Hannah Barrett, yoga influencer and mama of two, on how the amazing benefits of yoga helped her transform her life.
How did you find out about the benefits of yoga?
I actually started by taking yoga classes at a gym I used to go to. I would go to a class every few weeks and always be shocked at how hard I found it to hold the poses given how much I worked on strength at the gym.
However, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son that my yoga love affair began. At the time, I had a stressful job in finance with long hours and I wanted a way to reduce my anxiety. Through finding an incredible pregnancy yoga teacher and starting a daily self-practice, I started to see the amazing benefits of yoga taking effect. The inner strength I found was addictive. The mindfulness that yoga teaches helped me to shift my outlook on life, making me calmer, happier and healthier. And it made me sweat and work harder than I had in the gym!
How did you know it was something you wanted to teach?
The benefits of yoga had such a positive impact on my pregnancy, birth and in motherhood that I knew I wanted to share its incredible benefits with as many people as possible. I ended up taking a year-long teacher training course so I could fit it in around my family. Lots of the girls on the training were just there to learn more and didn’t intend to become teachers. Funnily enough, I think pretty much all of us are teaching now, as the more you learn the more you want to share, spreading the joy to others and helping them make the same positive changes in their lives.
How has yoga helped you on your motherhood journey?
Being a mother can be tough. My second baby was born in the summer of 2017, and her birth and start to life were very traumatic. I was 35 weeks pregnant and suffered a partial placental abruption. At one point I honestly thought I had lost her. The first week of her life was terrifying – her lungs didn’t work properly, she had sepsis, jaundice and was being fed through a tube. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for having a child in intensive care, and I was hit with postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Alongside therapy, the breathing techniques, meditation and physical practice of yoga gave me an outlet to cope and feel strong again in both my mind and body.
Our breath is such a powerful tool and can have a huge effect on both physical and emotional health. Studies have shown that breathing techniques can reduce stress, help depression and help improve sleep and overall wellbeing. The breathing techniques I have learned through yoga have been invaluable during times of stress, worry and sleeplessness. Focusing on the breath helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system), keeps you anchored in the present moment and can bring a sense of calm and balance to both the mind and body. The benefits of yoga are not to be dismissed!
Mindfulness has also been an invaluable tool in motherhood. It involves cultivating a present-moment awareness that has no judgement. In today’s world, we are a society under stress. Technology is everywhere, we are overloaded with information and many of us struggle to create balance in our lives. Throw a new baby into the mix and life can be more than overwhelming. I try and practice daily even if it’s something simple like a mindful walk in nature, taking in the sounds, smells and sights, trying to stay in the present moment.
Why do you think you’ve amassed such a big social media following?
This is a question I get asked a lot and to be honest I’m kind of blown away by it and don’t really know! I’ve tried to stay honest on my page and share the information that’s helped get me to where I am today. I truly believe in making yoga accessible to all. Yoga doesn’t have to look a certain way or include a hollow back handstand, for me it’s about teaching people the basics and going from there. Maybe one day that leads my students to walk on their hands but the point is it doesn’t matter. Yoga has changed my life for the better and my aim is to help and inspire others to find the same strength and happiness.
Tell us about your new e-book, ‘Strength Through Yoga’.
After the birth of my son I found the postnatal exercise advice confusing and sparse. I wasn’t clear on what you could and couldn’t do, how long you had to wait after birth to begin exercising and what warning signs you should watch for. I ended up worsening my diastasis recti and injuring my rotator cuff. This inspired me to do my own research to understand the changes in my body, and to help other new mums exercise safely post birth.
I teamed up with an incredible physiotherapist, Finola Burrell, to write Strength Through Yoga, a postnatal e-guide that ensures a safe and effective journey to restoring strength, and to support you in both body and mind. It’s a 16-week programme that’s evidence based, co-written by a physiotherapist and has been reviewed by medical professionals (including the amazing GP from TV’s This Morning, Dr Zoe Williams, who is a close friend of mine).
The e-book includes six weeks of physiotherapy-based exercises followed by ten weeks of yoga-inspired circuits designed to increase full body strength and flexibility in just 25-30 minutes, three times a week. It’s what I used to regain my strength safely after having my second baby!
Additionally, we’ve included information and advice on the core and other essential muscles, mindfulness and meditation techniques, as well as common postpartum issues – shedding some light on issues which can be hard to talk about and giving you information on what you can do to help. If you take one thing away from our e-book, know that you are not alone and help is out there. Motherhood can feel extremely lonely but we are here to help explain the changes to your body in an easy to understand way, and to support you in feeling your strongest self.
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