Hannah aka Yoga Girl London

5 January 2019

I stumbled across Hannah aka Yoga Girl London on instagram. One of her posts caught my attention and my heart. It was about the difficulty that followed the birth of her daughter, how she dealt with it and how is now helping others to do the same. 

In Hannah's words;  'Being a mother can be tough. My daughter was born in the summer of 2017, and her birth and start to life were very traumatic. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for having a child in intensive care, and I was hit with postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The breathing techniques, meditation and physical practice of yoga gave me an outlet to cope and feel strong again in both my mind and body. And today my daughter is a beautiful soldier who loves nothing better than to sit beside me while I practice.' 

Yoga has helped many people like Hannah through difficult times. It's more than just exercise it's a way to connect with what's happening now, not worrying about the future or the past, but instead approaching life's little bumps in a calmer manner.  

Hannah has specialised in pre and postnatal yoga and is on a mission to help others. She is renowned on instagram for her amazing videos, she has a book coming out and is a yoga teacher, all this and a full time fabulous mummy! We caught up before Christmas for a little chatter on life and yoga...

How did you come to yoga and do you remember how you felt after your first class?

I had been going to classes here and there for years but it wasn’t until we were trying for a baby and I fell pregnant that I fell in love with yoga. I had a high stress job at the time and I realised that it was exactly what I needed in my life. I found classes quite daunting so I ended up starting a daily self-practice at home and getting a one-on-one pregnancy teacher to help me understand how to modify for pregnancy. I’ve pretty much kept that daily practice up for four and a half years now and my mat continues to be my happy place to reconnect and de-stress.

Why did you decide to specialise in pre and post natal yoga? 

I have always been into fitness and used to be a complete gym bunny. After I had my first baby (Jack) I jumped straight back into exercise but ended up injuring myself in one of those postnatal kettle bell classes. It made me realise that I didn’t understand the changes in my postnatal body and what I should and shouldn’t do. There’s loads of information out there but it’s often contradicting and confusing. It motivated me to educate myself so I could help other women through both pregnancy and postpartum. That’s also when I had the idea to write a book to help mothers regain their strength post baby.

What is the book or books have you most given as a gift or have just influenced your life? 

I love the Four Agreements. So simple yet so thought provoking. Without sounding cliche, it really changed my outlook on life.

I hear you have a new book coming out, what can readers expect with your first book? 

Strength Through Yoga is a postnatal guide that ensures a safe and effective journey to restoring strength, and to support you in both body and mind. It is a 16-week programme that is evidence based, co-written by a physiotherapist (@finolaphysio) and has been reviewed by medical professionals.

The book includes six weeks of physiotherapy based exercises followed by ten weeks of yoga inspired circuits designed to increase full body strength and flexibility in just 25-30 minutes, 3 times a week. Additionally we have included information and advice on the core and other essential muscles, mindfulness and mediation techniques, and common postpartum issues - shedding some light on issues which can be hard to talk about and giving you information on what you can do to help. If you take one thing away from this book, know that you are not alone and help is out there.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Money doesn’t equal success and happiness is everything.

For Hannah's classes and more details on her yoga, book and events check out:

Florence Swift, ED Recovery + Mental Health Awareness Champion

17 December 2018

For many, Christmas is a time for over-indulging in mountains of food, but for some this time is their idea of hell, when food is nothing but an enemy. Between 600,000 and 725,000 people in the UK are affected by eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa which are considered to be serious mental health problems. Some people attribute eating disorders to media and the increased importance that is placed on ‘needing’ to have a certain body shape or type. Although some see Instagram as a facilitator, one inspirational lady has turned this into a platform to assist her recovery of this terrible illness and by sharing her thoughts, worries, and musings with her adoring followers she is not only aiding her own recovery but helping thousands of people who are also suffering. 
Florence Swift, aka, Swift_Eats is one of Instagram's true gems, with it being so easy to get swept up in a sea of 'body goals' and 'unhealthy detoxes' she is championing being happy, healthy and confident in who you are. 

I caught up with her to hear her story..

At what point did you realise you had an eating disorder and how did you address it at the time?

I realised quite soon into my disorder that I had a problem, I studied Psychology at University so I knew the diagnostic criteria for anorexia but kind of thought I had everything under control and that it didn’t apply to me, so I was totally in denial. Luckily I was already seeing my therapist at the time and we would talk about my anxieties around food and food behaviours. I remember one session she referred to me as having anorexia and I felt so shocked because no one has used those words before and I couldn’t really believed that I’d unknowingly slipped into and full blown eating disorder when it had just started as a diet.
In terms of addressing it, I learnt that my food behaviours were a manifestation of my depression, anxiety and past traumas, so I really did the work to unravel the deeper issue. My ed was a coping mechanism so once I understood what I was using it to cope with I was more easily able to let go of it.


When did you decide to lay yourself bare on social media to help others? How has it helped you?

There wasn’t really a moment where I was like ok I’m gonna start being honest about what I’m experiencing. It kind of just happened. I think the first post where I was really honest about what I’d been experiencing was about 18 months ago. At first I just alluded to the fact that I’d experienced mental health problems. Mental health is such a taboo and I initially felt ashamed talking about my experiences, I didn’t want to put people off and now I don’t give a shit! I’m always talking about mental health, periods, whatever, I don’t care.
It’s helped me come into myself so much. It’s been so empowering. In the past I used to instagram to make it look like I had a perfect life, and it felt so fake, so it’s amazing to be able to be honest and be so accepted for that. My audience are the most supportive, amazing people. They’ve helped me grow and learn so much about myself. I’m so grateful for the space the give me to share and create.

What advice would you give to your younger self and what advice would you say to ignore?

Ah jeez. I don’t even know where to begin! There’s so much stuff I wish I’d know, but I’d probably say:
1. Trust your gut above all else
2. You are your number one priority
3. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will either
4. How you look is the least important thing about you

In terms of ignoring - basically just ignore what everyone else is doing and telling you to do!
I think I knew a lot of this already, but I kind of needed to experience everything before I truly believed it. I had to go through a lot of shitty relationships, listen to a lot of shitty advice first. I guess it’s all just a part of growing up.

In the last 5 years what behaviour, habit or belief has improved your life?

This is so hard because I could honestly list about 20 things but, really, really, going to therapy is the best choice I’ve ever made. It’s changed and honestly saved my life. I’ve been paying to go to therapy for 4 years, which financially is kind of rough, but I’d rather invest in my mental health than buy clothes or go out drinking so for me it’s a no brainer.

What five things can you not live without?

1. Some kind of mindfulness practice - yoga, journalling, mediation
2. Sourdough
3. Moisuriser
4. My support network
5. Chocolate

Follow florence here

Stef Menga, Rocket and Dharma Yoga Teacher

2 December 2018

People come to yoga in different ways, as you will read many times over on this blog, Stef came to the practice when areas of her life were slipping away from her and out of her control, yoga became healing place and has remained a mental and physical safe place.  I've been following this lovely lady for a while on instagram so it's great to have her on the blog to hear her yoga story... 

How did you get into yoga what was the first thing you thought after your first practice?

I started yoga following a recommendation of a friend after the tendons on the back of my knees got badly inflamed in 2015. In September I then randomly joined a Rocket Yoga class at my gym and the first feeling I had was that of pure body and mind empowerment. Soon after that, I received the terrible news that the most important person in my life, my Grandma, would have slowly be taken away by an awful cancer. I immediately found in yoga a safe, physically and mentally, healing place. I then decided to join a Yoga Studio attending classes almost every day, mainly Rocket and Dharma.

In the last years what new belief, behaviour or habit have you most improved?

Through two dynamic, physical, but also very spiritual practices, like Rocket and Dharma yoga, not only has my body became stronger and healthier, but I have also learned to accept the present and to deal with mental pain. I learnt and am now a strong believer that suffering can be turned into positive energy. There is an inner happiness in everyone’s heart. That could be unlocked by being kind and bringing happiness to ourselves and other people. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future by working hard in the present. This is what Yoga teaches us. When you first start your practice, you may not be able to do any pose, but if you work hard, one day you will get there. The present is all what we have, and we have to make the most of it, by being happy. Happiness is possible for everyone.

Favourite yoga teachers?

My huge gratitude goes To Emi Tull for building my body strength and for teaching me the value of compassion and acceptance. Helen Russell-Clark, Melissa Zelaya and Katarina Rayburn for teaching the monst mentally and physically empowering yoga sessions. Marcus Veda and Leon London for teaching me the body alignment and engagment during the practice.

Morning routine?

I tend to get up early to do my yoga practice or going for a run before I do anything else.

What would you say your soul animal is?

Tiger: Symbol of strength, power, and energy. Tiger also stands for passion and sensuality.

Five items you can't live without?

Yoga mat, homemade lunchbox, phone to stay connected with my friends (some of my best friends live abroad and I speak to them very often as I cannot see them) and obviously with my beloved IG yogi community ;), running shoes, watch

Alix, Dharma Yoga Teacher

25 November 2018

This weeks story is with the gorgeous yogi, Alix, a 500 hr Dharma teacher trained by Sri Dharma Mittra in New York, Mark Khan in London and a vinyasa teacher trained by Stewart Gilchrist and Amanda Denton. Once a lawyer in the City, after practising yoga more regularly realised there was more to life than the daily grind and became a teacher. Drawn by the physical challenges of the practice and even more because of the effects Yoga had on the mind and wellbeing, she wanted to share all these benefits with others.

You'll find her teaching in London studios such as,  Power Yoga Company, More Yoga, as well as Chelsea Harbour Club.

I caught up with her on what may have been the last sunny day of Autumn on the streets of Westminster.

One word to describe the first time you practiced yoga?


What books have inspired you?

First it was The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is the first Yoga book I read and I was hooked from the first page. I have now read 4 different translations, two of which several times. I have summarised the comments on each sutras in two of the books. My favourite version is by Edwin F. Bryant. I always go back to the Sutras.

The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar is amazing - so easy to read, so clear.

I loved Self-Knowledge (AtmaBodha) by Swami Nikhilananda, which I intend to read again soon.

My constant reference is also Yoga Wisdom by Sri Dharma Mittra.

It is the philosophy that drew me and actually keeps me drawn to and makes me passionate about Yoga even more than the physical practice. When I was 16 I wanted to be a philosophy teacher, it is all I was reading. I knew I would come back to philosophy. The scriptures are my teacher and I constantly go back to them, I think it is the Yoga path I am made to be on.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

Whether we are referring to the physical, mental or spiritual practices in Yoga, what matters for each and all is constant practice. There is no failure, there is just progress and evolution.

This is true for the physical practice of course. I have failed over and over again for some poses until I did the full pose. The day it happens it feels like it’s magic, when in fact it is every single attempts that have allowed me to progress and reach it. Of course depending on our natural abilities some poses will come quicker than others, but for those other poses, the same applies: repeat! There is no secret: you have to do the practice and not be discouraged. The ego works that way too - to make us think it’s not for us, the body can’t do it. This is the mind tricking us. We must persevere.

It is the same for the other aspects of the practice. Non-violence for instance. We fail to be nice to someone over and over again, we get angry and can’t control our temper. Yoga is on and off the mat. When we notice ourselves being unkind, there is a beautiful Sutra that says we must cultivate the opposite concept, which means we must go to the root of why we are unkind/angry etc, reflect on it and cultivate the opposite. So we fail, then reflect, and then change. I practise this and it has help me so much. Everything in Yoga is about increasing our awareness. I think Yoga makes us smarter. But most importantly, constant practice makes us kinder human beings, more compassionate.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it with a message on it — what would it say and why?

‘You are stronger than you think!'

I am referring to inner strength as well as outer strength. Never be discouraged. Don’t let the ego tell you you can’t do it. If you have the right mindset, the willpower and the love for what you do - or even better the passion, nothing can stop you, the strength within will come to light.

Yoga has help me find more of both types of strength.

Strength to follow a passion and a path, which could have seemed unusual for the ex-lawyer that I was, strength to ignore other people’s expectations of who they thought I was. I knew I would never be a lawyer for the rest of my life, working long hours at a desk, reviewing contracts. I fell in love with Yoga and very quickly knew I wanted to be a teacher. I followed my passion rather than a very well paid job. And yet at first I thought I would never be able to teach a public class but only private classes as I am very shy and terrified to speak in public. It is my passion for Yoga, the hours spent on my mat, studying a lot, reading a lot that made me find my inner strength and confidence to teach and follow my passion to make it my job. And now I juggle being a Yoga teacher, doing my daily practice and raising three young children. It is a challenge but again I know I have the strength to do it all!

Inner and outer strength - Yoga has made me physically so much stronger. A strength I never thought I would have and actually never sought. Strength is built!

Do you have favourite yoga teachers and studios in London you can recommend to fellow city yogis?

As much as I love my self-practice and is what I mainly do, I practise weekly with my Dharma Yoga teacher in the places he rents to teach (Fitzrovia Community Centre, The Glasshouse in Vauxhall).
I also practise in a few studios from time to time: Indaba, The Power Yoga Company (my very first studio, that I love and where I teach a lot), Triyoga (Chelsea or Soho).

If you could be an animal what would you be and why?

I would be a bird who can fly very high - how amazing it would be to be able to fly!

For the latest news, classes and retreats from Alix, click here

Sarah, Yoga Teacher. AKA Yogi Grogie

11 November 2018

Sarah, the beauty behind the Instagram handle Yogi Grogie (what a name!!), is the kind of person you meet and within seconds feel like you’ve known for years! She’s great to be around and is exactly the reason I love to meet people within the wellness industry.

Sarah came to yoga in a similar way to many people - out of necessity, following years in a job that overwhelmed her being. After 7 years as a stock broker she took herself off to a hotel in Spain called La Crisalida that hosted yoga and found her love for it there. In her first class she was so exhausted from work and life, she fell asleep! (You all know you’ve done this in savasana once or twice!)

When she got back she knew she needed to get into yoga, so YouTube was her answer. She watched videos before work just to keep her balanced for the day. Finally, she plucked up the courage a year ago to leave her job and embark on a career in yoga and she's never looked back! 

We caught up on the streets of Shoreditch for a coffee and chat about her life in yoga...

One word to describe the first time you practiced yoga?

Meh. But that was when I was back in university. I wasn’t that impressed with it, so didn't come to do yoga again until my mid-twenties when I was stressed at work and in search of a release. Then it instantly had an incredible calming effect, so I guess the word I’d use for the first time that I really practiced yoga was 'Calm'.

It was a 5 day retreat. The first class was a yoga nidra class. I was so exhausted that I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until everyone had left the room and the teacher gently gave me a shake! Yoga didn't resonate with me the first time I practiced because I didn't need it. I truly believe you find the practice when you are in need of it.

What’s books have inspired you?

The China Study – This book was eye opening for me on the merits on a plant based diet. I’m not totally vegan anymore but, for me, thinking with a ‘plant based’ frame work makes me feel a lot better. The Goddess Pose, by Michaele Goldberg about Indra Devlin who helped yoga to the west. To Kill a Mockingbird is still one of my favourite books I’ve ever read.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? 
I've noticed a pattern that I often mess up the first time I try something! I 'failed' my first interview for an Investment bank 10 years ago. Similarly, I messed up my first ever audition for a yoga studio. While seemingly failures, both were opportunities to learn and I’ve not failed an interview or an audition since!

Until we try something we simply don't know what we don't know. By trying, we understand what is needed and can focus our efforts in the most efficient way. I don't like the feeling of failure, and without a doubt, that is a driver for me.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it with a message on it — what would it say and why? 
God this is tough! I’d love a whole sequence of them saying – ‘Let Go’, ‘Believe in yourself’, ‘You are enough’.

I have spent the past year working on all of these. Letting go of a previous career and relationship. Letting go of all the self-doubt that can creep up during such a big transition, replacing those feelings with self-belief and knowledge that I was doing the right thing and setting myself on the right path.

Do you have favourite yoga teachers and studios in London you can recommend to fellow city yogis?

We have sooo many great teachers here! Marcus Veda was my first teacher and one I practice with regularly. He introduced me to the Rocket and was the person who gave me the courage to do my TT. Kat Rayburn is another fave, along with Aram Raffy (Yogasana), Emi Tull (Dharma), Harriet Bone (Jiva). I recently discovered Naoimi Absalom and Celeste Periera. I love the studios I teach at - Another Space and Psycle. Triyoga and Yotopia have nice vibes and good teachers.

If you could be an animal what would you be and why? 

One of those migrating birds, who travel the world to wherever it is summer!! Haha! Seeing the world is one of my biggest passions and I don’t like the cold at all!!

Sarah's retreats are a must check out!

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