Iona Layland tells Less-Stress London about her holistic approach to personal training, and the benefits of working in the outdoors…
Less-Stress London: How did you get started?
Iona Layland: After working in an office for 10 years I wasn’t fit at all. I felt awful and knew that I had to do something more active. So I started taking advantage of the green spaces around Hackney and slowly I became fitter and stronger, combining athletic training, dance, gymnastics, meditation and yoga, as well as the heavier stuff like weight-training and boxing. It transformed me physically and mentally and I wanted to pass that on to my clients.
L-SL: What’s different about your approach?
Iona: The name of my website sums up my philosophy — train, heal, breathe. I provide holistic training, which means taking everything into account: your emotions, your physical condition and what’s going on in your life. It’s about approaching the individual’s life as a whole. I think that working outside in a natural setting is far more healing than just training to lose weight and many of my clients do too.
L-SL: What are your clients looking for?
Iona: Because it’s London and because people’s working lives are so intense, 80 per cent of the time people come to me because of my calm, holistic approach. You’re not going to be shouted out, of course you’ll be worked hard but in a supportive way. For example, one client does 15 minutes of yoga stretching and meditation at the end of every session.
Having said that, most people still want to get some weight off, get fit, get some muscles, and I can help them do that.
Some people stay with me for a few years but however long I train people for they are always equipped to know what elements are needed: a balance of cardio, strength, and core.
Some are intrigued by my love of inversions. But it can take some time before people are ready to include headstands in their personal training sessions!
L-SL: Where did your love of headstands come from?
Iona: I’m a big fan of all inverted poses and positions: headstands, handstands and shoulder stands. If my clients want to give it a go, I do encourage them. It’s very healing, very calming. In an inversion your heart is above your head, your lungs are working in the opposite direction, your blood pressure goes down. It compresses the spine and you’re putting the weight of your hips on your neck, so you’re developing a very special strength in your upper body, which is why martial artists do a lot of headstands and have strong throats. When you lie down afterwards it’s extremely relaxing. Also it’s very good for your back in the long term, especially for people who sit at desks all day.
L-SL: Do you have any advice for headstand beginners?
Iona: You have to be careful when you begin: it can take the body years to be ready to do a headstand. If you don’t have the strength in your core it can be dangerous. You need to build up to it slowly, starting with lots of simple inversions. A good way to begin is to simply stand up then fold down, so that your head and arms are swinging down, that’s an inversion. It took me about four years before my neck was ready to do a proper headstand.
L-SL: Where do you train?
Iona: I train in the area around Hackney Marshes. At the moment I work with about half of my clients at the Olympic Park, inside Better Gyms at East Village, Copperbox and the Aquatics Centre. The other half train with me outside. Exercising in the open air with nature all around is uplifting and refreshing. We’ll do a bit of boxing, then work out on a bench. Afterwards you feel like you’ve been on holiday — your body feels great when you’ve been outside. It’s exhilarating.