Evening Standard - Working out with Yoga's Messiah, Maya Fiennes

Evening Standard - Working out with Yoga's Messiah, Maya Fiennes

Maya Fiennes in the Evening Standard

Maya Fiennes Evening Standard

Maya Fiennes is one of the most in-demand relaxation teachers around. Elle Macpherson describes a session with her as "inspirational, energising, sexy", which makes her yoga's equivalent of Nigella Lawson.

Just as Nigella gave cooking mass appeal, Fiennes, 46, has a vision to transform the image of yoga.

The former concert pianist, sister-in-law of actors Ralph and Joseph, says: "There is still this perception that it's a bit alien, that you have to be some sort of groupie. But it's not like that. Anyone can practise, from kids to 90-year-olds."

Her own style of yoga is called Kundalini, which is explained in Fiennes's new book called Yoga for Real Life. Increasingly popular in the UK, this technique is aimed at giving a full mind-body workout. It's particularly beneficial, says Fiennes, for Londoners suffering from technology burnout. "Our minds get cluttered with constant demands from emails and mobile phones. It's vital to offload," she says.

Macedonia-born Maya discovered Kundalini yoga while training at London's Royal College of Music. It greatly helped her pre-performance nerves and she says yoga and meditation are now "essential" to her life. They have helped with post-natal depression and even stopped her from drowning.

Yoga for Real Life is a self-help guide full of personal anecdotes about coping with marriage (to composer Magnus), work and being a mother-of-two. Maya recently moved from Fulham to Santa Monica in California and teaches classes around the world. But this month, she is hosting a special Kundalini session at Alchemy in Chalk Farm.


Easy Pose: Maya showed me how to sit on the floor with my legs crossed, back straight and shoulders relaxed. This helps release energy by aligning your body, mind and spirit.

Gyan Mudra: a simple hand position, where you touch your index finger with your thumbs.

Root Lock: suck in your navel, squeezing and pulling up the muscles around your stomach, anus and sex organs. The aim, says Maya, is to "uncoil the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine".

Corpse Pose: a relaxation pose where you focus on your breathing and empty your mind. Lie on your back with hands out to the side and palms upwards. Tilt your chin forwards, breathe deeply and relax every part of your body from your feet to your tongue, eyes and forehead.

Maya Fiennes Evening Standard


Make eye contact: There are always things you'd like to change in your partner. A challenge is maintaining the sense of joy in your sex life. When I work with couples, sometimes I ask them to look into each other's eyes or touch each other's heart. It's incredible how many have never done this.

Write your own mantra: We're rarely in real physical danger but anything from a work deadline to rush-hour traffic will get our adrenaline pumping. But like most fuel, it eventually runs out. The key is to develop a "slow down" mantra to clear mental clutter and stimulate the immune system.

Loosen your spine: Ageing is something many of us fear but none of us can avoid. As you get older, you get rigid in the spine: yoga can strengthen it. Even if you're young and doing lots of aerobic exercise, you need to stretch your body and give the joints space to relax after a workout.

Eat mindfully': Some yogis say you should be a teetotal vegetarian. I'm not one of them. I enjoy a glass of wine, a cup of good coffee, and red meat when I feel my body needs it. Calorie-counting will make you miserable and probably also fat. But it's important to chew food properly, and eat five light meals a day. Eat "mindfully" by focusing on your food. Look at what is on your plate and think about where it's from.

Be a yoga mummy: Yoga can be a great way to prepare for birth. I got post-natal depression and had not practised yoga for weeks before the birth of my first daughter. Then I put some simple yoga sets together. After a few days the clouds had lifted.

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