The television and radio presenter believes that yoga is "not about being flexible. It's not about who's the best. It's about doing your best on that particular day."
Raise Your Game: How did you first get into yoga?
Jayne Middlemiss: I first got into yoga about 13/14 years ago, in the mid 1990s. I wanted to do something where I would have a space to relax and slow down because I've always lived my life fast and wanted to do everything quickly. When I first discovered it it was so weird because I was doing all these positions, they're called Asanas, and I was thinking 'But I used to do this when I was a kid. I used to do shoulder stands and upside down positions.' So I think I used to do it as a child subconsciously, but not knowing what it actually was.
3 February 1971
Televsion and radio presenter
Best known for:
- The O-Zone (1995-2000)
- Top of the Pops (1998)
- One of the original presenters on BBC 6 Music (2002)
- Jayne Middlemiss - Love Yoga DVD (2005)
- Won Celebrity Love Island (2005)
- Won Celebrity MasterChef (2009)
RYG: Have you always been an active person?
JM: I've always been incredibly into physical health and activities, but quite often I can push myself too hard. When I was at school I was a sprinter, but I used to do everything else as well. I was captain of the netball team, captain of the hockey team and I did my sprinting, but I would push myself. That's why yoga is really good for me because it actually slows me down and finds some sort of space for me.
RYG: With a lifestyle as busy as yours how do you find time to fit yoga in?
JM: When my life does get frantic and busy, there's always time to fit something in, even if it means getting up 15 minutes earlier. I get out of bed, do a few Asanas and then do a little bit of mediation. I just structure it into the day. It's really, really simple.
RYG: A lot of the athletes and personalities we speak to often mention they've changed their diet as a result of being involved in sport or fitness and it helps them feel better. Is this something you've had to do in your lifestyle?
JM: I think once you get into fitness you do notice your diet and notice that certain foods don't quite agree with you. I don't think it was a conscious decision, I think it organically happened over time, but I do watch what I eat and try to eat healthy. I don't have hardly any caffeine, I don't drink alcohol and I watch my red meat intake. My diet at the minute seems to be verging towards the vegetarian, which is surprising me because I tend to just listen to what my body is fancying.
RYG: Some of the postures we see yoga practitioners doing look very difficult. Can you just jump into yoga and start doing these kind of moves, or does it take time to develop your ability?
JM: Yoga is not about having the perfect positions, it's not about who's the best and who's the most flexible. A lot of people are saying to me 'I can't do yoga because I'm not flexible,' but that's exactly why you should do it. It's not about being flexible. It's not about who's the best. It's about doing your best on that particular day. You do see some people that can contort themselves all the way around, but they may have been practicing for years, they may be gymnasts or they may just be flexible.
Yoga is about working with what you've got on that day. Some days you may find certain positions easier to get into than others. I often find this, which is always very interesting. It's not about comparing yourself or judging yourself, it's about being in that moment and doing your best.
RYG: Is it something that people of all abilities can get involved in?
JM: Absolutely, everyone and anyone can get involved in yoga. I've seen really small kids doing it in my yoga class, right up to elderly people doing it.
RYG: Do you think yoga can benefit young girls who are often put off by physical activity?
JM: I think yoga is for everyone. Personally I believe yoga would benefit anyone's life. It is such an amazing form of exercise and if you practice regularly it really slows your mind down and it helps you to get perspective. It keeps you incredibly fit and really flexible. It helps prevent ailments because you're working all the body.
I've been doing it since 1996 and I feel I've only touched the tip of the iceberg. There's so much to learn because it's a huge, huge subject. I think in the west we think of yoga as an exercise programme, when actually where it's from in India it's a whole philosophy. The Asanas and the exercise programme are one tiny aspect of it, and so it really, really fascinates me.
RYG: Did anything you were taught through yoga help you to deal with the difficult or stressful times you experienced on Celebrity Masterchef?
JM: My Masterchef experience was incredibly stressful. One of the things that helped me to get through this is that I would get up early in the morning and I would do some yoga. I would set my alarm clock about 20 minutes earlier so I would have the time to do some yoga and then sit and do some meditation. It just brought me back, grounded me in myself for the day and got me through it.
I think during the day, when I was doing the Masterchef experience, everything I'd learnt in yoga, the breathing techniques, etc, would really help and it would calm me down because it was so stressful.
In an environment like Masterchef you learn and learn very quickly. I was incredibly lucky because I knew how to cook beforehand. You haven't got time to think, you just have to do it. It was incredibly stressful because the thing with Masterchef is it's for real. They don't mess around. It's not like TV where they ask you to go and chop a few vegetables and then get somebody else in. They go 'Right, there's your vegetables, this is what you're doing, get on and do it.' You're on your feet for seven hours prepping it and then you've got to do the service. You're serving 50 people and you've got to do it.
The stressful part of that is that you're not a chef. People who have learnt to be chefs have spent years in kitchens just on the vegetable section and then move up to the fish section, etc, whereas you have to do everything and it's really full on, but it's an amazing experience. It was brilliant because I love cooking and I love what I learnt. I mean I would have paid for that experience - don't tell them that - it's actually too late they've already paid me.
RYG: What are the transferable skills that students can take from yoga and can apply in a school day?
JM: Yoga is something that once you start practicing it you learn a lot of breathing skills and I think that would really be incredibly useful on a day-to-day basis. It can help you with all the emotional stress. I believe there's a lot of stress on young people these days. They've always got exams and have to reach this goal or reach that goal. Yoga might be really good for them because there must be a lot of emotions that come up and yoga would really help to get a perspective and balance.
RYG: If you could give some advice to young people who are looking at yoga but thinking 'Oh I don't know. I'm not quite sure about that,' what would that advice be for them to get involved?
JM: I would just say try it and see if you like it. See how it makes you feel and remember that it's not about being perfect, it's about just doing your best. I think it would have tremendous benefits for everyone.
Don't waste time looking over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing, it's about where you're at.
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