Saturday, September 1, 2012

50 Shades of Crazy Sexiness

I wouldn't say that I am a voracious reader and I'm certainly not  a book snob but I do like a little bit of literary escapism. I have friends who "mainly read the classics" (a lady was sat in her deck chair behind me at Rewind Festival this year in between sets reading Jane Austen!) and I wish I was that way inclined, but those sorts of books remind me of school, which I hated with a passion, because apart from giving me a good social life, mainly school just interfered with dancing. I am much more of a trash girl (no comments please!). I love a good cry courtesy of Nichloas Sparks, a good laugh courtesy of Ben Elton or Nick Hornby and a good bit of intrigue courtesy of James Patterson.

This last month I have been completely consumed by two books: 50 Shades of Grey and The Crazy Sexy Diet.

Don't judge me!

First of all, if you haven't read the 50 Shades series, shame on you! It is full of sex and lust and passion and is utterly delicious. No, it's not worthy of a Booker Prize and you can't dissect the depth of character or the fine use of the English language but my God can you get a little bit hot under the collar/quilt and take a few moments out of your day to be transported to a world of gorgeousness. Even my sister is tempted to read this book and she never reads, apart from Hello Magazine...well she did actually read a book once, "it was a red one!"
So dismount your high horses all you 50 Shades shunners and get on it, you'll thank me...and if you pay close attention, so may your boyfriend, wife, secret lover!! These days nobody even needs to know you're indulging, you can just stick it on your Kindle and take your porn on the morning commute!

A client of mine gave me the second book on my reading list this month (I feel like Richard and Judy!) and I will be ever grateful that she did. 
The Crazy Sexy Diet is jam packed full of eye opening and thought provoking information regarding our bodies and the food we choose to put into them.

Spurred on by a cancer diagnosis the author, Kris Carr renovated her toxic lifestyle and re balancing her body through nutrition and exercise has not only driven her disease to lie dormant but she has never looked or felt better in her life.

Kris's writing style is easy and fun, she backs up her information with chapters from health professionals and is totally non dogmatic. Her approach is to do what you can, be the best you can be. There is information aplenty and the message is clear: What we put into our bodies as fuel determines how well our bodies perform.
Put in acidic and inflammatory inducing sugar-filled junk and your body responds with lethargy and sallow skin, zits and constipation, colds and allergies. Put in oxygen filled goodies to maintain an alkaline PH on the inside and your body thrives with boundless energy a strong immune system and importantly less/no degenerative disease. Now for Kris, her disease was cancer but this book works whatever your "cancer": high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, name it and the basic principles can help you live a happier healthier life.

Reading is magical. In my mind it should be fun, informative and get your juices flowing and both of these bookish treats are gonna do that, I promise!!!

So to quote form 50 Shades of Grey: “Christian, you are the state lottery, the cure for cancer, and the three wishes from Aladdin's lamp all rolled into one”

And from The Crazy Sexy Diet: "Heart disease doesn't run in my family, sausages and donuts do!"

"Change now. Love now. Live now. Don't wait for people to give you permission to live....that permission is your birthright Hotstuff; grab it!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No I'm not a bin man, I'm a bloody Yoga Teacher!

So apparently the NHS have this idea that if they give everyone between 40 and 60 a health check then it will scare a few of the unhealthier amongst us to get their act together and sort out their diet and exercise habits, therefore alieviating the strain on the NHS in the long run.

Its definitely an option that I wanted to take advantage of so I signed up, as did my Sister and my Brother. Louisa and Matt had their MOTs last week and were pretty happy with the results, no sign of the dreaded diabetes, low cholestoral, normal bood pressure and average BMI.
Of course, they are both healthy eaters who exercise regularly and keep an eye on their weight.

I had mine yesterday...

Well, first of all, I had to fill in a form. It was a box ticking type effort!

Do you cycle more or less than 3 hours a week? How many hours a week do you spend doing housework, less than  10? Is it more than 5 hours that you spend gardening per week? How active is your job? Very active ie: bin man, not very active ie: office worker?

Are you thinking what I was thinking...How relevant is this to my life exactly? I am not a bin man, I don't own a bike and housework is not my strong point!

Anyway, after filling in the form, the nurse arrived to collect me. So at that point I should have realised what a joke this was. The nurse would have made Aretha Franklin look like a waif! A tiny lady, as round as she was tall, who I had to wait for at the top of the stairs as she puffed and panted and waddled to what must have seemed the peak of Everest to her.

Was she really the best the surgery could drag up to convince people that their health was a priority?

After practically falling into her extra wide chair and perusing my form the nurse peered at me through her sallow complexion and stringy hair and announced that I was moderately active!


Mrs dance/dynamic yoga teacher who teaches over 20 classes a week, 5 of them lolloping around like a loony persuading 6 year olds that skips need pointed feet, 3 of them sweating my bollocks off in a hot studio and the rest jumping in and out of flows and postures in between moving bodies into good alignment, plus my own personal practice.

"Yes Ms Free, but you see, you ticked the boxes saying you don't cycle anywhere and you don't do any housework, so that puts you on the lower end of the active scale"
After several minutes explaining that even though I didn't work on the bins, my job was incredibly active and hearing her tell me that she was svery surprised when she had the same result in her own test (shocker!) despite the fact that she walked up and down stairs daily, I gave up. She did however concede to doctor the results as a favour!!!!!!!

Ok so then there was weighing (I almost had to threaten to confiscate the nurse's bacon buttie if she told me what I weighed. I spent nearly ten years as a dancer being weighed weekly and it stressed me out so much that I vowed as soon as I didnt have a weigh-in clause written into my contract I would never weigh again!) and height. She measured me at not quite 5'5""! Another bit of comedy as when I got home I got the tape measure out and I was 5'7" again!

So once all the figures were plugged into the terribly crude and un-sophisticated NHS software (CentraStage you should be planning your NHS attack!) it turns out that I have a 1.4% chance of having a heart attack in the next ten years.


I know I have been a little harsh on the good old NHS but in theory, I do think these health check ups are a good idea.
We should all be taking responsibility for our own health and not eating ourselves into a hospital bed or even a coffin prematurely.

If you are in the UK and over 40 then go and get a general check up. You may be surprised at the results (or at the very least, surprised at the amount of fat nurses) and it could give you a chance either to chill a little bit knowing you are in good shape after all, or it may just give you that kick up the bum that you need to get yourself fighting fit again. And let me just say that doesn't mean a six pack and killer biceps, it means you get up and move about to get your heart racing a couple of times a week; it means you  have a healthy and balanced diet with more fresh produce and less processed food, it means taking time to analyse your lifestyle and find time for you once in a while rather than the billion other things you do for everyone else!

Think about it Freedom Lovers.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I was reading an article recently about people's favourite yoga postures.
Well, when I say people, I don't mean the likes of you and me, humble earthly people but you know, those Karmically committed, super bendy, awesomely strong, raw food eating, Kirtan performing, flip flop wearing, sutra spouting, fantastically famous, cool fizzin, international yoga teachers. The likes of Jason Crandell, Amy Ippoliti and Kathryn Budig.
Now these inspirational teachers and contributors to the article from Yoga Glo, surprisingly weren't all about the really bloody hard poses that they float into without a care in the world, that Jo Blow can only dream about but in fact they are having love affairs with some fairly ordinary postures. Jason Crandell was digging Dancers Pose (with the help of a belt), Tiffany Cruikshank is all over Warrior II, Noah Maze rocks out in Downward Facing Dog, and my favourite of all, kathryn Budig whose adverts for ToeSox make you just want to roll up your yoga mat forever, loves Savasana more than any other pose.
I am so happy that they didn't all say, "well actually I love the one where you wrap your leg round your head whilst balancing on one hand and tucking the opposite knee into your armpit, you know the one, hardasf*#kasana!"
Because lets face it we all have a most hated and an equally most loved pose. I think my most hated is Dancers Pose. Ironic, I always think as I have been a dancer my whole life! I find it so challenging, trying to keep your working hip down and relaxed through your shoulders all the while pressing your foot back into your hand, lifting your thigh and feeling like at some point you should really breathe but if you do you will probably collapse in a heap on your mat!
And my most favourite, lets see, probably a wide leg forward bend. I always feel so stretched in this posture with long backs of the legs, sitting bones drawing away from each other, and the weight of your head allowing you to come a little closer to the floor, feeling a big opening from tailbone to crown and butt to heels. A really great stretch!
OK so seeing that in black and white and knowing my body, its easy to see why I hate Dancers Pose and why I love a forward bend. I have a rubbish back and stiff shoulders but super long hamstrings and achilles. Its a dream to do hamstring stretches, I 'm good at them! My back on the other hand is not my best asset, and dancers pose is all about the heart opening back bend.
Aha, so I think my mission this summer solstice, a time of personal reflection on the past and thoughts of your journey into the future, is to start to embrace my physical limitations and learn to love and therefore get the most out of the poses that I am not so "good" at!
Here I come, Camel. Beware Bow. Watch out  ghomukasana and marchyasana 1, 2 3 and 4 or how ever many hundreds of variations of you there are.
Having said all of that, out of every posture that I have been rocking this year I am struggling most with handstand, yet not once have I stuck two fingers up at it and fallen out of friends with it. Handstand is super challenging and frustrating and I don't know if I will ever be able to hold it for more than 2 seconds, but I will never stop my romance with this incredible asana!
How about you?
Whats your fave?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Red String of Fate

Have any of you been  watching the new American TV show "Touch"?

Love it...well, loved it! I watched the big 2 part season finale last night and it was a goodie!

OK so let me explain for those of  you who have no idea what I am gibbering on about.

"Touch" is about a Father, Martyn Bohm (played by Mr 24 himself!) and his son, Jake. They live in New York City and Jake's Mother died on 9/11 in the Twin Towers. Jake is emotionally challenged has never spoken and communicates only with numbers. The story goes, (and be open minded here people because it sounds whacky) that Jake can predict the future through these number sequences. Well, more specifically, the series of number are like a map that his Father follows to make events happen, perhaps to bring people together or even to avert disaster. The numbers connect people and events across the world, each one effecting the next and allowing for generally wonderful and positive outcomes.

Of course your first reaction is of the "incredible coincidences". For example the encounter Martyn has with a firefighter in a train station caused the fireman to miss his train but meant that he was right there when a bus full of school children overturned and was able to save them. It turns out that this was the same guy who had carried Jake's Mother down thirty flights of the world Trade Centre during the attack in 2001.

Of course as the series continues, you realise that what you are being told is that they aren't coincidences at all but alludes to the interconnectivity of humanity as envisioned by the Chinese legend of the red string of fate, whereby actions, seen and unseen, can change the fate of people across the globe for the better. Jake is supposedly one of the few who can feel the pain of the universe and is able to take action to relieve that pain.

FASCINATING, albeit incredibly complicated.

The Red String of Fate or the Red Thread of Destiny got me thinking. According to this myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to meet each other in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way.
This is a bit like soul mates in Western thinking. But that is mainly thought of as a romantic involvment and I think this goes further than that. All the encounters we have whether minor or major can have a bearing on how our day/month/life turns out. Work, relationships, you name it!
I think it means that whatever road we take, our destiny is already predetermined. You know when you say things like "Well, if I hadn't done that then I would never have met X"? Now I think that it was probably your destiny, your fate to meet X and that would have happened no matter what road you had travelled. And "X" could be a lover or a complete stranger!

Pretty interesting right?

I am also inclined to believe that everyone you meet is there to teach you something. Whether it is a positive or a negative something. Its the knowledge we need to take us onward in our journey.

So the next time you find yourself saying, "Bloody hell, that was a waste of time!" or "I wish I had never met him/her!" remember the red string and Jake and Martyn Bohm and keep moving forward, grateful for the unseen forces in the universe, wondering where that next piece of the puzzle fits in!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5 Things not to do in a yoga class as a teacher

1. Sweat on your clients!
I have started teaching in a hot studio and whilst helping a lady find length through the sides of her body in downward facing dog I dripped sweat onto the top of her back and not a drop, more like a small stream that trickled right off my nasty is that? I am hoping that she was sweating so much herself that she either a. didn't notice or b. didn't care. Note to self, must take towel into hot studio with me!

2. Make up stuff!
A client recently winced in Janu Sirsasana and when I asked her if she was OK she told me that when she flexed her foot in this posture it made her gag! "Why is that Sophie?" uuummmm!!!! Because you ate too much for tea? Because you are weird?! Because you are too thin and gorgeous and so something about you has to be slighlty off to set the balance straight?  I have no idea!
I of course racked my brain trying to find a good answer but after 3 secs (a small brain!) I had to admit defeat and simply said "I have no idea?! Best just not to do it!" Would BKS Iyengar have been so wise in that situation?
When in doubt, admit that you are unsure!

3. Wear leggings from Top Shop
So, sometimes I look in my drawer of yoga attire (actually I have two drawers filled with Lycra based items!) and staring out at me is a top that was handed down from someone else that never really fitted properly and a pair of Top Shop leggings. So I have no choice but to wear the leggings and then rifle through my T Shirt drawer for a suitable garment for the top half. Why I don't just send the too small too uncomfortable second hand yoga top to the recycling I have no idea. Its one of those emergency tops that you wouldn't wear even in an emergency!
I digress!
The leggings, as it turns out, are very see through! This, I discovered only after teaching a whole days worth of classes and then later on that evening, being informed by my Mother that she really liked my new polka dot under-crackers as I demonstrated split dog into wild thing!
Mortified is not the word!

4. Drink from someone else's bottle of water!
OMG! I thought it was mine, until I saw mine...with my name on it for that very reason...on the opposite side of the room as I put the lid back on the one that I had just taken a giant gulp from!
Luckily the whole class was in pigeon lying over their legs and nobody saw and lets face it I am very clean and wholesome with no communicable diseases and regularly go to the hygienist!

5. Let someone leave your class without paying!
Enough said!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting a bit saucy!

Whether I'm celebrating or commiserating, happy or sad, cooking is what I turn to.
I am a complete foodie and love to create something from scratch. 
My Mother on the other hand would strongly disagree. Although a beautiful cook, she absolutely hates it and can't wait for the day when they invent a pill! She has already been waiting a long time! Since I can remember she has been saying, "Just imagine, not having to think what to cook, not having to go and buy it, cook it, chew it or clean up afterwards! A green pill for breakfast, blue for lunch, red for dinner...heaven!"
Now you would think with this attitude she would be big on going out to eat.
Oh no!
Far too time consuming and expensive!
Wherever we go and whatever we order Mum exclaims that she could have cooked 10 of them in a tenth of the time and for about a tenth of the price. I must say, I tend to agree with her! It's at the point now where it's fairly comical: "Call that a salad? Some wilted rocket, half a cherry tomato and some unidentifiable shreds of what could have once started life as a carrot which should have gone in the compost bin last week not on someones plate! I could have whipped up coleslaw, a FRESH green salad, boiled eggs, beetroot, and jacket potatoes in less time than it took the waitress to lollop from the kitchen to the table and I would not have served it to my guests with my thump resting atop half of it!"

Now the suggestion that Mum buys ready meals for ease, brings a look of horror and disgust, as if I had suggested she eat her own pooh.
"Preferable!" she quipped!
My Mum is very much of the opinion that in simple terms, you are what you eat. Growing up we were always the kids with a lunch box full of salad and grains. Oh why couldn't we just have a Penguin Biscuit and a bag of Walkers like everyone else? We had soya meat for tea and bran sprinkled on anything and everything. What was wrong with a burger....a real burger that was made from real meat?!
I had no idea back then that what she was doing was giving us a rounded diet full of good wholesome stuff to keep us energised and glowing and full of zest. Of course now I have total respect for my Mum's choices and these days if I have a spot or a headache or feel sluggish I can generally put it down to something I have eaten. We need fuel to live and like a car, if you put in diesel when we run best on petrol, there are bound to be negative side effects!

Well, Sunday was My Mum's Birthday and we are big on family get togethers for any occasion and it appeared to be my turn to provide for the 5000! Well, eleven actually but I catered as though it was 5000!
Wholesome, nutritious and spectacularly yummy was my MO.
Oh, and also easy!
I decided upon an Italian feast. I know I am probably very un pc what with the whole thought nowadays that "carbs are the devil's spawn", but you can't beat a giant bowl of pasta when the whole family are sat around the table.
So if you are catering for a do and you want something wonderfully simple and a real crowd pleaser, you have to make my 6 hour sauce! I am salivating just thinking about it.

Chop up three medium onions and several cloves of garlic and fry them in a big pot until soft. Then chuck in 10 cans of tomatoes. Now I blitzed 7 of them in the blender before adding them but that's your choice. Throw in masses of fresh basil, fresh oregano and fresh flat leaf parsley all chopped, then take a bunch of pork ribs, brown them in the frying pan and toss them into the sauce. Let the sauce come to the boil, turn it to a simmer and leave it for six hours with the lid off to get all jammy and gorgeous.

Now every time you pass to top up your glass of wine, give it a good stir and remember that as it gets thicker, if the heat is too high, the liquid will jump out of the pan like molten lava so keep an eye on the temperature. I have tiny dotty burns on my arms and chest!
After your six hours the sauce will be thick and smell divine. The meat will have melted off the bones so fish them out and chuck them into the bin.
When my sauce was made, I threw some meatballs into the aga and put a kilo of spaghetti into salted boiling water.

Take the meatballs out and put them in a dish smothering them with some of the sauce. Then toss the spaghetti in some sauce and put that in another big bowl topped with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil and parsley. To accompany the meal we had a huge green salad dressed with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and balsamic and just to top off the feast, and to ensure nobody was coming near us for the rest of the week, a cheesy garlic loaf! Add a bottle or two of Shiraz and you are well away!

I know I made it and I am British so I am supposed to be all self deprecating but it really was "The Dogs" as my Brother would say.

Even Mum was impressed! Well, I am a chip off the old block. Home made, nutritious, cheap and easy!
There should be enough sauce left over to freeze and use again....that's if you're not the Free family who wolfed it all down, mopping up the last drops of sauce in the pot with crusty bread.
Happy Birthday Mum - what are you making for tea tonight?!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A shameless plug!

April appears to be the month of new beginnings. In nature new shoots are appearing on the trees, teeny weeny new beaks are poking out of nests waiting to be fed, dead leaves are being covered with bluebells filling the woods like a floating carpet of sapphires and I am finding myself starting 6, count them 6, new classes!
Yay for me...and for you!
Spring has sprung in my life for sure. I am even wearing flip flops to class, although I must say my feet have been bloody freezing!
I am therefore going to do a little shameless plugging if that's OK with you all! Only because I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on new classes in the most positive and passionately energy filled environments, working alongside dedicated professionals. OK, I know, enough now, I am going over the top, I want to entice you to class not the nearest loo to throw up!
So let me tell you about Yogavani. Set up by Lucy and Terri who I met in Morocco during my teacher training, it is a small but perfectly formed hot studio in Potters Bar. I was honoured that these two beautiful ladies asked me to teach for them and I jumped at the chance to be back in a hot environment getting my sweat on again. I must say, it has been really challenging being back in the heat with a more stationary class than I am used to teaching. If I am completely honest in fact, I freaked out when I had to teach a non-flowing sequence for the first time in 2 years...How do you NOT flow into warrior II?! It only took a moment and a smirk from Terri to realise that you simply step into it and then turn your feet in the opposite direction to step into it on the other side!
What a yoga loser!
So I am loving being part of the Yogavani staff. Classes are filling up and I am also finally getting to grips with the MindBody software which electronically books all the classes online. It takes me a few wrong clicks before I get the right ones but I get there in the end!
I teach all classes on a Wednesday so if you  fancy getting hot and sweaty with me, you know where to come!
This week has also taken me to Chesham with new classes starting at The Bagnall Centre for Integrated Healthcare. This is a totally inspirational venue that hopes to offer a whole slew of orthodox and complimentary therapies and treatments from homeopathy to hatha yoga, acupuncture to amatsu massage therapy naturopathy, hypnotherapy and general practice. The aim is to "empower people to take care of their own health, reducing the emotional and financial costs of ill health"

You should see this place.
The brain child of Joanna Hill, it is 6000 square feet of white walled wooden floored heaven set in the footings of an old boot factory at the far end of the town. As well as 8 practitioners clinic rooms it boasts a classroom for lectures, a teaching kitchen with plans to offer nutritional classes to adults and kids alike, showers, a gym and the most beautiful studio.
I love the fact that the light floods into the studio not only from the windows on three sides but also from the skylights which sit way up past the old wooden beams in the vaulted ceiling. It really is a room full of character with the original metal factory windows separating the gym and the studio sporting bare concrete window sills on an exposed brick wall. These contrast beautifully with the clean lines of the light wooden floor, and whitewashed walls.
At the moment at The Bagnall Centre, I am running a Tuesday morning dynamic vinyasa flow at 11:30am and a brand spanking new class, Yoga-Defined on a Friday afternoon at 1:30pm
You ought to come and check out the centre and take a class, at only £8 for a drop in can you afford not to?
Finally, if you are close to Rickmansworth and free on Tuesday mornings or Friday mornings, I am now very proud to be on board with Melissa Scott and her "My Trainer" programme.
Melissa is a personal trainer with many years of experience and an incredible track record for getting her clients or "recruits" as she lovingly calls them, in tip top shape through various different kinds of disciplines. She coaches runners, offers strength training, advises on name it, she can help you with it...fat burning, muscle lengthening, technique perfecting, she's your woman.
So where do I fit in you may well ask?
Melissa is committed to her clients and wants to offer them a total mind body package. As a great business woman she has realised that in order to do that, she needs to bring in other professionals in specific fields to cover more aspects of leading a healthy and happy life.
That's me...I am a professional in my field. Well less a field, more a studio!
So Melissa has acquired some space at Loudwater Farm in Rickmansworth where she is offering My Yoga as well as My Pilates and Team TRX. Izzy, the Pilates Teacher is super glam and full of zest for life and hopefully she and I can bring some ease and calm as well as length and strength to Melissa's recruits complimenting their existing training programme and ultimately their everyday lives.
I am a busy bee!
Exhausted just writing this all down, imagine how I feel at the end of the week after teaching all these classes!
Business is great, I absolutely love my job and am so excited to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and help people see their own potential and become empowered.
Roll on spring!