. And I was in my late 20s, my work was starting to kind of level out a bit. I used to do the 100 hour weeks and the nightclubs till five a.m. kind of stuff.
I didn't have to be in that person. Oh my goodness. It was hard but fun.
But, you know, life is changing a little bit and I wasn't doing that anymore. And so cycling turned from what seemed like a good idea at the time. And then, yeah, I just got hit by a white van and it was a very slow mo accident. But I broke my collarbone and did a whole bunch of damage to my right shoulder. I'm right handed. The big stuff healed very quickly. And I was back on my bike after six weeks, but soft tissue damage.
I went to physio. I studiously did none of the homework that my physio gave me because who does physio homework? And six months later, I still couldn't lift my right arm above my shoulder. And I wasn't even 30 at that point. And I need to fix this and say my physio was like, why didn't you try yoga? And that's kind of how it all began.
The thing that struck me there was that after this horrific accident, that must have been really terrifying and painful on many levels. You said that you were back on your bike within six weeks.
Yeah, it's not just you. Is that your mindset?
Very much so, yeah. Kind of. I'm fine. Dust myself off and keep going. It's kind of the lesson that much to my deep seated fear, the universe regularly is still trying to teach me. A couple of years after the bike accident, I had another health crisis at multiple bilateral pulmonary embolism, which I also kind of ignored. And these kind of things have happened time and time again for me. And it's something I'm working on with my yoga practice to listen.
I still have to listen more to my body. It's very challenging for me to kind of slow down and do what it's asking me to do, which is all the things all the time.
And that blood disorder that you mention was that as a result of you taking a lot of long haul flights for work, longer flights, definitely a piece of it.
As far as being on the pill, I've since found out I have a genetic disorder. And so I shouldn't have been on the kind of hormonal contraception that I was, but I didn't know. And so all of those things I've been doing for 10 years, I was very unlucky that it happened. But I was very, very lucky that I survived it and that it got caught. Piers have a 30 percent mortality rate. So I was super, super lucky.
But I ignored the symptoms of breathlessness and weight loss and things for a few months, which I think, again, comes back to this cultural societal expectation of womanhood and bodies and all that complex stuff. I was actually deeply embarrassed. I was practicing yoga at the time that this ethos of listening to your body, that I just kind of stormed through and ignored it. And it was a real catalyst for wanting to do my teacher training and kind of study beyond just the and the physical peace more because I realized I wasn't getting the message at that point.
And was this all before you were 30?
Yes. The accident happened a couple of years for ten. Thirty years of the year, I turned 30.
Wow. That is a lot of life to live through. How old do you feel inside? I mean, obviously, you look tremendously young, very young. But I often think that people have a different psychic age. How old do you feel?
I feel like my 30s suit me really well. I love being where I am in my career and like my marriage and having kids. And this feels like where I always wanted to be older, if you'd ask me any. Point before I was probably twenty one, how old I was, I would have told you I'll be 18 at my next birthday. So this feels like a nice bit of life, but I don't know how long that's going to last because ageism is also an interesting thing.
It was a lot for a few years, but I don't think it really compares to what a lot of people go through.
And it's interesting that you say your content where you are right now, because that's what yoga is all about.
It's about being in the present, which is one of the hardest things, even though it sounds so simple. You mentioned there that you took time off to do your teacher training. You took three and a half weeks off work. Why did you want to do the teacher training? Because you're not now making a living as a teacher. So why was it important for you to do that?
It's a really odd thing in yoga that one of the only ways to kind of deepen your knowledge and have a consistent in depth period to practice is to do a teacher training. And so it was kind of that or nothing, really. I would have loved to have gone on kind of an intensive and just learned and practiced, but it wasn't really available. And with hindsight, it gave me the confidence to start teaching. I taught regular class for a good few months before I was then too pregnant to do it.
And then I taught my workshops. And so it kind of it was fortuitous with hindsight. It gave me the confidence to teach, which then gave me the confidence to write the book.
And when you do teacher training, as well as understanding the poses and executing them, do they also teach you how to keep up that putter? Yeah, the doctor has to have throughout the class because I think that must be on the hardest things. Yoga teacher voice.
Yeah, great teacher training that will help you find the kind of teacher that you want to be and maybe is workshops rather than classes. And maybe you want to teach really fast dynamic flows or really slow and deep and meaningful classes like that's what a good teacher training should do. It should let you find your voice. But it's not an easy process to go through, I think for anyone is quite exposing to be with all these people that do it in such a different way to how you might do it.
So can you explain to me now what an average day is like for you? I mean, we're talking in the midst of the second lockdown, so I know that that will have changed things for you. But how do you apportion your time?
Six thirty in the morning, getting up and ready. And hopefully if my son's not sleeping in, I'll get a chance to see him first thing as well. So he's just over two.
And then these days we have our amazing nanny. So always full disclosure. I think it's very hard to do. My husband's got an amazing career as well, so it's very hard to do two careers and children without help. And so we have a lot of help. And then these days, rather than commuting, normally I'd be on the seven fifteen train into London. But these days I is that morning commute for quote unquote exercise. At the moment I'm broadly alternating between like a long walk one day and yoga the next day.
Then I'm at my desk from eight thirty till six ish, at which point I kind of dash upstairs and have an hour and a half with my son before he goes to bed and then evenings, either some work hours on my laptop, Instagram staff, or whatever's good on Netflix.
And what do you think Yoga has taught you about celebrating everyday moments? Because, as I said, you've been through a lot with the relatively young age. And I wonder if, having had those experiences, you now feel even more grateful to be living the life that you are?
Oh, 100 percent that practice of gratitude. And as you said earlier, kind of being in the moment is a practice. And it's so much of what my yoga has taught me that the comfort with discomfort, the comfort with kind of small repeated failures and it being okay and necessary to keep showing up. And then the bigger picture of, you know, I'm just so lucky that I can move my body in the way that I can and that I've overcome the various health issues that I have and that I've got a space that I can practice and I can do my work from home.
And in a year where so many people can't and all of those things, it's interesting, like chatting to a lot of the senior people that I've worked with. You've kind of seen my career developed. They see the impact that it's had on me. You know, I was very, very highly strong and very impatient and still a bit impatient. I was holding on to work and my career so, so tightly. And my yoga is just calmed that whole process down and that I still care deeply about it.
I'm still deeply ambitious, but I'm just not holding onto it by the fingernails anymore. Yoga has taught me that there is a process and there is a journey. And I just need to keep showing up and building a life and time and space to be able to keep showing up. And actually, if I focus on that bit, then the outcomes will come. If I'm. Miserable, if I'm unhealthy, it gets harder to go to work, it gets harder to turn up on my yoga mat, so actually taking time to practice yoga or to be with my family or if a big work project is going on to go and be at work and get really stuck into that and not feel guilty about missing that time with my son once in a couple of weeks, all of those things are OK, that I'm a complex person and it's OK to want all of these different things in my life and to need them at different times in different quantities.
Oh, I love that so much. I often say that life is texture. It's a combination of all of these things. And you don't have to be striving for a perfect balance all of the time. It's OK for one thing to take precedence over another, and it's OK for you to reassess and not beat yourself up about that.
That thing that you said about life being a process and a journey and having to confront a series of failures and getting comfortable with that discomfort is so profound. I think so.
Can I ask you off the back of that, how do you dial down the inner critic when you are doing yoga or when I'm doing yoga?
I should say sometimes it takes me a bit to get to that point where I'm not comparing myself to other people who either are there in class, in physical form, or are just like in my head, taunting me that I don't feel good enough, that I sort of beat myself up when I've done a bad pose, quote unquote, bad pose.
How do you build on that in a critique which was so used to listening to the rest of our lives?
So hard, isn't it? I still feel like that often, I guess comes back to why I kind of wrote the book. I kind of try and trick myself a lot into these things. And there was before I had my son, when I had a little bit more free time, I used to keep a yoga journal and I found that really powerful because I was totting up the time on my mat or the number of times I practiced that week.
And so my focus was on the practice and not on the content of the practice. Like, have I done something today, even if it was only five minutes and how can I kind of trick myself? Or in the beginning of lockdown, I got an Apple Watch and I got really obsessed with calories on my Apple Watch.
And I was forcing myself to do these like hyper dynamic yoga practices, even though we had a lot less childcare and a lot less help on the house. And work was crazy because it was a financial crisis blowing up and I wasn't in a great place mentally or physically as like, gosh, I need to stop. And I was still too addicted to the Apple Watch. I was like, you know what? I'm going to go for a walk first and burn some calories and then I can be on my mat and just do yoga.
It's why I use Instagram like it says things I don't care to admit about the kind of external motivators that I have as a person and being very ego driven. But Instagram is a personality hack for me. Wanting something to share on Instagram helps me get on my on days that I struggle and, you know, interesting.
I hopefully I help people think through this in the book. But if you can work out who you are and why you're doing it, then you can use the good bits and the bad bits in your personality to help you get to where you want to be.
That's such good advice. I'm a big believer that fuel is fuel and that you need to use whatever you need to use to get you to a place where you don't want to be. But you know, you should be.
Yeah, yeah. It shouldn't be punishment and you should enjoy it. And, you know, I think we all get caught up. And again, I think this is a pressure that women have more than than anyone on body image and looking a certain way. And, you know, especially on social media, it's not a hip workout. It's you know, hopefully it's not a workout that's just a side benefit. But at the same time, if you can kill two birds with one stone and you get a bit of sweat and you feel the burn a bit and that's good for you and that motivates you to practice and awesome.
What do you think is the thing that you're proudest of in your life?
Edness hands down my marriage for sure. Because you got married very young didn't you. I was super young.
I was twenty four when I got married and my husband and I had already been together for five and a half years at that point. So we got together when I was eighteen on his 20th birthday. So we celebrated our wedding anniversary in August.
We've been together for over 50 years and thank you and nothing else I do would be possible if it wasn't for him and the relationship that we have in so many ways, we upend expectations. I'm the breadwinner. I don't cook. He does all the cooking or the laundry. So from the outside we can look like we're doing it the alternative way round. But from the inside, it doesn't feel like that at all. It's an incredibly equal partnership that enables both of us to do a bunch of really cool stuff, including raise our son.
And did he know that you wanted to get married young? Because, again, you sound like someone who has a strategy in place and I kind of plan for life.
And I wondered if that was. Part of your plan? Yeah, I'm definitely a planner and actually it's something I've spent a lot of time stepping back from because there was at one point a 20 year spreadsheet.
And I used to like to go around with ONOE. But yeah, you know, my parents met university and got married in their mid 20s. That felt like a very normal life plan for me. And when I met I call him Mr. Rad on my Instagram. Well, I say I call him. That's what my followers christened him. And so when I met him, it just was very it felt very easy to do.
Yeah. So I guess it was part of the plan.
Well, you've executed it flawlessly. Do you still struggle with certain poses? And can you tell me how to do a headstand without having to do it against a wall?
I definitely struggle with certain poses and there's still stuff that I could do before I had my son that I can't do now because I have an interesting look.
I have less time. And to be frank, my physical practice is slow it down on the priority list right now, like I'm in a different time of my life and yoga is going to be a lifelong thing for me. And maybe this 10 years isn't going to be the point at which it's top of the list. And that's okay. Yeah, there's a whole bunch of stuff. I broke my collarbone again, messing around with a handstand that I had absolutely no business doing nice for our staff.
I can't do a handstand for the life of me and am broadly too afraid to try.
So yeah, there's all sorts of stuff that I can do and I don't spend a lot of time trying to do either. But yes, I definitely can help you with a headstand. It's possible.
I think sometimes I just get in my head about it because I can do it really easily. Other times always against the war, by the way.
But sometimes I just get really worried and I'm not and I just can't do this. I can't.
I learn headstand the Iyengar way and a Nyanga, they use walls. It's okay to use a wall. Thank you. So I'm not failing then.
Well, I guess it comes back to, you know, what are you trying to achieve with the headstand? And it's the thing I love about headstand is that you really have to be in headstand when you're in headstand there, not think about anything else like it is such a meditative pose. And if you're there for thirty seconds and minutes and you're in it, then you've done it, you've achieved headstand.
Does it matter if you're using or was so great, so great talking to you. What if someone is listening to this. They've never done yoga. They think it's really smog and they're also worried about how to start. What would your advice be for starting other than buying your book, the book of Yoga Self Practice, which is brilliant and gives you lots of ideas for workouts?
I'm I'm so proud of the book. And there is actually little a very pretty picture at the end of the book that kind of describes the different types of yoga and helps people think about the different buckets that they fall into, depending on whether you want something very creative, very fast, slow, dynamic.
My key piece of advice is that you, I guess, spending a little bit of time thinking about who you are and what motivates you. The threshold that you're trying to find is how can I find something that I'm going to keep coming back to? Because as you know, those first six months ish, at least really hard, especially if you're not twenty one and you haven't grown up doing dance or gymnastics, if you sit at desk most of the day, like getting onto a yoga mat for the first time is is really hard.
So have a little bit of a research and think about the different types of yoga and what you think will suit you best as opposed to what you think will burn the most calories, will get you the most fit or whatever those other goals could be. And then my other piece of advice is to keep trying different teachers until you find the one that you just click with. There are so many and I wish there was a better way of finding them, but there are so many different teachers who will teach the same type of yoga in a totally different way.
And once you find your teacher and your teachers will also change at different points in your life. I started practicing Iyengar and then I moved on to really kind of dynamic, creative and yassa, and now I'm kind of a little bit in between. But finding a teacher that will help you self practice is life changing. And I say this in the book, it's very, very hard to start from a self practice. Most people will need a teacher, impersonal, virtual to help them to start off.
I'd like to draw this docos actually by reading a quote from Michael Asinger from his book The Untethered Soul, which you include in your book. And it just so struck a chord with me. And he writes, You said to your mind, I want everyone to like me. I don't want anyone to speak badly of me. I want everything I say and do to be acceptable and pleasing to everyone. I don't want anyone to hurt me. I don't want anything to happen that I don't like.
And I want everything to happen that I do like. Then you said now mind figure out how to make every one of these things a reality, even if you have to think about it all day and night. And of course. Your mind said, I'm on the job, I will work on it constantly. Why did you choose to include that quote, Rebecca?
Oh, that's my favorite quote in the book. I'm so pleased you picked it is. Oh, I like that book. Anyone get my book, go and read Michael Basinger's The Antidote. It's so it's so good because that was where I was. And to get me wrong, I am still striving for success in publishing a book is a huge life goal.
I'm really excited by it. But I was trying to solve for all of these things that were outside of my control. And yoga is such a great tool and books like Michael's to show you that what is in your control and what is not in your control. And strangely, most of us ask our minds to try and fix all this stuff all the day and it's impossible. And then we wonder why we're too tired. People love to ask me how I find time to do all of this stuff.
And I think it's because I learn from quotes like that. And I learned to let the stuff that I couldn't control go. And I had a lot more emotional capacity to do stuff I do want to do, like writing books and running around after a toddler.
This is going to be quite a weird final question, but I think you'll appreciate where it's coming from, given the tone of this podcast, which is you were knocked off your bike by a van and it led you to this point. Are you in a way grateful now that that happened?
I'm deeply, deeply grateful for it. It was the best, worst thing that well, I have two best worst things that happened in my life. And the bike accident was the second and the first one was not getting a place. Well, I got a place at Cambridge, but I didn't get my level grades. And I ended up at Nottingham and I met my husband on the very first day of university. So I'm I'm a huge believer in things going wrong in the best possible way, things going wrong in order that they can then go.
Right, exactly. You have been a joy to interview. Thank you so, so much for coming on my podcast.
No, I'm thrilled. It's a real honour. I'm a huge fan. I listen to every single episode and it's very humbling. I love that I get to talk about it all day. So, yeah, another big life take to be here. So thank you so much.
Will you listen to your own episodes? That's. I'm sorry. I will. Yes, you will. OK, I thank you so, so much. You're so sweet. Thank you.
Thank. If you enjoyed this episode of How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, I would so appreciate it if you could rate review and subscribe. Apparently it helps other people know that we exist.