Getting fit the mindful way

As the mindfulness boom continues, so does the number of applications for it. Psycle London’s Natalie Walker is out there leading the pack, and we want to know more!

Img3747 1030x772 w1300

If there’s one word that has really swept the nation over the last 18-months-or-so, it’s ‘mindfulness’.

In its simplest terms, mindfulness can be defined as the psychological practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. Through drawing attention to your senses – the touch, taste, smell, sound and sight of what you are experiencing right now – you can experience a plethora of psychological benefits. This includes what’s going on inside ourselves, too. By mindfully paying attention to our thoughts, we can combat anxiety, depression and negative thought cycles by observing them, rather than letting them consume us.

The diversification of mindfulness and how different businesses are applying it is incredibly interesting – there are mindfulness gardening books, mindful walks, mindful cooking classes and even mindful ways to do your grocery shopping!

One area that’s really piqued our interest, though, is mindful exercise. Which brings us neatly to Psycle: the London-based exercise group combining mindfulness with fitness. Psycle now has three studios across London that offer barre, HIIT, yoga and ride classes, with a focus on freeing your mind and connecting with your body. We caught up with Master Instructor Natalie Walker…

So, Natalie, how exactly does this differ from the usual classes we might find at any gym?

“Well it’s underground for a start!” Natalie begins, laughing. “It’s in pitch black with flashing lights and crazy loud music. It’s called Psycle, because it’s all about how we learn to distract the mind, and take people to a completely different planet!

“Some instructors are completely bonkers, some give you just the physiological workout rather than the psychological, but we’re really about being authentic. There’s no technology in the classes at all – it’s not about ‘right, up to level 50 we go!’. In fact it’s the complete opposite. We take away all technology that can bring you back to the numerical, or anything that makes you have to think.

“The idea is to be able to ride your bike with your eyes closed, in a whirlwind where you don’t feel judged and there’s no competition. An Olympic athlete can be in a class and so can a complete novice, but they’d both get a fantastic workout.”

As the Founding Master Instructor of Psycle, Natalie is keen to point out that, like floating, the focus isn’t just what you do in the class (or in the pod in our case). Psycle emphasises the holistic benefits of living happier and healthier to create a better you.

“We want to completely uplift your energy and your day,” Natalie continues, “and to inspire individuals to lead an epic life where you can make people around you feel sensational. We believe that your mindset is key to how hard and how often you train, but also to how happy you live your life, and how much happiness you bring to those around you.

“That’s one of our missions – to make sure that people are living really healthy and enjoyable lives. That they’re not judging themselves, and they’re in a really healthy state of mind. That’s key for us.”

Of course, such intense physical exercise takes its toll on the body, and Natalie is no different. Having the energy and spirit to lead a class of 50 in darkness and disco lights multiple times a day – day-in, day-out – might sound like a gargantuan task, and, well, it is.

Which is why, for Natalie, taking the time out for herself is key to maintaining those levels of energy. Now if only we knew of a way to do that…

“The reason I started floating was because there’s a lot of harsh exercise that happens to my body,” Natalie explains. “I push it really intensely all the time, but more than that, as instructors and performers we give an enormous amount of energy to people. It’s not just exerting physical power or cardio endurance, it’s also an enormous amount of love and spirit and soul and energy that’s passed from the instructor to the 50 people in one room. It’s really different to any other workout you’ve probably been to in London.

“As an instructor doing that many times a week, it can leave you feeling quite depleted. It’s important to get back to yourself and make sure you feel really restored. One thing I’ve found is that it’s difficult to switch off from the outside world, so one of the things I think is so amazing about Floatworks is that I really feel rejuvenated after a float. I feel restored and I feel like I’ve taken a bit of time for me, rather than giving to everyone all the time.”

Natalie has only floated a handful of times with us, but she’s already reaping the rewards of switching off in the pod. From the immediate release of tension in her overworked muscles to that post-float glow we all know about, it certainly sounds like Psycle and floating go hand-in-hand.

“I didn’t really expect it to be as relaxing as it was. When I first got in the pod, I thought, ‘I wonder if I’ll actually be able to switch off?’. I think it’s about not being too sceptical, and allowing yourself to let go which can be really difficult for most people. When I arrived at Floatworks, the whole place and the way it’s set up is just spectacular in that it allows you to unwind at each stage.

“The Chill Out Room was one of the highlights for me. The reading that’s available, and the tea infusions, it’s just fantastic. After my first float, I sat down and read some things that really inspired me and gave me a lot of inspiration for a project I’m currently working on for Psycle. I felt incredibly inspired and excited.”

Psycle have locations in Mortimer Street, Canary Wharf and Shoreditch. To find out more and to book your classes, head on over to their website.