“Be kind, be grateful, and listen. Remember that everyone has their own stuff going on, it’s rarely (if ever) about you.” Wise words from our yogi of the month, Lily Silverton. The multi-talented instructor is also the features director of Hunger Magazine, a freelance writer and a yoga therapist to kids with special needs.
We caught up with her over breakfast at Raw Press to talk about her upcoming trek to the Arctic Circle, yoga retreats, podcasts and the Physio that everyone should have on speed-dial…
When did you first discover yoga?
21 years ago, aged 12 – my parents got me into it. I have slight scoliosis (a curved spine) and had severe back pain, so they brought me along to to class, held in the top room of a North London pub – a very different experience to the beautiful white-washed studios you see around London today! I’m naturally flexible so was hooked straight away.
For about 15 years, I practised on and of. It was always on the mat that I felt safest and the most ‘me’. In 2013 I developed a daily practice, and this led to a complete shift in what had been a lifelong unhealthy and damaging relationship with my body and mind. I then trained to teach with the hope of bringing that experience to others.
You’re also a journalist and head of Yoga & Wellbeing at Raw Press. Describe a typical day…
My days vary quite a bit! Meditation always, hopefully some yoga and/or another movement class (I love reformer pilates and spin), far too much time replying to emails, a little admin and event planing for Raw Press, meetings with potential collaborators and brands, lesson planning, teaching if I have a class, and then writing if I have any pieces on the go!
What was it like training at the Sivananda school of Hatha Yoga?
It’s a bit hard to describe without sounding like a predictable yoga girl… I’d been to the ashram before for a few weeks, but doing the actual training was challenging and rewarding in so many ways I could never have anticipated. I really love classical Hatha – my first ever teacher was from the Sivananda lineage and I still have the book he gave me at age 16! I find myself returning to Hatha often both in my practice and classes. It feels like coming home, and although I love the creativity of vinyasa, I find that the simplicity of hatha sequencing sometimes allows me more inner focus.
Tell us more about your yoga therapy work with Yoga for the Special Child…
I trained with the incredible Sonia Sumar who founded Yoga for the Special Child at the Maha Devi Centre in London. I am currently shadowing at Maha Devi, and teach a couple of ‘regular’ weekly children’s classes elsewhere which incorporate the principles, as well as a one-on-one session with a child who has SEN. Watching children who have very little control of what we would consider traditional movement and/or communication methods beautifully perform embodied yoga postures and breathwork is very humbling. I’m also currently training with the endlessly inspiring Marsha Danzig of Yoga for Amputees.
Both practices continually remind me that absolutely anyone can practice yoga, and that’s it’s really not about the shapes that we create, but rather the intention and energy inside. Yoga has been slightly eaten up by our image centred society but I try to teach from a functional rather than aesthetic approach – i.e how can the practice positively impact someone’s life. It’s always about what the Yoga pose can do for your body, mind, and spirit, as opposed to how your body can get into a pose.
In fact trying to get ‘into’ a posture is a great path to injury as you’ll stop listening to the innate wisdom of your body. I encourage my students (and myself! I’m not immune to this!) to challenge the limits of their bodies always with kindness, and to stay the hell away from pictures of ‘yogis’ in bikinis on Instagram. Ultimately I strongly believe that yoga can and should be healing so I’ll never teach for fitness – even if some classes may feel like a workout!
You involve myofascial release in your classes, why should everyone practise this?
Fascia is a form of connective tissue that the yoga and sports worlds have been obsessed with for sometime, but is only now beginning to gain traction in the general medical world. It is thin and web-like and surrounds and supports our skeleton, muscles, and organs from head to toe. We hold a lot of tension in our fascia, and when it bunches up in one spot, this can have a serious domino effect on pain and restricted movement throughout the entire body. Nerves also travel through the fascia, so it has a symbiotic relationship with our emotions, experiences, memories, and traumas. Myofascial release practices include mindful Yin Yoga (which I can’t recommend enough), self-massage, and foam rolling – all can be truly freeing for the body and mind.
You mentioned you have an excellent physio, what’s his name and how did you find him?
Ah yes, I wish I could see him every single day! His name is Tom Jackson and he works out of the Centre for Health and Human Performance. Everyone there is brilliant actually – my boyfriend sent me after an ankle injury. I also love Gary Trainer, a Primrose Hill based osteopath and acupuncturist, who I’ve been going to for more than 10 years and is a back whisperer.
Favourite restaurant in London and why?
Quite hard to answer… obviously I love Raw Press and there’s also Mildred’s, Petersham Nurseries, Brunswick House, and anywhere that does good dim sum. But my ultimate favourite is probably The River Cafe. Most good meals are made by the company, but I feel like you could eat a bowl of pasta there with your least favourite person and still walk out smiling (and probably feeling more kindhearted towards them as well!)
What are your hobbies outside of yoga?
I’m doing a week long trek across the arctic circle in April and am currently training for that, so definitely walking! I’ll try to walk rather than take the tube, and listen to podcasts en route. I read quite a bit (often yoga/anatomy/body/trauma related), I love cooking (it’s like a full stop on the day), and I’m interested in most and all movement based practices. Also sleeping.
Where can we do yoga with you?
I’m at Raw Press every Wednesday evening for a Yin Yang flow, as well as regular evening workshops and yoga brunches for them on the weekends. I teach a baby class in primrose hill, a morning flow at EC1 Yoga, and 2 monthly workshops for Soho House. My schedule generally changes week to week but can be seen here. Oh and I have a retreat coming up later in the year with the brilliant Indian chef Mira Manek, which I’m very excited about!
Be kind, be grateful, and listen. Remember that everyone has their own stuff going on, it’s rarely (if ever) about you.