Sheila Bennett, Yoga teacher & bodyworker, London

This week, Hannah Hoskins has spoken to London-based Sheila Bennett, a yoga teacher, bodyworker, and self-confessed green-juice junkie.

sheila3Around 6am I’m woken by one of my two dogs, licking my fingertips, telling me it’s time to get up. I’ve never been a morning person, so it’s taken a while for me to adjust to their schedule and appreciate the early starts. Once I’m up, my morning rituals spring from my yoga practice: I use a netti pot to clear my sinuses, and follow that with multiple deep breathing exercises. Aside from the physical benefits, this routine also helps me get my head on straight for the day, and puts my energy in a positive place.

I’d love to say that my yoga practice comes next, but Monday is a run day. I’m training for my first marathon this year, and have had to create a totally different routine to incorporate the training. Monday mornings are for interval training, to improve my speed and cardio: I jog a couple of miles to the open space alongside the Hyde Park football fields, which is perfect for speed work. If I’m there at the right time, I’ll see the Household Cavalry exercising the horses out of Hyde Park Barracks. Sometimes they’re even practicing in full dress regalia, which makes for a pretty awesome backdrop to my training.

By the time I’m home, the dogs are ready for breakfast and a walk around the neighborhood, and I’m ready for vegetable juice and nourishing breakfast. I end up at my desk with coffee — in my airy attic room, just after 9am.

The mainstay of my work is as a self-employed yoga teacher and soft tissue therapist. However I also do some freelance admin work, to supplement what can be a pretty unstable income. Monday is admin day, and I start with a two-hours of whatever’s at the top of my list, and then go from there. This work could be anything from marking anatomy and physiology papers for NLSSM (where I qualified in sports and remedial massage therapy), to preparing payroll or doing book keeping for InfluenceMap, a non-profit organisation working against climate change. On quieter weeks, I organise my own schedule and admin; setting up workshops and yoga retreats, marketing classes, researching CPD courses, or updating my website. I was lucky to have many years working in business management before I changed my line of work, so, with a little creativity, I can take care of most aspects of the business myself.

sheila2Around 1pm I’ll head back to the park, this time with the dogs, so they can have a good run around, tiring themselves out. I usually head out to classes or clinic in the late afternoon, so I want the dogs to be exhausted before I leave, otherwise I can’t expect to own the same number of shoes when I return home.

Lunch is a simple affair, and is eaten with my partner, who also works from home. I’ll typically have a quinoa or rice salad with loads of veggies chopped in. But if my partner makes it to the kitchen first, we’ll be eating beef stew or pasta.

My afternoons are more fluid and changeable. I use this time to catch up with housework, dog grooming, and so on, but if there’s lots of admin left, I’ll definitely spend more hours at my desk. The one fixed afternoon occurrence is a yoga practice and meditation. With a history of injuries, my body needs to be carefully managed to cope with my marathon training. On running days I work my way through legs and hips with a massage ball or foam roller, followed by an hour of yin yoga. My yoga practice is usually dynamic and challenging, but I’ve found that it’s too much to ask my body to practice like that and train on the same day, so, yin has become the solution. For me, this is also the best time to meditate. I’ve tried adding this practice to my morning routine, but I struggle to stay awake: In the afternoon it resets the day, ready for an evening of clients or classes.

At the moment I don’t teach on Monday evenings, but in busy times I’ll see a handful of private clients for soft tissue therapy. I work with lots of runners, so in marathon season they make up the bulk of Monday night. The rest of the year, I’ll see other athletes recovering from injuries, or people with problems like back pain, dodgy knees, or RSI. People come to see me with pain in their bodies which, sometimes, has been worsening for weeks or years, and they often leave with no pain at all. I’m able to radically change the quality of their day and experience of life, so it makes for seriously rewarding work.

Although it’s the least glamorous day of my week, I love that at the end of a Monday, everything’s up to date and squared away. The rest of the week I’m running around a lot between different locations, so it’s also great to have a full day at home. I feel well-grounded and rested at the end of it a good way to go into the rest of the week.

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