Editor’s Note: Our friends at TheImagista.com shared this intriguing profile of Ashley McGee, who took a huge step towards “finding her purpose.” Let it inspire you!
Ashley McGee is a yoga teacher based in Montauk, NY. Before becoming an instructor, Ashley had a successful career in media and, at least on the surface, had an enviable life. She worked for some of the hippest media companies, traveled, attended festivals, and hung with the Cool Crowd. However, Ashley wasn’t living a life that was fulfilling to her and starting questioning her lifestyle. She decided to make some profound changes in her life. She quit her job, got certified as a yoga instructor, and moved full-time to the beach town of Montauk.
Imagista: How did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
Ashley McGee: Before becoming a teacher, I lived in NYC, acquiring 12+ years of experience spanning cultural institutions, global media companies, production studios, and the creative industry. I built most of my career at VICE as Global Account Director where I ran Intel’s Creators Project and Motherboard. I was Head of Business Development + Marketing at The FRONT, leading brand partnerships with companies such as National Geographic and Spotify. And, I served as Group Account Director at the Milk group.
A significant part of my journey in becoming a yoga teacher has stemmed from my intimacy with fear and my desire to move closer to my inner truth. Since University, I found myself fighting personal fears and obstacles – fighting for respect as a young woman, fighting to “make it” in NYC, fighting to be “successful,” fighting to prove myself professionally, fighting to make a six-figure salary by the time I was 30, fighting to climb the corporate ladder, fighting for credentials and fighting to make a name for myself in my industry. While essentially achieving these conventional ideals, I was in an unhealthy vortex within the “NYC hustle.” I knew I was not the best version of myself. Yet, I was fearful of what would happen should I break away. After many years, I began re-evaluating what was important to me and what is the true meaning of “success.” It was time for a change and to create space for new beginnings, so I handed in my resignation. I had been practicing yoga for about a decade (my passion for surfing took up the rest of the little-to-no free time I had).
Shortly after handing in my resignation, I felt a strong calling to become a teacher where I could be a light unto myself and to others. My training has been through the premier studio, Yoga Shanti, where I’ve studied with world-renowned teachers, Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee. My work and my journey as a yoga teacher have just begun.
Imagista: What’s your style of yoga like? What’s the experience you’d like to give your students?
Ashley McGee: My teaching style integrates an Iyengar-based approach. I’m inspired by achieving precise anatomical alignment and stimulating imaginative students. I also aspire to create a space where there is no judgment and where people have the time to feel each pose. My background is rooted in creating unexpected experiences where there is a shift from when the participant enters and exits. I’m teaching outside in Montauk, creating multi-sensorial, cultural experiences. Open-Level Flow classes are held outside every Sunday at 10 am on my beautiful, magical lawn with live music and art exhibitions.
Imagista: How has yoga and teaching yoga changed your life?
Ashley McGee: Immeasurably. There is a sense of clarity that follows practicing yoga. The important things come into focus; Mother Nature and colors are more vibrant. I find certain things in life are not such a big deal as they were before. Many of life’s dramas collapse. I find myself less tense, less anxious. This is far greater than individual benefits. There is a halo effect surrounding yoga practitioners. Those close to me have expressed seeing a visible glow, seeing me thrive. While financially I’m the poorest I’ve ever been, I’m the happiest and richest I’ve ever been. I feel like I’m living more than I have in a long time. There are valuable lessons in a yoga practice that can be applied both on and off the mat. Some stand out for me personally:
Take care of and listen to your body.
Do not always and or immediately go to your maximum (even if you can).
Do not jam or force the body.
Sometimes it’s good to make things easy.
Historically, I’ve had lower back pain. After practicing, I now have little to no pain in my lower back. Some of the things that turned me on when beginning to practice were the simple observations of the body and mind, the subtleties of body alignment. I loved the science of yoga. It felt sexy, strong, and sophisticated. That simple observation, becoming aware is incredibly powerful. Of course, there are external, physical effects of my body that look and feel nice.
Imagista: Who would you recommend yoga for and why?
Ashley McGee: Yoga is for everyone, all ethnicities, all genders, all ages, all levels of experience. My mother and father who are in their 60s joined their first, beginner’s yoga class this year and loved it. Now, my mother is practicing yoga and meditation daily. So, dissolve any excuses for not being flexible enough, dissolve any ego or apprehension around being a beginner or not being physically fit, or having physical disabilities. Simply get on the mat and observe.
-The NwP Team
Photos of Ashley McGee by Michael Williams