Women in Wellness – Laura Wilson of Edinburgh Community Yoga – Blog

Laura is the founding director of Edinburgh Community Yoga, a not-for-profit social enterprise with a focus on promoting accessible and inclusive yoga in underserved communities. She is also a Minded Yoga Therapist specialising in trauma-informed yoga for mental health. She has been practicing yoga since 2004 and teaching in mainstream settings as well as in collaboration with third sector organisations, NHS services and Criminal Justice Services since 2011.

Laura is a survivor, practitioner, yoga teacher and therapist, with a gift for understanding the complex relationship between the experiences we have, the subsequent patterning laid down in our nervous system and subconscious, and the interplay between body and mind in integrating these experiences. She is motivated by a deep faith in our ability to integrate, process, let go and reframe, and finds the rich tapestry of practices offered in yoga to be an extraordinary set of tools for navigating life as a human being.

Laura works therapeutically both in groups and one to one and presents on the importance of body/mind practices for stress management in workplace settings. She also writes and delivers trainings for yoga teachers interested in working in community settings.

Laura holds a BSc (Hons.) from London Contemporary Dance School, 2000

We caught up with Laura to learn more about her mission and experience as a woman in the wellness industry…

Tell us about yourself and Edinburgh Community Yoga…

ECY as an idea began in 2010 while I was working with looked after children and young people with emotional, social and behavioural challenges in a residential school. My eyes were opened to the mental health and addiction issues that are all too prevalent in Scotland. As I learnt about the effects of trauma on emotional development through this, I was in simultaneously dealing with my own substance misuse and mental health issues by practicing yoga. It occured to me that if yoga was easily accessible to all communities then it could be a useful resource for many people.

When I met my business partner Lorraine Close in 2014 we took the step to become a not-for-profit social enterprise and have been running community based projects ever since. Our work spans several populations including those in recovery from addiction, women affected by trauma, people living in prisons and secure psychiatric hospitals, people with long term health conditions, the homeless, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent people, injured military personnel, refugee and asylum-seeking women, disengaged youth, children, young people and families, carers and older people.

What challenge have you faced as a woman in business?

As a social entrepreneur in the yoga world, being a woman has never felt like a challenge to me. I’ve certainly never felt discriminated against because of my gender. It is, though undoubtedly difficult to be ambitious and driven in my career and also to be a mother. I have 2 young children and balancing my work commitments with my dedication to my family is a constant juggle. It’s very important to me that I model to my children a healthy work/life balance and that I live by the yogic principles I teach, but that isn’t always easy.

What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own business in the wellness industry?

Leading on from above I’d also say wherever possible, have clear boundaries around work and home life. Running your own business has so many benefits but if you let it, it will take over every minute of your waking life so you have to be strict around also prioritising other things that are important to you too.

On a more political point, health inequality is getting worse and sadly the wellness industry has been guilty of a lot of exclusivity. Anyone wanting to start a health focused business should feel a duty to ensure that what they are developing and offering has an aspect of inclusivity to it. As entrepreneurs, creating more equity in our communities isn’t an option anymore, it’s an essential part of what every business needs to consider and all of us need to play our part in that.

Do you have a mission that keeps you grounded?

Our mission has always been to empower people and communities by improving access to the therapeutic benefits of yoga by working across the cultural, economic and health barriers that inhibit people from taking part.

Which women inspire you?

As a trauma-informed yoga teacher I read and listen to a lot of content around trauma and the nervous system and I love what both Jane Clapp and Kimberly Anne Johnson are doing around female empowerment and the promotion of a new world understanding of trauma and stress.  They are both unapologetically feminine in their approach to embodied work. Neither are afraid to be vulnerable but equally they are both comfortable in their own power. We need more examples of that kind of authenticity in the embodiment and trauma world to counteract the unhealthy power dynamics that have previously caused more harm than good.

You can find out more about Laura’s work through the Edinburgh Community Yoga website.

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