A beginner’s guide to yoga in lockdown

Words: Rachael Chrystal

There are very few people who have been untouched by the change, uncertainty and fear that the pandemic has brought. This has had a huge impact on our mental well-being, with significant numbers reporting stress, anxiety and low mood associated with lockdown and COVID-19. Our usual exercise routines have been disrupted, meaning that lots of us are feeling the lack of physical activity and the resulting negative effect on our mental health. 

This has led many people to look for ways to manage their psychological well-being as well as bring more movement into their day. As the lockdown restrictions are lifted, this brings new stresses and worries as we try to work towards a new normality, despite things being very different.  

Never before has yoga been more needed – yoga provides us with the space and time to relax and connect with ourselves, as well as giving us some much needed time for physical movement. For me, time on my mat gives me time for my brain to unravel and lets me release the tension, fear and unknown of the ongoing situation through movement and my breath. It simultaneously gives me energy and helps me to calm my anxious thoughts.  

Rachael Chrystal

The good news is that you can do yoga anywhere and you don’t need to get changed or gather any special equipment. You can use whatever time you have – starting with as little as 3 minutes – and you will notice the benefit to your physical and psychological well-being after just a few short sessions. 

Yoga alone is not a cure for mental health difficulties and it is recommended that you also seek professional support via your GP or appropriate local services if you are struggling. Yoga can however be used alongside more traditional treatments to support good mental health.  

Here are my tips for starting a home yoga practice, along with a simple but effective routine to settle your mind and gently move your body. This is suitable for beginners as well as seasoned yogis – the poses are still beneficial whether you are doing them for the 1st or the 1000th time. The sequence below will take 5-20 minutes depending on how long you choose to stay in each posture.  

How to set up your space for yoga: 

Ideally find a quiet, private space where you have space to move around. In an ideal world we would all have a luxury yoga studio adjoining our houses, but in the absence of this find a space that works for you – it most likely won’t be perfect but that’s ok. It’s nice to add a candle which you might light whenever you practice, or some plants – making the space inviting adds a certain sense of ceremony for when you do practice and can make it feel extra relaxing.  

Use a yoga mat if you have one, or you can put a towel or rug down on the floor. A blanket and a cushion can be helpful to have handy to use to help you feel comfortable.  

Grounding and arriving:

Start off by lying on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You can place your hands on your belly. Breathe in and out through your nose gently, without forcing anything, just feeling what comes naturally. Continue to breathe here for a couple of minutes, closing your eyes if you wish.  


This pose is great for bringing your attention back into the body and gently mobilising the spine. It is simple and quick and makes a huge difference to how your back feels! 

Come onto your hands and knees, with your hands under shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.  

Inhale and lift the tailbone and the chest, arching the back, feeling the collar bones open – this is “cow” pose. From here, exhale, rounding the spine, pushing the floor away with your hands, looking down at the floor, coming into “cat”.  

Continue to move through cat and cow, guided by the breath for 10 repetitions.  

Extended Child’s Pose: 

Child’s Pose

This pose is my go to for whenever I need to switch off and focus on my breath. Because of the inward energy a Child’s Pose creates, it works really well for calming anxious thoughts. It’s also a good stretch for the back, shoulders and hips.  

From your hands and knees, sit back onto your heels, with your forehead resting on the mat. Keep your arms outstretched in front of you, palms flat on the mat and feel a stretch under your shoulders. If your hips don’t easily rest back on your heels, placing a pillow or cushion under your hips can really help. Feel the breath move through the body and notice the upper back expanding with the inhale. Rest here for as long as you need – anywhere from 5 breaths to 15 minutes. 

Downward Facing Dog:

Downward Facing Dog

A yoga staple, this is an energising pose which stretches out the whole body.  

From extended Child’s Pose (above), come back up to all fours, then tuck your toes under, pressing through the hands and lift up your knees, coming into Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees as much as you need to start with, keeping the back long. Once you are comfortable, straighten your legs, bringing the heels towards the floor. Gently roll the shoulders away from your ears and feel your shoulder blades down your back. Hold here for 3-5 breaths or longer if you feel comfortable. To come down, exhale, whilst bending your knees and lowering down to the floor.  

If you have time, you can repeat the sequence up to this point so far as many times as you like, depending on how long you have to practice. Following this, move on to the below:  

Bridge Pose:

Bridge Pose

This pose helps to open the chest muscles and increases mobility in the spine, and is great if you have been on the laptop for too long.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hands resting by your sides. Inhale and tip your pelvis forward slightly, press through your feet and lift your hips as high as is comfortable. Hold here for 3-5 breaths, pressing through your feet and engaging your glute muscles to support your hips. Slowly lower down, rolling down each vertebra at a time.  

Legs up the wall:

Legs up the wall

This pose is deeply restorative and rejuvenating perfect –  just before bedtime or whenever you need a rest.  

Sit sideways against a wall, then lie down and swing your legs up so that your legs are outstretched, your feet resting on the wall and your back is flat on the floor.  Get your hips as close as is comfortable to the wall. Rest your hands at the side of your body or on your belly. Close your eyes and rest here for as long as is comfortable, up to 10 minutes.  

Why not aim to try this sequence three times over the coming week? Commit to when you plan to do this in your diary at the start of the week, which will make you more likely to stick to your plan.  Making a note of how you feel at the start and end of the session and any improvements can be helpful.  

If you enjoyed this short sequence, please do get in touch and let us know how you got on. 

About Rachael:

Rachael Chrystal is the founder of Conscious Calm Yoga + Wellbeing. She helps individuals improve their health and wellbeing through an intuitive process using yoga and related practices and firmly believes that yoga is for all bodies regardless of ability or size.  Rachael also works with corporate organisations to help them to develop the wellbeing and happiness of their staff and clients, as well as teaching specialist public yoga classes in Manchester (currently online).  The rest of the time Rachael is busy working as an NHS GP, where her interest and expertise in helping people improve their health stems from.    

For more information or to join one of Rachael’s online classes, go to: www.consciouscalm.co.uk

Follow @consciouscalmyoga


Getting to Know Jessicarr Moorhouse: Doctor, Physiotherapist and Personal Trainer

Whether you’ve brought your trainers out of retirement, purchased a new mountain bike or woken up to the sound of PE with Joe Wicks over the past few weeks, chances are your attitude towards exercise has been affected by the Coronavirus crisis. 

Life under lockdown has brought even greater attention to the benefits of movement and physical activity and many of us have turned to cycling, walking and running to keep active outdoors. According to Sport England across the first six weeks of lockdown, 63% of people  found exercise to be pivotal to their mental wellbeing and many have turned to new health and wellness rituals to keep active whilst staying at home.

Not surprisingly, the fitness industry was one of the quickest to adapt to the UK’s quarantine measures and within a matter of days a swathe of home workouts, led by some of the country’s top personal trainers and fitness brands, were made readily available for people across the nation to get stuck into. From Instagram live HIIT classes, to Youtube yoga tutorials and virtual PE lessons, resources for at-home exercise have never been easier to access. 

Cue Jessicarr Moorhouse, a Manchester-based Doctor, Physiotherapist, Personal Trainer and Founder of TRIBE.MCR– an innovative health and wellness initiative specialising in group workouts, personal training sessions and specially curated corporate wellness programmes – who has been keeping her clients motivated throughout the crisis with her weekly workouts and impromptu fitness raves. 

Image: © Madeleine Penfold

Jessicarr established TRIBE.MCR in 2018 after deciding to take a step back from full-time medicine and pursue other career opportunities in the field of movement and exercise – two things that she has always been extremely passionate about. Building upon her extensive knowledge and time spent in hospitals learning about physiology, exercise prescription, gait analysis and postural assessment, Jess ventured into the fitness industry and gained her personal training accreditation, which then led her to create TRIBE.MCR. 

Image: © Madeleine Penfold

“It was about establishing a tool for helping people to feel good mentally and to be able to do that with meaning in an environment that felt inclusive,” explains Jessicarr. Rather than focus too much on the aesthetic outcomes of a fitness routine, the doctor-turned-personal trainer has an honest and holistic approach and is one the city’s biggest advocates of exercise that boosts people’s wellbeing and social connection to others.

Prior to lockdown, Jessicarr hosted weekly outdoor workout sessions in Manchester’s Sadler’s Yard situated near to Victoria train station, as well as weekend classes in the picturesque Marie Louise Gardens located the suburb of West Didsbury, and through hard work and a positive attitude, she has been able to establish a friendly and welcoming offering for anyone wanting to keep fit and look after their mental and physical wellbeing. 

Image: © Madeleine Penfold

Rather than an exclusive club for fitness fanatics and cardio converts, Jessicarr created TRIBE.MCR to show people how movement can be a medicine rather than just a way to lose weight or reach a new personal best. 

Over the past two years she has collaborated with a number of like-minded individuals to spread this message even further working with the likes of Sacha Lord, Manchester’s Night-Time Economy Advisor to offer free monthly group training sessions for those in sector; Photographer and Yoga Teacher Madeleine Penfold and Creative Strategist and DJ Alice Woods to curate Shake Your Soul, an event combining feel good moves, yoga flow and live music; and healthcare providers and charities such as Greater Manchester Moving and Manchester Cares, to engage with people of all abilities and ages. 

Like many others, Jessicarr has adapted her offering for the digital realm during lockdown, pivoting toward zoom workouts and sharing her own fitness routine via Instagram. She has also continued to work for the NHS, fitting locum shifts around her PT work, which has helped keep her busy and active amidst the ongoing crisis. 

TRIBE.MCR captured by Madeleine Penfold

“I personally find the public support fantastic, however the news and narrative around the pandemic is constant and can be stressful, there’s no respite, she explains.” And yet despite the current circumstances, Jessicarr is grateful to still be teaching and connecting with her clients and even thinks she could utilise these online platforms post-lockdown. With less commuting and rushing between appointments Jessicarr has also found time to establish some better eating habits, doing a weekly shop rather than eating on-the-go and grabbing takeaway coffees (though Greater Manchester does have some brilliant independent coffee shops, so we can’t blame her). 

Driven by her passion for movement and desire to make people feel good, Jessicarr also shared some of her wisdom for keeping mentally and physically active during lockdown. From embracing the warmer weather and getting outside, to making sure to always do a warm-up and warm-down when doing more vigorous exercise, she believes that now could be the perfect time to adopt a new exercise habit, as you can do as little or as much as you like.

Despite these uncertain times, Jessicarr continues to be a positive influence for her existing clients and those just starting out on their fitness journeys. A champion of movement as medicine and exercising for feel good vibes, we’re sure that she will continue to be force for good in Manchester’s wellness community during and post lockdown. 

To find out more about TRIBE.MCR and Jessicarr’s weekly workouts and one-to-one session visit the website here.

To book a session with Jessicarr visit her booking page here.

Words: Jenna Campbell

The stairway to self-love in a pandemic

Millennial Empowerment Coach, Bethany Wright explains how best to overcome the anxiety and worry in these uncertain times with her tips on daily rituals, reduced screen time and realistic expectations.

As the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic continues to unravel, it would be fair to say that the fabric of our everyday lives has been completely disrupted. There’s no overnight remedy or expiry date that can be applied to cure the situation, leaving us with little control over life as we once knew it. Understandably, this is causing agitation in households across the world. A global crisis with global anxieties to match.

We’re all used to asserting control over our daily agenda, travelling through the day with activity after activity, wondering where the time has gone. Fast forward to the now, where we feel we’ve lost control altogether and are often left staring at the clock wishing the time away. But, there’s plenty of discovery to be had. And there’s powerful strategies you can implement in order to create your calm. 

Audit, detox, reboot 

There is so much that is out of your control, but focus on what is in your control.

Although it may not feel like it right now, we do have control over what we are available for. We get to choose what we show up for (predominantly in a virtual setting) and what gets our attention; it’s how we invest our time. By working out what your triggers are, you can then establish your own set of boundaries that are unique to your situation. 

If you’re finding that the news is impacting your mood, think about what forms of control you can exercise here. It may be that you need to switch off the notifications popping up on your phone screen, or perhaps avoiding primetime TV where you know the updates are going to be relentlessly paraded. 

It’s important, now more than ever, to be aware of your surroundings and how they make you feel – how is your environment serving you? This also applies to the virtual space. With so much more time at our disposal, it’s likely that you’re spending greater time scrolling through your Instagram feed. And what does that do? Well, it is a surefire way to kickstart comparison. Allow yourself to do a virtual declutter and remove any toxicity that is impacting your headspace. If you find yourself feeling rubbish when you stumble upon certain accounts, temporarily mute their notifications, or unfollow together. You want your space to inspire you, not tire you. 

Be mindful about the words you’re telling yourself too. It’s not just about what you’re externally consuming. Your own self-talk is often more powerful than the words of anyone else, because often you’re the first and only audience to be subject to them. So, be gentle and kind with yourself. This is unchartered territory, trust that you’re doing the best you can. 

Lean inwards: the power of right now

Lead your day with love. We often look to external resources, forgetting our most powerful resource: ourselves. By tapping into your core, you’ll be able to keep yourself grounded in the midst of the madness. We’re all going to have wobbly weeks, wobbly days even. But if you do, take note and listen to your body. There’s just as much power in a pause as there is a pivot, so give yourself a breather and allow yourself to shut off and unplug. Because to relieve it, you’ve got to feel it. 

If you find your mind is running away with itself, worrying about the what ifs, zone in on what you have in that moment. Replace the “what if” with “in this moment, I am” and follow the sentence with 3-5 things that you are. For example, it may sound something like this: “In this moment, I am safe, loved and sheltered.” This surthrival exercise helps you to home in on the present moment, enabling you to shut off from the anxieties of future possibilities. 

Another great technique to practice is gratitude. By writing down a list of things you’re grateful for each morning or night, it can help to raise your vibe and transform your mood. Especially when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed. Think about your blessings; what good happened in the day, what made you smile. Ultimately, it comes down to looking at how you be, do and have. So, block out some time in your day and start journaling away. 

Breathing is also a powerful self regulating system that brings you back to the present moment. A simple reminder to yourself that you can get through it. So if anxiety is showing up for you, remember to take a deep breath. Focus on the breaths you take, and visualise a calming view. 

Do what feels good 

It’s time to create your own aesthetic and trendset your way through the quarantine. If you fancy a day Netflix and chillin’ with ice-cream and pyjamas, then go for it. If you feel empowered to maintain productivity and commit to your online business, all power to you. 

We’re all going to have different priorities. Some days we’ll feel on top of the world, whereas others we may feel burnt out and lack energy. It’s a rollercoaster, and we’re all trying to ride the highs and lows. 

In this time, tensions are high and we find ourselves dipping into the panic zone a bit more frequently without the usual comfort blankets we’d normally turn to. So, it’s important that you take a step back and re-evaluate. What do you really need today? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So remember to drop the pressures you may be putting on yourself and do what feels good for you. 

Choose yourself and take ownership over your happiness. Make it your primary intention and allow yourself to let go of your expectations. Embrace the happening, be compassionate and travel through the hours with acceptance. Because when you feed into yourself, you can feed into others. 

Bethany Wright, Empowerment Coach at Her Empowerment Room

Bethany is a Millennial Empowerment Coach who works with young women from all walks of life. She combines a mindset and performance coaching approach to help clients create their narrative by design, not default, and embody an empowered self that’s free of inner shame and guilt. 

Book your free discovery call via https://herempowermentroom.as.me/ 

Find her on Instagram at @herempowermentroom

Community Matters: In Conversation with Rachel Cook, Graphic Designer

Originally hailing from Manchester, Graphic Designer and Lettering Artist Rachel Cook was raised not far from London, but moved back up north for university and has made the region her home ever since.

Proud of her Northern roots, Cook has firmly established herself in Manchester’s burgeoning creative community, joining forces with likeminded designers to create platforms such as Design Recovery to raise awareness around mental health through creative outlets and conversation.

Last year she bravely put her own mental health experience front and centre during her time as Design Lead at Yolk to create Two Minds, a collaborative print exhibition, which raised funds for Mind Charity. Here she talks to us about finding her passion, the role that design has played in her own recovery journey and why Manchester’s creative community is so special.

Rachel Cook speaking at the inaugural Design Recovery event

Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Graphic Designer living in Manchester. I was born here but when I was two years old we moved down south. However, six years ago I headed back to Manchester to study Graphic Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and have stayed here ever since. I now work for a design agency called Persona Tile, co-run an event called Design Recovery and am also on the PechaKucha Manchester event team. 

How did you get into Graphic Design?

I first fell in love with Graphic Design back in secondary school, at my school we all had to do one of the Design Tech options at GCSE level and I chose to do Graphics. That course covered a lot more than just the design of a product, such as manufacturing methods and materials, but the part that interested me and piqued my interest was the design element. 

Despite being creative growing up, I wasn’t really that into art, I just messed around in lessons and was politely told I probably shouldn’t take it at GCSE, but with Graphics there was something about the whole process of identifying the target audience, creating moodboards, and solving a problem creatively that got me hooked, and it was rare that something had me that engaged in a lesson at school (I was a chatterbox and didn’t care much for authority) so I knew it was something that I had to follow, and it all just developed from there!

Rachel Cook and Charlie Brown at the Two Minds event – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

Tell us a bit about your involvement in Design Wellness and the sister event series Design Recovery?

Myself, my partner Jordan and our close friends who run a company called Design Wellness go to lots of design events in Manchester and we started to realise that there wasn’t much of a focus on mental health. With the creative industry having such a high level of mental health issues, we knew there was an opportunity to create a safe, welcoming space for people to open up (if they wish) and to ultimately try and help broaden the conversation surrounding mental health. We’ve done two Design Recovery events in Manchester and they’ve gone even better than we imagined,  which is encouraging.

I have a personal interest  in helping support mental health awareness as I have experienced my own own problems with mental health in the past. My recovery from Anorexia taught me so much and since then I had been wanting to do something positive with my experience but I had struggled to figure out a way to do so that felt right. Art and Design can be such a positive way of expressing ourselves and I did a lot of that, but I wanted to do something that could reach more people. So starting the Design Recovery event series  just felt like the perfect fit!  The creative community in Manchester is already so close and supportive, so we hoped this would be a great addition and hopefully encourage the community to be more open when it comes to mental health.

The Two Minds Exhibition – Foundation Coffee Shop – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

In your experience, how do design and mental health relate to one another?

They both require patience and perseverance. The former is not my strongest quality as a person, that’s for sure, but you can’t get better overnight. You have to give yourself the time and space to grow and heal. Since working on my mental health I can see how impatient I used to be with design. I’d get so down if I wasn’t nailing every new skill straight away or producing ground-breaking work whilst I was still in university. But the simple fact is, all that pressure was having such a bad impact on my confidence so no matter how much I tried, I was never going to be happy with what I created. 

Now, I really enjoy seeing my progress and developing my skills in my own time. All of that really just came with time and experience so if I could go back I’d tell myself to slow down and focus on where I’m at now rather than speeding ahead, just like I had to do with my mental health. 

As a designer, how have you sought to illustrate your own experiences?

I do a lot of hand-drawn typography that allows me to visually represent a quote or phrase that means something personal or encouraging to me. I think it helps me to reflect on the experiences I’ve had with mental health, and reflecting means I can see how far I’ve come, view the experiences in a less negative light, and therefore continue to grow from them. 

It also has an impact on the type of work I enjoy creating the most. I love working with positive companies and individuals doing good things for wellbeing, I recently I designed the brand identity for a therapist, and I regularly create typography social posts for Design Wellness so I get a lot out of those kinds of projects.

Poster for the second Design Recovery event series on resilience

How does Design Recovery help others channel their passion for design into something beneficial for themselves and those who come to listen to their talks?

Design Recovery gives people a space to share whatever they are comfortable sharing, in whichever way they want to do so with absolutely no judgement. Going forward, we hope that the more we speak about mental health, the more normal it will seem to talk about the struggles we are facing and we will see more and more people speaking up and getting help sooner. 

It can also be a really reflective experience much like a personal creative project can be. For me, sharing what I went through has helped me avoid falling back into negative behaviours because it helped me see how far I’ve come and encouraged me to continue on the path I’m on now rather than going backwards. So whether it’s through an event, or creating a piece of artwork like I do with my typography, that ability to reflect on what you’ve been through and physically confront it through something positive you’re doing can be really beneficial.

How has moving to Manchester shaped and influenced you as a designer?

Developing my confidence is one of the key things that has helped me develop as a designer and I’d say Manchester played a pretty big role in that. I started attending a number of design events, which were available across the city and started to get to know the community in Manchester properly when I was in my third year of university and in that year my confidence skyrocketed from more or less nothing, to making me the designer I am today. But I think within the creative industry, wherever you live can influence the work you produce because you draw inspiration, sometimes without even knowing it, from your surroundings and what you take in everyday. Manchester as a whole is an incredibly creative city though.

Design by Rachel Cook

What do you love about Manchester’s creative community and how does being a part of it help your mental wellbeing?

It goes without saying that the creative community in Manchester is incredible. It constantly makes me feel like I belong which has done wonders to my mental wellbeing. It’s also just really helpful to have people to speak to about the highs and lows of being a designer because there are so many people around that completely understand. We can all relate to one another based on our career, which is really nice and everyone is so willing to share their advice and help each other out which has been so valuable to me, especially when just I was  starting out. 

What challenges have you faced personally and in your career to date?

As a Graphic Designer it can be a pretty tough industry. It’s so saturated with incredibly talented artists and designers so to stand out is pretty difficult and can be a lot of pressure, especially with platforms like Instagram where there is so much design work online, making it a pretty competitive market. 

However, that can also be motivating because it builds a drive inside you to keep developing your skills and create better work, despite the fact that it can still be quite challenging at times. I guess the important part is how you manage that pressure and let it encourage you rather than letting it get on top of you, but defining that balance can be pretty challenging. 

Design by Rachel Cook

What do you love about the North of England?

I absolutely love how proud everyone is to be Northern, it’s definitely one of my favourite things. There’s just such a sense of solidarity between everyone that I haven’t seen anywhere else and it brings people together. Even though I didn’t grow up here for the most part, I still find that I’m proud to say I’m originally from the north. (Plus I was two years old so technically I was moved down south against my will, I’m just saying.) 

Looking forward, how do you think design can help others work through their own mental health battles?

I think we are already starting to see how fantastic design can be for wellbeing during the current lockdown situation. I have seen tons of creative solutions that people are coming up with to help others in a time of need. From colouring in sheets created by illustrators, to big projects like Play Playhouse that Playground Design Studio, Ben Clark and Barney Ibbotson have been working on. These are all to help support the wellbeing of each other and keep people entertained when stuck inside all day which is brilliant to see!

But I think in general, we should all do what we can to share our experiences through our own skill sets and passions. If the conversation is more open around mental health we will start to see more art and design that stems from people expressing themselves and their experiences with mental health.

Rachel Cook and her partner Jordan Yates at the Two Minds event – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

To see more of Rachel’s work visit her Instagram page here.

For updates on Design Wellness and its sister events programme Design Recovery visit here.

Feature image courtesy of: © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019