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The benefits of yoga (revisited) with Lucy Holtom

This week offers a chance to revisit a previous podcast conversation – or perhaps hear it for the first time. Lucy Holtom is an experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioner who has a particular passion for helping with women throughout all cycles of life whether it’s to help manage the fluctuation of hormones during menstruation, postnatal recovery, or perimenopause and postmenopause.  In this episode, Lucy and Louise discuss the different types of yoga, individual practices and the benefits they can bring. Lucy explains how her interest and experience in well woman yoga evolved and how she supports women in the perimenopause and menopause.

Lucy’s 3 tips for those interested in trying yoga for the first time:

  1. If you want to try a class, look for recommendations from others and chat to different teachers to find what’s right for you.
  2. Wear comfortable clothing – you don’t need to spend money on new yoga outfits, just wear whatever you can move freely in.
  3. Go with an open mind and enjoy!

Visit Lucy’s website at

Follow Lucy on Instagram

This podcast episode was first released in October 2019

Episode Transcript:

Dr Louise Newson [00:00:01] Welcome to the Newson Health Menopause Podcast. I’m Dr. Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist, and I run the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford upon Avon.

Dr Louise Newson [00:00:24] Hello. Today I’ve got Lucy Holtom with me, who’s a yoga teacher, who I’ve met fairly recently. We’ve been doing yoga together here at the clinic and also she’s been teaching some of my staff and some of the other people. So today I really wanted to explore a bit about yoga, what it is, what it can do for us, why it’s become so popular and almost trendy in some places. So Hi Lucy.

Lucy Holtom [00:00:48] Hi Louise.

Dr Louise Newson [00:00:50] Thank you for agreeing to come here, we’ve just done a really great class with James Critchlow, who’s going to come to do a session with us on the podcast soon. So just tell me a bit about your background, Lucy.

Lucy Holtom [00:01:01] I started yoga…I taught myself when I was about 15.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:05] Oh okay, so quite young yeah.

Lucy Holtom [00:01:05] Yeah. I was quite young. My mum had this quite groovy, 1970s vogue book, which I kept, and in there I just saw images of women doing all these different shapes and I thought, ‘Oh, that looks quite fun’. So I came from that really from a physical aspect, just copying.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:23] So you wanted to look like those people?

Lucy Holtom [00:01:24] Yeah, well, I just thought the shapes look quite fun and I’ve always been quite playful and physical.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:28] Yeah.

Lucy Holtom [00:01:29] And my background is in theatre as well. I used to work as a performer and as a physical theatre performer, so it kind of stemmed really, I think from that play, just on my own at home.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:39] Yeah.

Lucy Holtom [00:01:40] And then as time went on, I didn’t actually go to my first class until I was 19.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:45] Oh so you had four years.

Lucy Holtom [00:01:46] Four years of just teaching myself. And by then I think there was a couple of magazines that sometimes used to do a bit of yoga and I’d even taught a class in my PE class. We had to teach a class of anything, and I taught a yoga class randomly. So yeah, that was a bit daring I guess at the time, but my first class, I was 19 and it was in the school hall. I found out from a friend – I was at university at the time – and I always remember the lady that taught it, she must have been in her mid-sixties, and she just glowed and she was quite amazing. And yeah, and I just started going to classes from then and trying all sorts of yoga really.

Dr Louise Newson [00:02:23] And so then what sort of yoga was that initially?

Lucy Holtom [00:02:26] Initially it was just, it was, it was Hatha yoga, it was stepping from one static pose to the next. There wasn’t any flow in this practice. And then we used to, she used to do like a meditation practice of candle gazing which was really, at the time that felt for me for me really far out. I’d never known anyone or anything like this in my life, you know, no one in my family ever did yoga. So it was quite weird and wonderful. So it kind of yeah.

Dr Louise Newson [00:02:54] Was it popular then? Were there many people in the class?

Lucy Holtom [00:02:58] There was a few, I’d say there was probably about 10 to 12 people? I went with a friend and she had done yoga before, she used to live in London and had done a bit more than me, she was a bit older than me. So yeah, there must’ve been about 10 to 12 people I remember we went for quite a long time, a good couple of years.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:13] Yeah. Interesting. So then that was probably quite a few years ago, was it. How long ago was that?

Lucy Holtom [00:03:21] I was about 22, 21. 22 years ago.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:23] Because then, yoga wasn’t quite as spoken about was it.

Lucy Holtom [00:03:27] No, no.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:30] I’m sure most universities now have yoga as quite standard, a lot more popular but then it wasn’t.

Lucy Holtom [00:03:34] Not at all.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:34] It was all probably step aerobics and sort of high energy fitness.

Lucy Holtom [00:03:39] Definitely.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:40] And any sort of aerobics was really in, wasn’t it?

Lucy Holtom [00:03:43] Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Dr Louise Newson [00:03:44] So. And it’s quite… it’s quite different isn’t it? I know when I, when I started doing yoga about 16 years ago, I just had my first daughter and I just wanted to get fit and the only class that would fit in my schedule was this evening class and it was Ashtanga yoga, and I knew nothing about any different types of yoga or anything.

Lucy Holtom [00:04:02] So it’s quite in at the deep end.

Dr Louise Newson [00:04:03] So yes I didn’t realise! And I went and this the instructor said, ‘You do realise this is the most physical, most strength, hardest form of yoga?’ And I looked at my friend and we just went, ‘No, we didn’t realise that at all!’ They said ‘Well carry on’. And I was in this lesson and I was looking at all these people doing positions that clearly I do now, including headstands, and just thinking, ‘well, how in hell..? And I came home to my husband and just said, ‘This is amazing, but I think we have to do this, this is awful’. But they all looked like they really enjoyed it. And it was something very beautiful about watching people do yoga, like you say with the positions and everything else. So I have chipped away in my own little way for years and it’s really good for so many reasons. So take us back because you know more about yoga than me, but talk about what is yoga? Because for some women, listening, it’s a word, isn’t it? But what does it mean?

Lucy Holtom [00:04:56] Well I mean, it’s quite…the word yoga means to unite. So and yoga essentially, you’re combining your body with your breath and when you connect, you’ll know yourself from doing, when you do your Ashtanga yoga or any of the types of yoga, when you combine your body with your breath, your mind will start to settle and focus on exactly what you’re doing. It brings you into the present, which actually most of us, as we know, we wake up in the morning, our inner monologue starts right until the second we go to bed.

Dr Louise Newson [00:05:27] Absolutely.

Lucy Holtom [00:05:28] And sometimes, if there’s lots going on or if we’ve got things going on in life that are particularly stressful, that can feel quite overwhelming. So a yoga practice, it’s a practice so it doesn’t happen like that right away, but it starts to help you really settle all that head stuff by bringing the body and the breath together with movement. And often, obviously, our bodies are doing one thing, our head’s doing something else, we’re breathing quite shallow. We’re not, yeah. And then we get more exhausted. So the actual yoga itself unites your body with your breath and your mind, and it brings you into the present moment. So essentially that’s what you’re aiming for in practice. So the interesting thing is from what you just said about you when you go to like a class like Ashtanga and you know, you see all these amazing shapes and some of these people do, you think how they do that? And eventually you find yourself on this nice journey to get there. But there’s no.. what I think is amazing about yoga and what I love about it is that there’s no pressure, there’s no rush, there’s no competition. It’s you yourself on a mat doing what you can, and actually what feels good.

Dr Louise Newson [00:06:38] Yes. It’s totally right, because I am very busy and the thought of going to a gym, to a class, I just couldn’t do it myself. My schedule’s too crazy. But I’ve got my travel mat if I’m away I can take that, just something about being on your mat and it’s just you. And even though obviously we do class together, you know, you’re focusing on the here and now and it’s time for you. And once I start thinking about all the things I need to do, my balance goes.

Lucy Holtom [00:07:04] Yeah, exactly.

Dr Louise Newson [00:07:05] So you have to draw yourself in and, like you say, concentrate on your bandhas and your breath. And it’s a very spiritual practice really isn’t it?

Lucy Holtom [00:07:13] It is yeah.

Dr Louise Newson [00:07:14] Very different if I, I like road cycling, but you have to cycle quite a few hours to get the same energy or the same type of exercise that you do doing an hours yoga almost. You have to do a lot and that’s good for headspace, but it’s not the same. It’s not that spiritual feeling which it’s quite hard to describe if you haven’t done it.

Lucy Holtom [00:07:33] It is. And actually, the spiritual side of the practice, what I love about it is that it’s very personal to yourself. And even as a teacher, it’s something that I don’t, I don’t teach anything like spiritual practice, but I will guide people into it and make them feel supported in their time on their own to use it how they want to. And that’s how I’ve been taught, which is why I really honour that. So I feel really lucky. I’ve had great teachers, but yeah, I think that spiritual side, it allows you to access it yourself within you. It’s not something that you take from outside or listen to what other people are doing. It becomes your own. So it’s a real… yeah.

Dr Louise Newson [00:08:12] And it can change, can’t it? You can do the same physical practice three or four times a week. But actually, mentally it can feel quite different.

Lucy Holtom [00:08:21] Absolutely. And it really depends on where you are that day. It’s very I think, it’s a very honest practice. Whatever you give to your practice, your yoga practice, you get out. You can’t cheat when you do yoga. Yeah, you can’t cheat at all.

Dr Louise Newson [00:08:34] And your body always tells you how you’re feeling. I know just before we opened this menopause clinic, James kept saying to me, ‘Louise, you’re so tense, I can feel every muscle’, you know. And my practice was just very rigid. It didn’t flow very well. And then something good happens, you have a good week…just the dynamics.

Lucy Holtom [00:08:53] You feel that openness.

Dr Louise Newson [00:08:53] It’s funny isn’t it?

Lucy Holtom [00:08:54] It is, I think, and especially for women, I think we notice it in, you know, in our cycle. And where we are and it’s really significant. It really changes with that. So there’s all the external factors. And then there’s our internal, not just mental factors but our physical factors as well.

Dr Louise Newson [00:09:11] Physical things that are happening to us. So with yoga, there are different types and we’ve talked about Ashtanga. Explain just briefly the main types or even what Ashtanga is or what it does.

Lucy Holtom [00:09:23] So I mean Ashtanga, the Ashtanga physical practice, I believe there’s five actually, series. I’ve been doing it 20 years already, just touching the second series, but yeah, but a lot of their postures from the second series, you might join a separate Hatha yoga class. So they are mixed but for Ashtanga Yoga, we primarily focus on the primary series from a beginner and onwards and there is a sequence of postures as you know, that are repeated and it’s pretty much a 90 minute practice where you can do from start to finish. And you’re doing your series of standing postures which are used with the five breath…with Ujjayi breath.

Dr Louise Newson [00:10:10] Yes talk about the breath.

Lucy Holtom [00:10:13] So the breathing part is always the most important I think, for any yoga teacher would say as well, you know, come out of the posture if you’re not breathing get your breath moving first, get the body moving with it to connect. So Ujjayi breath, I always teach it and say it sounds like a little bit of a either a gentle Darth Vader or on a more romantic level it can sound a little bit like someone fast asleep next to you before they start snoring. And I think that’s quite a…

Dr Louise Newson [00:10:42] That’s a really good description actually.

Lucy Holtom [00:10:42] Yeah. It’s quite honest, isn’t it? It’s like a throaty breath. And there’s some really good reasons to do this breathing technique. It’s known to soothe the nervous system. It’s very soothing for your body. Your mind and your body almost tricks it into a state of relaxation, actually, so you can start to move the body freely. The actual sound of the breath because it’s audible for yourself, it can often help drown out, I think, the chatter. And I think when you’re in a class, what’s really beautiful is when you hear someone next to you breathing, there’s just, like, an unspoken connection and I think that is… that’s what I love about yoga classes where you’re practicing together. That’s where it really kind of unites everybody, I think. And it’s unspoken.

Dr Louise Newson [00:11:26] Because it’s weird the first time I heard it, I was thinking, what’s going on? I can’t make that noise, that’s really uncomfortable. And then actually sometimes when I breathe – if I’m maybe doing a presentation, I’m a bit nervous – I try and do yoga in the morning, but even just before, I will just focus on my breath and do it. And it just holds you in and focuses you doesn’t it.

Lucy Holtom [00:11:46] Yeah I actually used Ujjayi breath with my second childbirth and for smear tests, going to have your teeth done, it’s like a proper settling. It really soothes.

Dr Louise Newson [00:11:57] Yes it does and we can talk about meditation a bit, but a lot of people find it very uncomfortable doing meditation or they don’t know how to, I mean in that time. But actually it is a sort of pre-meditative state.

Lucy Holtom [00:12:09] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, definitely, and it works really well with… so once you get that, once you get the breath and get it working, especially for like an Ujjayi breath, throaty sound, again, it helps bring that attention into the present moment. And also in Ashtanga Yoga, we use the bandhas, which you mentioned before.

Dr Louise Newson [00:12:31] So explain what they are.

Lucy Holtom [00:12:34] So bandhas, in English it means locks. So we talk about the Mula Bandha being a root lock, which for men and women is in different places. So for men, it’s their perineum and for women you draw your vaginal walls together up towards the cervix and that’s like your root lock. So that’s your bandha. But it’s not that you hold and squeeze with tension. It’s just an awareness that you’re gathering that area in.

Dr Louise Newson [00:13:00] Which is really good, especially for menopausal, perimenopausal women, to hold that pelvic floor in.

Lucy Holtom [00:13:05] Yeah definitely. And I think even, you know, like you said when after you’ve had a baby, it helps you just gather…it’s working like a muscle and any other muscle…

Dr Louise Newson [00:13:15] Yes it’s a huge muscle. We don’t realise, a lot of women don’t realise they have it until they’re leaking when they cough or sneeze or whatever. So to work on it when you’re young it’s really important. You don’t obviously…people need to work on it when they’ve got problems, but you want to try and prevent problems. So that’s great.

Lucy Holtom [00:13:34] So that’s the one. And then there’s you have the Uddiyana Bandha which is then the abdominal area which helps you tone the belly. But I think what happens when you start drawing that area in with the Mula Bandha, it gives that lower body and all around the I guess, yeah the lower body from waist below, like a real feeling of strength actually, working on those locked bandhas. It just holds the… when we’re working through our physical practice, if you think of like the lower body being nice and strong like earth, it really helps you root that with the bandhas. And then sometimes, I don’t know if we’ve done a little bit with James, where you tuck the chin in so you have a lock in the throat, which is Jalandhara Bandha. It’s used quite a lot in the pranayama, in the breathing practices. So we sometimes be doing that throughout some of the postures so there’s lots more bandhas. But they’re the three main ones that we regard or talk about in Ashtanga yoga. And when I was originally taught – originally actuallyby one of Jame’s students – he used to say, ‘when you engage the Mula Bandha and the Uddiyana Bandha and you breathe the Ujjayi breath, when you imagine those bandhas being like locks, they’re holding energy in so that you, with the breath, you get more energy to power through a practice. So it helps you not feel asleep, tired, worn out and at the same time it creates more heat in the body, so the detoxifying process, getting rid of the toxins in the body, works more effectively.

Dr Louise Newson [00:15:06] It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Lucy Holtom [00:15:07] I mean, it’s quite amazing.

Dr Louise Newson [00:15:09] It is amazing. I mean, I, I was on holiday recently and one of the guys we met was just talking to my husband and me and he was saying ‘so do you do any exercise?’ And Paul, my husband, said ‘Oh yeah Louise does yoga’ and he went ‘So a bit of heavy breathing then’. I nearly hit the…! And other people say to me ‘What your pulse goes up? You’re actually sweating?’ And they have no concept, as you know we’ve got a shower here in the centre and I often do yoga and then nip and have a quick shower. ‘Why do you need a shower? It’s only yoga. You can, you do if you do it properly, you do get a cardiovascular workout.

Lucy Holtom [00:15:43] Yeah, absolutely. And with Ashtanga yoga you do.

Dr Louise Newson [00:15:46] Yes so talk about the other types.

Lucy Holtom [00:15:48] I was going to say the other, I mean, there’s loads of other types that you do and don’t get sweaty. You can have your you know, your Hatha yoga where there’s no flow, all physical yoga comes under the umbrella of Hatha yoga. There isn’t a flow, but you can move through the static postures, which is fantastic actually. But I think flow’s become a lot more common. So people talk a lot about the Vinyasa flow practices where your move is quite dance like and you use the breath to continually move from one posture to the next. Then you have Iyengar Yoga, which our teacher James is also trained in, which is brilliant and they use more of the props and sometimes it can be quite more accommodating with Iyengar yoga when you use the props because you can settle into a posture and stay there for a lot longer, which for some people could be quite frustrating. So again, it’s taste. Yes. I mean, gosh, if you go on about the Bikram yoga, which is the very, where you get very hot, very sweaty.

Dr Louise Newson [00:16:48] Yes. So hot yoga has really come about hasn’t it – well it’s been around for a while but it’s obviously…now you read so much more about.

Lucy Holtom [00:16:56] It’s quite trendy.

Dr Louise Newson [00:16:58] It’s mixed reports though.

Lucy Holtom [00:16:58] Very mixed reports.

Dr Louise Newson [00:17:00] Yeah. What’s your take on it?

Lucy Holtom [00:17:01] So I tried Bikram yoga probably about 15 years ago. I lived in London and I got a pass to go regularly and I didn’t personally get so much from it. To me it felt more like an aerobic workout where you’re trying to achieve something and you’re trying to get there and you’re trying to get through the class and to me, that’s not for me what I want it for a yoga practice. I’m not trying to get through it. I actually just want to feel pleasure through the whole time that I’m devoting to it. So that wasn’t for me. And I also…it was very hot and very sweaty, which is fine, and I got into really, further into positions, which was fine but it just didn’t, I didn’t feel that quality that I get from the other practices that I’ve done the other Hatha yogas, the Ashtanga yoga. It was just so different.

Dr Louise Newson [00:17:52] And I think it’s all about choices and some people say to me they do hot yoga and they get into all these amazing positions that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise and they feel fantastic. And I know my first instructor was very much about pushing you into positions, ‘You must do this’, and I came away and I just felt really uncomfortable. Whereas when I first met James Critchlow, he would say ‘Louise take it…no you’re going far too fast. Your breathing’s too fast’. And, as you know, sometimes I am still a bit fast. But he’s really…

Lucy Holtom [00:18:21] It’s great when you catch up with you though!

Dr Louise Newson [00:18:24] But he’s really taken me back. And it’s not about, oh gosh, feeling inadequate because Lucy’s doing one pose and I can’t quite get into it. It’s like you say it’s about you and that works for me. And actually my, my pace of life, especially at the moment is so fast. Yoga pulls me back. Whereas if I went to a hot yoga, it would probably make me go even faster, which I can’t imagine, I’d explode. But some people like that.

Lucy Holtom [00:18:50] It would be great for some people that don’t have that, so much get up and go but need that, then I think that probably it could be really good for someone. So I think it depends what you, you know, what you’re looking for because the other side, the well woman yoga that I teach…

Dr Louise Newson [00:19:08] So talk a bit about that.

Lucy Holtom [00:19:09] So this is completely different. I mean, it is a yoga that you do that you probably wouldn’t sweat from or need a shower after and it’s very, very focused on bringing you into the present moment and actually getting you coming out of a thinking space, completely into a feeling space and the practices that I teach for this…it’s just really interesting how it came about if I can just go back. So my personal practice has been Ashtanga yoga pretty much for 20 years and I’ve gone in and out of Ashtanga yoga depending on what’s happened in my life. So when I’ve had injuries, I’ve practised more relaxation techniques, when I had babies before and after, I practised prenatal and then postnatal. And so it’s all about finding like a yoga that suits you. And I when I started teaching, a lady asked me to start teaching at her house and I teach a group of women who are fantastic, and I still teach them on a Monday morning. But one of the ladies, my friend Jane, she started getting symptoms of perimenopause, but it became really noticeable in the classes, and all the things that she could normally do. She just said, ‘I just I’m so tired’. And she was struggling so much. And everything just… she was just exhausted and just didn’t feel herself. And you know, and I thought there’s got to be something around this, to still be able to come into a group environment and practice. But I was thinking we can do gentler practices, but it just felt like there was something more. And then I discovered – and they called it Well Woman yoga therapy teacher training course I went on with a woman called Uma Dinsmore Tuli and I trained with her for pregnancy yoga. So I went and did this training with her and a lot of the practices would be stuff where, you know, these practices are brilliant for women that are perimenopausal or menopausal and postmenopausal. So it was really inspiring. So I kind of gathered up the practices that I thought these ones look good, the good stuff. And I took them back and shared them with the group.

Dr Louise Newson [00:21:18] And how did they go down?

Lucy Holtom [00:21:18] They loved them. There’s some hilarious ones. I had lots of hoots and giggles.

Dr Louise Newson [00:21:23] That’s good.

Lucy Holtom [00:21:24] Which was fantastic because again, it’s making a yoga class, a place where you’re uniting people together and making it joyful and at the same time getting benefits from a physical practice. So they’re very… it’s quite difficult to explain. There’s a lot of different breathing techniques that I have learnt and that I share that can be used. Like we talked about Ujjayi breath, but there’s other breathing practices that can be used for sort of quiet when you feel quite volatile, emotionally. There’s practices using the breath that I teach for symptoms such as that. Ones for severe anxiety there’s other breathing practices that I teach for that so it depends on what people tell me. I’ll sort of think well okay, this breathing practice, it might not but it might work for you. This is worth trying.

Dr Louise Newson [00:22:15] Yeah. You know, this perimenopause, menopause symptoms really vary and they change especially when women are perimenopausal. So that’s the time when periods are changing in nature or frequency and women start to experience menopausal symptoms, and some women are fine for months, and then they can have symptoms and they can be physical symptoms or emotional symptoms such as anxiety or low mood. And I know when I had some perimenopausal symptoms, as some of you might know, it took me months to realise it’s related to my hormones, but my yoga practice was horrid. My joints were sore, my muscles were stiff. I couldn’t get into the same postures, and I had no motivation either. So I really try and practice the primary series at least twice a week and I just used to think I can’t be bothered. And I feel really ‘urgh’ and then when I did, my practice was horrid and it, you know estrogen is really important hormone in our bodies. And I hadn’t realised that my levels were changing and, and as I’m sure you know, before the periods women often have PMS, can have a drop in their estrogen levels. So I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that…

Lucy Holtom [00:23:27] So what I tend to do in my practice is that Ashtanga, but definitely sometimes I can feel quite energised, premenstrually actually. So my practice I can kind of go for it. But as soon as I get my period, the last thing I want to do is an Ashtanga yoga practice. So the well woman practice, I’ve adapted that and it’s made me feel like you said, the last thing I want to do is a yoga practice. But actually one of the best things that you can do is carve out time to give yourself an element of a practice. And that’s where the well woman practice is for me, that I’ve started to practice at home, which are very gentle and still very focused, there’s still quite nice flow and movement, but everything is a lot more sensual. It’s a lot more rhythmical, which is quite interesting when you have your period and you start to feel quite and it is really interesting, you connect with yourself. It’s very feminine. You don’t hold anything strong. You don’t, you don’t strive to get into a posture. It’s very much about bringing your awareness completely into yourself and you kind of think… and the lady, I taught just the other day said afterwards, ‘I don’t actually need to do anything that I don’t want to do right now after this practice’, she just said. It’s very nourishing; it just settles you and it’s quite yeah, it’s very different.

Dr Louise Newson [00:24:57] You get really good feedback.

Lucy Holtom [00:24:57] I get lovely feedback. And I do some extended events as well where I combine quite long practice like you talked about the joint problems that you have with perimenopause. So in the well woman yoga that I teach, we do a lot of joint release practices which are quite repetitive rotations, in wrists, in elbows and shoulders and hips, knees, everything you can do, like a whole 90 minute practice of this joint release work. But it just… somebody said to me that had come to an event that I did, we did all the joint release, we did some flow, we did lots of breathwork, we did full relaxation. And she just said, ‘I just feel like I’ve been unruffled’.

Dr Louise Newson [00:25:36] That’s lovely isn’t it.

Lucy Holtom [00:25:38] Yes. That’s the best feeling that you want to feel. So yeah, I kind of also I’m very much a loving, striving Ashtanga, this other side to a practice has just completely opened…

Dr Louise Newson [00:25:49] And it is interesting because as, you know, we’ve got this yoga studio here, which we’re very fortunate. And when I was setting up the clinic, all the other doctors and people I speak to say, ‘Why on earth are you going to do yoga, that’s crazy. Why don’t you use it for something else or why don’t you do Pilates?’. No this is really important for me, I want other people to experience it. And there’s, you know, we offer it to our staff. And again, they would say, ‘Oh, I’m not sure I know. What do I wear? What do I do?’ And one by one, we’re always sort of chipping away at them, which is great. But I think certainly for a lot of women, and I know how I felt when I went to my first class, it’s quite scary, isn’t it, to put on your lycra and go to your class full of women who might be 20 years younger than you, you know, if you’re perimenopausal feeling a bit vulnerable.

Lucy Holtom [00:26:36] So you might feel a bit intimidated by that, which is I mean, yeah, completely it’s interesting you say that. I think most of my clients at all my classes are pretty much between 30 and 70 if I’m honest. I get the odd 18 year old that comes to my well woman which is really nice. She comes with her mum and that’s amazing. It’s amazing yeah, and she comes for different reasons obviously. But it can serve, she can take that really nice nourishment from a deep gentle practice.

Dr Louise Newson [00:27:07] Which is brilliant I think it’s so good and there’s no age limit is there.

Lucy Holtom [00:27:10] Absolutely not. No. You’ll notice like little kids doing it straight away.

Dr Louise Newson [00:27:16] I look at my children and I think gosh, I wish I had started had doing yoga when I was younger because there is some postures I’ll never do, I’ll never get into because my hips are too stiff, my shoulders and I chip away but it’s hard. But if I had started when I was a teenager…

Lucy Holtom [00:27:30] Oh, I don’t know, you know, because I have to disagree with you, because my practice now is far better than it was 25 years ago. I mean, I think when you, with your practice, you get such a greater awareness. And although there might be a posture you think, I could never do that, you thought the same as that 15 years ago and you’re doing stuff now that you…and James is in his sixties, he won’t mind me saying and he says his practice is better now than it ever was before.

Dr Louise Newson [00:28:02] And I think and I know what you’re saying because you practice changes or my practice certainly changes. It’s not all about which we already said getting into a posture. The way I get into it is different or the way I feel in each posture is different.

Lucy Holtom [00:28:14] So I think that’s what’s really nice about the practice. It really brings you into how you feel. We get to, you know, switch off the head and go actually this feels really good or this feels like I could do this instead and we’re not. Yeah.

Dr Louise Newson [00:28:27] Yeah. So. And then finally at the end, we do sort of relaxation don’t we, which James always says is probably the most important part of the practice. And I think we joke about we’re looking forward to relaxation at the end. It is important, isn’t it, that time and space. It is almost a bit like a meditative process.

Lucy Holtom [00:28:48] Yeah, it is and it’s you know, you kind of get told that that’s when actually your practice really starts to assimilate. Yeah, because it’s when you rest that everything starts to digest and be absorbed and it’s not always honoured enough, I don’t think. And actually, I mean, Savasana is really difficult, whether you’re guided in the relaxation or not, because quite often we lie down and we go, Oh, that feels great, and then our shopping list and our to-do list start coming in. And so it’s a very difficult posture because actually you’re trying to still maintain the same practice in your mind as what you had when you had when you were moving.

Dr Louise Newson [00:29:22] But you’ve got nothing to distract you.

Lucy Holtom [00:29:23] You’ve got nothing to distract you.

Dr Louise Newson [00:29:25] So it’s harder but then you get more benefit. I’m constantly pushing thoughts away, I’m visualising those thoughts going out of my brain and thinking about coming in 20 minutes time. But at the moment I’m going to have an empty brain. Well, I have to visualise an empty brain to make it empty.

Lucy Holtom [00:29:39] That’s quite intersting. I think I have different methods. I mean, I always try and just really feel into my body to see how it feels and keep coming into that. Because I know as soon as I start thinking of the same, it’s like.

Dr Louise Newson [00:29:53] Yeah, so brilliant. Well I think we’ve covered a lot in a very short period of time. So just before we finish, could you give me three take home tips maybe for people who are a bit nervous and not sure about yoga, what could they think?

Lucy Holtom [00:30:06] Okay. So I would say if you want to try a class, it’s quite good to get a little bit of recommendation or word of mouth from somebody and to find out what sort of style of yoga. Look it up to see what style of yoga it is. And in all honesty, if you contact a yoga teacher, they’d be more than willing to tell you about what they teach and if their practices are appropriate for you and will serve you. That’s probably the main thing. Other thing is just wear comfortable clothing. I think people doesn’t have to be lycra. It’s just what you feel comfortable in and can move freely. And the final thing is I just think, you know, it’s like trying anything, definitely go with an open mind. Yeah, yeah. Just enjoy it. Yeah.

Dr Louise Newson [00:30:54] Brilliant. Thank you ever so much that was great. Thanks Lucy.

This podcast episode was first released in October 2019. Please note the website address given at the end has since been changed to


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The benefits of yoga (revisited) with Lucy Holtom

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