Available to listen to on itunes
Ceri Wheeldon of Fab after Fifty interviews Ntathu Allen of Yoga Inspires You about the benefits yoga and meditation can bring to midlife women.
We talk about the different types of yoga and the benefits
How to get started
Why you don’t have to be ‘bendy’ to do yoga.
Some simple yoga and meditation exercises you can do straight away to feel calmer, less stressed and more centred.
How simple things such as brushing your teeth with the opposite hand can help you be more ‘mindful’.
Helpful links to accompany this episode:
Free online mini course
Simple yoga poses (including the Mountain pose mentioned in the podcast.
Useful articles written by Ntathu on the Fab after Fifty website
Full episode transcript:
[00:00:04] I’m Ceri Wheeldon. Welcome to the Fab after Fifty podcast. Leading the pro age conversation, talking about all things life after 50.
[00:00:17] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Fab after Fifty Podcast. I’m delighted to have with me today Ntathu Allen who is an author, yoga and meditation teacher and she focuses on working with working women who feel worn out, burnt out and stressed out and yet still push through. And Ntathu helps them to release, tension and worries, find calm and reconnect with themselves. And Ntathu is also a resident expert on the website. This podcast is a great opportunity for you to meet her. Hello Ntathu and welcome to Fab after 50.
[00:00:49] Hi Ceri. So thankful to be here on your show. Thank you,I’m looking forward to chatting with you today.
[00:00:56] And what are you going to be sharing with us?
[00:00:59] I’d like to share with you just some nuggets from yoga and meditation, really for simple practices and things we can do when, I think we all go through hard times. I know I have we’ve got means like yoga, meditation when things aren’t working for you and we’re struggling to find the way through. And I just find that through teaching, yoga and meditation these are really simple tools that I’d love to share with our readers and listeners that we can use anywhere, any time just to help you feel better, get a sense of calm, let go of tension and stress.
[00:01:38] And how does it actually work to help relieve that sense of stress? Because we all, I think especially in the Instagram era now, when we think of yoga, we have people sharing images of themselves in what would be impossible for me to do poses. And that tends to be what comes to mind now. And you think of yoga. Sort of, you know, these sort of people with legs that seem to go at almost the humanly impossible angles.
[00:02:05] Yes. Yeah. And that really makes me sad. The way yoga’s betrayed now in the media, it’s really portrayed for young, slim, white, women. And it’s really not. Yoga is an ancient system of well-being. And traditionally, you know, you didn’t have to do those poses to do yoga. We could just simply focus on our breath or even sitting up taller, relaxing your shoulders. For me, that’s yoga. It’s becoming aware of how you’re feeling in that present moment. That’s yoga. Meditation. It really isn’t. It is and it isn’t. There is an element of yoga where they do the head stand on a cliff. But that really isn’t what yoga is about. It really isn’t.
[00:02:57] I would love to dispel that myth. How do you think that’s come about? I’m not quite sure. I’m not sure. I’m in the yoga industry myself, and it seems that this has crept in over the last four or five, 10 years.
[00:03:15] I know that when we first started working together, because obviously you’ve been providing that articles and tips on the website for quite some time now that on an off basis. But that said, it wasn’t the focus, was it? When we first had our conversations, it’s more about a sense of well-being, wasn’t it? Yeah. And de -stressing.
[00:03:35] Yes. Yes. And I just don’t know whether that’s because it’s become more commercial and. You know, it sells magazines, sells. Got pretty young girl on the cover doing a head stand on a cliff. That’s more attractive than your average person sitting at a desk. Focusing on breathing. That’s not very appealing to the masses.
[00:03:55] And I suppose also you don’t need to go buy special sexy yoga outfits to do that.
[00:04:00] No, no, no. You don’t need it.
[00:04:03] So what is a benefit fan of doing yoga the way that you you use it in your work?
[00:04:12] It’s a sense of calm as we talk I can think of one of my students, I mean, for her. Her yoga lesson, she’s a very busy woman head of a company, her yoga time, it’s her time just to really unwind right to loosen the knots in her spine. She always says, and she’s always amazed at how well she can sit at the end of the lesson. So for me, it’s more about how you can use yoga meditation just to make you feel better, stronger, calmer.
[00:04:47] And to somebody starting out. How would they approach it? Is it difficult to start and sort of get into that meditation zone, so to speak?
[00:04:59] Yes, I think there’s different ways. I can get phone calls from people because as yoga is now, There are so many styles of yoga. People get confused. They’re confused about the types of yoga, they just don’t know, do they want a power yoga, a slow pace yoga or hatha yoga. There are so many styles of yoga. I always say to myself, always say to student potential students. What are you looking for at a very like heart level? Are you looking for yoga to relieve stress? Are you looking to release back pain? Are you going for a breakup in a relationship? And do you just really want some sort of personal time, try and find out what you’re looking for and then research it or try and talk to a yoga teacher and find out what style of yoga are they teaching. And again, always say for beginners particularly and exercise for years is to go to classes. Beginners class. That’s good, too. Well, I could, generally say look for a hatha a yoga class that’s geared for beginners. Right? I wouldn’t suggest you might see some like a Ying . it’s very good for beginners. But I find that just my own personal experience, it can be quite strenuous with some beginners. Things like power yoga, ashtanga yoga. Great. Again, I just find for someone who hasn’t exercised for a long time, they may prefer a slower, gentler approach to learning how to yoga, how to do yoga.
[00:06:36] And I guess one of the things that might put people off. That’s what people like me is. I’ve never been a particularly bendy person. And I think one of the perceptions that we have and maybe doesn’t sort of equate to the meditation part of yoga, but certainly when you see the images now that we discuss that is being portrayed, do you think you have to be incredibly flexible and bendy to even think about participating?
[00:07:01] And again, the way I teach, the way I’ve been taught is to really listen to your body and to go at your own pace. For example, I teach chair yoga class at a local community center, local library and most of those students are at least 70 years old. Right. And there haven’t got that sort of ability, they actually comes to yoga to improve, to strengthen their body, they always say work out what works best for your body. And I always demonstrate different levels of ability to flex the flexibility. And I constantly encourage the students to make sure they stick and start with what really is working with them right now, not when they were 20 years younger or something.
[00:07:53] And when somebody starts to do yoga. What benefit should they expect to be able to see and how quickly will they see Typically, the benefits.
[00:08:04] With yoga and breath work, I say you get instant benefits because you’re working on the nervous system. So if you just take time. Even now, just to sit up taller.
[00:08:19] I’m consciously doing that- sitting up taller
[00:08:25] And just to softly squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. Come up broad in the front of your chest and get a sense of low in your shoulders. Gain space between your ears and your shoulders. But it is a yoga pose. Right, and that is an instant benefit. You instantly feel taller. You’ve taken time to stop thinking about what’s going on externally. You came back for yourself.
[00:08:55] Well, I mean, it’s a meditation. Again, I guess if I think of meditation years ago, you thought of sitting in a darkened room gazing at a candle. Yes. Is that still happening? Is that still the approach to meditation or how far have we moved on from that.
[00:09:16] It is an approach to meditation. And you can do that now. You could’ve done that thousands of years ago. I think there are very traditional meditation techniques which people have used. But what’s happened over the years, it’s been adapted to more like Western lifestyle. All right. So meditation. There are different schools of meditation and very popular one is mindfulness. And that is just basically what we did a few minutes ago taking time to focus on your posture, sitting up, tall and straight that is a mindfulness technique, you’re taking time to tune in. So that’s what’s going on within your body.
[00:09:57] So that is a technique we can anyone can practice regardless of age level of flexibility or emotional state.
[00:10:06] It’s just literally taking time just to focus, lower the shoulders, sit up to take a full breath in and out through the nose. And that’s meditation. Take that time to be present with yourself.
[00:10:20] And if you have somebody that’s got a really, really busy mind and I say this based on experience, I’ve had meditation apps and things in the past and they say it, you do this and they know talk me through it. But I find myself while I’m doing the meditation , working out what I need to put on my shopping list. Yes. Which is the idea of meditation at all?
[00:10:41] Oh, no. But then that’s really good because part of the meditation practice. We have tools and techniques. But when we wander away from the breath, when we wander away from our points of focus and we notice, oh, the shopping. Are you meditating? That’s your opportunity to say what am I thinking about? oh, yeah, my breath. And it’s that moment of noticing that you strayed away from your point of concentration. If you’ve chosen it to be a practice, that’s the meditation practice.
[00:11:11] And a little tip. I often suggest for beginners to help the quiet that busy mind to do some breathing exercises before you actually formally sit and do the meditation. Right.
[00:11:24] And we can do one now. Okay. Right now think this is going to have to wait. Okay.
[00:11:33] So very again, it’s just allowing yourself to go with the flow in one level so a very simple. I call breathing awareness exercise, is a very simple one to do. Make sure you’re sitting up nice and tall if you can, physically lengthen the spine. What we’re going to do. We’re going to breathe in through our nose. And what we’re going to breathe out through our mouth. We’re going to make a soft ‘aaah’ sound . I’ll just do a quick demonstration for you. We’re going to breathe in through our nose.
[00:12:07] Open your mouth and just make an ‘aaaaaaaaaaaah’.
[00:12:15] And just do an aah sound. oh, so you want me to do that? I think I can let you do that one. I think my aaaah might not be quite so attractive as yours.
[00:12:25] You’ve had more practice. I have students at all at different levels and some people are very self-conscious because historically for women, we’re not used to hearing a sound of our own voice. We’re always told to speak quietly, don’t shout. So it’s very empowering for women just to have that sense of it’s okay to make a loud sound to be allowed a loud sound. Its Okay.
[00:12:54] It does make sense, doesn’t it does because I guess people do warm up exercises if they’re going to do a run or a gym session, then I guess it makes sense, doesn’t it? To do a warm-up exercise if you’re going to meditate.
[00:13:08] Yes. I love that word warm up exercise because you’ve got the breath work for the mind. And again, if people struggle to sit still for meditation or the aches and pains in their body. So again, that’s why you bring the yoga practice in because a particularly chair yoga.
[00:13:25] Can I? A simple thing to lose tension is just literally shake your hands. Just stay can flap your hands. And that’s just a marvellous way to release tension.
[00:13:35] And you have to feel energised and can put your hands on your thighs or your tummy sit up tall and straight.
[00:13:44] Take that breath in and out and just do it again.
[00:13:48] A simple way to release tension before you meditate. If you get stiff ankles, or you’ve got stiff toes. Is to just literally massage the ball of your foot into the carpet. Although the ground is slightly pressing, your massaging your foot into the ground, pressing the heel down. Pressing the toes down. You can take the foot off the floor and just make big circles. Just make ankle circles.
[00:14:29] They’re very popular, weren’t they in the Edwardian era when ladies were concerned about how their ankles looked.
[00:14:38] Yes it helps. The lymph system helps the lymph to flow round round the body.If you’ve got swollen ankles swollen ankles or stiff ankles. Yeah, that’s right. It’s just really simple movements.
[00:14:50] Yes. I forgot about that
[00:14:54] Yes. I think they called it the turn of the ankle or something. I can’t remember now. So when it comes to meditation you said you have the instant benefit. If somebody is going through a really stressful period, maybe it bereavement, divorce or really perhaps even they’re just going to be an empty nester. Yes. How would you suggest that they sort of would approach this? Because maybe they’re not really used to sort of taking time out for themselves or even investing any time in themselves.
[00:15:27] Yes. Yes.
[00:15:33] One of the tools that I like to suggest to students or listeners is when you wake up in the morning, we often wake up instantly jump onto our phones or instantly think about the day ahead. What gets us rushing busy mode? One thing that I always suggest is a really nice way to help you start the day feeling a bit positive is literally to lie on your bed and just to place one hand on your belly and one hand on your upper chest. And just take three breaths, three or four breaths. We really concentrate and breathe in from the belly.
[00:16:13] Breathe out.
[00:16:20] And again, take that full breath in. One, two, three. And breathe out.
[00:16:32] And just taking time to take those three breaths. First thing in the morning. You’re kind of nourishing yourself, just putting yourself first, and does that help to centre you. Oh, yes. Yes. That means the individual,it helps to centre you, helps you to pause, stop the manic thoughts. Breathe in. Breathe out.
[00:17:08] Ankle circles. I’m just thinking, if you would say in a stressful situation over that, maybe it wouldn’t work if you were in an office environment, if you were maybe at home and could you just go and lie on the bed and do that to sort of escape from it, what would you recommend? Something else?
[00:17:24] Once you’ve started your day, you can do that sitting on a chair. I often say to students before you sit down. Just take a moment just to check on your posture. Again, breaking that habit just slouched in the seat. You just take it when sitting on your settee, sit up place your hand on your belly. Just take a full breath in.
[00:17:52] And a full breath out.
[00:17:56] And for me, as I get older and recognising that it is taking those mindful many breaks during the day. If you’re brushing your teeth its something we all brush our teeth twice a day again to be mindful, you know, make sure you put your feet, both feet facing forward with your face towards the sink. You know, sit up or stand up in a mountain pose , brush your teeth, really take time. We tend to brush our teeth on autopilot. And even just I’m right handed. But I started to brush my teeth with my left hand. That makes me more conscious. I have to think aboutit. Oh, yeah, brushing my teeth. Just be more mindful.
[00:18:42] And that also helps to develop better neural pathways. If you start doing things with opposite hands.
[00:18:49] That’s right. Yes, it does. Breaks that habit. Yes. Yes.
[00:18:57] So I would say so those sort of things. It’s not just the calming element, is it the other benefits that it brings to your I guess, your entire system as well?
[00:19:06] Yes, yes. Yes.
[00:19:08] It’s a whole thing, particularly that’s why I always suggest going for a beginners class really helps to kick in the nervous system. It power centres the nervous system, relaxing just part of the nervous system, taking time to take that slow breath. It just sends a signal to the brain. We’re safe. It’s okay. OK. Yes. So the more moments we can build into a day. It just helps to reduce the build up of stress.
[00:19:42] Now, I mean, I just find whenever I speak to you Ntathu, I always end up feeding calmer. At the end of the conversation, I don’t know. It’s I guess it’s just the way you talk, your tone, the way the conversation flows, it automatically, I think calms my system down a difficult that you make me say, ah, you know, say ‘aahs’ in public, don’t know. I really feel when I chat to you, I feel the stress sort of know the stress levels definitely decline.
[00:20:13] Thank you.
[00:20:15] And part of that is because we’re talking about being calm and we’re really we’re being mindful. But I guess also I kind of like train. I practice breathing. Even though we’re talking, I’m subconsciously now making sure that I’m sitting upright and I’m breathing deeply and fully.
[00:20:43] One key thing I find curious is that I guess through history, we’ve almost forgotten how to breathe properly. You’d think that would be fairly fundamental, wouldn’t you?
[00:20:53] Yeah, I’m not quite sure why we’ve forgotten. That’s a really good question. But yes, we have. It’s something we just take for granted. And I know once one of my teachers actually saying to me sometimes we get stuck in trauma from a young age and he might have had the experience we’ve had for gosh, your breath and hold your breath and subconsciously that pattern becomes your way of being your way of protecting and keeping yourself safe. You constantly hold your breath just in case there’s some danger happening around the corner. And it is a lot of yoga is really unlearning if really if you look at a baby or toddler sitting they are sitting correctly. They just move more easily.Something that comes to mind, when I was on the train the other day. And there’s like a family and the parents were sitting back as adults do slouched in the chair and their son, he was two or three, yet he was sitting upright and he was holding the pole. So he was actually quite secure because his body, this pole was supporting him. But the parents were saying, no, sit back. You got to sit back. And in that minute, I just watched him siting back, his whole frame. Everything just collapsed. And I’m thinking that’s the message. We’ve been told that to sit back and relax into our chair, Yes, it’s setting that pattern that our body cant supports us. Our bodies. We do sit up and it’s one of the things that really teach in my chair yoga to my elders is to sit up is to actually use your bones to, you know, to support you generally speaking because that’s what the spine was designed to do. Yeah.
[00:22:54] It’s basically it’s unlearning bad habits and replacing them with good ones.
[00:22:58] It is. It is. Yes. But it’s also been aware of what’s going on. Because we’re so used to standing anyhow when we do stand in a mountain pose it feels good. It feels good. So what is the mountain pose? So it’s one of the foundational standing poses in yoga. Okay. It’s a case of really standing, not rigid, but stand in the way that your ankle, your knee, your hip, your hip, your shoulders and your ears are all kind of aligned. Right. Things that I think in the old days, olden days, you had like a plumb line. So it’s just making sure that you’re standing correctly. It’s a wonderful foundation pose in yoga. the mountain pose. OK. And I’m happy to. In the link, I can always send a description. How to get into a mountain pose if that would be helpful. Oh, that be really helpful. We should put it photograph or something. Yeah. It can be added to the podcast on the Fab after Fifty website, I don’t think it would translate to itunes, but we’ve certainly put that on the Fab after Fifty website alongside the recording. It can be very helpful for people like. Great. Thank you. Yes. So three tips then for anybody that wants to get started. That hasn’t happened to have exercised recently and really doesn’t know anything about t yoga or meditation.
[00:24:27] I would say is to breathe. And again, I can say I’m happy to put a link in the show notes. We can just put a link. Also, a really simple breathing exercise. That would be lovely. It’s just to breathe. The shoulders and the smile. And if you could just do those three things, when you wake up, when you make a cup of tea, when you’re brushing your teeth, the full breath in, lower the shoulders, breathe and smile. You’re halfway there. You’re halfway there. Yeah. And it sounds incredibly simple and easy to do. That’s yoga. Really is. It really is. But it’s just because we’ve got all these other kind of myths and misconceptions. You’ve got to be bendy, have fancy clothes. Okay. There is a market for it does it’s nice to have, you know, yoga pants, which let your body breathe, but it’s not essential. It really is. It’s a simple things in life, which are often the things we think are harder. But it really is simple. It is. And it’s just know that you can do it. You know, you have a right to be in a yoga studio. No matter your age, shaoe or colour you are you’ve got a right to be there.
[00:25:44] And so how can people get hold of you? I mean, obviously, you give classes. You have one on one clients. Do you do anything online as well for people that perhaps don’t live locally?
[00:25:56] I’ve just recently launched a free seven day mini course. And it’s literally seven modules and it’s is something we’ve spoken about in our chat today. It’s really simple. Got the aaah breath in there to do in the comfort of your own home. It’s just very simple. Two minute videos of simple tips with some techniques you can do anywhere, anytime to relax the stress, unwind and become calmer. And that’s on. I can send you the link to the website for that. That would be lovely.
[00:26:30] And do have another your own Web site if people just want general information.
[00:26:34] Oh, yes. That’s www.yogainspires.co.uk. And on the web site there’s lots of blogs, videos and links to my books as well.
[00:26:50] And also there are articles on the Fab after Fifty 50 website, that you’ve kindly contributed over the years and we’re going to be adding more in the coming weeks and months. Yes. Yes. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m sure now we have lots of lot less stressed, calmer listeners than we had at the beginning of the program. And I’m so delighted to have you back as my guest and also to welcome you back as one of our resident experts.
[00:27:20] Thank you. I’m so glad. Yeah, I’m just glad that it’s all happening. It’s lovely to get the word out and just to remind people that your breath is always going to be there. You always sit up taller or stretching your body in some way. You feel better. Yes.
[00:27:36] I think we need an app every 30 minutes or so. Just to sit up taller with you saying it every time you said that I actually sat up taller and flopped in between. But thank you so much for joining me today, and I look forward to sharing your tips as you inspire us with your yoga moving forward.
[00:27:59] Thank you. It’s wonderful. Take care, my darling. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:28:08] Thank you for joining us today. Please do subscribe and also send the link to your friends and be part of the pro age conversation. Life really is meant to be fabulous at every age, but especially after 50.