Kate Suffolk is a DC in the Metropolitan Police – She has been in the job since 2002 and following a period of depression and anxiety three years ago, she found yoga. She talks to us about how her yoga practice changed her life and helps her as she continues her career in policing…..
I began my career in the Met in 2002. I’ve worked on lots of different units over the years, starting as a uniformed officer at Merton, I then became a SOIT officer and went to Sapphire. After Sapphire I went to Clubs and Vice. I then took my T/DC’s and went to Wandsworth Borough working in all of the different units, Burglary and Robbery, Main Office, CSU, then on to Trident pro active and reactive teams for four years. I now work on the Online Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Command. I have had a varied and thoroughly interesting 16 years so far. I’ve had lots of highs, worked on some amazing units, met some great people and secured some great convictions.
That’s what I joined for, to have a job that would be interesting, exciting and to help others. To have a variety of units to work in and to do everything that I wanted to achieve. I’ve got lots of amazing stories and am proud to be a Police Officer.
However, 3 years ago I suffered a terrible period of depression and anxiety. I couldn’t cope with work, life, relationships, it was all going wrong for me. I blamed everything on those around me and the job. I felt trapped, fearful and lost. Like I needed to run away and escape from my life. I couldn’t see a way out. It got so dark that I contemplated suicide. I was truly a frightened little girl in a 38 year old woman’s body.
I tried to keep up the pretence, put a brave face on. But those close to me could see that I wasn’t okay. I cried every single day. I’d beat myself up for every little thing. I felt like a complete failure.
It was then that I started Yoga. I’d done it over the years but I’d never understood it before. I thought that it was for the bendy, skinny people. How wrong was I! Through practising Yoga I found that I could get some headspace. I could think about just my breath, I could free my mind. I went into a deep state of relaxation that I couldn’t achieve any other time. I began going to classes 5 times a week and started reading, researching and learning all about the 8 limbs of yoga.
I wanted more, I needed this peace that I got from practising every day. During my scrawling through the internet for Yoga schools I came across a place called Atmavikasa in Mysore, India. It looked amazing, totally authentic. It was from that moment I knew that I had to go. I contacted them and asked if I could book onto one of their intensive courses. They replied and within days I’d booked to go to India for a month to study with the teachers at Atmavikasa. I took all of my annual leave and off I went.
I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t even really think about it. I just had a gut feeling that this was what I needed and I just went with it. It was one hell of an experience. I’ve never had such a strict lifestyle before, the teachers at Atmavikasa embody all yoga traditions. Not just practising your daily asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercise), eating a vegan diet, getting plenty of sleep, being away from the internet and social media. Resting, being in nature, walking barefoot. Being grateful and happy, living a simple life.
So often in the UK I live on a diet of sugar and caffeine. I get burnt out, lack of sleep, long shifts, early starts. I don’t take time for simple things, like a walk in nature. I’m too busy multi-tasking to do anything properly. I’m never present! I’m always thinking about the next thing, what I‘ve got to do, not sitting, doing something properly and slowly, mindfully.
They taught me how important this is. They showed me the way out of this madness. I came back from my trip a different woman. Mentally I was so much stronger and happier. However I soon slipped back into the world we live in. Rushing around, not looking after myself. I knew that I had to go back, I decided that I wanted to do the teacher training. Then I could pass on what I’d learnt to others.
This time I took a period of unpaid leave and I travelled around India for a month and then went back to Mysore to Atmavikasa for a 7 week course. It was completely life changing.
Since being back in the UK I’ve been teaching a few local classes and have also completed my Yoga Nidra teacher training.
Yoga Nidra is a deeply meditative practice which involves no movement, Nidra means sleep in Sanskrit. It is a state of consciousness where you stay awake but deeply rest. It requires no effort. It is pure bliss. I fell in love with Yoga Nidra the first time I practised and knew that I had to learn how to deliver this to others.
I’ve recently been lucky enough to have taught a few sessions to some colleagues in the Met and I’ve had some great feedback.
The job that we do is stressful, the hours and shifts are tough. The things we see, the people we deal with. It all affects us at a much deeper level than we realise.
For me, I need Yoga and Yoga Nidra to gain balance in my life. To breathe, to realise what is important, to be present, to be grateful. To just be me, with no expectations.
It’s given me such peace of mind, it’s helped me so much. I’d love to share my practice with other officers who are burnt out, stressed and to give my colleagues a tool to help them deal with the stress of being a Police Officer. I’ve now become a Blue Light Champion and am trying to give something back. I feel that my experience can benefit others and I’d love the opportunity to show how.