How yoga can breathe new life into the very core of your day
Stay cool, karma and collected through everyday movement
November is all about the mo and the moves for Movember, a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier and longer lives. We meet three of the charity’s Mo Bros and Mo Sistas helping raise awareness.
Working in an office never felt quite right for Londoner Charlotte Johnson. “It wasn’t just that I wanted to be outside on the few days of the year when it was sunny, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was meaningful.”
She grew up always on the move – “cartwheels, making up dance routines with friends, gymnastics and running around” – so when the opportunity arose for the dedicated yogi to train as a yoga teacher and combine her passions, she seized it.
“I like how yoga adds value to people’s lives. When some people come into a class you can see their stress; it physically manifests in their body. Their shoulders are up to their ears and their body is stiff and tense. And at the end of the class you can see how that stress has evaporated – they feel good.”
Johnson is channelling her energetic spirit for a greater cause in November as part of the “move for Movember” campaign, raising funds and awareness for men’s health issues through advocating the importance of exercise.
“Having a daily activity, particularly practising yoga, enhances all other aspects of your life. Yoga makes you strong to the core and, more importantly, it teaches you how to really breathe.”
She teaches private, group and corporate yoga classes, incorporating Thai yoga massage. “I’m a fan of using aromatherapy to immediately get in the zone. One breath in and a person’s demeanour changes instantly; they associate the smells with the experience.”
My body feels more wholesome since practising yoga regularly. I’ve not been ill since I started my teacher training six years ago. I remember living in London I used to be ill for a few days or a week at a time; I cannot remember feeling like that. Maybe once a year I’ll get the sniffles but I get over it in a day.
I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 10. I lived in the countryside and would spend time on farms, watching chickens hatch and helping raise the animals. I remember one night I came home and there was meat for dinner and I made the connection. It didn’t feel right.
My goal for 2016 is walking the Camino de Santiago (also known as the Way of St James) in Spain next year. I would like to do something with my life that has real significance. I like the idea of having to walk every day and have a goal. You move through beautiful countryside, have time to reflect and soul search, meet interesting people from all over the world and end up at a different village or town at the end of each day and then eat delicious tapas for dinner! I plan to do it in June next year – although I’m nervous to say that because it means I’m committed.
Yoga taught in a group class format has come from the fitness industry; when yoga first moved to the West they incorporated it with fitness. Traditionally, yoga was taught one-on-one. In Ashtanga yoga’s Mysore “self-directed” style, each student would practise their own routine, and the guru [‘teacher’] would correct each student individually. Students would have to find their own connection with their body and their practice.
When I do private teaching it connects me to the essence of yoga and how it was traditionally taught. Group classes are good, they give you the energy of other people and are fun, but I think the traditional style of learning yoga brings a deeper and more meaningful experience.
I don’t believe practising yoga means you have to practise a full routine every day, or for great lengths of time. Moving your body, doing a few sun salutations and a few seated stretches, shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes?
I think there’s a false sense of balance in this city: I see so many people doing an aggressive, stressful job and then an aggressive, stressful form of exercise. They think the exercise is calming them down, and they’re letting out their stress, but it’s not giving their mind an opportunity to switch off and tune into what their body is actually doing. They’re just distracted. If the mind’s not in the right state, it’s going to affect your entire body and your health.
I believe every office should offer their employees a form of lunchtime yoga or meditation. It gives a break in the day; an opportunity to walk away, recharge your mind and completely switch off. People think going out for a sandwich is a “break”, but you’re still highly stimulated. Getting back to your desk, you might be less inclined to respond in that aggressive, sarcastic tone that you may have used. It gives an opportunity for people to respond differently to the stressors in their lives.
Find out more about Johnson's yoga classes here www.facebook.com/CharlotteJohnsonYoga/