Shona Vertue is the woman credited for introducing David Beckham to the wonders of yoga.
Her signature yoga practice incorporates lots of lunge and squat-like movements – as well as variations of glute bridges – but she says if you take anything away from her practice, there are two simple yet underrated postures you should pay particular attention to. If performed daily, they will help you to develop a stronger and more supple physique.
“They’re not very sexy positions and not very interesting on Instagram, but actually a lot of them are super beneficial for the body,” she says.
“See it as an investment. It takes two minutes to just wake up and do a few things.”
The ‘ragdoll’ pose
First up, is the ‘ragdoll’ pose. Allow your head to drop down heavily in front of you, with your feet hip distance apart and knees slightly bent.
Then, while loosely holding each elbow, rock from side to side. It releases tension in your neck and shoulders, while stretching out and lengthening your lower back and hamstrings.
Balancing on one leg
The other pose is ‘utthita hasta padangustasana’, which involves balancing on one leg.
Begin by slightly bending both knees before lifting one knee up towards your chest. With the standing leg kept slightly bent, hold the other foot with both hands and gradually begin to stretch this leg out in front of you. This move is particularly useful for runners, Vertue says, and helps with hip mobility, strength and stability.
“I try to drill it into the 20-year-olds I see, to just try these subtle movements that don’t feel like they’re doing much, but they are,” she says.
“And when I see my older clients in their 50s, 60s and 70s, they’re like ‘why didn’t I just do this earlier?'”
The fittest 60-year-olds she sees are those who religiously get up in the morning and do 20 sit-ups and a range of twists and reaches, she adds.
And yoga has other benefits too…
Vertue believes the discipline goes beyond delivering just suppleness and flexibility; it helps to support digestive health as well.
“We don’t often think about it so much in the West, so much of it is sold to us from an aesthetic perspective, but yoga is so much deeper than that,” she says.
“With a lot of the postures, there’s a direct correlation to massaging and stimulating those digestive organs.”
She references the aptly named “wind relieving pose” or “pavanmuktasana” – in which, while lying on the floor, you place both hands around one knee and draw it back up towards your armpit and release the opposite leg down so that it is flat against the floor – as an example of this.
“When you’re in a deep squat position you are massaging those [digestive] organs. The problem is, we have such a seated culture these days: we sit on the toilet, we sit when we travel and eat. Our digestive system heavily relies upon (and evolved at) a time when we spent a lot of time in a deep squat.”
10 minutes a day beats one class per week
So, how often does Vertue think people should exercise?
“For me, maybe it’s a little controversial, but I do say people should exercise every day. The reason why is that, these days, most people have desk jobs. Even if you’re in hospitality, you might be on your feet all day, but you’re not really moving your body.
“If you think about your day in hours, you might spend six or seven hours sleeping, and another nine at a desk, then you might sit on the couch for another four – so much of your day is just sitting or lying down. If you train for 45 minutes, or even 20, each day, it’s not really that much. I always say if you can only do 10 minutes every day it’ll be more beneficial than one class per week because it’s going to infiltrate your whole day.”
Her own training regime is spread across yoga, weight training and gymnastics, and Vertue recommends her clients fit in two to three sessions of resistance training per week, in addition to regular yoga.
“Generally speaking I do encourage women to look towards hypertrophy – that’s building muscle tissue – because we tend to lose a lot of muscle tissue later on. It can also stimulate bone mineral density which can help with that,” she says.
“I have lots of clients who are osteoporosis sufferers in their 30s and that just never used to happen.”
Vertue conducted an energising morning yoga class at the top of the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, to celebrate the exclusive launch of Hello Jo, a British-born, Korean-inspired range of caffeine-active beauty products, on Feelunique.