Mental Health Awareness Week: Sally's Story
Today, we chat with Sally Coulthard, studio manager of The Mala, Gosforth. She shares her story around mental health and the menopause.
You started yoga 10 years ago, do you feel it’s had a benefit on your mental health?
In hindsight quite a few things have happened in the last 10 years, my father died in 2013, I retired from my job after nearly 30 years of research, my boys went off to university and I hit menopause! All of these can be very upsetting as individual events, but as I had started yoga in about 2010 I believe I was able to cope with them much better than I might have perhaps done had I not been introduced to yoga when I was.
Specifically, with respect to the menopause, although I have suffered from hot flashes, at the worst about 2 per hour, I did not take any medication such as HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Though not everyone may find they can “ride the storm” I do believe by virtue of being fit, healthy and having a mindful yoga practice this is what truly helped. Yoga allowed me to focus on how my body was feeling, getting to know it better than I had ever done before and therefore how to combat feelings of self-criticism and how to respect myself for what it was going through and what is was, and is now capable of doing.
People say, they don’t have the ‘right body’ for yoga…. What do you think about this?
To be honest this is one of the things that I am passionate about dispelling. I don’t have a perfect body, I am not petite, I can’t do splits, bend my back into a C shape or hold a handstand for 5 minutes, but you know what, I practice yoga!
You do not have to be bendy, petite, less than 30 years old or beautiful. I’m sad to say most easily accessible social media portrays this and it is so not true! If you look a bit harder you will see lots of people all ages and sizes benefiting from yoga. In a well taught yoga class where people are practicing mindful yoga you will find they are probably unaware of what the person next to them looked like never mind what they could do. Yoga is a personal practice. It is yourself you are looking after, not your external persona.
We talk about physical health and how we can be ‘healthy’, how do you stay mentally healthy?
I have been asked this several times and my response is look after yourself first. This may sound a bit selfish but in order to be kind to others you need to love and respect yourself first.
I make sure I have “alone time” which often involves me listening to music as I play with yoga sequences or reading if I am resting my body, which is important especially for those of us who teach and demonstrate sequences as we teach. I also like to dance so I do Barre classes and some strength and conditioning training. For me exercise has always been my way of dealing with stress and looking after my mental health.
My overall advice would be to love and respect yourself, make “me time” a priority, practice yoga and if you can, take breaks from routine, noting that all are completely intertwined and dependent on each other.