Aisling Vlasto is the founder of The Lovely Wellness Company and mother to two young children. She is an RYT200 qualified yoga instructor who has been teaching since 2009 and holds a degree in Psychology. Aisling has developed a special class called ‘Restore, Refresh, Relax’, aimed at reducing anxiety, stress and tension. She also offers classes dedicated to the Prenatal and Postnatal Period.
Website: thelovelywellnesscompany.com Facebook: The Lovely Wellness Company Instagram: thelovelywellnessco
Tell us about the Lovely Wellness Company
The Lovely Wellness Company is based in London and offers a variety of weekly group classes and bespoke 1:1 yoga sessions. We specialise in teaching prenatal and postnatal yoga, as well as gentle yoga to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. Our aim is to allow you to take some time to reconnect to yourself and relax. We also host Pregnancy Wellness Retreats 4 times a year.
You graduated with a degree in Psychology - what made you decide to become a yoga instructor and start your business? Do you use aspects from your psychology training in your work?
A few years after graduating, I moved abroad, with my (now) husband and started practicing yoga almost daily and unexpectedly found my calling in life. On our return to the UK, I immediately booked myself onto a Yoga Teacher Training Course and the following year added to my training with prenatal and postnatal yoga qualifications. The knowledge I gained from my degree in Psychology really complements the work I do now, especially when it comes to mental health issues and their impact on us, particularly for new mothers.
Neuroscience formed part of my degree so it was great to be able to use that knowledge again, more recently, when I completed some further training at The Minded Institute in London to teach Yoga Therapy for Anxiety. My degree turned out to be the perfect foundation for my business. I set up The Lovely Wellness Company so I could do what I love, whilst managing a busy family life.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I wake up around 7am and after the school run, I head straight to the studio to teach a group class or a 1:1 session. Afternoons include lesson planning, admin and meetings, before collecting the kids. I also teach 2 evenings per week during term time.
Tell us more about yoga! What are its benefits and why are you so passionate about it?
Yoga can be a way of life- proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation and proper diet with positive thinking and meditation. I’m passionate about it because I know it can make you feel better, both physically and mentally.
The physical side of yoga, asanas, work the whole body. They can enhance the flexibility of the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons as well as stimulating circulation and increasing the flow of energy. The body becomes stronger and more flexible.
Pranayama is the practice of proper breathing. When we breathe slowly and consciously, we feel more relaxed and less stressed. Proper relaxation is another vital element of yoga. I finish all of my classes with a deep relaxation session, complete with blankets and lavender eye bags, for a natural way to recharge our batteries and restore energy reserves.
Positive thinking, meditation and good diet fall outside what I can offer within a yoga session, but you will often find these things start to fall into place alongside your yoga class, like a chain reaction. Personally, I feel like a better version of myself after practicing yoga, more connected to my body and clearer minded and think yoga can help us to handle the challenges of modern life with grace and ease.
How do you run a successful business whilst raising a family and does yoga play a role in managing the two? Have you had any major challenges to deal with?
I am incredibly lucky to have that flexibility and am grateful for this every day. I am also fortunate to have a great support system in my husband and family.
Yoga plays a significant part in maintaining my physical and mental health. If my body aches, I’ll stretch it in ways I know will make me feel better. If I feel overwhelmed, I’ll take some time to sit and breathe to restore the calm. A regular yoga practice builds strength and resilience in the body so I try to make self-practice a priority in my day. My biggest challenge to date was having to go on bed rest during my first pregnancy for 17 weeks. Illness is always a challenge because I hate letting people down but my clients were incredibly understanding and supportive-and as I teach, health has to take priority!
Mental wellness is, rightly, a hot topic at the moment, so it is interesting that you offer classes centered on anxiety, stress and tension. When and why did you start offering these classes and have you seen an increase in interest given that discussion about mental health is becoming more open?
I wanted to offer something with a more gentle approach, with stress release and improved mental health as a focus. I wanted to offer a class that you didn’t need to have any experience to come to, and to know you were going to feel better both physically and mentally by the end. I launched these classes in September 2018 and the response has been incredibly positive. My prenatal and postnatal classes also have a focus on mental health. I think as awareness is growing, the stigma of mental health is dissipating. People are more comfortable discussing it and more open to ideas on how to tackle mental health issues.
Are these classes for men too?
Yes! We do have men at the (non prenatal and postnatal) classes and they often find it a great source of stress relief!
What is pregnancy yoga and did you need further training to teach pregnancy and postnatal yoga?
Pregnancy Yoga is a beautifully gentle way to stretch and tone the pregnant body whilst encouraging rest and relaxation. It can help with many pregnancy ailments including back pain, heartburn, sciatica, leg cramps and breathlessness, as well as anxiety and fear. I did further training in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga at The Yoga Campus in 2010 with the amazing Uma Dinsmore Tuli. There is actually very little resemblance between a normal yoga class and a pregnancy yoga class as all the stretches and exercises are specifically designed for pregnancy.
Can you start yoga as a novice whilst pregnant and if so, when? Are any yoga postures unsafe during pregnancy?
You don’t need any previous yoga experience to practice pregnancy yoga. Beyond 16 weeks is a good place to start as you will generally find that you energy levels have picked up a bit by then and it’s a safer time in the pregnancy so you will feel more relaxed. Anything that involves putting strain on the abdomen is not advisable and inversions should be avoided ideally.
When would you recommend starting postnatal yoga, with your baby, and why?
It is advised to wait 6 weeks postpartum after a vaginal delivery, once you have had your 6 week check with your GP; and 8 weeks after a cesarean section with permission from your doctor. If something doesn’t feel quite right after you have had your final check up with your doctor, you should see a female Physiotherapist for a postnatal MOT.
Tell us about your pregnancy wellness retreats - how did the concept evolve and what are the benefits?
The pregnancy retreats were designed to offer expectant mothers a really special day to relax and learn, to nourish and nurture themselves.They can be a lovely way to meet other expectant mums and talk about all things pregnancy and birth. The aim is to not only offer physical comfort and lots of relaxation, but to be informative and educational too.
You include hypnobirthing, Infant First Aid and essential oil workshops in these retreats - did you benefit from these yourself when you were pregnant?
Sadly not, I wish I had! Luckily, I had already done my pregnancy yoga training when I became pregnant for the first time so I had built up a great little toolkit of skills to keep me calm and relaxed during the labour and birth. Pregnancy Yoga is very complementary to hypnobirthing and the breathing techniques are very similar. Hypnobirthing takes it one step further and also offers some great advice about how to set up your birthing room in a way to keep the oxytocin flowing and keep adrenalin to a minimum.
I am a huge advocate of first aid, especially infant first aid. I took a course when my first baby was around 6 weeks old. When my second baby was 4 weeks old, I had to resuscitate him at home after he became unresponsive. I am always so grateful that I took the course and knew what to do that day. He made a full recovery but the doctors said it could have been a very different outcome had I not started Basic Life Support when I did. I wish infant first aid courses were given to all expectant mothers through the NHS.
I became aware of essential oils and their benefits during pregnancy and birth and we still use them at home, as a family. A workshop on the retreat seemed like a natural addition, to teach us how to safely use essential oils during the perinatal period. It also makes everything smell amazing!
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
I feel proud that I have managed to create a small business that offers something to make people feel better, both physically and emotionally. If I can make someone feel less tense, less stressed, more relaxed and happier in their body, then that is something that makes me smile. One of my clients once told me she felt so well cared for during my classes that the world seemed like a better place by the end of it. That was a pretty nice moment.
What’s next for The Lovely Wellness Company and how can our readers find you?
I have a huge to-do list! I am in the process of creating courses of Yoga Therapy for Prenatal Anxiety and Yoga Therapy for Postnatal Anxiety. I suffered on a clinical level with Postnatal Anxiety after my son was born and felt very let down by the treatments I was offered. In order to take any medication, I would have had to stop breastfeeding, and the only alternative I was offered by my GP was some group therapy that certainly didn’t accommodate babies and toddlers! With Yoga Therapy, I visit you in your own home to take all the stress out of it. It is safe and very effective for treating anxiety. I will also be running lots of workshops in the new year, working with some incredible people including nutritionists, women’s health physiotherapists and baby massage therapists.
For more information about upcoming events and class schedules, please visit the website at thelovelywellnesscompany.com and see what we get up to on Instagram at thelovelywellnessco or facebook at The Lovely Wellness Company.
Any final thoughts?
Look after yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down. Life isn’t a race. Eat well, exercise, sleep as much as you can, and do everything else in moderation. If you feel like you need some help with your mental health, please talk to someone about it. Your doctor is a good place to start but don’t be disheartened if their treatment plan doesn’t fit in with your life. There are so many alternative therapies out there that can have a positive impact on your mental health.
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