How Yoga Changed My Life

Clem Balfour’s Wellbeing Story 

Clem Balfour, SOL team member and founder of the Yoga Brunch Club, is on a mission to break down barriers and make yoga more accessible for everyone.

Designed to give you the opportunity to pause, breathe, stretch, eat and connect with a new group of people who share similar interests, Clem’s monthly events in London and Bristol combine a fun, energising yoga session with a three-course, sit-down feast in beautiful surroundings.

‘My aim is to create a space where people never feel intimidated, even if they’re a complete novice. Both the yoga and brunch elements are equally important to the success of the day. I collaborate with hand-picked chefs to create exclusive menus for each event, using the freshest seasonal ingredients to create nourishing, memorable meals. I spent much of my childhood living abroad, so each brunch club showcases a different cuisine.’

We sat down with Clem to explore her own wellbeing journey and discover how yoga changed her life…

SOL: How has yoga helped you physically, mentally and emotionally?

Clem: Although I’m now in remission, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in my early twenties. This is best described as a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. In some cases, it can result in serious joint damage.

I was very young at the time and in my first year at Art College studying embroidery, so my hands were vital to my work. My symptoms weren’t too severe at first, but by my third year the condition had taken control of my hands and knees. At times, I was in so much pain it was difficult to summon the energy to get up or even walk. I had little appetite and low energy.

After endless tests and a variety of strong medications, it was a relief to finally be given a diagnosis. As it’s an auto-immune disease, doctors are still unsure why it happens or why it can go into remission.

I lived with the disease for five years and spent much of that time on strong medication. It’s easier to look back and reflect on it now, but I did lose myself for a while during this time. I lost my confidence, my sex drive, my passion and desire to find connection with friends and a significant partner.

Yoga helped me rediscover myself again. I always used to take for granted how I moved, breathed, walked, gripped, tightened and softened my muscles. Yoga is how I learnt to reconnect with my body. For the first time, I could see the beauty in how it moves and functions. Yoga also taught me to not hold on so tightly to things I can’t control, to not overthink every element of my life.

Yoga at home

SOL: How would you describe your approach to yoga now?

Clem: Yoga offers me a space to reconnect each morning. I roll out my mat and often have no idea how I’m going to move that day. I start by taking a breath, by sitting, waiting and allowing the movements to flow.

Too much of our lives right now are controlled and dominated by phones, screens and over stimulation. I’m guilty of this too! I believe yoga can help us slow down and spend more time looking inward for inspiration and a sense of stillness.

Yoga at home

SOL: What other twists and turns have you encountered during your wellbeing journey?

Clem: At the age of 26, I had been working for a company for four years since leaving university. I had learnt so much from the experience, but I came to realise the values of the company were changing.

I was working longer hours and becoming more and more stressed over something I just didn’t feel as passionate about as I had when I started the role.’
Although it took me a year to find the courage, I decided to quit my job. I had no idea what to do next. My family and close friends were incredibly supportive, but I could tell others thought I was completely bonkers to walk away from the role.

Eventually, I booked a 3-month trip to India for yoga teacher training by the beach. I’d been dreaming of doing this for years, so I finally decided to jump in head first with a month long intensive course.

When I returned to the UK, I decided to carry on pursuing my relationship and love of yoga. I completed another 200 hours of training and started teaching as soon as I graduated. It was during this time that I had the idea for the Yoga Brunch Club.

I look back on this period of my life now and know that if I’d listened to those who advised me not to leave my job, I would not be on the path I am now, and I wouldn’t be teaching yoga or running a company I’m so passionate about.

Clem Balfour yoga teacher

SOL: What did you learn from this experience?

Clem: It’s ok to not always have a plan. I’ve often found that when I create space in my life for new things, without even knowing what they might be, this is when the best stuff happens.

There’s a wonderful quote from Marilyn Monroe:

‘Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together’.

Read more Wellbeing Stories here.

Read more about yoga with State of Liberty and discover Clem’s simple winter yoga sequence here.

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