We chat with South Dublin based yoga teacher and wellness coach, who has perfected the art of bed and chair yoga. Our kinda (jim) jam!
As a yoga instructor, much of your job is about making other people relax. But how do you spend your downtime?
Well, I’m a mum to a very busy eight-year-old boy so downtime looks very different these days! It’s often filled with simple things like making Lego, water fights in the garden, and scooting by the harbour.
When I have time to myself I love to read – I’m a total bookworm. Give me a cosy corner to curl up in, a cup of tea and a good book and I’m happy.
Recently I decided to teach myself to paint as a way to relax. I’m totally obsessed now – you’ll often find me in a pair of old dungarees, creating abstract watercolours. It’s my new favourite thing. There’s something so freeing about allowing yourself to create from a place of pure pleasure without any particular goal in mind other than to combine colours and textures that bring you joy.
What would a perfect weekend look like to you?
Firstly, a lie-in would be top of my list. Since having Ruben mornings spent lounging in bed are few and far between so, for me, tea in bed is one life’s great pleasures!
I love hiking too; it clears my head and helps me process anything that’s been rattling round in my head. A good walk up a mountain with the people I love would be up there.
Farmers markets have long been a feature of my weekends, there’s something about pottering about the stalls, discovering wonderful, locally-made delicacies, chatting to new people, wandering with no agenda. That makes me truly happy.
And then baking. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know baking is my therapy: if I’m happy or sad you’ll find me in the kitchen, covered in flour, dancing to my favourite songs. I find that no matter what’s gone on in my week, pulling together simple, humble ingredients and seeing them transform into something that can feed your friends is a kind of alchemy that helps me feel whole again.
Where and when was your last truly mellow moment?
Recently we travelled to Mljet in Croatia. It’s an island that is 80 per cent national parkland and saltwater lakes: it’s almost completely undeveloped and I can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
In the mornings we would get up, pack a picnic and cycle through the forests until we found a deserted cove that we liked the look of, stripped off and then dived into the crystal clear aquamarine waters and swam until we got tired. There – in the middle of the lake, no people for miles, the sound of birdsong and surrounded by little butterflies that literally landed on your shoulders as you floated – was as close to heaven as I can imagine.
What good, all-rounder yoga postures would you recommend for first thing in the morning and last thing at night?
Bed yoga is a particular favourite of mine. I mean what could be better than rolling out of bed, in your PJs, and gently stretching your body in a way that requires very little effort but leaves you feeling great in your body?
I always recommend that my clients practice a few stretches on the bed when they wake up and again right before they sleep. It just helps to rebalance the body after the rigours of the day or the general tossing and turning we do in our sleep. There’s also something important about moving into and out of our day intentionally that really makes a noticeable difference to how you feel both in body and mind.
Child’s pose is a staple. It helps to open the hips, release tension from the lower back and also encourages production of the hormones that help us sleep. Legs up the wall – or headboard! – pose is another easy one that has myriad benefits to the whole system. It can help us with digestion, circulation, better lymphatic drainage and if you are prone to headaches, it’s a must-do pose.
Both poses are very calming for the nervous system, helping to move us out of fight or flight, and into the more beneficial rest and digest phase.
The pandemic forced so many businesses online. How did you cope with *the pivot* when yoga and wellness relies so much, literally and figuratively, on the human touch?
Yes, I’m not going to lie, I found the move to online very tough mentally and physically. Part of what I love about my work is the human interaction – I love watching people move, figuring out why something isn’t working the way it should and help find a solution. That’s much harder to do via a screen and it took a while to get used to.
I also think one of my best skills is being able to ‘hold space’ by creating a beautiful atmosphere in my classes and workshops – I spend time carefully curating the playlist, the smells in the room, the temperature, etc. I want people to step into a fully immersive experience that elevates their practice and brings a sense of ritual and ceremony to their day.
This is something that doesn’t really translate through a Zoom call.
There were obviously benefits too. I got to work with people all around the world that I never would have reached before and I was able to teach chair yoga to lots of elderly people who would otherwise have been isolated in their homes. I formed some lovely friendships with people of all ages by being virtually invited into their sitting rooms, and that was an honour.
You recently launched in-person face yoga. How confident are you that attendees will leave their inhibitions at the door – to gurn with gusto?
Ha ha, well that is an aspect of face yoga that people can feel daunted by, I actually think that while during the poses you look totally ridiculous most of the time, it’s one of its USPs… because of Instagram, yoga has become very serious, elitist and largely only about how good you look doing it. And that is not the point of yoga at all.
Wellness can be very worthy, and I think we often end up taking ourselves too seriously. Laughter so often really is the best medicine and sitting in a circle with a group of people who have shown up to to learn to love the skin they’re in, in all its guises, is very disarming. Also of course I’m up there, front and centre making a fool of myself so I think that helps too.
It’s so exciting for me to see so many people joining me on this journey, learning that we have the tools to grow older with grace and without augmentation. It’s so empowering when all around us the messaging from social media says otherwise.
I’m actually going to take a swerve left here and say that my idea of a dream retreat is this little cabin in the woods that I discovered a few years ago whilst travelling around Ireland with my podcast Wandering into Wellness. It was built using traditional methods by the couple that own it, perched high up in the Caher Pass in Kerry – surrounded by mountains and vistas that stretch the eyes and lift your soul.
Waking to the sun rising over the hills, padding barefoot out onto the decked balcony, matcha in hand and practicing yoga in the silence of the early morning was my dream come true. The simplicity of days spent there, reading, cooking, meditating, swimming in the natural plunge pool, walking in the woods, playing Scrabble by candlelight. For me that is where I go for nourishment.
Having said that I do hope that we will start to host weekend retreats again soon in some very special locations we’ve been scoping out. Watch this space…
Imagine it’s a Friday evening. Your Moon + Mellow PJs are on and you have the TV (and couch) to yourself. What is your go-to feel-good film, snack and refreshment?
My all-time favourite feel-good film is Chef, directed by Jon Favreau – if you haven’t seen it, stop everything and watch it now! It’s the story of a disgraced but charismatic chef (Favreau) and his son, travelling across America in a food truck. The soundtrack is the best to dance to – great Cuban classics – then of course there’s the food, which will leave you drooling…
My family was given a popcorn machine which inspired us to get creative with our kernels – we often make combos like cinnamon and freeze-dried raspberry or butter, paprika and black pepper. As for refreshment, I’m an English rose at heart so you can’t tear me away from a sparkling elderflower cordial with some slices of lime.
What’s the last thing you do before you turn out the lights at bedtime?
I always end my day with a quick gratitude list, a reminder of all the simple things in my day that made me smile. It takes seconds but it reframes how you feel about so many things and reminds you that no matter what happened in your day, there are always so many wonderful things in your life. Finding the beauty in those simple, small moments is a key practice of mine that has fundamentally changed how I experience my life.
Which are your favourite picks from the Moon + Mellow collection?
I currently have three pairs of Moon + Mellow PJs and an eye mask too – quite the collection in itself! They have been my birthday presents from my mum for the past few years, because I love them so much.
My latest pair are the blush jellyfish organic long set. I love that something so pretty is printed with an animal that isn’t often seen as a thing of beauty. That juxtaposition creates a curiosity and a complexity that I find interesting.
I’m also saving up for one of the beautiful house coats in the ‘Nomad’ print. I’ve travelled a lot in my life so I’m drawn to that nomadic aesthetic. I also want the tropical bird shorts set… so you see it’s a bit of an addiction, but I can think of worse things to be addicted to than organic loungewear!
Lydias M+M Picks
Follow Lydia on Instagram @yogawithlydia