Yoga Panther Tries: Bouldering

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When my friend first told me about bouldering I thought, “Rock climbing, but without a harness?! You’re having a giggle!” She begged me to go to a class with her, but I never did. It just didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. “I’ll stick to yoga” I said.

A couple of years passed and another friend decided to go bouldering for her birthday party. How could I miss it?

So there I was, standing in the bouldering hall at Vauxwall, having signed my life away (literally, the form says you accept that there’s a chance you may die). I had no clue where to start.

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The green holds are the easy ones, so I began with those. I managed to scramble halfway up the wall before giving up and carefully making my way down. I have to say, it seems a lot higher up than it is!

I scouted the room for more easy green routes, only to find that my friends had already made it to the top of the wall and were casually scaling the room. Well if they can do it…

Filled with confidence (and a bit of pressure) and I somehow managed to climb to the top of one of the walls. I got such a rush doing it. Now I get why people do this.

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Looking for a new challenge, we went into another room to find sloping walls galore and people hanging upside down like monkeys. I was entranced by their mad skills. It was like gravity just didn’t matter to them.

We tried a few of the tricky climbs, but failed. I did however manage to do a seated climb where you sit on the floor and pull your way up to the holds. YES arm muscles.

All in all, I was glad to have finally tried it. And I actually went back again! Along with aerial yoga, that’s two new hobbies I have now. Sweet.


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Use liquid chalk: It dries out your hands to give you more grip, as well as making your hands rough to avoid ripping the skin. I didn’t use any, so I got blisters.
  • Think ahead: Don’t just start climbing willy nilly. Look out for other people who might be traversing towards your zone and wait for them to go first.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: Mentally and physically. If you can’t get to the top first time, not to worry. And don’t try anything too risky if you’re new. There’s no shame in attempting a route and coming back down. Better than falling on your face.

In next week’s ‘Yoga Panther Tries’ I try yoga at 525 ft up…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

Yoga Panther Tries: Aerial Yoga

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Imagine being enveloped in a silky hammock, completely weightless, as you float off to your happy place.

This is how I eased into the aerial yoga class at Coco Club in Hammersmith. I’d completely forgotten that I’d turned up late and flustered.

We started off with womb pose (great name). While sat in the hammock like a swing, you have to cock your leg over one strand so that you’re straddling it. You then stretch the silk out over your legs and bring your feet up in front so that your soles are touching. Like being sat on the floor, but in mid air.

By now you’re completely covered and supported by the fabric. Ridiculously cosy. Hence, womb.

I didn’t want to leave the womb.

Aerial yoga

Setting up for womb pose

As we went through a series of poses, I soon realised that aerial yoga requires core strength, coordination…and courage. More intense than classic yoga, the hammock helps you stretch further, and there’s simply more room to manoeuvre when you’re in the air.

Take bow pose. In yoga you lie on your front, reach back to grasp your ankles, and lift off. But with a hammock in the mix, you can hang upside down in the same position and let gravity pull you deeper into the stretch.

There was a lot of dangling upside down. Terrifying to begin with, but once I learnt to trust the hammock, it was so much fun.

We did reclining bound angle (see below), one-legged king pigeon (another brilliant name), queen bee and chandelier (my favourites). Definitely had Sia’s famous track in my head as we did that last one.

The only problem I had was making sure I had the hammock in the right place and spread out enough so that it didn’t dig into my waist (and boy does that hurt). After all you’re entire body weight is literally hanging by a thread.

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Reclining bound angle pose

I also had a bit of trouble getting my head around some of the poses – which limb to put where and so on. And being inverted adds an extra challenge to that.

The teacher was great though and explained exactly how to achieve each pose, or came over to help. Quite a few others were trying it for the first time too.

We ended in the best pose. Savasana. You literally COCOON yourself in the hammock whilst lying flat on your back. You can even have a gentle swing if you want. Total relaxtion.

It was such a good lesson, that I’ve been back several times since. It’s a very decent price at £15, so I treat myself every month. Proof that if you step out of your comfort zone (or ‘the womb’), you might find something you love.

“I’m gunna swing from the chandelier…I’m gunna fly like a bird through the night.” That’s going to be in my head all day.


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Don’t turn up late: It’s not like yoga where you can turn up, grab a mat and go. The teacher has to get the step ladder out and adjust your hammock to your height. So best to be there 15 minutes before the class starts.
  • Prepare to spend a lot of time upside down: Which means all the blood will rush to your head and you’ll feel a bit funny after a while. But if you can manage to stay inverted, it’s so good for you. Do make sure you recover afterwards.
  • Pay attention to instructions: It’s so important to know exactly what you’re doing. So don’t rush ahead with a pose. Watch the teacher demonstrate first and take it slowly. You wouldn’t want to land on your head.

In next week’s ‘Yoga Panther Tries’ I try my hand at bouldering…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

Yoga Panther Tries: Aerial Silks

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Aerial Silks

My hands were clinging on for dear life. Legs flailing as I tried to push myself up. My arms buckled…and I fell to the crash mat.

This is what I put myself through when I tried aerial silks at Flying Fantastic for the first time. I mean, I knew it would be hard, but for a moment I thought I’d be stuck on the floor the whole time.

Climbing up the silks probably wasn’t the best place to start the lesson. First off you need plenty of upper body strength to pull yourself up. And second, you need to know exactly how to flip the silk around your feet (without looking!) in order to execute a ‘French climb’.

I was no good at either of these.

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But once the teacher introduced us to the foot lock, and all the poses you can do, it was actually pretty fun.

Yoga definitely came in handy for the more flexible positions. We did figurehead (top of this post), which was my favourite, and some others that I can’t remember the names of…

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I soon found out that being in a foot lock really starts to pinch! I had to keep alternating my feet so that the other foot could recover. By this time my hands were also suffering from all the clenching.

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The teacher said I’d get used to the pain if I kept coming to classes. As I looked around the room and saw all the pros flying about the silks, I did wish I could be as graceful as them.

But obviously not that much, as I haven’t been back.

I’m glad I tried it though!


Advice I wish I’d been given

  • Wear a t-shirt: In some of the poses, the upper body is entwined in the silks, which can burn your underarms a bit if you’re wearing a vest top.
  • Be prepared for pain: Like I said, foot locks hurt. There’s also a chance of blistering on your hands from over gripping.
  • Accept that you can’t do something: Aerial silks is a very challenging form of exercise requiring strength and coordination. If you can’t do something straight away, don’t fret or push yourself too hard. Simply move on to something else.

In next week’s ‘Yoga Panther Tries’ I give aerial yoga a go…

Namaste bitches!

Yoga Panther x

8 reasons why yoga is awesome

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Yoga

There’s no doubt that yoga works wonders for both your mind and body – whether it’s a morning sun salutation to energise you for the day ahead, or an evening vinyasa flow to unwind after a hard day’s work.

I’ve been an yogi for about 3 years now and it’s changed my life. Not only am I fitter, I’m less stressed and I’ve learnt to be more mindful.

Here are my top 8 reasons why yoga is awesome:

1)  It makes you bendy

All the stretching involved helps you loosen up your muscles and joints, and this becomes even more important as you get older. I’ve never been the most flexible of folk, but since I’ve started yoga I can do all sorts of cool stuff, like this ‘full wheel’ pose:

10155001_10152431681277321_1445667945298654560_n (1)2)  It gives you strength

Who needs to spend hours weightlifting in the gym when you can use your own body weight to make you strong? It’s so empowering knowing that every session I’m building up stamina and toning muscle so I can do more complex poses like ‘crow’:

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3)  It perfects your posture

If you’re a desk slave like me, you probably spend a lot of time hunched up. In yoga, a lot of poses require you to elongate your spine and bring your shoulders down. And when you apply this to your day-to-day life, you’ll be less likely to get back aches and pains.

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4)  You can do it anywhere

The best thing about yoga is you don’t need any fancy equipment. Just a yoga mat. And yourself. Sometimes you don’t even need a mat:

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5)  It improves your balance

Lots of yoga poses involve balancing. Practicing this can give you better awareness of your body as you’ll learn how to position your muscles and sense where your body needs to be. This will reduce the risk of falling on your face. And it’s not just the physical side – yoga helps you balance your mind too. It’s all about thinking positively.

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6)  It’s fun!

If you’re going to do something repeatedly, you’ve got to enjoy it. I find it so satisfying when I’m flowing into each pose, like a graceful yoga ballerina. And it’s even more rewarding when I can master more challenging poses. Each class is a step closer to that.

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7)  You can relax easier

In my evening yoga classes, I often wish I can be transported from the mat to my bed. It’s just so damn calming! A big part of yoga is learning to control your breathing – slowing it down and inhaling and exhaling deeply – which can be very meditative.

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8)  It makes you happy

“I feel crap” said no one ever after a yoga class. I always leave the session feeling amazing. That’s because yoga releases the hormone oxytocin, which floods your body with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Neat huh?

IMG_0995Namaste bitches.

Yoga panther x

I found yoga heaven in the Spanish countryside

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Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, SpainI woke up in a panic. Have I missed yoga? Why am I in a tent? Man, I feel rough.

Oh that’s right, I drunk about two bottles of wine last night. I’m camping at a yoga retreat. And if I get up now I can make it to class at 8am.

After an hour and a half on the yoga deck surrounded by beautiful mountains, and a delicious breakfast buffet, my hangover was cured. This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip.

Let me clear one thing up. When I say yoga retreat, what I really mean is yoga holiday. You don’t have to become a tee-total vegan while you’re here. You can do what you like, eat what you like and drink what (and as much as) you like. When in Spain!

A yogi’s paradise

What better place to unwind than Casa de Carrasco, a yoga retreat – and olive farm – set deep in the Serra de Cardo national park. Pure zen.

Bumpy, meandering tracks lead you into this secluded yoga haven. Seriously, I still haven’t managed to pin point it on Google Maps! All I know is it’s a 45-minute drive from Reus airport.

It’s so remote they even have to get water brought in by lorry as there aren’t any pipes nearby. Nor are there any electric lines, so they generate all their energy by solar power. And you can forget wifi or phone signal!

But who needs that when you’ve got this view:

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, SpainAnd this hammock:

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

And Ruby the dog:

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

There are also 2 other dogs and 3 cats, and they often join you for yoga.

#YogaEveryDamnDay

All this is the brainchild of Sarah Good, who’s been running the retreat with her partner, Martin, for the past 6 years.

An experienced Sivananda yoga teacher, she leads the classes each morning, which are an energising mix of sun salutations and flowing asanas. All levels are welcome as she offers easier alternatives for beginners and more challenging options for yoga pros.

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Sarah demonstrating headstand

As well as being a yoga goddess, Sarah also gives fantastic massages using a blend of essential oils and organic olive oil from the grove. I had the detoxifying one and I practically floated for the rest of the day.

She is a true inspiration. Not only has she created this gem of a place, but she puts so much effort into the finer details. And makes it seem effortless.

The lone traveller

Just to give you some back story – when I found out I had a week’s break before I started my new job, I thought I’d jet off for some sunshine and chill time. Because it was so last minute, I decided to travel solo. I’d never been anywhere by myself…

I’d actually been to the retreat before with someone else, and found that a few people came on their own. So I knew it would be the perfect place to experience solo travelling.

And it was.

The place can accommodate up to 16 guests and it’s very much a community vibe. You cook together. Eat together. Do activities together. It’s so easy to chat to people.

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Love Shack L-L-Love Shack

And then if you want some alone time, you can simply choose a hammock to relax in or watch a film in the Love Shack (best to go in the evening though as it becomes a sauna during the day).

Back to nature

If you like your mod cons, this probably isn’t the place for you. Straighteners and hairdryers are banned! But once you realise how beautiful this place is, all the things you used to be preoccupied with just melt away.

There are 4 safari tents to choose from – all very spacious and sleep up to 3 people. To save money, you can bring your own tent or stay in one of the pop-up tents. Or, if camping really isn’t your bag, you can stay in one of 2 lovely ensuite rooms adjacent to the house.

I went for a safari tent and it suited me just fine. If I could go back though I’d tell myself not to be alarmed if I hear a wild boar squealing and snuffling around my tent in the middle of the night. They’re just looking for fallen olives and almonds. Obv.

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My tent

For those in tents, there’s a little shower block with 2 toilets, 2 showers and 2 sinks. As mentioned, there’s a limited amount of water, so they ask you to be sparing with it. A sign reads: “In this land of sun and fun, we rarely flush for number one!” You get used to it.

Breakfast is provided, but for everything else, there’s a little shop that Sarah stocks up with veg, salad, cheese, rice, pasta and even their own olive oil. There’s also stuff like suncream and toothpaste if you run out or forget.

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, SpainYou can either cook at Stella’s bar overlooking the pool, or in ‘The Casita’, where everyone eats breakfast. I preferred to cook at the bar. When else do you get to cook outside, surrounded by mountains?

Excursions and activities

When you’ve had enough of chilling by the pool, there’s plenty of other stuff to do. You can sign up for wine tasting, paella making and Ayurveda workshops at the retreat itself. I tried all 3 last time and they were such fun – especially the wine tasting. More like wine glugging.

For the more adventurous, there are a few different hiking trails. I tried one with a couple from the retreat. Now I’m not a hiker, so it was pretty hard to keep up with them, but it was an amazing feeling when I made it to the top of the mountain.

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View of the retreat, from halfway up a mountain

A day trip to L’ampolla beach is a must. I went with a volunteer who was working at the retreat for a few weeks. We chatted, drank sangria, ate tapas, went paddleboarding, explored, found a bull fight (and snuck into the VIP area), ate churros and watched fireworks. And I thought I’d come to relax…

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

Another must-do is the kayak trip down the River Ebro. It was so good the first time, I had to go again. Just look at Miravet Castle…

Yoga retreat, Casa de Carrasco, Spain

Casa de Carrasco certainly did the trick. I came away feeling refreshed, revived and relaxed, despite all the exertion and lashings of vino.

It also made me appreciate a slower, more mindful way of life, which I’ve been trying to channel now I’m back in crazy ol’ London.

Namaste🙂

Yoga Panther x

What happened when I tried to have a totally healthy week

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Dumb bells

Act like a lady, lift like a boss

Anyone who knows me will know I’ve become a bit of a health nerd of late.

Someone who opts for the superfood salad at a restaurant specialising in grilled meat. Someone who makes yoga videos, only drinks herbal tea and spends her spare time perfecting her power balls.

But it’s not all fun and games.

Being healthy can be a mighty blow to the bank balance. I shiver at the thought of how much I spend on yoga classes and avocados.

Also, cutting down on sugar means I’m craving the stuff even more. I won’t tell you about the time I binged on 3 Simpson-style doughnuts, an Oreo ice cream sandwich and a slab of homemade banana bread. In one evening.

And I often struggle to even find time to be healthy. You need to be super organised to plan and prepare meals and schedule in those work outs. A bit tricky when I spend all my time going to gigs, events or exhibitions. Because, London.

So, inspired by meeting health guru Madeleine Shaw the other week, and the fact that it was health and wellbeing week at work, I decided to have a totally wholesome, mindful and active week. While making time for my social commitments. Without spending an arm and a leg.

Here goes…

Monday

I definitely started with a bang. Monday involved healthy eats and hardcore work outs.

I picked up one of the free breakfast pots being given out at work – yoghurt topped with granola, blueberries and raspberries. Yum. I added some seeds and goji berries to mine for added goodness.

Added some seeds and goji berries to the breakfast pot

At lunch I went to Gymbox for the first time for my free trial day. I tried their ashtanga yoga session in this crazy-ass room overlooking the rest of the gym. Pretty fast-paced and I definitely worked up a sweat.

Gymbox trial

At lunch I got creative with some Ryvita, avocados, feta, tomatoes and cucumber.

Avocado, feta, tomato and cucumber Ryvitas for lunchAfter work I returned to Gymbox for their ‘Frame Fitness’ class. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unfit. Like circuits on steroids, it was a blur of pull-ups, squats, press-ups, burpees, running planks, sit-ups and Russian twists. Whew!

I couldn’t believe it when I made it to the end of the 45-minute session. I got a bit of a runner’s high and somehow stayed at the gym for another hour of cross training, cycling and yoga. I just didn’t get tired.

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The great thing about working out until 8.30pm is the half price sale at Itsu is on! So naturally I got my favourite – chicken teriyaki salad – at the reduced price of £2.50.

Healthy post workout meal from Itsu

Tuesday

After my insane workout yesterday, I thought it best to take it easy today. I made another tasty lunch with the same ingredients as yesterday, but this time I picked up a multigrain triangle roll from Tesco for 25p.

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Next I had a ‘health MOT’ – another work perk. I was tested by a health specialist from Nuffield Health and found out that my blood pressure and glucose levels are normal, but my cholesterol was only JUST within the normal range. Need to keep off the cakes and biscuits…

Wednesday

I started the day with some Planet Organic grain-free granola featuring nuts, seeds, coconut, dried banana, raisins and spirulina (fancy word for algae). I added some goji berries and blueberries to make it colourful. You don’t want to know how much this costs. I got a cheeky one for free at the Madeleine Shaw event.

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At lunch I decided to chill out and go to a FREE creative meditation session at Inner Space. A little too relaxing maybe, as I kept nodding off. But I managed to unwind as I visualised being on a tropical beach with white sand and turquoise sea.

I was going to do some yoga when I got home, but since it was two days after my hard core work out, I ached like crazy. So instead I made a batch of power bars. You literally chuck goji berries, sultanas, dates, chia seeds, almonds, cacao powder and coconut oil into food processor, mould it…and boom! Great alternative to a chocolate bar.

IMG_6188Thursday

Everyone’s going on about matcha green tea at the moment. Apparently it’s the equivalent of drinking 10 cups of normal green tea. So I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about by trying a matcha latte at Salad Pride (sweet little cafe in Neal’s Yard). Let’s just say it won’t be my last…

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Friday

For lunch I made a yummy wrap filled with cous cous, spinach, avocado, tomato and cucumber.

IMG_6115Later on I had a free chair massage at work, which eased me up after a stressful morning.

Saturday

The key to a healthy mind is to keep exercising it by learning new things. So I forced myself out of bed to get to an all-day copywriting event at The Rag Factory. It was great to hear from my fellow copywriters and get some tips about freelancing.

On our break for lunch, I strolled down Brick Lane in search of healthy food. I was drawn to Suito, a swanky new place serving up delicious Japanese food. I went for the chicken teriyaki donburi with veg. Seriously good.

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Sunday

My body had finally recovered in time for Be:Fit London – an awesome little fitness festival for women. We started with a ‘Strala Yoga’ class from Tara Stiles. Pretty tough session, but it was so motivating being one of around 100 yogis doing their thang.

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After swiping as many freebies from the stalls as we could, we went to a talk from Dame Kelly Holmes. So inspirational. It made me realise that settling goals to be fit isn’t a means to an end. It’s a journey. And the same goes for anything you want to achieve in life. Just enjoy the ride.

We finished with a mini trampoline class. SUCH FUN.

Just look at my haul (below)! The only things I actually bought were:

  • Vita Coco coconut water and oil: On offer for £5 together.
  • Teapigs matcha kit: A burn at £25, but it will be worth it!
  • Trek bars and Perkier bars: These were both on offer for 3 for like £2. Because you can never have too many bars.

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I ended the week in style by dining at Jamie’s Italian with my other half. I had the best superfood salad of my entire life. Just look at that avocado and broccoli perched on top of that bed of kale, chicken, pulses and grains. Even my boyfriend (who went for the steak) had food envy.

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So it is possible to stay fit and eat healthily with a busy lifestyle.

I ate healthily every day and didn’t eat a single sugary food. I did yoga (twice), hardcore circuits and even trampolining. I probably shouldn’t have exercised so much on the Monday though as I was out of action until Sunday. I didn’t stress about it though. I was mindful and I let my body unwind in the meantime with meditation and massage.

I managed to do everything I wanted to do, and still had time to chill out in the evenings. I didn’t spend too much either.

Admittedly I had a bit of help, what with all the freebies. But it’s allowed me to explore what I do and don’t like (matcha YES, hardcore circuits NOPE), so I can spend my money wisely. And I’m more motivated about being healthy than ever.

It’s all about planning, listening to your body and exercising your will power. Not forgetting to mix things up occasionally to keep things interesting!

Now where can I buy a trampoline…

Yoga Panther x