Yoga is a discipline known for its many health benefits. In a physical sense, practising regularly can tone your muscles, improve your posture and help you lose excess weight, writes Holly O’Mahony…

While mentally, many find yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and silence a busy mind. One yogi helping others in the community to find the discipline for themselves is Silvia Sanvito, a yoga teacher based at The Yoga Space in Woolwich.

It wasn’t until Silvia went to her first yoga class seven years ago that she realised she’d been misusing her body for the first 30 years of her life. She was instantly attracted to the practice, going to classes several times a week and practicing at home, too, before training to be a yoga teacher herself. Now a qualified instructor, Silvia teaches group classes in hatha flow yoga (a sequence of yoga postures linked together in a flow) and chakra yoga (an practice for experienced yogis that explores the flow of energy in your body), as well as offering specialist classes including pregnancy and post-natal yoga, one-to-one sessions and corporate classes.

The Greenwich Weekender speaks to Silvia to find out more about her journey into yoga and how the practice can benefit us all.

Holly O’Mahony: How did you come to discover yoga yourself?

Silvia Sanvito: Yoga has been a presence in my life since childhood as I have relatives who have been practicing it for over 40 years, however it was only in my early thirties that I was ready to really dive into it. In 2007, I came to London from Italy. The fast-paced and exciting atmosphere here pushed me to take more care of myself and learn how to stay grounded. When I went to my first full yoga class in Hammersmith, I remember leaving the venue feeling light, expanded and mysteriously at peace. I knew I had found a life-changing practice and I committed to it immediately. I started attending two or three classes a week and exploring my home practice daily. I could see, sense and feel myself transforming, and so the journey began.

HOM: Why do you think yoga is such an important practice for so many people across the world?

SS: The contemporary world is an ego and mind-focused system that tends to disconnect us from our own natural power. We live in the technical age, which means we can achieve lots at once, but what we need more of for our mental wellbeing is balance.
In Sanskrit [the language of ancient India, where yoga originates from], yoga means ‘to yoke’. It is a practice that brings union and connection between the different layers of ourselves: the body, the mind and the spirit. When this union happens, we become aware of our own specific needs – physical, mental and emotional – as well as our path and life purpose. We get to know ourselves better. Allowing ourselves simply to be and accepting ourselves as we are means building up a world based on tolerance, kindness, self-expression, creativity and love. That’s why it’s universally popular.

HOM: Have you had any struggles along the way with your own practice?

SS: Yes, of course I have! Who hasn’t? We are beings in constant transformation and it is sometimes difficult to acknowledge where we are and adjust to it. When I went through pregnancy and motherhood, my life, body and needs changed considerably and I had to modify my own practice completely. This took time and kindness, and made me realise how practicing yoga goes so much further than practicing on a mat.

HOM: As well as teaching group classes at The Yoga Space in Woolwich, you also lead corporate classes. How do they work?

SS: Corporate classes are built following the client’s needs. They are mostly held in the working space, or in specific venues that the corporate clients consider appropriate for their employees. Often they are held during lunch breaks or after work and they last no more than an hour.
I’ve held special wellbeing events for the NHS in the past, where I offered one-to-one practices as well as short tutorials tailored to the specific workers and working environment.

HOM: You offer one-to-one and private classes, too. Is there much uptake for these?

SS: One-to-one classes can be requested for different reasons, such as recovery after injuries, pregnancy, or simply to fit in around a busy life schedule. They’re also popular with advanced students wanting to dive deeper into the practice. Essentially, private classes are about understanding the client’s expectations and needs, so as to be able to teach them the skills and practice they’re looking for.

HOM: Finally, what do you love most about teaching yoga?

SS: When teaching, I enter a form of meditation by being fully present in the space and time. This experience relaxes and recharges me. I am there for my students and able to connect with them. I love empowering people by sharing what I know and learning from them as they share with me.

Silvia Sanvito teaches yoga at
The Yoga Space, 9-11 Gunnery Terrace, Woolwich,
London SE18 6SW.