After those ten weeks, I ran the Surrey Half Marathon and was able to eat something before the race. It was a real breakthrough.” In fact, so convinced is she now by the calming effects of the exercise that Julie is now a qualified yoga teacher, as well as running coach and club runner. Julie is right to combine yoga with other sporting activities says, Luma Zaki. She runs Yoga in Surrey (yogainsurrey.co.uk) and says that becoming a yogi, as yoga practitioners are called, doesn’t mean you need to give up the Zumba class. “The beauty of yoga is that it doesn’t just help you feel calmer while you’re doing it. The stress that drips out of your sweat on the yoga mat, continues to abate in every day life. It makes you more resilient. My yoga mat certainly helped me through my divorce.” Accredited counsellor, yoga therapist and instructor Eve Menezes Cunningham (feelbettereveryday.co.uk) isn’t surprised by this. “As well as feeling calmer on the yoga mat, the benefits carry over into our everyday lives as we, with practice, retrain our nervous systems and even rewire the brain. Yoga is a small word for a vast practice which has many different styles: strong movements are brilliant for anxiety as they help burn off those stress hormones, other poses are more calming for the nervous system, while others are more uplifting. But all yoga encourages a level of mindfulness and has been shown to help the hippocampus, a part of the brain impacted by depression.” For Eve, yoga is also what she describes as a psychospiritual practice, the movements of which release the fascia which stores a lot of emotion. This is certainly the experience of Guildford-based German teacher Edit Broad who took up yoga at the age of 49. “Not long after I had started, I went on a yoga retreat in Thailand and during one session, a lot of difficult feelings intruded and I was in floods of tears. Even now, 16 years later, my yoga sessions can be painful and frustrating but I go to classes six mornings a week, and afterwards I am ready to start the day.” She does those sessions at Red Hot Yoga, the first yoga studio in Surrey, and still the county’s biggest (redhotyoga.co.uk). Studio manager Amanda Tolchard rolled out a yoga mat when she realised she needed to be kinder to her body: “I come from a really active health and sporting background, but my former exercise
“It makes you more resilient. My yoga mat certainly helped me through my divorce.” Surrey-based Yoga teacher Luma Zaki routine was beginning to feel punishing. I wanted to take things a bit slower.” What she didn’t expect, however, is that after a couple of sessions, she’d stop shouting at her kids. “It’s an incredible way of relieving stress.” As a clinical psychologist Dr Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert, of Royal United Hospitals, has assessed and provided treatment for people with a wide range of physical illnesses and conditions such as depression and addiction and is a firm believer in the benefits of its practice. “There is at least two decades of solid research which shows that the ability to accept difficult physical poses, to accept the pain, can lead to an ability to function with pain in everyday life which, in turn, can lead to a decrease in anxiety.” In Diana Silva Franco’s case, that anxiety evaporated in just six months, of course. In fact, she’s so impressed by yoga, she is considered giving up her job in a PR agency and becoming a fulltime yoga teacher. She’ll give the exercise some great PR, that’s for sure.