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WELLNESS CRUSH: SARAH HIGHFIELD, YOGA TEACHER

Sarah Highfield, London based yoga teacher, lifestyle blogger and founder of Yogagise came in for a chat at ONE LDN's gym in Chelsea. Find out what keeps this uber babe grounded, living life to the fullest and achieving the ultimate work-life balance.

What made you decide to become a yoga teacher?

I have been practising yoga since I was 21 years old, I have always loved both the practice and how I feel after. I had always thought about becoming a yoga teacher but never took the next step as I was worried it wouldn’t be sustainable as a career and it was too competitive. Eventually, I was sick of sitting behind a desk all day and took a leap of faith to do what I really love.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the concept for Yogagise?

Yogagise yoga is all about energising through yoga, it’s a state of wellbeing. Whether you are looking to strengthen your body, increase flexibility, calm & relax your mind or simply take time out for yourself; Yogagise tailors different styles of yoga (Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, and Restorative) to create a class which helps you achieve your goals. Lots of people have asked why I set up Yogagise and it’s because I had previously been operating under my own name, but decided that I needed to separate my work from myself. While these two sides of me frequently overlap, I wanted to create a strong brand that was 100% Yogagise.

How has yoga transformed your life?

It makes me feel grounded and connected. There is no better way to retreat from the craziness of city life, than to roll out my mat and stretch out. Practising yoga is a form of self love and realisation, it is a wonderful way to tune into my body & mind.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

It means not allowing work to dominate your life, you only live once so enjoy yourself. Don’t become a slave to your job. Take time away from work to do the things you truly enjoy. As they say, in the end, it’s the things that we didn’t do that we regret!

What’s been the biggest challenge in balancing your work and health?

When I was working in an office, it used to be about finding time to do all the healthy things I wanted to do. I was often tired from under-sleeping and eating too much processed food. Now, as a yoga teacher, it's not a challenge at all and I have a really good balance with my yoga routine.

Who is your wellness inspiration?

This is no single person. Instead, I take inspiration from lots of different people. I have friends in the wellness industry who are fellow yoga teachers, Pilates teachers, nutritionists, personal trainers and so on. I'm inspired by all of them and happily go to them for advice when I need it. Also, I find a lot of wellness principles are actually quite simple, it just requires a little common sense and lots of discipline!

What does your typical day look like?

During the week, I wake up around 7:30/8am, however, I sometimes have early morning yoga classes to teach so I'll be up at 6am on those days. I tend not to eat breakfast until at least an hour after I wake up as I'm never hungry first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I'll shower, look at my agenda for the day ahead and answer a few emails. Breakfast is usually scrambled eggs on toast or a big fruit salad. The rest of my day will revolve around when and where I have classes, and any meetings I have booked in.

I have really amazing private clients and they tend to book late-morning or mid-afternoon classes, which is perfect for me as it means I can go home for my lunches. One of the things which used to annoy me about being stuck in an office is that I never had time to cook and would end up buying my lunches from Pret, Eat, Leon, M&S....day in and day out! I was so sick of eating the same boring lunches, which weren't even that nice. So now, I love being at home for lunch so I can make a delicious salad or stir fry, or whatever it is that takes my fancy. I like that I don't have to sit at my desk eating lunch, or in a noisy cafe, or in an over-crowded public area where all the other office workers go. For me, it's a luxury eating at home.

Post-lunch, I'll usually walk to my afternoon yoga class and after that, return home to do some admin. In the evenings, I really enjoy cooking a proper meal for my boyfriend and I. We are both big fans of fresh, healthy & nutritious food, so I'll find a new recipe to try out or I'll make one of our favourites: chilli beef with quinoa, salmon salad, baked chicken with whole grain rice, or chicken ratatouille with baked sweet potatoes. At the same time, we also enjoy eating out a lot and have a few favourite restaurants that we often eat at including Hawksmoor, Roka, Hakkasan, Maguro and Goodman’s.

What is the first thing you do each morning?

I usually lie in bed reading the news. That's bad isn't it!? I should say I meditate or jump out of bed and do a bit of Vinyasa Flow, they're both excellent ways of waking up! But I don't...that comes later in the morning. After that, I'll have a shower and prepare for the day ahead.

How do you let your hair down?

I like to pamper myself - a nice face mask makes me feel good and I have this amazing Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax body oil which I put on before I shower, then rinse off, it leaves a light layer of oil on me which smells amazing and makes my skin super soft. Outside of the house, I like to be with my family and friends, eating and laughing.

Where is your happy place?

There isn't one place. There are lots of places. I love being on the beach - it always feels so carefree and natural. I also love being in the mountains where you can see for miles.

Which three things can’t you live without?

By 'things', I'm assuming you mean objects, so this sounds bad… but my iPhone for one - it's how I stay connected with people and it keeps me on top of things. Secondly, I love my Clarins Double Serum, I use it every morning and night before I apply my face cream, it makes my skin firmer and more radiant. Finally, I can't live without my Tempur pillow, it’s contoured to support my neck – I sleep so well thanks to it.

What do you wish you had known as a teenager?

That nothing is ever as bad as you think it is. I remember having all the typical teenage anxieties and hang-ups, but in reflection, it was all wasted energy. I wish I could have been as chilled out as I am now about things, though I guess you need to learn these things.

How do you inspire others to practise yoga?

I always encourage people who are new to yoga to start slow, focus on how you feel in each pose and move with awareness. You should find a good yoga studio or teacher who can guide your safely through your yoga routine. Yoga is unique because it has no boundaries, it can be done almost anywhere, at any time, with anyone and requires little more than a mat. It is suitable for all ages, fitness levels, shapes & sizes, and there is a style of yoga to suit everyone, from Vinyasa Flow to Restorative yoga.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Ice cream! My absolute favourite ice cream in the world is the Green & Black’s Organic Vanilla Caramel Nut ice cream – I can eat the whole tub in one sitting! It’s a creamy vanilla ice cream with caramel swirls and chopped up pieces of hazelnuts. It’s not healthy at all but it’s worth the calories.

What are you most proud of?

I'm proud that I took a gamble and made the transition from office worker to yoga teacher. If you had told me two years ago today that I was going to be a full time yoga teacher by the end of that year, I wouldn't have believed it. It was a big risk moving into a whole new industry, which is just as competitive as other industries, and I was suddenly the newbie! It’s been hard work but so refreshing to be away from the monotonous toil of office life. I love the variety of classes I get to teach, be it the renewing Restorative yoga sessions, or the fluid Vinyasa Flow classes. I really value the variation within yoga, it keeps me feeling refreshed!

I have freedom from the 9-5 grind (or more accurately the 8-7 grind), I no longer have to put up with the stress of rush hour, I don’t have to ask for annual leave, I don’t have client demands to deal with, I don’t have to manage office politics, I don’t have to follow processes or write those passive aggressive work emails that do the rounds, and I don’t spend most of my day sitting in an office chair whilst staring at the computer screen and slowly going blind.

Now, I get to set my own targets and deadlines, the people I work with are all rather zen, I can make my own healthy lunches at home, I have more time for family and friends, I get to travel to beautiful yoga retreats, I have flexibility with my time, I can focus on my other hobby of cooking, I have more time to walk around and enjoy London, and I’m simply so much more relaxed & happy. Life has become a lot simpler - I'm a big fan of the yoga routine kind of life.

What is your favourite fitness brand?

I have lots! I adore yoga clothes from Wellicious, Asquith London, Ilu, BAM, Sweaty Betty, Gap Sport and Nike. As for yoga equipment, I like Manduka, Fushi and Jade Yoga.

What was the last book you read?

I recently read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, it was very good. It might look like a run of the mill holiday read but it's actually far more impressive. It's an insightful look at the choices people make and the consequences that come with them. The book has just been turned into a 4-part miniseries on BBC 1, so I've been watching that.

What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is that warm sense of joy that builds up into big smiles. I’m happiest when I'm in a strong yoga routine (whether I'm practicing or teaching), spending time with family & friends, eating good food, exploring new places and having new experiences.

What is your go – to snack?

If I'm being healthy, I really like Pink Lady apples, I buy the large ones which I keep in the fridge as I like them really cold, and then slice them up. If I'm still hungry I'll eat some blueberries or nuts. If I'm not being healthy, I'll eat some chocolate or some chocolate digestive thins, I've just discovered them and they are so addictive.

What advice would you give our readers to who might be starting out on a wellness journey?

Nutritionally: Try to eat healthily most of the time. For me, it’s all about balance and eating food that is nutritious and full of vitamins. I try to eat good quality, organic food which is responsibly sourced and ethically produced. If I need to satisfy my sweet tooth, I make sure that it’s always with good quality produce and I eat mindfully, ensuring I savour every bite.

Physically: Keep moving, don’t become one of those people who catch the bus one stop. Getting into a regular and moderate yoga routine is key.

Mentally: Keep your mind stimulated, read a good book, read the news, do crosswords, visit museums and so on.

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