Tell us about Stretched Mums Yoga and what you do: Stretched Mums is a class for mothers to come together and practice accessible, nurturing yoga. When my baby was about six months old I did a bit of postnatal yoga, which was lovely but I wanted to move a bit more and do something that resembled the yoga I remembered from my pre-baby life. At the same time I didn’t feel like I wanted to go to a studio with my vulnerable pelvic floor and have to sweat and be surrounded by size-zero 25-year-olds in £90 leggings. So Stretched Mums Yoga was born – community classes and 1:1s in women’s homes that are slow, sometimes strong and active but also include lots of elements of self-compassion and rest for knackered mums. No competition, no pushing yourself too hard – and mindfulness and an emphasis on breathing, which is so vital when you need to practice patience with small (or big!) children!
What inspired you to set up SMY?: I trained as a yoga teacher towards the end of my maternity leave, when I was still feeling very much in the postnatal phase – exhausted, unsure of myself and desperately in need of some me-time where I could unwind and move my body without someone being attached to it! I’d always found yoga a hugely beneficial practice both in physical and mental health terms, and I needed it more than ever as a mother. In Crystal Palace where I live there are lots of young families, and I wanted to give mothers a space to do what I think we’re generally bad at doing – giving time and care to ourselves instead of other people.
What is the highlight of running your business?: Meeting with a bunch of lovely women every week who value their yoga practice, and seeing the benefits in them. That might be seeing them more refreshed or relaxed at the end of a class but also as the weeks go by, seeing them grow in confidence and grace. I also love being more in touch with yoga. Because I teach at a few points during the week it’s easier for me to stay in touch with my own practice and see yoga’s transformative effects in others.
What’s next for SMY?: I’m planning some yoga workshops in a few venues in London, both for mothers and regular people (!), and when the weather is warmer teaching some al fresco classes. As well as teaching yoga and bringing up my daughter I have a regular job in an office, so at the moment I am limited in how much more I can do. I try to fit in the optimum amount without burning myself out and getting tired and cross – I have enough of that in the house with my toddler.
What do you think are the best things about raising kids in London?: The amazing, endless, ever-changing choice of brilliant things to do, and the relative ease of getting to them. The diversity of people and culture, whether that’s food or music or art. The varying characters of neighbourhoods, so that you can plump for hip or mainstream or charming for your day or night out, depending on your mood.
… and the challenges?: I’m not someone who craves total peace and quiet – the green spaces in London are usually enough for me, but I do occasionally find it challenging that you have to drive for quite a while (or go on a mission of a train journey) to feel like you’re in a more peaceful, natural place. The crowds and business can get a bit much of course, and I regularly get into a mad rage about the accessibility of transport options for people with buggies!
Describe your perfect day in London with your little one in tow: Sometimes it’s the big trips out where we go on the train and eat our picnic at 10.30am and run amok in the Science Museum until we’re so tired we need to refuel with a piece of cake, and sometimes it’s just popping to our local playgroup, having London’s best brunch in Brown and Green Café and playing in the park until it’s time to come home. That’s two different days I know, but I love with London how you can decide at the last minute whether you want to be quiet and local or pop on a train or bus for adventures – there’s so many options for fun, it makes it feel like it never has to stop.
Photo credit: Chloe George