Shona Vertue is a yoga teacher and personal trainer who counts David Beckham as one of her clients. And this 30-year-old, Australian-born, London-based fitness fanatic is on a mission to get as many of us fit and strong as she can.
When David Beckham was looking for a way to combat pain after playing football, a friend recommended Vertue, and the rest is history. She is very discreet about her famous client but has confirmed that Beckham follows her plan. “He does the Vertue Method,” she said. “It is a mix of strengthening areas that are weak and then mobilising areas that are tight. Tailored to his body.”
Instead of thinking of exercise as a dull grind, she wants us to think of it as a way of becoming stronger, more supple and to build resilience to weather the knocks and stresses of daily life.
She is a passionate yoga teacher but also stresses that resistance training is also important to increase muscle tone and improve bone density – especially for women.
Speaking from personal experience, on her Instagram feed, she recently told her followers about a tumble she took down the stairs when she missed her step carrying a load of washing downstairs (nice to know she’s only human). While sitting in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, she thought to herself how lucky she was that her physical training meant that she felt stable and strong while falling coupled with the fact that her strong bones were far less likely to break.
Fitter, not thinner
Vertue’s frustration is that so many people see fitness just as a means to an end – and that end is pretty much always ditching the pounds. She stresses that losing weight doesn’t have to be a key motivator to get fit, or even on the list at all.
Top of her reasons to get fit is to prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. According to Vertue, osteoporosis sufferers are on the increase, and worryingly, she says, “I have lots of clients who are osteoporosis sufferers in their 30s and that just never used to happen.”
This is why she encourages women to take up ‘hypertrophy’, which is the technical term for growing and increasing the size of muscle cells, usually through physical exercise such as weight training.
Just TWO Poses you can do
As well as resistance training, Vertue is a yogi who feels that it really can be beneficial for everyone. Her advice is to start with little and often. In her opinion, there are two yoga poses that she says are underrated and that if we get out of bed and just do these two poses every day, we would feel the benefits. The first is what can be known as ‘ragdoll pose’, or Uttanasana, with knees slightly bent. She says that the feet should be hip-width apart, the trunk and head hanging down. Then, while holding the elbows, sway from side to side. This helps to stretch and lengthen the legs and back while releasing tension in the neck and shoulders.
The other is utthita hasta padangustasana or – literally – balancing on one leg. She suggests keeping a micro-bend in the standing leg, as you bend up one leg to your chest and hold the foot with both hands. Then, keeping your balance, slowly try to straighten the leg out in front of you.
Why she loves Yoga
Growing up, Shona was an avid gymnast, but when she grew up and got a desk job, her health and general well-being took a nose dive. It was at his point that she was introduced to yoga, and she’s never looked back:
“In many Eastern philosophies, they say that suffering is our greatest teacher, and in my case, it was this time of illness in both body and mind that brought me to one of the greatest pleasures in my life: yoga,” she explains.
As well as all the usual benefits, Vertue credits yoga with hugely helping with digestive health. Nowadays, we spend a large proportion of our time sitting – at our desks, to eat, on public transport (if we’re lucky) and to go to the toilet…and sitting upright doesn’t help the activity of the digestion and bowels. “With a lot of the postures, there’s a direct correlation to massaging and stimulating those digestive organs,” she says. She uses the example of pavana muktasana (wind-relieving pose) where you lie on the floor, bend one leg up to your chest, and stretch the other leg straight out. This deep bend massages the internal organs and stimulates a healthy gut.
Vertue stresses that exercise is so important to our physical, mental and emotional health, and as such, we shouldn’t save it for one 45-minute session a week. She believes that we should all be doing at least 20 minutes a day, but if that’s off-putting she says, “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.”