In her previous life Sophy Smythe was a Dutch medical doctor, specialising in chronic pain and burnout. Like her protagonist Charlie Martens, MD, she reinvented herself, and now writes fact-based mystery-thrillers. The Medical Code is her debut novel. Learn more about Sophy and her books at her website.
Most people are alienated by the impossible poses of yoga, the perfect styling, and the myth that you have to be flexible to do yoga. Enter Charlie Martens, the YouTube yoga instructor who's become a lifeline for stiff, anxious people locked in their cramped apartments, their crowded living rooms, and their sunless basement flats. She's the founder of Yoga With Charlie, a YouTube channel. Over five million subscribers follow her every video in Dutch and English. Her routines are designed to make yoga accessible and appealing to as many people as possible.
Her homepage reads like a pharmacy shelf. Whatever ails you, Charlie has a remedy for that: yoga for self-love (literally hugging yourself), yoga for runners, yoga for when you're angry (a lot of breathing exercises and child’s pose to calm down) and happy birthday yoga (my favourite). Find your most cynical friend and ask them about Charlie; it's likely that they're a secret fan.
Despite this, Charlie isn't your typical fitness influencer. Her videos are shot in her Antwerp living room. Each video starts with a clip of Charlie inviting you to make time for yourself while gentle lounge music plays. She doesn't edit out her falls or stumbles. And she is laughing a lot. Especially when something goes wrong. Her appeal is that Charlie makes people feel good, not bad.
Tell me how you created ‘Yoga With Charlie’.
After writing my first book Love Your Life!, readers asked me to upload videos with practical exercises on how they could love their life, despite all the misery they were going through. Yoga did so much for me; it helped me to stay in contact with myself. You know, it’s all about love, breathing, and acceptance of yourself. And what you experience on the mat, you experience off the mat as well.
You are not a regular doctor, are you?
Hahaha, actually I am. I specialised in gastroenterology but left the hospital to work for a platform for independent research, Cochrane. During my hospital days, I was frustrated that patients were sent home with pills that would not have been necessary if they just took control of their lives. You know, eat well, exercise, sleep well. Love yourself and make the most of your life. So I decided to write a series of books and started Yoga With Charlie, just to show them how.
How has your life changed in the last few weeks? What's changed for you since the start of quarantine?
Normally I love to travel, to hike and see the world. That’s where I get my inspiration. Now, alas, it’s not possible. But better times will come.
Charlie, how did you manage to win over a nation of miserable and sarcastic Brits, who hate everything, especially anything positive?
Brits have a special humour you find nowhere else in the world. Where else in the world can you find someone saying, ‘It’s a bit windy, isn’t it?’, while a raging hurricane is outside? I love it. I studied medicine at King’s College in London, and I learned to appreciate the Londoners. I might have taken up their humour, too.
Charlie Martens is also the New York Times and Amazon bestselling author of Love your Life! Exercise!, Love What You Eat, and Grow Your Own Medicine.
The New York Times said that your books are refreshing and a breakthrough, as your advice is easy to maintain and down to earth. It is not common for a doctor to give so much attention to prevention. Can you tell us, Charlie, why you have written those books?
Excellent question. When I worked at the hospital as a gastroenterologist, I was appalled by how many medicines my patients took. They started with one, and that had side effects. Thus, they took medicine number two to counter the side effects. After a while they had another complaint for which they received a prescription, and the story goes on, because, you guessed it, that also had side effects. They’d enter my office with a plastic bag full of legit medicines. For me, it was a challenge to minimise the medicines needed. But also to teach my patients how they could live long and stay fit.
The Medical Code
In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in Antwerp, Belgium, Doctor Charlotte Martens receives an urgent late-night call from her friend who is a member of the European Medicines Agency. The next day Charlotte learns that her friend was violently murdered and that she herself is now the prime suspect. Because the police find a baffling code beside the murder victim, Charlotte enlists the help of an investigative journalist. She and the journalist discover that her murdered friend was about to expose a conspiracy of fraud and corruption within the pharma industry involving the government, certain reputable doctors, and even the European Medicines Agency.
With both the police and the murderer closing in on them, Charlotte and the journalist must stay alive long enough to find the hard evidence necessary to bring down a faceless pharma company that will clearly stop at nothing to protect their secret network.