Interview: Hannah Barrett On Her 10-Day Yoga Challenge
With over 350,000 followers on Instagram, her own hugely successful app and a series of books, Hannah Barrett, is one of the country’s favourite yoga teachers. In this interview she talks about how she fell in love with yoga, how it can help us all find the inner strength we need – especially during these difficult times – and she tells us about her upcoming free yoga course, ‘It Starts At Home: 10-Day Yoga Challenge’ on Wanderlust TV.
Why did you first take up yoga?
Well, I used to work in financial services as an actuary. I did that for nearly 10 years. During that time I’d always been interested in yoga but I hadn’t ever done it regularly. It wasn’t until I fell pregnant that I really got it. I fell in love with it. It really helped me through pregnancy and it helps me through motherhood even now.
When did you decide to make yoga your career?
I’d been interested in changing career to one that was more focused on health and mental wellbeing for a while. I found that I struggled to think about going back to my old job after becoming a mum. It was really, really, really long hours – at times you’d have to pull all-nighters. And I released that it just wouldn’t work for me with my little boy. I wanted to be there in his life. So, I did my yoga teacher training and it all started from there. Originally, I got really passionate about helping mums in particular to find their strength after having their babies, and during pregnancy, obviously. But then I just wanted to help everyone. My little slogan is ‘find your strength’, because although yoga helps you strengthen your body, it also helps you find so much strength of mind. Strength has to come from within. We have to pull from a full cup. We have to make sure that we are strong in every sense and that we’re looking after our whole selves and that’s what I love helping people with.
How has your practice changed over the years?
One of the great things about a regular practice is that it changes all the time, I’m constantly learning new things and developing. I didn’t start doing my daily practice until 2014, before then I’d only go to a yoga class every couple of weeks or so. I was much more into the gym. But it never fulfilled me as much as practicing yoga does. Actually, I barely go to the gym now, I just look forward to getting on my mat. Most of my training and strength building comes through my yoga practice. The theme that hasn’t changed and has stuck with me throughout my practice is that it’s strength based. I was never naturally flexible, I mean, I’m a lot more flexible now than I was but I see so many people causing themselves injuries through working too much on flexibility. Everyone wants to do the splits! And they end up tearing their hamstrings. I’ve had a hamstring issue. It’s a friggin’ nightmare. So, I’ve always been very strength based in my practice. It changes as life changes – with things like pregnancy and post-natal care, it has to change. During that time, you have to to learn to be kind to yourself, you can’t jump straight back in. Your core needs rebuilding. It’s all a learning curve. I go through stages where I’ll do loads of self-practice and then other times I find I want some more guided practice with some of my favourite teachers. The whole thing ebbs and flows.
One of the great things about a regular practice is that I’ve found it changes all the time, I’m constantly learning new things and developing
In a lot of your videos and writing you talk about the importance of breath in yoga?
We are a nation of people who don’t breathe properly so it’s really important to learn and value that skill. The very essence of yoga is the breath. The first time you walk into a yoga class you hear instructions like, ‘Just focus on your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Use that as your anchor.’ And you suddenly realise you have this tool inside you that you’ve hardly ever paid any attention to. If you’re not really linking your postures to your breath and breathing as you move, you’re really just exercising, you’re not making it mindful. It’s all about coming into ‘the now’ and staying in the present moment. When you learn the pranayama or breathing techniques you realise that your breath holds far more power than we often realise.
Your practice has helped you through various challenging times, how has it helped over this incredibly difficult last year?
I had Covid back in March, right at the beginning of the first lockdown. I came down with it really badly. Luckily, I didn’t end up in hospital but I was on the brink a few times. I was bedridden for eight or nine days. Thank God, my husband was okay, because he looked after the kids. The whole thing made me really anxious, as it did for a lot of people. I found all the techniques that I’d used before for my yoga, for my breathing and movement helped but I still needed something more to calm my mind. So, I turned to my meditation practice and instead of doing 10 minutes a day, I ended up doing two lots of 20 minutes. And that massively helped. It’s weird, because during that time I had loads of things to do and my old self would have said – I haven’t got time for this. But I knew that I wasn’t right. I knew I needed something else. I knew I needed to prioritise my mental health and I’m glad I did because it made a huge difference and I’ve kept it going. So that’s brilliant.
So, can you tell us a little bit about your 10-Day Yoga Challenge?
‘It Starts At Home’ is a free 10-day yoga challenge offering 10 days of 30-minute classes live on Wanderlust TV. I’ve designed it specifically for all levels, although it’s a challenge so it is meant to be challenging. The idea behind is that we all have this inner strength within us, and this course helps us to find it and unleash it. I know that sounds a little airy-fairy but sometimes we don’t stop to listen to ourselves, we don’t really listen to what our mind is telling us or we listen too much to what other people are telling us. But the truth is, we all have what we need within us. Each of the classes has a theme such as ‘connection’ or ‘no challenge, no change’. Each one is also themed around parts of the body and it’s got quite a lot of education in it about things like common yoga poses I know people struggle with. It’s not going to be easy if you’ve never done yoga before but, you know, challenges are good for us, and I’ve tried to give easier modifications so that everyone can join and get something from it. I’m really excited.’
Hannah’s ‘It Starts At Home: 10-Day Yoga Challenge’ runs from January 22nd – 31st on Wanderlust TV to sign up go to https://wanderlust.com/wltv/2021-10-day-challenge