When it comes to yoga, I’m always intrigued as to what brings people to their mat, their practice, and how it’s helped to change their life. Far from *purely* its physical benefits, yoga has a pretty special power to go so much deeper and yoga therapy is actually used to help manage many physical and mental health issues; a truly special practice that can really help transform your mind and body.
I recently chatted to the gorgeous, open, honest and oh-so-funny Elle Wright (of Feathering The Empty Nest) about her own yoga journey and about how she’s used yoga to ‘help heal through her heartbreak’… here Elle talks us through her practice, her daily lifestyle, and her tips for keeping her wellbeing at the top of her priority list.
Elle, we know you best for being Mum to Teddy and your side-kick pug Boris, writing an incredible book about the loss of your darling boy (Ask Me His Name) and advocating open conversations about loss and fertility struggles, (and also for creating THE most gorgeous of homes), but yoga is also a big love for you – so how did yoga first come into your life?
Like most people, I had done the odd class here and there over the years, but I really starting practicing when I was expecting Teddy. I went to some antenatal yoga classes where I met my brilliant teacher. She ignited my love of yoga.
You’ve been so heartwarmingly honest on Instagram and on your blog about your struggles with the loss of Teddy, fertility, and taking care of your mental health, which has made you a go-to for advice/support on social media – how do you make sure that you don’t feel the weight of this and overwhelmed by all the messages and questions you get asked relating to your story?
It’s difficult sometimes. I am not an expert (in anything!), and so all I can do is tell people that I hope they are surrounded by love and support, and if they aren’t then ask them to consider talking to their GP. I can’t advise them, I am just a grieving parent too, but I can share our story and what helped us after Teddy died, and I hope this goes a little way to helping others.
Do you remember how you felt after your very first yoga class?
I think I did my first class when I was about 16, at a David Lloyd Club with my Mum. I honestly cannot remember how it felt, but it must have been good as I remember going to quite a few.
How would you describe the style or type of yoga you enjoy most?
I practice Hatha Flow yoga, which is just what my instructor teaches. It isn’t too fast paced, but equally doesn’t see you holding lots of strenuous poses for a long time. It’s a nice mix of everything and I like that.
Do you have a specific area/space in your home that you practice yoga? Do you create a setup with anything specific before you begin your practice?
I used to practice in the sitting room at home, but now I practice in our new kitchen/ living space as it has recently been renovated and extended. I don’t do anything specific, other than ask Alexa to play my favourite yoga music playlist. Sometimes I light a candle or I might burn some incense. I always practice in the mornings as I find it sets me up for the day.
You’ve talked a bit on your blog about your diet, changes you’ve made to your lifestyle since trying to conceive following your first pregnancy, can you share a bit about this?
I mean, what haven’t I tried?! To be fair I have always had a fairly balanced diet and lifestyle and exercised regularly. I don’t do high impact exercise anymore and just favour walking and yoga. I am a vegetarian, I drink very little caffeine, I don’t drink much alcohol anymore either; maybe 1-2 glasses of wine at the weekend, but some weeks I don’t drink at all. When we have been on fertility treatment cycles I don’t drink any caffeine or alcohol, and tend to eat a high protein diet with lots of veggies thrown in. I also have acupuncture every other week; that is something I have been doing for about 3 years now and it has made a huge difference to my health and my outlook.
What’s your daily routine like where yoga/diet/wellbeing is concerned?
I am a creature of habit. My husband leaves for work around 5.30am each day and he rarely gets home before 9.30pm, so my days working from home are pretty organized and I keep myself busy. I always usually start with yoga practice after a morning tea, have breakfast after I have showered (almond milk, vegan chocolate protein powder, banana, oats, cinnamon in a blender!). Then I will walk Boris, and once I am home I will answer all my emails, do any work I have to do and then my days can be pretty changeable depending on what I have going on. I go to yoga classes 1-2 times a week too and those are always in the mornings. I definitely prefer to start the day with yoga.
How important is having a routine and a regular yoga practice to your day-to-day life and overall sense of wellbeing ?
It helps me immensely. For me, it gives me a sense of calm and helps me focus each day.
What’s your favourite yoga position and why?
Always Baddha Konasana (sitting down, soles of feet together and knees out to the sides) I start my practice and finish my practice with this. I just find it really grounding and calming.
What does wellbeing mean to you? How do you ensure you add this to your everyday and that it doesn’t get overlooked or end up at the bottom of your priority list?
I think since Teddy died it has become part of my survival tool kit, so there is just no way could be without looking after myself mentally and physically. I can’t ever overlook it for this reason.
How much does having Boris and daily dog walks help with your wellbeing/mental health?
He is my saviour and has given me so much purpose. I have written so much about him on my blog for this reason and how our daily walks have helped me.
What are your top three ways to keep your headspace in check/your instant go-to’s in your self-care toolbox?
Saying “No” to things. Clearing my diary and prioritising time with my husband and at home without feeling guilty.
Eating well. I think taking the time to cook and prepare yourself good, fresh food is a wonderful kind of self-care. I never underestimate it.
Go-to comfort food… Scrambled Eggs
Book to read and re-read over and over… Emma Cannon ‘Fertile”
Favourite season… Autumn
Go-to cheer up tune… One that reminds me of my childhood- Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al”
Favourite Friday night tipple… If I do have a drink on a Friday then it’s a G&T in the winter or a nice glass of Rose in the summer.
Best bit of advice… You just do you and try to worry less about what other people think. It is really freeing!
Most inspired words… Actually something the vicar said to me after Teddy died (although neither my husband nor I practice any faith) “Grief doesn’t last forever. Love does”
You can also find Elle’s book here, Ask Me His Name – Learning to live and laugh again after the loss of my baby.
All images c/o Elle.