Hannah Barrett, aka Yoga Girl, fell in love with yoga during a particularly stressful time in her life. Now she’s a yoga teacher, mum and pre and post-natal specialist and she shares some pretty impressive moves over on her Instagram (which has 218k followers!). We asked Hannah 10 questions about the influence that yoga has had on her life and, in particular, its positive impact on new mums.
How did you get into yoga and what made you fall in love with it?
I’d been practicing yoga on and off for a few years but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son that I fell in love with it and started practicing daily. Not only did it keep me physically strong and flexible but mentally I felt so much stronger and empowered.
How has yoga had an influence on your life, both before and during motherhood?
The biggest impact has been how yoga has helped shift my outlook on life. I have always been someone who’s constantly on the go and striving for perfection. I worked for nearly ten years in finance which at times was highly stressful and busy. Then, becoming a mother came with completely new obstacles and stresses.
The more I practiced yoga, the more it seeped its way into all aspects of my life. Things that would have caused me great anxiety before became a lot easier to deal with. My interactions with others and myself – my inner dialogue – completely changed. It felt really freeing and I am happier and calmer than I’ve ever been.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed – physically and mentally – from taking up yoga?
Like many, I spent my teenage years punishing my body and suffered quite severely with an eating disorder. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until yoga was firmly rooted in my life that I truly loved my body – flaws and all. I felt a connection with my body and mind that I had never experienced and it was transformative. I realised that I no longer looked at food or my body in the same light.
Who would you recommend it for?
There are so many different styles and teachers out there that yoga can truly be a practice for everyone. From hot yoga, sweaty power classes, restorative yoga classes to chair-based yoga! And if you’ve tried it and thought it wasn’t for you, I challenge you to try a new class or style. Give it a month or so and then see how it has impacted your life.
You’ve released your own Strength Through Yoga postnatal ebook. Tell us a bit about that.
The idea for the Strength Through Yoga postnatal guide came after I injured myself after having my first baby, not really understanding the postnatal body and what I should or shouldn’t do. I wanted to write a strength building guide for mothers who wanted to get back into exercise after having a baby but didn’t know where or how to safely start. I brought in the amazing physiotherapist Finola Burrell to write it with me and it’s been reviewed by a number of medical professionals, too.
Strength Through Yoga postnatal is an evidence based 16-week programme that heals, challenges and strengthens you after having a baby. It includes six weeks of physiotherapy-based exercises (that can be started from birth) followed by ten weeks of yoga inspired circuits designed to increase full body strength and flexibility in just 25-30 minutes, three 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 providing information on what you can do to help.
You share some pretty impressive moves on your Instagram page. How long did it take you to master some of the more advanced moves?
It took years! And then I had two babies so each time I had to go back to basics, re-build my core strength and relearn.
I really didn’t find the physical practice easy. From years of going to the gym, I’ve always been reasonably strong but I’ve built this whole new level of strength particularly in my core. It’s taken lots of time and patience to get some of the poses I used to look at and think, ‘I could never do that”.
My top tip is to just start and practice them again and again. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve failed and fallen flat on my face! But EVERY success story involves an element of failure. So, as they say, practice and all is coming.
What does a day of eating look like to you? Is there anything you think about in particular when it comes to nutrition?
My one rule is no restriction. I spent my early years cutting out things I thought were ‘bad’ for me. In reality it just makes you miserable and want it more. For me, life without chocolate is not a happy one! I eat everything but in moderation and simply try and be aware of how it makes me feel. I also try (as much as possible) to eat unprocessed food – although being a mum and always on the go, this doesn’t always work!
What are your favourite yoga must-haves?
The best yoga mat and the one I have been using for years is Liforme (code HANNAH19 gets you a discount off the whole range). The grip is like no other, they are plant friendly and the alignment lines are amazing.
Activewear wise, there are so many brands I love but preferably, anything that’s comfy! Favourite brands include Ana Heart, Ernest Leoty, Onzie, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty and Varley. Sported Edit Team and My Gym Wardrobe also do amazing selections.
As a mum, you must be fairly busy! Do you find it difficult fitting yoga into your life now? How often do you practice it?
Yes, finding time is a constant challenge. I try and prioritise at least 15 minutes six times a week but that doesn’t always work. I also always trying to have ten minutes at the start of each day to sit and breathe – sometimes just in silence or sometimes with an app like Calm or Headspace.
I’m lucky that the kids love to practice with me so if all else fails, we make it a team effort which always puts a smile on my face.
What tips would you give to new mums – or anyone – who is new to yoga?
Go for it! Go to a class for beginners or specifically for new mums and give it at least a month. It’s SO hard starting – everything seems impossible but over time it all becomes easier and the sense of achievement and peace in your life will make it worth it.
Check out Hannah on Instagram @yoga_girl_london