As an osteopath, Avni specialises in working with women before, during and after pregnancy, as well as supporting the wellbeing of babies and children. She practices in Central London at the Active Birth Centre and teaches at the British School of Osteopathy.
What were your original motivations behind becoming an osteopath?
I wanted to have a job that involved helping people but also using my hands. I am fascinated by people and about the human body. Over time I have pursued my interest in healing and health from lots of traditional cultures to make it relevant to the world we live in today.
As an osteopath I enjoy supporting and enhancing health of my clients. I've never liked the approach of only seeing a practitioner when you’re broken as it’s more of firefighting approach. Health deserves far more care and consideration. This is especially true for pregnancy and women’s health as women tend to be the caregivers in their families, so encouraging self-care has a ripple effect.
What have been the biggest rewards and biggest challenges in building your career?
The biggest rewards have been doing something that is meaningful and tangible and makes a difference to people. Especially treating a baby or a pregnant woman; offering calm reassurance and gentle treatment can work wonders.
The biggest challenges have been fitting it all in! It’s hard as a practitioner to look after your own health if you work too much so I lately have focused on simplicity to keep a balance with clinic, teaching and learning and myself. I feel more energised for it and enjoy the variety of contact with clients, time to write articles and teach.
What insights have you gained from working with Dove as their Touch Expert and how are you translating them into your work?
I have learnt that things I might take for granted and consider simple can actually make a huge difference to someone. For example, a busy woman who starts to take a moment for herself in her day, such as mindfully showering or giving herself a massage when she puts on her daily lotion.
Touch is a skill that we all have but is getting lost in the hectic pace and technology overload. There are so many things we do each day such as showering or moisturising; it doesn’t take much more than awareness to turn these little tasks into rituals of self-care.
Do you do your kegels regularly? Where & when do you do them?
I am definitely aware of engaging my pelvic floor in Pilates and Yoga classes. I don’t do kegels per se, but I do activate my pelvic floor especially in movements such as planks and bridges. I like to feel the link between the diaphragm and pelvic floor as I think this gives a lot of support within the body.
When I teach clients and students I like to give people the chance to really feel their body. Some pelvic floor exercises feel too intangible. I prefer to use the breath and work with imagery than those cold diagrams that don’t feel connected to the body. The Elvie is a great device to work with the pelvic floor as the feedback helps you to make the little corrections that make all the difference to the success of the technique.
What’s the most common question you get asked by clients?
I commonly get asked what’s the best type of exercise for someone to do. My answer is that it’s as personal as a fingerprint; we should move in a way that suits our interests and motivations, rather than feeling obliged to do something. Life’s too short to do something just because it’s good for us. I would rather see people loving what they do to move well rather than dragging themselves to a gym if it’s not their cup of tea.
What advice would you give women who feel too embarrassed to talk to a doctor about a pregnancy concern?
I would reassure them that even if it’s embarrassing, it’s important that they raise anything that’s giving them concern. And as well as their doctors, talk to their yoga teacher, osteopath or anyone else who is supporting their pregnancy as they can often give insight or support. Also, connect with other women as the support women can offer one another is profound.
If you could give one tip to women who work during their pregnancies, what would it be?
Balance activity with rest. This can be done by adding a walk into the daily commute or lunch break, or taking a few minutes to close the eyes and pay attention to your breath in the middle of a busy day. We all know if we need to do more or do less in our day, and balance isn’t a static state but it's vital to work towards it.
Who inspires you?
I have some precious people who are no longer alive such as my grandmother and aunt who I carry in my heart and inspire me to live with more compassion, dedication and determination.
Also my clients, especially the mamas; what they experience on the path to pregnancy inspires me to keep learning and sharing. I strongly believe that we have a purpose for being here, and supporting babies to come into the world as healthy and whole as possible feels like it connects with that purpose.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
That I am a good teacher. I’m lucky to have a job that involves lots of different skills, but teaching is one of the things that I really care about. I used to be terrified of speaking in public, so it has taken a lot of determination to stand in front of a class. To think that it makes a difference to someone warms my heart.
What do you love most about your body?
I’ve had to teach myself not to criticise my body for the bits that are too wobbly or weak, or anything negative. The more I listen to my gut, the more I trust myself and feel certain that I have all that I need. As an eternal student I can veer towards knowledge, but body knowledge is far more powerful, and something we all have access to.
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