A few months ago, Suzy Reading, a UK-based psychologist specialising in self-care, presented a workshop on self-care and we were lucky enough to be there. Her wise, graceful and gentle approach to life was so inspiring that we reached out to Suzy to share her insights with the wider Women4Adventure community. In this #adventureshare, Suzy talks about the power of yoga and how it has changed her life.
My story in a nutshell… I’m Suzy, mum of two, writer, and psychologist specialising in self-care and a therapeutic application of yoga. My career has had many twists and turns, but the one thread running through it all is nourishment. I worked as a personal trainer, which taught me the importance of movement and posture for health, and the inextricable link between mental and physical health. Teaching yoga for me is the bridge between the mind and the body and I love weaving it into my work now as a psychologist.
It was my life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of my father and my own healing journey that lead me to my current business, specialising in self-care. All my disparate qualifications in psychology, fitness and yoga finally made sense when I was trying to rebuild my life. That’s where I learnt first-hand the transformative power of self-care and the fact that we need a broad toolkit to nurture our mental, emotional and physical health.
My business keeps evolving with my life experience too. I focused first on working with mums and lovingly tending to their energetic bank balance. More recently I’ve been exploring nourishing family practices, self-care for kids and self-care for teens. I love seeing people blossom as they become skilled in the art of self-nourishment!
I am passionate about sharing those same skills and strategies with others, hence my book, The Self-Care Revolution, which came out in December 2017. My work now involves coaching, counselling, walk-and-talk sessions, private and group yoga, postnatal yoga, self-care courses, corporate talks and soon, more books!
Why I do yoga… Yoga has been a significant part of my life for over twenty years now. It was the thing that put me back together following my experience of burnout. It’s the activity I now turn to when I need to rest and equally when I need to stand tall and connect with my personal power. What I love about reflecting on my yoga journey is that it makes me appreciate the rich diversity of it. While the presence of the regular ritual has been constant, its form and shape has varied widely, depending on life’s circumstances and my needs at the time.
I first came to yoga in my teens with the purpose of enhancing my fitness for my sport of figure skating. The ‘hot’ kind of yoga was perfect for developing the flexibility and strength I needed on the ice, as a young athlete.
My next experience of yoga came from my decade of working as a personal trainer. During this time I taught just about every class under the sun, from spinning to pump, to combat and I fell in love with ‘Synergise’ – a class offering a fusion of yoga, pilates and tai chi. After teaching this for several years and seeing the wonderful mix of people it attracted, I felt I’d found my groove. In 2002 I embarked on my yoga teacher training accreditation with the Life Centre and this was where I learnt the true breadth of yoga as a way of healing and promoting wellbeing, far greater than developing physical strength and suppleness alone.
I have committed to a daily practice since and yoga has supported me through an injury to my lower back, crazy work schedules, international relocations, during pregnancy and preparing for the birth of my children, in dealing with grief, postnatal depression and fatigue, and now it is the tonic that keeps me strong and resilient so I am best placed to face whatever lies around the corner. It is the practice that keeps ‘Scary Mummy’ at bay, it helps me stay happily married, and keeps me an authentic wellbeing practitioner. The yoga I enjoy now looks radically different from my first forays, but it is what I need and that will continue to evolve.
What I love most about teaching yoga… Whether clients have come to me as a personal trainer, yoga teacher or psychologist, they have just about all been ‘prescribed’ yoga of some kind. I have used yoga to help people achieve better fitness, energy, confidence and a more positive relationship with their body. I have helped people get ready for their wedding, for exams, business pitches and job interviews, for conception and childbirth, for mums returning to work, in preparation for running marathons and a host of other sporting pursuits. I have used yoga to support my clients through stress, pain, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, cancer, cerebral palsy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, IBS, asthma, anxiety and depression (read about how yoga can help you sleep better). I have done yoga with new-borns, toddlers, teens, adults and a few beautiful people in their nineties. There is without doubt, yoga appropriate for everybody and it is such a joy seeing people’s lives transformed when they commit to a regular yoga practice.
Most challenging part of yoga… With so many variations and ‘styles’ out there it can be really challenging to know where to begin. I can say with confidence that there is a type of yoga for everybody but it may take some exploring to find the kind of yoga that is most appropriate for each individual. Try lots of different styles, classes and teachers to find the right fit. Explore yoga at home, guided by books, online resources or my personal favourite – one-on-one with an experienced private yoga teacher who can create a bespoke practice to meet your needs and preferences.
While there are some pretty grand poses in yoga, nothing fancy is required to achieve some significant positive effects. Please respect your body, your mind and the natural inclinations and limitations of both. Move slowly, deliberately and mindfully through your yoga. Nothing should be painful, challenging at times, yes, but never painful. Always use your breath as your guide. If you can breathe comfortably and deeply in a yoga pose it should be safe to say you are working at an appropriate intensity. If there is any holding or shortening of your breath, then please back off. We flirt with the edge of our comfort zone, playfully, with curiosity. We see what the body might say ‘yes’ to, gently knocking on the door, enquiring ‘is this ok’? If it is a ‘yes’, then we continue, if it is a ‘no, not yet’, then we honour that. Compassion must be the guiding principle.
Greatest lessons learnt through yoga… You don’t need to be bendy to do yoga – you do yoga to become more bendy, physically and more mentally malleable to life in all its glory. There is no need to wrap your legs behind your head or stand on your head (unless you can, it serves you and you want to, I don’t want to limit anyone). Yoga is not a performance sport and it doesn’t need to look a certain way or be beautiful. It is a tonic, a life saver, a deep form of nourishment. Just mindfully move your body with your breath and let it nurture you mentally, physically and emotionally. Notice how you breathe better during and after yoga and when you breathe better, you feel better!
Tips for other women who’d like to make yoga a part of their lives… It needn’t be an elaborate or lengthy routine. You don’t even need a yoga mat. It can be as simple as a pose or two while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. The goal is to do just one pose every day, building on that as your inclination grows. The best place to start is with simple sequences tailored for how you want to feel – like poses to help you sleep or poses to lift your mood and energy levels. You’ll find easy practices like these to follow in my book, “The Self-Care Revolution”, suitable for everyone. Just watch how the positive effects of your daily yoga ripple out beyond you.
About the Author: Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book The Self-Care Revolution published by Aster, is out now.
Upcoming Workshops by Suzy:
To empower your kids with the tools of self-care, book onto one of these workshops:
Self-Care for Kids: boosting resilience and emotional first aid. A workshop for parents: more details here.
Self-Care for Teens: boosting resilience and coping skills: more details here.
Join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at:
Read another #AdventureShare about Shirley who walked 800-km on the Camino De Santiago with her 9-year-old daughter. If you have an adventure you’d like to share with the Women4Adventure community, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.