Jessica Lee | Finding Alignment On and Off the Mat

At 27, Jessica made the leap from corporate marketing into teaching yoga full time. Jessica simultaneously brings both levity and a groundedness to each of her classes – a quality that allows her classes to feel inclusive to yogis of all levels and exudes nothing but #goodvibes.

We caught up with Jessica to learn more about her career switch and her thoughts on mindfulness.

So Jessica, tell us more about what you do.

I made the shift from corporate marketing into teaching yoga full time because I want to help others become the best versions of themselves, not just physically but also mentally. Yoga has done so much for me - by making me stronger, more resilient, and mindful in all of the ways - and it brings me joy to be able to the same for others by challenging them to explore and move to feel better in their bodies in a way that's informative but also accessible for all-levels.

I like to incorporate other forms of movement (such as strength training and mobility principles) into my classes for a well-rounded practice, sprinkled with a bit of lighthearted fun. :)

How did you get started with teaching yoga?

As a kid, I loved gymnastics and acrobatics because I was "naturally good" (read: flexible) at it, so it wasn't a surprise that I instantly gravitated towards yoga after my first class. I was a casual practitioner for the first 8 years of discovering yoga, but then I started to offer unsolicited advice to friends whenever they'd complain about their bodies being too tight, so that was when I felt like maybe yoga teaching could be a potential career path. 

Still, it was only a "maybe someday" ambition, until in 2013 when my teachers (who I'd only practiced with online up until that point) came to HK to teach a workshop. After that weekend, I decided that they were *the* teachers for me, signed up for their 200 hour yoga teacher training in Sydney the next year, and quit my corporate job 10 months later to pursue my 2nd yoga teacher training in acroyoga. And as they say - the rest is history!

Making a big career move like yours takes a lot of courage. What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to switch things up career-wise?

I think if you’re already thinking about it, then you’re probably ready to make a change. Don’t wait for the “right time” - it doesn’t exist, and you’ll never feel 100% ready, but don’t let the fear of failure be the reason that’s stopping you. If you give it a go and it doesn’t work out the way you want, use that as an opportunity to learn what *not* to do next time.

Did you face any setbacks? What were they?

I actually didn't have any savings OR a plan for how to make yoga teaching a viable career when I quit my job - it was an impulse decision I made when the company I was working for denied my leave request for my second YTT. But I've been super lucky and have been presented with such amazing opportunities that I would never have dreamed of, which I'd like to think of as signs that this is what I'm meant to do. Obviously, there's a lot more hustling and self-accountability (which I struggle with daily) being a freelancer vs having an office job that pays you a guaranteed amount every month, but quitting my corporate job to teach full time is still the best decision I've ever made.

What do you wish someone told you before you started teaching yoga?

I think I spent a lot of years just *thinking* about wanting to teach yoga but not actually having the balls to do anything about it until I was 27. It's scary - making that leap from a stable office job into an industry that wasn't really considered a proper career (everyone's a fitness instructor/coach now but back in 2014 it wasn't really seen as a "real job" - my parents were so concerned!) especially without any savings or an action plan, but in hindsight I wish I followed my heart earlier, because I can't imagine doing anything else now! I'm truly a believer of if you're passionate about what you do and open yourself to the possibilities by putting yourself out there, you'll attract opportunities that align with what you want to do.

How has COVID-19 impacted you?

Because yoga involves being around other people and sweating/moving together in a shared space, the impact was instant as soon as COVID-19 hit. Private clients cancelled their sessions for two months, and studio classes saw attendance levels drop significantly.. until, of course, all fitness centers were mandated to close for 6 weeks.

It was definitely a stressful time when that first happened, because as a freelancer/contractor my livelihood depended massively on being able to teach classes, so no classes = no income. I had to learn to pivot, and started teaching live stream yoga sessions via Zoom, which are now my favorite classes to teach since friends from all over the world who wouldn't normally be able to come to my classes before can join me from their living room across time zones.

I've also been wanting to start offering video content for the last 2 years but was too scared to (hello, imposter syndrome), so this situation became the kick in the butt I needed to get out of my comfort zone and think about other ways to share my classes with others!

For me, it’s difficult to be mindful in a bustling city like Hong Kong. What are some ways you’ve brought your practice to the street, so to speak?

Definitely, I always notice how much more easily annoyed I am being back in Hong Kong after spending time away. When I first started yoga, I approached it as a purely physical practice and was actually quite dismissive of the ‘off the mat’ benefits because I thought that was only for spiritual hippies. But over time, I started to notice how it’s made me more patient and less reactive in everyday situations, and to be less attached to things, people, and outcomes, especially when it’s out of my control.

I’ve also learned to accept that we can’t control what happens to us, but instead it’s how we respond to every situation that gives them matters. I lost my dad last year to cancer, and while the old me might’ve focused on the sadness of loss, yoga has helped me process my emotions in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to just a few years prior, and I chose to see it as a bittersweet opportunity for connection and growth.

What are some of your yoga essentials for an at-home practice? 

A great playlist, for sure. Music is a HUGE part of my life and helps me set the mood for my practice on the mat!

What is your favourite thing about Hong Kong?

So many things! I love how everyone is so interconnected here so you’re always bumping into friends, and that you’re very likely to be only *two* degrees of separation away from a total stranger. Or that you can go from the heart of the city to the beach in 20 minutes. Being a night owl who lives in Kowloon, I also love that the city never really sleeps so I’ll always be able to find food even at 4am.

(Side note: I attended one of Jessica's lessons before I found out that one of my best friends did a YTT training with her!) 

Are there any local businesses you would like to spotlight/shout out?

Caius Chung Video Production - the main reason why I've been able to finally make my long-term goal of creating video content a reality.

Prism Creative - design & branding studio run by my super talented friend Rosann who did my logo AND my latest tattoo design for me!

Crystalsabella - my friend Karen (who’s also a great brand consultant) recently started a new business selling the most gorgeous crystals for super reasonable prices.

Momentum - more than just a physio clinic, Kieran and the team live and breathe passion when it comes to wellness and healthcare; there's no one else I trust when I need a body tune-up!

Where can we find your classes?

You can find me at Flowga, Shan Studios, and Topfit teaching vinyasa-inspired classes! I’m also still offering two live online yoga classes (via Zoom) every Tuesday 5:30pm and Wednesday 9pm for those who can’t practice with me physically.

Find Jessica @jessicaleeyoga