CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lizzie Brown, CEO & Co-Founder of Yoga Wake Up

Lizzie Brown is the CEO & Co-Founder of Yoga Wake Up, a mobile app that infuses mornings with movement, joy, and gratitude in the first minutes of waking up.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I got my start in PR in 2005 as employee #2 at a boutique fashion PR firm. I got to build from the ground up and created relationships with all kinds of talented fashion media and celebrity stylists and publicists. We regularly had celebrity visits and exclusive events to attend, which for a 22 year old from Gainesville, Florida, was a whole lot of fun!

However, a desire to call the shots and do things differently led me (alongside my teammate) to move on to start our own agency, Dell et Ruhs. I learned a ton as we navigated growing a business during a recession and eventually pivoting toward an emerging fashion market: athleisure.

Breaking into fitness felt really comfortable for me – I’ve always been active and cared about living well. It became very inspiring and rewarding to represent fitness and wellness brands, which resulted in friendships with yogis, holistic health experts and fitness trainers, and a new-found love for practising yoga. 

Cut to 2016 shortly after I turned my app developer husband, Joaquín, on to yoga. It wasn’t long before he was hooked himself. He and I came up with an idea for an app that would make yoga part of your daily routine by introducing it to your first waking minutes, like an alarm.

These days Yoga Wake Up keeps me busy full time and I leave the PR work to my team, even though I still love meeting new people and networking. It’s my favourite thing about PR – leveraging relationships to build brands and make people happy. It never gets old! I am actually putting my PR skills to work again as I learn the in’s and out’s of venture capital through a fellowship at Westwood Ventures. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I am currently pursuing an Executive MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, so my days are especially busy. It’s why my self-care practices are more important than ever. Anything that’s not a habit has become more difficult to hold on to, but I have managed to be consistent about the following:  

Sleep: 7-8 hours a night, no matter what. 

Eating well: Joaquín is a superstar that has taken over in the kitchen since school started. We’re diligent about meal planning and eating fresh, whole foods to keep us fueled up and eliminating the temptation to eat junk.

Active breaks: I go to OrangeTheory Fitness at least 3x’s a week. On other days we try to do Ashtanga (yoga) with my dear friend and inspiring yogi, Layla Negron. If work piles up, I will at least do a little dance party at my desk or take breaks to stand and stretch. Otherwise I would be sitting for 12 hours plus because that’s how much work I have between my job, fellowship and school everyday!

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

This has taken on a new meaning lately, for obvious reasons, but I think what’s kept me sane is loving what I do and having a real zest for life and all of its challenges. I remind myself that I didn’t sign up for easy, I chose this and it’s a privilege to have this life and to GET to experience all it’s throwing at me every day.

So I’d say my approach is finding something you love enough that you want to go all in but also remember often that it doesn’t have to look a certain way– you are in charge of your own life! You can release the pressure valve! Take the breaks, the work will be there when you get back.

I am always reminded of this when I go workout and come back to a problem with fresh eyes. I get my best ideas on the treadmill, so I look at that time as “the work” too. And it gives me the energy I need to sustain the other work.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’ve certainly realised that given my rigorous schedule and its demands, I have to be much more aware of my energy and thoughtful with my free time. I used to fill my calendar with social events because I grappled with saying no.

Now that I am juggling a lot I have given myself permission to be a little selfish. If it’s not a resounding yes, it’s a no – I think it’s an important lesson for anyone, busy or not. Us people pleasers have a hard time with boundaries. It’s a whole new world when you get to live for you a little bit. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Definitely want to recommend a couple practices in our app that have supported me lately: Boundary Boost, a moving meditation by The Moon Deck founder Aarona Lea and Know Your Worth by Samara Suber. Otherwise, my favourite newsletter is still Morning Brew and most recently, Fitt Insider, and my favourite podcasts are NPR’s How I Built This and Hidden Brain

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think it’s really easy for people to get wrapped up in the new wellness trend of the moment, especially when they have the means to afford it, because let’s be honest, a lot of it is expensive. But I want to remind us all that the best thing you can do for your mental and physical health is get enough rest consistently, eat whole foods, and move your body.

All the rest is mostly just fancy marketing. One of the best ways you can improve the quality of your own life and others is by being in service. Kindness is free! (And that $300 colonic or whatever cleanse is cool right now isn’t going to make you feel near as good as donating that money to a cause and volunteering those two hours to people in need).

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.