Fit Bits: Moniek Hopman on the wellbeing benefits of Gentle Movements

Moniek Hopman is a Gentle Movements instructor specialising in subtle, flowing and soothing exercises, ideal for a wide spectrum of clients, from young people to the elderly. She tells Velvet about her unique offering and reveals her favourite fitness rituals

Moniek Hopman
Moniek Hopman

-My fitness specialism

I provide Gentle Movements sessions. These aresubtle, flowing and soothing exercises, based on Feldenkrais, yoga, Qigong and dance. The aim of my sessions is to move more easily and there is an invitation to really listen to your body.

-Where I work

I run weekly classes at the Friends Meeting House, Hartington Grove in Cambridge as well as online sessions (privately and for Arthur Rank) and I am available for one-to-one sessions at my home in Great Shelford. I work with people who just want to be more comfortable in their body, as well as those who have particular health issues, such as ME or pain in their neck or lower back that they'd like help with.

A Gentle Movements class with Moniek Hopman
A Gentle Movements class with Moniek Hopman

-My inspirations

I have always been interested in human movement. I did yoga with my grandmother when I was little, I started modern dance when I was a teenager, studied Sciences of Human Movements in Amsterdam, did Qigong when I was in my 20s and a few years later I discovered Feldenkrais. Based on all these movement practices, I had developed a gentle practice for myself. I didn’t feel ready to share this practice with others until around 10 years ago, when my mum got serious health problems and we found that my Gentle Movements relieved her symptoms significantly.

-What I love about my job

I am very happy when people tell me they feel better, physically and/or mentally, after a session. It is great to see people becoming calmer during the Gentle Movements sessions. Often their bodies feel less achy. People learn that there are a lot of movements that they can do that feel nice, rather than focussing on things that are painful. I am not good at advertising though and most new people come to my classes through word of mouth.

A Gentle Movements class with Moniek Hopman
A Gentle Movements class with Moniek Hopman

-My go-to quick workout

I regularly do one of the three Tai Chi Qigong series I know. These series are called Shibashi, which means a series of 18 movements. The movements are quite meditative and I love doing them in the garden, preferably in the evening. I often use parts of these Shibashi in my sessions.

-My favourite feel-good long workout

A Feldenkrais or gentle yoga session can be very nice, especially when parts of my body feel a bit achy. But my favourite workout is probably dancing, just moving without thinking, letting it happen. I sometimes dance with a group of people, but also on my own at home. I love dancing to all sorts of music, including classical music.

-My energy-boosting food

Wholemeal bread with cheese. That is what I have for breakfast and lunch on most days. I can get quite grumpy when hungry, so I often make sure I have some bread with cheese in my bag when I am out and about, as that is the best remedy.

-My indulgent treat food

I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but I love liquorice. And I find carrot cake with lots of nuts and ginger in it very delicious.

-How I kick back and relax

Going for a gentle walk helps me to wind down. I walk in rain and shine. In fact, I love walking in the rain as it is nice and quiet in the streets and the rain smells so lovely. Pottering in the house or in the garden helps me to relax too.

-Top tip for anyone who needs motivating to start exercising

Start small and keep the movements within a range that feels truly comfortable for you. Become aware of the effect the movements have on how your body feels. If it makes you feel better, it is easy to keep going. If it doesn’t make you feel better, try and find another movement or form of exercise.

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