03 December, 2020

“Yoga can make you feel very grounded”: AVOCA’s Rachel Lenny in conversation

Our Walk in My Shoes (WIMS) conversations aim to explore positive mental health and help us all move through the COVID-19 outbreak together through special discussions with wellbeing ambassadors.

Our latest guest is Rachel Lenny, Marketing and Press Officer with AVOCA Ireland and a registered yoga teacher, who joins our Project Manager, Amanda McArdle, for a warm and open chat about what helps her get through the current coronavirus challenge, what yoga means to her, and more.

Rachel trained as a yoga teacher in Sri Lanka, London and Ireland, and most recently qualified as a pregnancy yoga teacher. Between this and her role with AVOCA, Rachel explains that she feels she has a nice life balance and is always grateful for the opportunities that come her way.

Amanda: For anyone who has never done a yoga class, how would you describe it?

Rachel: Yoga is a form of relaxation. It is a practice that really connects the mind, body and spirit and brings it all together, giving you that feeling of stillness and calm. I think sometimes there's a misconception that it is just a series of movements, but it is so much more than that... Yoga can make you feel very grounded, especially through times of uncertainty like we're going through right now. It can make you feel very joyful when things are going well and, also, it can bring healing to the body during sad times.

Why should somebody consider trying yoga?

The feeling that you get from yoga is so unique to the individual that you just need to try it. Then, I promise, you will understand why so many people get up as early as they do to move, stretch and breathe! It's quite hard to express in words what that does to that person, but you will honestly never ever look back.

Do your yoga classes change at different times of the year?

Yoga teachers will always theme their classes around seasons and make it really relevant for you to come and feel connected to the practice. So, in the summer, you might have your yoga classes outside, especially at AVOCA; there’s beautiful grounds and gardens and we're very fortunate that we can host outdoor yoga classes, which people just love. Practicing outdoors really transports you, and it's a wonderful opportunity to spend a little time immersed in nature.

In winter, we should be hibernating and slowing down. With this new idea of isolating at the moment, I think it could be a positive thing if we could reframe it and call it more of a hibernation time. Restorative and yin yoga is really big in winter, where practicing in a beautiful candle-lit room always brings a sense of warmth and peace. A top tip is to set up your yoga space, light your candle and dim the lights. It’s then a lot easier to switch off from your busy day that you've had because, let's be honest, we're probably doing yoga in the same room that we're working in, that we're eating in, that we're with our family in.

How are you finding working full-time in marketing and teaching yoga during the current restrictions?

I enjoy my job; I love working and being a part of the marketing team at AVOCA Ireland. I'm very fortunate we have such a fantastic and creative team. Anytime, I get to combine the two - my work with my passion - is always really rewarding. This year, hosting a virtual yoga class on World Mental Health Day for both AVOCA Ireland and WIMS was particularly a personal highlight.

I think, for me, the marketing side of my professional career opens up doors to bring me into working on some great projects, like being able to work together to make this beautiful candle that is our Christmas charity candle. It's a beautiful, thoughtful gift to give this Christmas. The idea of conscious gifting is bigger than ever before. And then, I suppose my passion, yoga, has probably made this whole year so much easier to get through and put many things into perspective.

Do you have any specific coping strategies which may help you get through the uncertainty that’s likely to be with us for the next few months still?

Something that I find has been beneficial for me is my morning routine. I've always been an early riser and I think actually getting up and doing that hour of walking or running, or yoga or sea swimming, has always been beneficial. I know it might not come easy for people - especially coming into winter months, it is effort - but once you start doing it, it will become a positive habit.

So, for example, I wake up, I find my way into the kitchen, I turn on the kettle, I make a hot lemon and fresh ginger tea and the lights aren’t even on yet; and then I just roll out my mat in the living room, light a candle and do some yoga and meditation. Your morning routine will set you up. Whatever comes your way that day, you'll be able to meet it a little bit easier or breathe through it because you've set yourself up for it that morning. Try to remember, you’re always just a breath or two away from calm.

Have you taken up any new hobbies or skills since the restrictions first began? Do you think you’ll continue them as times goes on?

I used to do a lot of surfing when I lived in Sri Lanka, and our family go to the west of Ireland and that's an activity that I always loved. I’ve found the surfboard again this summer, and I've been going to Sligo and Donegal, so I've picked something up again that really brought me joy.

And one of the things that I've taken up is writing letters and sending cards, so writing to friends and family; I take the time to either make them a card and post it or I actually take pleasure going into a local shop looking at the cards, not necessarily with anyone in mind, but thinking “oh my god, that's pretty funny; maybe I'll send that to them”. It's something so simple, but they usually are the best acts of kindness; let people know you are thinking of them.

Do you have any plans for 2021?

I have loads of plans; whether or not I get to do them is another thing!

What's really great is actually, at AVOCA, we plan our wellness campaign around now, and we've got lovely gardens and estates that lend themselves so well to wellness and being outdoors. It’s probably my favourite campaign that I get to work on. We bring our local food suppliers into it, our beauty suppliers, and interlink the mind, body and spirit, so that's something that I'm really excited to work on for 2021.

But then, personally, I just can't wait to travel again. I would love to go back to Bali and do some yoga. I just miss that sense of freedom and spontaneity that we all can just hop on a flight or hop in the car and go further than where we can at the moment.

So yes, loads of plans, but I'm also staying present. I think that's the biggest learning that we can take away from this year: yes, plans are nice to have, but we can get overwhelmed and a bit anxious if we don't get to do them. So I think actually, just remind yourself to stay present, not get too far ahead of yourself, and if we can do them great - and if we can't, it’s ok!