It’s great to speak with you, Michelle! Could you tell us a little bit about Live Happy Live Healthy?
Thanks, Emma, it’s lovely to be here. During my teens and 20’s I really struggled with body image, disordered eating and depression but now in my late 30’s I have completely changed my life through what I now think of as my “tools” for happiness and health. For me, these are really focussed on yoga, personal development /
mindset and nurturing my body with good foods. I took the leap into following my heart to help other people to do the same and am absolutely loving the journey.
I am passionate about cultivating positive body images and nurturing minds and bodies to live happy and healthy lives. I want to encourage women, in particular, to love and care for their bodies and minds and to really embrace wellness rather than any numbers on scales. I teach yoga classes in Surrey and am just days away from launching the first of many online courses, this one is a 7-day positivity challenge – reprogramming your mind towards positivity!
We’d never heard of Fertility Yoga before we discovered you! What are the fundamental aspects of this and why might it help someone struggling with fertility?
Fertility yoga tends to focus on asanas, or poses, that open the hips along with inversions in terms of the physical benefits. These all increase blood and energy flow to the reproductive organs, helping their health and potentially helping improve egg quality.
The breath work and meditation aspect are also great for helping students to relax and manage the inherent stresses that come with fertility concerns and/or fertility treatment. Learning to switch off the mind, focus on breath and totally accepting if yourself and your body is amazingly beneficial for anyone who is struggling with fertility issues.
The classes tend to be a little longer, at least an hour and a half per session to allow time to get the maximum benefit from the poses but also time for chatting, the nature of fertility yoga means that the students have a lot on their minds and it’s a great place to share experiences, concerns and emotions with others in a similar situation who can fully understand what you are going through. Fellow students can become a support system and little community of people to talk openly to.
A lot of women who are struggling to conceive or who are unsuccessful in their fertility treatment often contact us regarding the stigma and stresses attached to being “childless” or “child-free”. This can have a real knock-on effect on our own mental health. What advice would you give to someone struggling with this? Would fertility yoga be a good practice to take up?
This is so sad and so true. We put so much pressure on ourselves and often a lot of time pressures – “I must have children by 30” or “I want to be pregnant in 6 months”. When these things take longer or we run into obstacles we can feel like it is our fault and start to get into very negative thought patterns.
My personal experience was an overwhelming sense that my body had let me down. I felt like I had failed as a woman. It’s really dangerous to let negative talk into our minds.
I believe that we need to try and shift thoughts away from the end result of getting pregnant, towards caring for ourselves. With careers to juggle we are used to being in control and working hard for what we want but when it comes to fertility, some things are out of our control and not a simple quick fix. To allow our bodies the best chance of conception, naturally or through assisted fertility treatments, we need to take a holistic, full body and mind approach to nourish our mind, body and soul.
Fertility yoga is a great place to start, or any yoga class if you do not have a fertility specific class available to you. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can be a great help with dealing with the pressures of fertility concerns – they help us to become mentally more resilient and able to cope better. There are also some great books available – I have some recommendations listed on my website that you can check out.
I also hear a lot of women who have struggled with fertility issues talk about how isolating and alone they felt. This was certainly true for me. If you can find a fertility yoga class you will find yourself with a group of people going through the same thing and that can be a great source of comfort and support. I also think it’s important (but sometimes hard), to stay positive. Many people do not realise the control that our emotions and thoughts can have over us – for example, it has been proven that positive emotions can actually reduce inflammation in the body. I have spent and continue to spend time working on my mind which is why I’m so excited to be bringing new online courses around personal and spiritual development – starting with learning to re-program your mind towards positivity!
You mention on your website that you have struggled with negative body image – that statement alone gave me so much hope. A lot of people, myself included, who deal with negative body image, body dysmorphic or eating disorders tend to avoid classes like yoga because of the emphasis on body image during session time. Do you have any advice on how to combat those thoughts so we can get ourselves to classes that might eventually change our lives?
Absolutely – I am a firm believer that yoga is for everybody and that it should be completely non-competitive or comparative. However, ironically, my first experience of yoga was back in my 20’s in my quest for a super skinny “yoga body”. Over time this changed and I have found so much more peace through my yoga practice. It can be so hard when you have a pre-conception of yoga and the body type that you may expect to be there. One of my favourite sayings is “comparison is the thief of joy”. It is so true – you do not need to be the same as anyone else in a class or able to do the same things, yoga is all about being present and focused on yourself, there is really no need to compare.
If you are new to yoga and feel nervous then, looking for a beginners course is always a great place to
start as you know that you will be amongst other newbies learning the poses and the breathing and
less likely to be confronted with any advanced poses that may intimidate you.
I believe that there is a yoga class and teacher for everybody so if you don’t enjoy the first class you try, you probably just haven’t found the right one for you yet. My classes are very relaxed – I tell my students that they are welcome to come in pyjamas if they want – you don’t need fancy gear, just to be able to breathe and move freely and a willingness to try.
I am so happy to see a shift happening on social media with yoga teachers with different body types gaining higher profiles but to some extent, I feel we are still missing the middle ground, I feel like we see a lot of the super strong and super slim yogis doing amazing poses that can seem so intimidating to anyone with any body issues, then the larger teachers showing that their size does not restrict them from being just as amazing. What I’d like to see is a full spectrum of shapes, sizes and ethnicities sharing their love of yoga in an authentic way.
You are teaching at The Surrey Yoga and WellbeingFestival this year. I really want to drop into your class – what might I expect from your teaching and what can I look forward to taking away from it?
Yes – come along and join us! My teaching is authentic and relaxed, my students and I usually have a good giggle in my classes – particularly when we (myself included sometimes) are wobbling! We’ll spend a little
time focussing on the breath, followed by a slow flow then, a lovely relaxation to soak in the benefits of the practice. You should leave feeling stretched and relaxed, having found some peace to take with you.
To find out more about Michelle and Live Happy Live Healthy, please visit www.livehappylivehealthy.co.uk
The Surrey Yoga & Wellbeing Festival will be held at Denbies Wine Estate, Dorking, Surrey on Sunday 10th June 2018. Opening times are 10am – 5:00pm. Please bring your own mat and if you’d like to drop in on a drumming circle – bring your drum too!
To drop into Michelle’s class at 11:10 am (Room 2 upstairs) at the Surrey Yoga & Wellbeing Festival 2018, tickets are available for you to purchase here. If you’d like to view the entire festival programme to find out what else is on offer, click here.
If you are struggling with your mental health as a result of fertility problems, you may find the following sites helpful.