I recently had a chat with the lovely ladies at SundaySunday.co.uk. Here are the questions they asked - my answers were recently published here on their website!
1.How did you get into yoga? Can you remember your first every yoga experience, if so give us some details?
My mum got me into it. In my late teens I used to complain to her about my back hurting, so she dragged me to her local class in a village hall. Everything was so tight I could barely touch my knees, let alone my toes. The teacher was lovely but the class didn’t really grab me because I had too much energy to burn off before I could lie still. I remember thinking that it was just lots of old ladies lying on the floor! I also distinctly remember that the woman next to me hadn’t brought a mat, she’d brought a roll of carpet that she said was spare from having redone her hallway Now, though, I absolutely love lying on the floor for an hour!
2. What’s your favourite pose for anxiety?
I expect this’ll be different for everyone, but for me it’s probably child’s pose. It’s minimal effort, I’m curled up into a protective ball with my eyes closed, and there’s something really soothing about the pressure on my forehead when it rests on the floor.
If this posture is uncomfortable on your knees or your feet you can always try padding them with a pillow or putting a rolled up towel under your ankles. Or if that still doesn’t work try turning the posture round 90 degrees – just lie on your back with a pillow under your head and hug your knees into your chest!
3. What would you say to people that are scared to come to their first yoga class and are worried it’s not their vibe/they’re not zen enough?
I’d say that’s a totally natural way to feel! I don’t think beginners give themselves enough credit for how much guts it takes to try out something different. When we’re young it’s normal to be doing something for the first time quite often, but as adults we rarely put ourselves in the situation of going to a new place, where we don’t know quite what’s going to happen, and where we think everyone will know what they’re doing and be much better at it than us. And all that plus you have to move your body in a new way in front of a room full of strangers! So know that lots of people feel that way, and it’s totally normal. Try doing some research before you choose a class – a teacher or studio’s website or social media should give you an idea of what class will be like. For example, will it be physically strenuous or slow and relaxing? Do they mention yoga philosophy in their online content or are they mainly focused on movement? Does that person use the Sanskrit names for poses or do they use English names? I hope my Instagram shows people that our classes are down to earth, based on anatomy and physical movement, and delivered in plain English.
Beginners also don’t often realise how different classes can be. So if you try a class and think it’s not for you, don’t be put off straight away! A different class or teacher might suit you much better. Studios often do introductory offers where you can go as many times as you like for a set period of time, so it’s worth trying a range of classes. If you can find somewhere that offers a beginners course that’s ideal, because it will be tailored to your needs and everyone else in class will be in the same boat as you. Or, if you find an all levels class, maybe try and arrive a little early on your first go so you can tell the teacher you’re new and they can give you some pointers on what to expect. Lastly, consider that you wouldn’t expect to be able to do any other new skill, for example swimming or playing tennis, perfectly the first time you tried it. You’d expect to feel a bit unsure, and maybe a little lost at points in the class. That’s all simply part of it being new. And it’ll subside surprisingly quickly!
4. Where would you be without yoga? How do you see it improve your client’s lives?
If I wasn’t doing this job I’d be working in law – that’s what I left behind. I originally got hooked on it because it made my body feel better, but the benefits to my mental health are what’s kept me coming back all these years. I’ve experienced depression in the past and the skills I’ve built up through yoga, like keeping my attention on my body, not being hard on myself and breathing slowly and deeply, all help me deal when that comes up.
My clients have told me so many different ways they feel this discipline has influenced their lives, which is always soooo lovely to hear. Things like: keeping calm before a job interview or presentation at work; easing troubled sleep patterns; improving self-confidence; aiding recovery from injury, surgery and serious illness; meeting a future partner at class; as well as the more obvious physical benefits of feeling stronger and more flexible.
5. What are your fave london yoga studios and why?
Well I run some of my own classes in a dance studio a couple of times a week, kind of like a mini studio, so if anyone’s ever around Old Street or Farringdon they should obvs pop in and say hi! When I’m being a customer I’ll tend to go to wherever the teacher I want to see happens to be, rather than being loyal to a particular studio location. Having said that, out of all the studios I go to or work at 3Tribes in north London has got to be up there as a favourite. I do weekly classes there and also teach on their teacher training course. They have lots of teachers that work at big studios in the City but also a lovely community vibe and everyone is super friendly. So you get really high quality classes but also people chatting before and after class (which you definitely don’t get everywhere!). They’ve also just opened a new branch in Borough with two floatation tanks.
6. What’s your typical morning self-care routine?
All my mornings are quite different, depending on what time my first class is. So the only things that are constant across all of them is I aim to get 8 hours sleep, always have breakfast, drink at least one big glass of water before I leave home and always use a face cream with spf 30 in. But the other things I do each day, which I do in the mornings when I have time, are firstly that I always want to some form of physical movement. That might be yoga, or I also really love strength training and the odd run. I always try to make space for some quiet time. That could be reading a book, meditating, or just a relaxation at the end of my exercise. I need to make that quiet time away from any screens or devices. They’re so addictive! Otherwise I see one email pop up that seems urgent and then two hours later realise I’ve gone down an internet hole.
7. How do you stay organised and sane as a busy self-employed person?
I think sometimes people expect yoga teachers to have this kind of stuff worked out, and for us to be super chilled and calm the whole time. In reality that’s often not the case! I think I’m quite good at the organized part. Because my timetable is slightly different every week I live in constant fear of accidentally being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so have two calendars to keep track of all my appointments. One online and an old school paper diary. The staying sane bit is still definitely a skill I’m working on! It’s super tempting when you’re self-employed to take on all the work you can fit in, just because you never know if there might be a quiet patch around the corner. One thing I’m definitely still trying to master is knowing what to say no to, and not feeling guilty for ages if I do say no to something. I used to work throughout the week, but now have condensed my working hours so that I start on Monday evening and finish for the week on Saturday lunchtime. Keeping Sundays totally free is really important, otherwise I never feel like I totally switch off.
8. What does self care mean to you?
It’s making time for whatever you need to do on a regular basis to keep yourself healthy in the long term. That will be different for everyone! For me, the long term aspect is important – I can miss most things a few times and it doesn’t make much of a difference. But when that happens it’s so easy to fall out of the habit of doing something, and then all of a sudden you realise a couple of months have gone past. Taking care of yourself can also be about things you don’t do; like not feeling pressured to go out if you want to stay in. I also think it’s really important to set realistic goals for how you need to look after yourself. That way you can achieve them without putting too much pressure on yourself, and self care doesn’t become another thing you’re getting stressed trying to do (which is obviously counter productive!). I wrote a short blog post on this in relation to creating a home yoga or meditation practice. Don’t be hard yourself. And don’t be scared to say no to stuff you don’t want to do!