Instructor to the stars Julie Hanson on why we need yoga now more than ever

The trainer and author, who has worked with celebrities including Bob Geldof on Sport Aid and actor Robert Carlyle, shares her passion for the practice she has been at the forefront of in the UK for over 20 years.

She helped introduce aerobics to Britain back in the Seventies before doing the same for yoga two decades later.

Now, at 61, Julie Hanson is one of the UK's leading instructors of the ancient practice which encompasses postures for improving physical strength and flexibility, along with meditation and breathing techniques.

Today, as most of us struggle to find a work/life balance, Julie believes yoga is more relevant than ever. Here, she sets out what she believes we have to gain from taking up the practice.

Stay centred

“Sometimes we all badly need a sense of being centred, of having time. Yoga is a practice that involves breath and movement and, whether you like it or not, you have to focus on what the teacher is doing and saying. There is never a class where you don’t feel in a better place afterwards than you did when you came in the door.”

A friend for life

"There are various styles of yoga, but there's a misconception that it’s quite easy. It's actually not that easy. There is a technique attached to it that once you've learned how to do it and get the full potential out of it, you can take it anywhere with you. All you need is your body because you're using your own weight to improve your strength, and your vitality. Its beauty is that it stays with you and you can do it anywhere."

The ultimate escape

"This culture of never being able to be non-contactable is hampering our existence and we never switch off. Even if you go to a gym you’ve got beating music and you’re continuing the noisy atmosphere you’ve been dealing with all day. The baby boomer generation is growing older and our needs are grossly different from the generations before us. We’re looking to feel better and look younger and have good quality of life. We’re surrounded by media telling us we’re not good enough, and yoga is an escape from that."

A healthier, happier you

"Yoga has many layers. The first you break down by movement, the second is having an awareness of eating better and drinking less alcohol, the third is trying meditation. Without knowing it you break down the layers of resistance. It’s subtle, but can have a big impact on your life. Yoga is designed to get rid of the anxiety and stresses life brings, which is why it’s just so beneficial in this day and age."

The Yoga Pioneer

Julie Hanson's interest in physical and mental wellbeing started after she left school and found herself working long hours running promotional events.

She recalled: "I felt like I needed to exercise or do something active and heard about the creation of aerobics in America in the late Seventies. I decided to go to the States and did a course before coming back and opening my own business leading several sessions a night because there was nothing else like it around at that time.

"I then formed an association with several others to teach trainers  aerobic techniques that were safe and effective.

"I was at the front end of things at that time, including working on Sport Aid with Bob Geldof."

Years later when Julie went on to start a family at the age of 37, she began to look for a gentler form of exercise. And that's when yoga came to her attention.

She said: "After I had children I realised my body was no longer inclined to jump up and down five times a day. I thought, 'I need to change what I'm doing here', so I started to look for a practice that was more fitting for a woman at my stage in life.

"I'd gone to a couple of yoga classes and found it to be boring at best. I was still an aerobics person at heart.

"So I started to look at other new forms coming out and discovered yoga in its true sense."

Julie has developed her own unique programme, Seasonal Yoga, which incorporates tai chi and traditional Chinese medicines.

In the two decades she's been practicing yoga, she has worked with celebrities including the actor Robert Carlyle and Simple Minds frontman, Jim Kerr.