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Kate Winslet’s yoga teacher reveals 9 ways it could change your life

We spoke to Kate Winslet’s yoga teacher (and Sweaty Betty global ambassador) Niki Perry about how learning yoga could change your life and the secrets to healthy living

At 6.30am Niki Perry wakes up and starts her day with a 20-minute vinyasa flow yoga. Sometimes she does it alone and sometimes she’s joined by her three daughters aged ten, seven and four. ‘They love to join in and crash around.’ Her life consists of walking her golden retriever on the beaches near her home in Chichester, cooking up green feasts for her kids and teaching yoga in an old cowshed, centred around an open fire, with glass doors looking out onto fields. The 40-year-old Power Yoga specialist has a number of high-profile students.

Most notably? Actress Kate Winslet, 42 who, twenty years on from Titanic has landed in cinema screens across the country this month starring alongside cockney heart-throb Idris Elba in their new film, The Mountain Between Us which portrays the story of the story of two strangers stranded on a mountain after a tragic plane crash who must work together to endure the extreme elements of the remote, snow-covered terrain. Is it any wonder the super busy Hollywood star opts for a calming and energising yoga class to keep in shape? ‘[After yoga] she says that she feels a million dollars, ready for the day and to take on whatever she needs to do.’ As Winslet works out with Perry four times a week (sometimes for up to two hours a day!), it’s easy to believe she loves her practice.

the-mountain-between-us

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba welcome audiences to The Mountain Between Us premier – via Instagram @themountainbetweenus

And she’s not the only one. Perry is the global ambassador for Sweaty Betty  – the fitness brand on everyone’s Christmas wishlist. ‘I teach Tamara Hill Norton [founder of the Sweaty Betty] and her husband and I’ve also worked with Emma Thompson.’ We asked Perry to impart some of her wisdom on healthy living.

Don’t let Instagram put you off

‘I think it’s intimidating for beginners now. More intimidating than ever before because the old image of yoga was someone sitting cross-legged, surrounded by grass, eating a bowl of muesli. Now its someone in what looks like a contortion. They look completely stunning and they’ve probably got turquoise water behind them – and they’re on a beach in their bikini. It’s so inspiring but also intimidating so to tap into something that’s going to make you want to roll out your mat and give it a go, I would say that you just have to try regardless.’

Breath is the greatest gift we’ve been given because without it we’re dead

It will help you lose weight

‘It does depend on what practice you do but during power vinyasa flow yoga your heart rate is up. If you did my Monday morning class, for example, it’s 60 minutes but for 40 of those minutes your heart rate is definitely at about 130 so you’re really pouring with sweat. Just because of that, you’re burning fat. You’re also breathing ujjayi breath and that burns calories too.’

Ujjayi breath will transform your life

‘You learn this breath in yoga and it’s a rhythmical nose breath. You’re breathing from the base of your throat, you don’t breath in and out through your mouth at all – your mouth is closed. As you exhale there is a very deep rhythmical sound. It can be quite intimidating for beginners when they hear the person next to them in class breathing very loudly. This is why it can be helpful to start practising at home. You can practice in the car, at the traffic lights – anywhere. But once you’ve got it under your belt it will be with you for life. You won’t believe how many times in a day you’ll suddenly breathe like that. It instantly calms me. It’s the biggest thing we can teach our children, our society, everybody. We can teach the breath and how to use it. Breath is the greatest gift we’ve been given because without it we’re dead. Normally we don’t breathe properly as we’re never taught to yet its everything, it uses every part of your lungs.

Ujjayi breathing is an ancient practice used in yoga that literally translates to ‘victorious breath’. It’s heralded for it energising and detoxing properties. Do it by making an ‘sssssss’ sound with your mouth and then closing your lips together, breathing in and out through your nose. The result is a subtle, almost hissing sound.

 

Your body will thank you

‘When you start practising yoga you’ll sleep better. If you had an irregular period, you’ll suddenly have them more regularly. Your whole digestive system will work better, your circulation will be better, you’ll have fewer aches and you’ll move with greater ease. If you had pains in your body, they tend to pass. And one day you’ll realise that your back pain has disappeared altogether.’

You’ll learn to love yourself

‘The whole practice and philosophy and the way you move is all about opening up your heart and connecting with it. You’ve got to love yourself to help other people. So first, love yourself and look after yourself and make yourself strong and healthy and the best you can possibly be and then the giving to the others just comes. You don’t even have to try. You don’t have to force anything, it will just flow. Your life will flow and amazing things will happen because you are in your dharma – which is your river of life. And when you flow down your river of life, you’re in love. In love with your life.’

hot yoga is great if you’re very results orientated

Don’t be afraid of hot yoga

‘I like hot yoga. People are always worried about injury and going too deep, dehydration and getting too dizzy – there are lots of factors people can be afraid of. But it all comes down to having an awareness of your body and listening to it. If it’s ever too much, just take a break. I think with hot yoga is great if you’re very results orientated. Hot yoga will give you that quite quickly. But in yoga you generate your own heat, that’s the important thing.’

And it’s not just on the topic of yoga that the teacher is ready to share her wise words. Perry shares her secrets on healthy living. The good news? The occasional cookie is definitely okay!

It’s all about finding balance

Growing up I had a very balanced diet, we still had naughty food (cookies and big pieces of chocolate cake) but it was always after we’d eaten a nice big healthy meal. Nowadays the kids know that when I’m picking them up and taking them to hockey tournaments if they come with me they’re going to get a bag of vegetables. But I’m known for that and they all laugh about it. I always make them delicious and crunchy and bring loads of hummus but I’ll also have made loads of amazing chocolate flapjacks. I love cooking and I love loads of treats as well.’

Push the boundaries

‘I do like to eat really well. I like to really try and push the boundaries of the kids’ diet. I always get them to try something new a couple of times a week that they may not have tried before. For example, last night we had super green cannelloni. That was stuffed with some kale and garlic and a little bit of chilli (not too much) with kale and grated parmesan on top and with that we were drinking rose water. They loved that – it went down pretty well. My youngest kept spitting it out but the other two actually quite liked it. I’m not completely vegetarian but we do tend to eat maybe five meals a week vegetarian.’

Move every day

‘Even if its literally just going for a twenty-minute walk – it’s better than nothing. Try and do something active every single day, that would be my philosophy. Really listen to your body and know that you’ve only got one body and you have a responsibility to look after it so have that in mind if you want to live a long, healthy life.’

 

Niki has been practising yoga since childhood and then 10 years ago she
discovered a particular method known as Power Yoga, which transformed her
life in many ways. Founded by Baron Baptiste, Power Vinyasa Flow Yoga
combines strength, sweat and spirituality to detoxify, heal and sculpt the mind
and body. She has since shared this technique with longtime client, Kate Winslet, who has undergone her own transformation.

Niki Perry’s yoga DVD is available to buy from Sweaty Betty. All proceeds go to the Africa yoga project which goes to a charity in Africa and pays for free classes.

If you’d like to learn more about Niki Perry she will be running a yoga and ski retreat in Switzerland at the start of next year. Click this link for more details.

Read more

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10-minute yoga for anxiety to let all that tension go

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