We recently had a great insight about wellbeing and what it entails with Alicia Ray of Alicia Ray Wellbeing. The interview covers all the important questions about life challenges, what wellbeing means to Alicia herself, what her business day looks like, and where her ideal retreat location would be.
Tell us about the journey that led you to launch your brand Alicia Ray Wellbeing…
Unknowingly I think I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Working for the NHS for 17 years I have needed to find ways of infusing wellbeing practices into my daily lifestyle to balance out the intensity of my work. A few years into my career as a psychologist I started teaching fitness classes part time, inspired to motivate others towards good physical health. I launched Alicia Ray Wellbeing without knowing it was going to develop into a holistic health and wellbeing platform.
Experiencing some periods of high stress in my personal life led me to finding my own method of self care. I have always been drawn to travel and so, seeking dedicated time away to focus on my health and wellbeing, I found myself booking onto solo surf & yoga retreats in Portugal, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica. The appeal was the combination of immersing myself in a beautiful location and being guided through an itinerary of daily activities to nourish my body, mind and soul. I wasn’t sure about yoga back then, and much preferred high impact cardio exercise where I felt in my comfort zone and felt good knowing that I had achieved a workout. I loved learning to surf, though found the challenge tested my ego! Yoga enabled me to find a different type of space for myself. Learning to slow down, tune in, and face my inner critic was one of the toughest aspects, but I soon recognised the value of having this dedicated space. I began trusting the process of looking inwards as well as focusing on physical heath which was truly eye opening for me. Booking a surf & yoga retreat became my annual self care ritual and inspired the future direction of Alicia Ray Wellbeing.
In 2018 I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica training as a yoga teacher and extending my knowledge of the application of Eastern approaches for health and healing. During this time, I found a deep connection with the environment and through this gained an appreciation of something more powerful than the small things that had led to me becoming stressed. Being so deeply immersed in nature I felt more connected to myself than ever. I wanted to bring this experience back home and share it, which led me to start up twice weekly beach yoga classes as soon as I returned to Cornwall. The intention was to create a discipline that enhanced my own lifestyle and to share the benefits of yoga in nature with others. Over the last 4 years, beach yoga has become an important part of my lifestyle in Cornwall. Witnessing the value others gain from practicing yoga on the beach has been so rewarding for me!
Yoga has extended into my work as a psychologist in so many ways. I recognise the transferable skills I gained from yoga teacher training in terms of discipline, overcoming ego, bringing the attitudes of the Yamas and Niyamas, and infusing compassion into my entire approach. In my therapeutic work I acknowledge that individuals benefit from different approaches to facilitate their own unique journey to improving health and wellbeing. I blend the knowledge and practices from Eastern philosophies intuitively in my clinical work, advocating an integrative approach that includes a combination of talking therapies, yoga, mindfulness and yoga therapy. I have moved away from the linear Western medicine model of health which likes to categorise health conditions into discrete areas and treat them in isolation. I see the value of blending Eastern and Western approaches more intuitively, approaching health treatments holistically.
Developing my wellbeing platform has been guided by my practice and trainings and continues to evolve in different directions. It has of course been influenced by my own experience of the health benefits of spending time in the outdoors and on retreats. The practices I offer incorporate elements of the benefits gained from retreats; such as connecting people to nature and helping create dedicated space to tune into body and mind. Being fortunate to live in Cornwall I deliver bespoke surf and yoga wellbeing retreats, yoga and mindfulness on the beach and psychology informed wellbeing days from waterside studios and hotels by the sea. I continue to work for the NHS as well as run an independent psychology practice one day a week. My heart is in every aspect of my work, and I feel blessed that I have built a business from doing the things that resonate with my core values and enables me to facilitate others on their journey towards positive health and wellbeing.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
In honesty, the biggest challenge I often face can be myself. By that I mean the traps and snags of the human mind that create powerful obstacles to seeing things clearly. We really can be our own worst enemy and own worst critic! Stress plays a significant part and can make me see things in a skewed way, whether that be in the form of self doubt, an inner critic, or a sense of imposter syndrome. I find it hilarious that even with the insight I have from being a psychologist I am still just as suspectable to these distorted thinking patterns as everyone else! The key to overcoming this challenge for me is to recognise the impact stress and tiredness has on my perspective; set boundaries with my time and say no to things when I feel the balance tipping. Not always easy. I remind myself to continually check whether the expectations I place on myself are helpful or realistic. One of the most empowering ways I have come to deal with these challenges is to accept it is all within me. I am responsible for whatever voice shows up and whatever energy I feel and give out, and so I practice directing my energy towards self compassion, and practice being my own best friend!
If you to were to describe your business mantra in three words, what would they be?
What advice would you offer anyone interested in venturing into the realms of wellbeing and yoga?
Be kind towards yourself and others always and be prepared to work incredibly hard. If your drive does not come from your heart then do not even waste your energy.
Be willing to lean into uncertainty and with this, bring so much compassion towards yourself; you will need to be your own best friend!
Be authentic and find your niche. Try not to feel intimated by anyone else doing similar things and be supportive towards others. There is plenty of room out there for all!
Focus on the wins, acknowledge the positive steps (each and every small step) and give yourself a high five every now and then!
Find what gives you your glow. By this I mean that feeling; the warming glow you get when you sense you are channeling energy from the heart. This can be different things at different times. It can be love and compassion for yourself, gratitude for life at that present moment, kindness and compassion for others and the drive you get from knowing you are following your true values.
Talk us through an average business day in your life…
Typical Monday to Thursday schedule:
5am coffee in bed
5.45am set up livestream studio in my attic room
6am-6.45am RISE livestream yoga practice
7am-8am breakfast and social media posts
8am-6pm NHS role (currently lead psychologist for pain management service)
6pm time outside; maybe a walk, paddle board, bike ride or beach yoga class followed by sunset BBQ
9pm-10pm Unwind, read, sleep
Fridays take a slower pace; I run my independent psychology practice, catch up with business admin, and try to have an early night.
Weekends are a balance of beach time, yoga, mindfulness, and general downtime relaxing as well as spending time with my partner, family, and friends. I love packing in as many outdoor activities as possible which means my house is always untidy (a sacrifice I am willing to make!)
Business can be an upward struggle at times, what do you do to stay positive?
It certainly can! I am fortunate to love my work as it takes a lot of energy. I am careful to replenish lost energy with activities and practices that make me feel uplifted and restored. I remind myself ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup!’ and prioritise self care always. My go to uplifting practices are yoga outside, taking time to find peace and stillness through meditation and mindfulness, nature walks and being by water.
To stay positive, it is so important to have fun! For me this is spending time outdoors and enjoying nature. At weekends we love going on mini adventures in our campervan, exploring Cornwall’s epic coastline, surfing, paddle boarding and having BBQ’s on the beach. Living in Cornwall I am lucky that I can create my own mini wellbeing retreat each weekend!
What is your go to quote when lacking motivation?
Hussle harder! This is something my partner said to me recently when a Monday morning felt overwhelming and I was lacking in energy. I aim to keep my motivational inspiration lighthearted so that I don’t end up giving myself a hard time, however, I think it is also important to acknowledge the drive and the discipline it takes to keep moving forwards. I remind myself of this regularly and visualise the end goal. Visualising owning a retreat space with an infinity pool in Costa Rica gives me the motivation I need to keep driving forwards!
What do you do for yourself when it comes to self care?
For me self care is crucial, and I try and find small ways to infuse this into my daily lifestyle. Time to rest is as important as time moving and driving things forward. I aim to practice what I preach in terms of the things I share with others. Early morning yoga has been an amazing habit to kick start positive energy for the day, keeping a healthy routine (lessons I have taken from Ayurveda) and remember the simple things that often get overlooked during times of stress, such as keeping hydrated and nourishing my body with good whole food.
Often self care gets neglected when life gets busy and so it can be about pausing for enough time to recognise when and what I need to do in order to build my inner glow. This might be taking three deep breaths, yoga, time outside, being by water, spending time with people who radiate light back to me. It might simply be having a good cup of coffee!
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
Facebook and Instagram have been great tools for reaching out to my local beach yoga community in Cornwall. As I continue to develop the brand into new directions these platforms have been helpful for reaching people from other areas and countries. I am learning to develop more confidence in my voice and what messages I put out there on social media. I also recognise the importance of maintaining boundaries around the amount of time I invest in this work.
How do you want people to feel when they first experience an Alicia Ray Wellbeing class or retreat?
I want people to feel empowered and flowing with positive energy! Importantly I want people to gain whatever it is they need from the practice, whether that be peace, calm, or an uplifted sense of energy and strength. Finding that connection with yourself is what my classes and retreats are about, and this can take many forms and lead to different feelings.
It is wonderful feedback when after a class people tell me they have experienced that moment of realisation when they just know intuitively what it is they need. I feel it is an amazing privilege to teach practices that can facilitate this for people.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list, and would you practice any of your wellbeing rituals while travelling?
Sri Lanka will always be a special place close to my heart. I’ve been lucky to visit this beautiful country five times and have hosted two yoga and wellbeing retreats there. Costa Rica is my top yoga and wellbeing retreat destination. I dream of buying land there and owning a retreat space one day!
Yes I absolutely practice my wellbeing rituals while travelling, as this is how I came to experience their value! I think travelling provides a fantastic opportunity to focus on self care, and practice routines and rituals that keep the body in flow and healthy. Finding new locations to practice yoga at sunrise and sunset is one of my favorite wellbeing rituals while travelling.
What’s next for you and your brand?
I’m continuing the fourth season of Gwithian beach yoga, near Hayle in Cornwall and this summer I have some fun plans including bringing silent disco yoga, mindfulness and fitness classes to the beach. I will be delivering surf and yoga retreat days and have some psychology informed yoga therapy workshops planned in Cornwall.
I am continuing my livestream yoga classes and am currently building a subscription based on demand platform.
I am excited to be planning a yoga and wellbeing retreat in Costa Rica next year. On the horizon, I am working on creating a Mindfulness in Cornwall journal to give people knowledge about practicing mindfulness outdoors and share local tips on where best to practice mindfulness in my beautiful home county.
Where can people find out more about Alicia Ray Wellbeing?
People can get in touch directly via my email address email@example.com or via my website or social media channels.