I caught up with yoga teacher Louisa Koussertari to find out how the power of yoga and meditation can help our health and wellbeing. She shares top tips for beginners, how to stay flexible working from home and how to get the most from virtual classes.
What have you been doing to protect your wellbeing during coronavirus restrictions?
Allowing emotion to be felt, being self-compassionate, more yoga, more meditation, more inward thinking and being quiet. This is my self care package. It enables me to be in a place where I can offer others support through live classes and give my energy, compassion and care where needed. Don’t get me wrong, there are days or moments in days where things feel hard. Where it’s frustrating and living in a flat with no garden a dog and my boyfriend is a big test and yes a strain sometimes, but I’m equally aware even as I write this that perception has a huge impact! Doesn’t our perception steer our reality and cant we choose to see things differently?
How can the practice of yoga help with the uncertainty and anxiety of recent times?
Yoga can provide a framework that draws upon the application of breath, mind, movement, shifting of energies, being silent and being kind. It invites you to let go. To trust, to feel emotion and make space for peace, calm, restoration and faith! For many, just the chance to open the body, release dopamine, move, breathe and steady the mind is bliss. This is enough to head back out into the world and be able to better manage uncertainty and rationalise.
Your tips to help our flexibility and posture in new home office set-ups?
Don’t sit for too long! Mix it up with standing and sitting. You can fashion a standing desk by stacking your laptop or monitor and keyboard on books. The longer we sit, the more shortening and tightening of our hip flexors and quads. The more the spine is compressed, then the ripple effect will move into the body. Layer in mini movements and stretch breaks.
What are your top tips for yoga beginners?
Start with the foundations. Steadying attention on the breath. That will help to cement the skill of connecting to it and to being still and silent. In time, apply the breath to the movement. Then explore Sun Salutations and even half-Sun Salutes. This flow can be modified and adjusted for the individual. Practiced for even 10 minutes a day, it will provide an all-round stretch and strengthening of the body.
What’s the best way to do a virtual class if you’re unsure what to expect?
Start with a live one-to-one with a teacher so you can receive full attention and support. Once you feel your confidence is there then classes can be a lovely shared energy and space to come together, even virtually.
What is the best time of day to do yoga?
Traditionally as the sun rises and before breakfast. This is when we are most disconnected from the outside world. We’re at peace and rested but this is not feasible for most. In short, the best time for your mind and body is when you allow the time to do it. Commit. Commit attention and show up. You deserve that.
Do you have favourite poses?
It changes but I love the power and control of headstand, half-moon and arms balances. I have Bertolotti’s syndrome and a fused L5 and S1 on my right side, so it has taught me how to adapt poses and explore other ways to move and access.
Your top tips for meditation?
Allow 5-minute blocks of time alone and in silence. No phone, no people, just you. Lie or sit comfortably and supported. Take a slow deep breath in and long breath out. Let the eyes close. Try to relax the jaw and body. Observe the first a rush of distractions – twitching eyes, fidgeting, sensation in the body, images or words flashing across the mind.
Try to steady your concentration on the breath and your mental gaze so that you can watch it rise and fall in your chest again and again. Repeat and bring your attention back every time your mind wanders.
What’s your favourite shop or online outlet to buy yoga clothing from?
I particularly like leggings from Manuka. I default back to a simple vest or high neck top that’s not too short, too flappy or too tight – I don’t ask for a lot!
Louisa’s yoga journey in her own words…
In my mid 20’s I found myself in a place where I was just a bit lost. Well, very lost. I was in an unhappy relationship, disconnected to myself, to who I was and what I wanted from life. I felt like I was living in the ‘Matrix’ and watching myself become more and more unhappy. I stumbled across yoga seeking something more.
I took classes in my local gym and immediately I was hooked. It grounded me in a way that all the other elements of my life did not. As a naturally energetic person (ants in my pants!), I find it hard, although easier now to slow down. Yoga has taught and helped me to develop skills through meditation and asana practice to look inward, to listen, acknowledge and to slow-motion thoughts and actions from a more centred and calmer place.
Thirst for knowledge
I knew that yoga’s powers were something I wanted to share wider and so pushed myself to take my 200hr training. 1000’s of hours later of teaching and seeing a vast range of needs and experiences, I continued to study more. I wanted to feed my hunger for knowledge. I’m now qualified as a teacher in Yin, Yoga for Teens, Pregnancy & Postnatal and I took many other courses around yoga for sport science, mediation and chakras.
Connect with Louisa
* All photographs courtesy of Emma Wilson photography