You're one of our most popular instructors on the MindLabs app. Can you tell us how you first got into meditation and mindfulness?
That's beautiful to hear, I love that people are watching and benefitting from my classes!
The first time I meditated, I was 8. There was a yoga teacher who would come to ours, I would do yoga and meditate with my parents. So I grew up with it as a way of life. I got into breathwork at the end of high school thanks to my mum. I realised I had so much anger and unfelt sadness back then that I started processing through breathwork. The books I was reading at 14 were about mindfulness, self growth, etc.
So it was a way of life that was already there for me. It was never an alternative thing I rediscovered, it was my normal. For me when you break a bone, you go to a doctor. In the same way, if you're experiencing issues with your emotional or mental wellbeing, you'd see a professional that would support you. It's a no brainer for me. So I always had therapists, coaches and practitioners I would work with to help me initially heal, then grow and evolve so I can live fully and empower people to do the same.
Are there any other regular practices you do that help you look after your mental health?
Yes, so much! I like changing things up depending on what I need and what's going on with my life. Rigid structures of always doing the same thing never worked for me. I like variety.
The only regular practice I have for my mental health is the morning pages.They are three pages you write first thing in the morning, created by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. You get up in the morning and write three uncensored pages of whatever is on your mind at the time. “I forgot to buy eggs yesterday, I feel sh*t, I’m going out of London today yey" etc. Whatever comes to you, it’s like a brain dump. It calms down the storms of your mind and brings you back to yourself, and shows you what matters to you the most.
Another practice I have which I do on and off is transcendental meditation. This is where you have a mantra and you repeat over a certain period of time. This allows me to slow down, be grounded and be able to be more in tune with my intuition. I do a lot during the day as I naturally have a lot of energy and I have the capacity to do many things at the same time. So meditation is a great way for me to slow down, reflect and contemplate on things in my awareness. Whenever things get too much or overwhelming, I also turn to meditation. It's like a safe haven within myself.
The regular practices I do for my body also help with my mental health. Working out is an important one: if I'm upset or angry, when I lift those weights, I imagine letting it all go. I also love ecstatic dance. As well as the community and sense of play, it's a form of movement meditation: my thoughts seem to organise themselves as I dance, just like going for a run.
I would also include breathwork. I practised breathwork for 10 years, and now use it when I'm in need: like if I'm going through grief or anger, or need to look into an issue and gain some clarity around it using the wisdom of my body and breath.
When you break a bone, you go to a doctor. In the same way, if you're experiencing issues with your emotional or mental wellbeing, you'd see a professional that would support you. It's a no-brainer for me.
You’ve filmed some amazing classes for us on sexuality, and you’ve recently done some professional training in the field of Somatic Sex Education. Can you tell us a bit about what got you there, what that has entailed, and the role that embracing and better connection to our sexuality can have for our mental health?
Our sexual energy is our life force energy. If you're connected to your sexual energy, you feel alive, in touch with your body and emotions, embodied and empowered.If you're a creative person, you probably have a lot of sexual energy as well. We're just not taught these things.
There can be a lot of societal conditioning and suppression around sex. I'm Turkish, and grew up with a lot of dysfunctional conditioning around sex, including the idea that sex is only for men. This played out as me not being in touch with my body and unable to communicate my desires.
Since then, I've been on a long journey of breaking down everything I was once taught about sex and relationships, and finding my truth. I've explored non-monogamy, tantra, conscious kink (the light and dark aspects of sexuality), attended events and had training. In 2020 I decided to bring sexuality into my work, and decided to become a somatic sex educator and sexological bodyworker, which is all about becoming integrated sexual beings.
Something that emerged from this was a fascination with being witnessed in nudity. I see it as an expression of pure innocence. Somewhere along the line, we're taught to be ashamed of our bodies and nakedness. I wanted to help people overcome this, and so I created Naked Breathwork: a conscious undressing ritual, followed by group breathwork. I find this creates an extra level of healing and transformation.
I believe that being in touch with your sexuality massively benefits our mental health. First off, if you're able to let go of how you look, what move you're going to do next, shame etc. during intimacy and drop into your body, you'll be able to enjoy yourself more. It can be a form of meditation really.
If you feel safe, sex is also a great way to feel your emotions. It's very common to cry, laugh, and have all sorts of emotions come up during sex as you're moving the energy into your body. Emotions are just energy in motion.
Oxytocin that gets produced during sex will benefit your mental health too!
What, if anything, do you think needs to change when it comes to society's attitudes towards mental health?
Going to therapy shouldn't be something we're ashamed of. It should be normal and something to even be proud of. Something is not working well in your life and you decided to take responsibility for it and take action to change it. That's amazing! This should be celebrated.
Mental health should also be a normal topic to talk about - just like we talk about the weather! When my dad passed away suddenly few years ago, I noticed how talking about darker places we might go in our minds was just so not normal. How do we even begin sharing how we feel when we go to dark places? I feel it's takes one courageous person to share truthfully where they're at with rawness and vulnerability. Then few others always say, "I feel the same." The more we bring it to the light, the more we can normalise it.
I try to be as authentic as I can be on my social media. It's impossible to share everything, but my aim is to create a ripple effect of people being themselves and not feeling like they're on their own. We're in it together in this thing called life, why not share it together.
What do you think makes MindLabs different from other apps?
What makes MindLabs different is that there are live classes actually being filmed in the studio whilst the user is watching it. This is pretty epic.
In the future, features that will make it more interactive will be added. I also love that just like taking antibiotics when you're ill, you're able to watch a class depending on what you're struggling with or how you're feeling. I love this about MindLabs.
The team is also wonderful! I can feel that everyone loves what they do, they're behind the vision and this shows in the quality of the service they offer.
Baby Isik, at the start of her meditation career!
You can watch Isik's classes on the MindLabs app, available to download on the App Store now.