You’re a dude. That doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to your mind and body. ItchiFeet was set up by best mates, Bertie and Olly, bringing good grub and a bit of balance back into people’s lives. Olly writes about his journey from ‘bust’ to wellness…
‘Fuck mind over matter. Look after your matter and your mind will follow.’
If you were to tell me a few years ago that I was to become a teacher of yoga, I most certainly would have laughed in your face.
At 20, I was doing what most lucky humans get to do in the UK: Party, drink, socialise, work out and study at University (in that order). But by the end of my first term, I had already pushed through the common cold into a series of chest infections and feelings of chronic fatigue. Visits to the doctor were met with numerous prescriptions of antibiotics, and I began to exhibit symptoms of what I now recognise to be adrenal burnout.
It all came to a halt when I woke up to be sick on Christmas Day after a heavy night before. It was time to give in to my actual needs; to put it bluntly, I was broken! Too long had I run on my reserve battery.
I remember getting too tired to walk to the shop. Going out for lunch produced a feeling of unease clouding over me as noise around me heightened. Luckily for me, my father (as well as other male members of the family) suffered from ME in the past and, coming from a medical background, recognising the symptoms, showed empathy and was keen to introduce me to the benefits of mindfulness, taking pleasures in the small things by obtaining total presence in the moment.
At first, I was angered by the idea of not being able to run at full throttle, but this was something I would later learn would provide me with great benefits.
Recognising my default setting, which I like to call ‘boom and bust’, I made it back to Uni in Spring, making a slow but steady recovery. I chose not to listen to the little voice at first though, defiantly thinking, ‘why should I not be able to party like everyone else?’ as if this was the defining point of life. But it soon became obvious I had to accept my circumstances and this was the turning point.
I began small breathing exercises and reading around the subject of mindfulness. I found refuge in taking daily naps and surfing. I find that there’s a fine line between pushing yourself too hard and learning when to lay off, but there is no doubt that a little exercise every day will help out the thought patterns of the brain, even if it’s just a light walk, but for me it was surfing.
Enjoying the journey, not racing to the destination…
Completing uni and travelling for the next four years chasing waves and exploring adventure lifestyles in the southern hemisphere, my health was certainly better, yet I felt that feeling of anxious unease was still lurking within me. It was during this time I came across the discipline of yoga.
I dabbled with a few classes and styles but found the choice mightily confusing with all the options, and often felt quite withdrawn, especially when entering what felt like quite a tight knit group who ate or thought in a particular fashion. I think this is where most people become unstuck with yoga. Despite this, something told me there were benefits in this practice for me, but it wasn’t until I found a teacher who came from a similar surfing background and didn’t judge me for eating meat, or for enjoying what seemed right for me at the time, that I started to engage with and explore yoga and break it down for myself.
It was at this point that I found myself veering towards yoga after a bad day instead of reaching for my first beer or smoke. I loved the fact that my anxiety seemed to slip away as I started to control my breath, enhancing the present moment and reducing the mind’s clutter. I would still party as most young people do, yet there seemed to develop within me a ‘stop button’ that would drag me back to the mat (as much as my mind would protest).
I had a well paid job at this point but it wasn’t fulfilling me. Still having issues with anxiety and feelings of fatigue, whilst understanding that money was never going to fix it, I wondered if perhaps yoga and this ‘breathwork’ stuff would. I packed up shop and came back to the UK to undertake a yoga teacher training course and, later, courses in mindfulness, trying not to think about the consequences, just going with the flow as it were.
It wasn’t until I began the 8 week mindfulness course that I started to feel its effects. I remember one morning waking up and seeing life as if the HD button had been pressed in my brain. I still stray from the path, as it were, but hell we’re only human and at least I know I have the tools now that I need to improve my wellbeing; not the latest diet or health food, but a little movement and brain training by filling those lungs with nice, slow, breaths.
This journey led to teaching in surf and yoga camps in Portugal and Morocco alongside best mate and chef Bertie, where we founded ItchiFeet, a yoga wellbeing and food based lifestyle business, throwing what we have taken from yoga, mindfulness and food into hosting retreats, yoga classes and pop-ups in Cornwall (where we are now based), Europe and North Africa.
We are not claiming to be gurus in any sense, but if we can help bring a little balance into someone’s life with some great food, breathing techniques, a little stretching and a laugh along the way, then we will be pretty damn chuffed. If you’re in a place where you are not feeling refreshed from sleep or you’re constantly taking on the next illness, physically and mentally, drop us a line. We’ve been there and we’re always happy to chat.
Fancy giving it a go? Check out Itchi Feet retreats here.
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