I will preface this interview by saying that pre pandemic (I know we're all sick of hearing that word), I felt a sort of nausea and overwhelm surrounding the speed and expectations of daily life. The wheels were moving too quickly and I felt much like a hamster in a wheel that it couldn't control. It seemed I was not alone in feeling some sense of relief when we were ordered to stop, slow down and recalibrate; a sentiment I increasingly found those around me shared.
To re-assess how we relate to each other, how we affect one another, what we owe to humanity. The demands we place on productivity and on ourselves. I finally had the space to ponder these important questions.
As I danced with these thoughts, my lovely friend Lauren came to mind.
Lauren Urquhart is the founder of and teacher behind Heart Cave - where she shares her yogic knowledge and enlightenment.
Having co-founded both 'Archive' (a high end second hand consignment store) which then lead to 'Shifting Worlds' (still existing in Melbourne CBD) Lauren stepped back from the fashion industry entirely, moved to an ashram and pursued a full time dedication to her yoga and meditation practices.
In this interview she kindly and candidly shares what led her away from the fashion industry, tools for coping with anxiety and an upcoming project she is involved in.
Lauren at home in the Stephanie Pant
How do you like to start your day?
Upon consciousness I generally like to check myself. Meaning I take note of my first waking thoughts. They are not always pleasant, and if that’s the case I straighten that out. Right away. Often these kinds of worried or anxious thoughts are not even ours. God knows. The collective drama is epic in its proportions! After checking myself I think ‘I’ll do what I can today’.
I get up brush my teeth and take a brief cold shower. I feed the pets. I light some incense (incense is toxic no matter what anyone says and how cute they package it. I will wean myself off it.). I then recite the Japji Sahib. A prayer that is universal in sentiment and a poetic ode to being a child of the cosmos. It is from the Sikh tradition. Contrary to common belief Sikhism is not a religion. I practice Kundalini Yoga which was brought to the west by a Sikh yogi. I am not a Sikh. My teacher is a Sikh. Then I practice my daily Sadhana or meditation. Currently my practice is a 31-minute meditation called ‘Breaking the Mask’. Many layers still coming away! I’ll get back to you. Lol
I used to practice 60 -120 min of yoga asana daily for the last few years however as soon as Covid hit. I stopped. I had a back injury. It happened and I went with it. I meditated and prayed instead. Currently I’m returning to a hatha or physical yoga practice slowly but surely. It makes you feel good for sure. Time and place for everything.
I drink coffee early many mornings. Contrary to popular wellness and yoga instruction. I can’t stomach black or green tea. The tannins make me throw up. I drink a lot of herbal tea and for the record I do refrain from coffee consumption if anxious or if on a long (2 months per year) yoga/meditation retreat. Otherwise everyday coffee and oat mylk please.
What are some simple rituals that help relieve anxiety or stress in your day to day?
Returning to consciously pay attention to my breath again and again and again. So simple so easy to disembody. Deepening the breath and breathing in and out of the nose only regulates your mood, parasympathetic nervous system and circulates prana (life force). If things are really dialling up mood wise – then I sit down even at my desk and simultaneously I place my hand palm face down on the desk, close my eyes and begin long, slow and deep breathing. Inhale through the nose, mentally recite “Sat”. Exhale through the nose, “Naam”. Begin with 3 minutes and build up to 11 minutes. This is a stress-relief practice. You can switch hands and also contact different surfaces. This physical contacting with a surface immediately brings online somatic embodiment. I am. I am here. All is well.
Also resting and sleeping is so important. When teaching/working a lot, I will go out of my way every day to sleep or lie down anywhere from 10 minutes – 30 minutes. Sometimes it’s sleep, sometimes it’s legs up the wall and sometimes I listen to a guided yoga nidra. I’m a big fan in doing less and not pushing shit up a hill. I did the later method for a long time. Forget it. Allow all to come to you. One of the biggest take-aways from Kundalini Yoga. Prosperity lesson 101.
Shaking is awesome! If you need to get rid of something shake your body. Like a dog out of water or horse that has been spooked. Get it out of the body.
And finally, continually evolving a healthy relationship to mind. I reprogram my language, thoughts and patterns all the time. It’s a conscious thing. I get tough with my mind. I tell it to bugger off ‘I’m busy. Call me later’. This is critical – particularly if you have lived with depression, anxiety or any kind of self-loathing. I have. My relay with mind has shifted vastly. Again, it’s worth considering that not all thoughts are indeed your own. So many people globally have depression now. Endemic to humanity unfortunately. So, the broadcast of macro thinking if you will is hypnotic and powerful. This is why meditation of all forms is such a good thing to do. Empty the garbage!
How would you describe your approach to style and beauty?
The beauty industry is so potent and I’m not immune. I love herbal beauty brands anything from Weleda, living libations to small batch beauty such as Fat and the Moon, Magic Atelier (Melbourne made!) and recently my friend gave me a beautiful face oil that has rose and frankincense in it that I LOVE, it’s called Lunar George. My cleanser, exfoliator, day, night cream, shampoo, deodorant and body soap are all made by Australian no waste company Viva La Body. Such good products. I think they were very inspired by the Dr. Bronner’s branding…that’s what caught my eye. I have used Dr. Bronner’s since I married an American man. But I’m sick of the plastic and buying soap from the other side of the world. We’re so mad.
I wear AYU oil fragrance the one called Sufi. I cannot wear spray fragrance ever again. It’s just wayyy too much.
I rarely wash my hair (1 x per month) or cut it (1-2 per year). I do not shave or wax anymore either. Actually, that’s not entirely the truth – I do wax my lower legs on occasion.
Make up I love the brands Hourglass and RMS beauty. The hourglass powders and brow things work very well. Like most influenced women of now I LOVE brow everything. I do sunscreen and some brows and some powder if I feel the need to look pulled together.
Style. Ok…this has really changed for me. A classic ‘as I have aged…’ tale is approaching. That’s how it goes. I used to wear dark colours and black a lot. Like most people in Melbourne. No bad thing. However, I feel better wearing colours and light colours. I love silk and linen. I love good shirting. Always have, always will. Most of my wardrobe is varying themes upon the classic white shirt. French seams are good. If you’re really going fancy Comme des Garcons men’s lines make very good shirts. So, I like an oversized shirt and mum style jeans and a sandal. Plus, a trench type coat. That’s me. Then there are the yoga clothes. Leggings for movement. Again, I can still wear ordinary button up shirts while teaching or practising yoga/meditation.
I wear glasses all the time – except when sleeping – I wear them even when swimming. I wear the same pink round frame made by Fendi. I buy the same frame once they wear out. Not very often.
I do like Issey Miyake’s Pleat Please despite it being plastic. As it’s light, no fuss and looks good. Can wear it to the shops, a wedding or a funeral and look decent. Older women will respect you and men won’t hit on you. Helpful garments really.
I buy most of clothes second hand. All of new clothes generally come from the label Baserange..
What are some checkpoints for brands you want to introduce to your wardrobe?
Well now I finally ask myself ‘do I need it?’ and ‘will I ever wear it?’.
Then ‘What is it made of?’ and by whom? Who am I supporting?
I love independent brands that make an effort to do things well and perhaps lower the footprint. I don’t know though… to be totally transparent. Our global consumerist culture is the reason why we are in the demise. Possibly just stopping and making nothing else ever again may be the best thing we could ever do. Just stop. Of course, old stock, handmade and second hand is a good thing. No question. The planet doesn’t need saving. Humans need to check their productivity and creativity. Lol. Get LAZY people! It’s a very difficult thing to do of course as we are so inherently creative. I resisted so much…BUT I have become involved with a slow, ethical wool brand called La Laine. Really nice Jumpers and socks made in Victoria with very low production volume. Nothing from overseas or interstate. So, there you go. Polarity planet. Planet Earth. We keep trying, fall down and try again right?
Of course, clothing has to look good and be well made as well otherwise it’s a total waste of time and money.
What inspired you to step away from more of a full-time involvement in the fashion industry and more fully into your yoga practice?
This question asks for an answer that is quite lengthy. So, I will do my best abridged version. It was a depression disguised in a very teenage anti-capitalist blow up. Combined with being angry and confused. Despite having created and co-created two fairly unique and interesting fashion businesses. ARCHIVE and Shifting Worlds. Shifting Worlds still exists and is a beautiful store.
I am a very creative person and I have lived with depression and anxiety since my early twenties. I also have a type of Dyslexia. It has only been the last few years that I have harnessed this energetic mental imbalance to be fully functional and yes happy.
So, I had this great thing going on a business, a business partner and travelling around the world meeting very interesting people in fashion. All of that didn’t matter as I wasn’t on my path. I was on a path and it looked right but it didn’t feel right. I acted badly during this time. Mainly to myself and yes to those who were close to me. I was angry. Mad as hell to put it lightly. As things began to pressurise within (soul came knocking and threw me under the bus), I returned to practising yoga. Hatha/Vinyasa yoga which is physical. I needed it. I was very disconnected from myself, from my body. I had to come home. I was nervous, introverted, addicted to working and addicted to unhealthy patterns. I was unhappy and lying to myself. My cousin died in the most terrible and tragic way. Then my Dad died very suddenly. Then I broke my long-term relationship with my partner. Then I gave my business share to my business partner. I packed up and moved into an ashram for over a year. Extreme. I needed it. It worked and I haven’t looked back. I healed my Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression. I relaxed into myself. I re-wilded and became me via the yogic technology system. In a very dedicated and devoted way. It’s not a path of love and light as many will sell you. It’s bloody hard, confronting and even humiliating. Why would you do it? The humility of the supposed perceived shame and guilt transmutes into humbleness. The I becomes we. The ego gets straightened. You cool down. You breathe again. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, I guess you could say that my very own madness took me out of fashion into a spiritual practice. Do or die. How much of your own mashugana (Yiddish = nonsensical/a person who is nonsensical) shit can you tolerate?
How would you just begin to introduce the importance and benefits of Kundalini yoga to those less familiar?
Yeah good question, as Kundalini Yoga can get a bad rap. It’s a shame tbh as it’s such a fast acting and practical yoga. You don’t need to fuck around with 12 years of hatha you can do 1 x kundalini class or a 40-day meditation and its life altering. That said hatha is awesome and they work well together.
In kundalini yoga mantra is a massive part of the practice. The healing power and medicine of sound. Chanting elevates and heals. It effects your brain secretions and grey matter growth. It can prevent memory loss and assist with everything from addiction, habituation, depression and of course it expands your consciousness. So, I would begin with mentioning these benefits in relation to undertaking a regular meditation practice.
For easy starters I encourage people to simply get up around the same time each day and sit yourself down for 3 minutes in a comfortable seat, close the eyes if that feels safe to do so and tune in to your breath. Sit still! Don’t fidget. Mind can think whatever it wants. Just breathe and listen. Once you can sit and sit still for a few minutes call me and I’ll give you a practice. There are thousands of Kundalini Yoga kriyas (sets) something for everyone and best of all they give you something to do. This is not out of space, denial of body on the material plane type stuff. Not ‘I’m not this body, I’m not this mind’,…hang on I AM this body and I do have a mind thank-you! It’s the relay you have with self that is cultivated via the practice that is so healing and beneficial. That said some aesthetic practices work very, very well if you’re a nun or a monk. Meditation is medicine. Different remedies for different things and differing bodies.
There are a couple of projects you’re involved with; can you introduce us to them?
Yes! So, yoga wise I have my own thing called Heart Cave. I share the teachings that I have learnt from my teachers online and in person.
I sometimes teach at a yoga studio. The pandemic shifted this.
Little Heart cave is my apartment in St. Kilda. I can host people in my small yoga studio that was once my living room and I also regularly work with people in 1:1 session.
I also put a course together last year called I AM a 5-week course that is the culmination of my understanding of the Kundalini Yoga teachings so far and some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy inspired work to address anxiety, worry and stress. I am not a qualified CBT therapist. I have an unfinished post grad in Counselling. I have the experience of my own mental health journey. Qualification is certainly very important – there is no question – however I’m more conscious as I age that qualifying ourselves is also very important. Not in the sense that one is offering some kind of quack or charlatan type experience. No that’s not it. I do believe that we all have important intel to share with community. The next I AM course will start in May 2021.
Also, a small and beautiful project that isn’t yoga related is LA LAINE. All locally as in Victorian sourced and made woollen items for children and women. Alpaca and sheep wool that is ethical. We (Jade Kentish-Barnes + myself) visit and have built relationships with the farmers and a wonderful network of women/people that knit the goods. It’s a pre-order system and low volume. Definitely a SLOW fashion project. It will launch this year for Winter. See just can’t help myself! Making again. Just stop!
Now that we’re stepping back into a more familiar lifestyle, what aspects of ‘life in lockdown’ (if any) are you bringing with you into this faster pace?
Well despite the obvious fact that we were so isolated from one another what was revealed to me was a much deeper connection to the very spot where I live. As in having an actual awareness of the living world right under my nose. A communion, connection and celebration of the bird families, mice, neighbours’ pets…geckos all in St. Kilda! So, this expanded my world right here on my doorstep. I always dream of getting away and living off the land. In time I surely will. However, we can connect to the natural world even in our urban environs. This observation turned participation is something I will keep up – it feels good as in coping good – in relation to being a human being alive during the most destructive and disconnected culture in human history. The Pandemic is the serve that keeps giving.
What are you hopeful for as we start this new year?
During the first lockdown I read the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s book ‘When Things Fall Apart’. In it she explains that there is a Tibetan word: ye tang che. It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This really blew my mind. It’s a really important thing that she brings up. She goes on, “This is the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope – that there’s somewhere better to be – we will never relax with where we are or who we are”. This really got me thinking during the lockdown periods that only through our own active self-compassion to our own darkness, can we begin to offer authentic light to anybody else – to become a force of radiance in the world. Also, our own addiction to travel – often wanting to be anywhere but where we are. But here’s the thing she goes on to say, “We don’t set out to save the world; we set to wonder how other people are doing and reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts”. These sentiments really do echo my very own feelings during this period of pandemic and climatic regime. Hoping just seems silly and illogical. The way of things is rapidly changing – compassion and a great deal of flexibility seem to be critical. Of course, we are human and we like to design and plan. Yet much of our ‘old’ ways seem so out of step that I’m keeping a keen eye and will continue to share the yogic teachings to assist those who want them during this time of rapid change.