Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heaven to Hell in 14 tube stops

7 am was the time I stumbled bleary eyed from my cosy warm bed on Friday morning. For those of you not familiar with my sleeping habits, there is really only one 7 O'clock in the day with which I am acquainted and it is not the morning one! I was on the train at 8:01 heading for London and it was actually a fascinating experience. There was a young, trendy business man frantically writing an obviously past due report on his teeny weeny laptop; a girl in the chicest outfit, sporting ugly, ugly trainers, NYC style; an older lady applying full make up including a complete eyebrow grooming session as well as an inspection of the bags under her eyes and stray black hairs on her chin. That was just in the other three seats next to me.

I finally hopped off the tube at Clapham Common and trotted about three minutes round the road to a little piece of yoga heaven. Well, actually it is one vowel off Heaven but what is a vowel amongst friends?!

Yogahaven Clapham, owned by the lovely Krystal Nash and Allie Hill, opened this week and let me tell you, it is STUNNING!
Set off the main road in an uber modern development, it is a beautifully designed and brilliantly thought out yoga studio. The glass fronted building gives off an open and inviting vibe and the 8 foot or so artistic photos of Allie, flawlessy  demonstrating 3 different postures are inspiring and will surely help to get people in the door and onto the mat. It was so great to see these two partners in crime perching behind their sleek desk and mac books, grinning, shattered but pleased as punch at their creation. And so they should be. The entrance area is big and airy with a "menu" of the class prices and package options painted onto the wall behind the desk. There are pigeon holes for shoes and the place smells great, which is a biggy - for those of you who frequent hot yoga studios, you know!!!

There is a small studio next to the lobby that has one glass wall (you can see out from the studio but not in from the road, so no worries about being leered at by passersby!) and fits maybe 15 mats comfortably. Here they will have a variety of classes including Jivamukti, Ashtanga, pregnancy yoga and the super new craze from America, pulse yoga.

Downstairs is the hot studio that is absolutely huge. It holds 55 mats and I was happy to see it also boasts a big skylight so you don't get the feeling of being cooped up like the Chilean miners! Both studios sport motivational  and enlightening quotes painted on the walls and the white and chocolate brown colour scheme is clean and chic.

Now for my favourite part, the changing rooms. GORGEOUS! Well, they have lockers and benches and coat hooks, all the usual suspects, but wait for it, the showers, oh the showers! Individual shower cubicles with frosted doors and drench heads. Thank god! Finally a facility where you don't have to parade around in a sea of sweaty naked women trying to avert your eyes from the sadly neglected bikini lines or the perfectly toned, ten years your junior, bodies, both of which make me quite uncomfortable. I don't know what it is, I am not a prude at all having spent my life as a dancer, often scantily clad and happy to make a costume change in front of anyone. I think it is the brazen way some women flaunt their wares, scrubbing their bits in front of perfect strangers and thinking nothing of drying their hair completely naked. Is there really any need?!
The class was fab. A properly hot studio and Krystal was amazing. She was on my teacher training course with me and all I kept thinking was, I hope I sound as good as her when I teach! She took us through the 90 minute class with ease, reassuring us, guiding us and peppering the practise with titbits regarding anatomical benefits with a large dose of human kindness.

Safe to say, I was in yoga heaven!

After my high pressure, private shower I got myself organised to head off to my next stop of the day. I skipped out the door after gushing about the new studio to the proud owners, looking like an enormous beetroot! Why do I go so red when I get hot? My sister does too so it must run in the family. People were giving me such weird looks on the tube like I had some horrible disease or I had just been the victim of a radioactive accident!
14 stops later, I arrived at Olympia for the annual event that I missed out on last year due to work commitments, The Yoga Show. I am not sure quite what I was expecting but I was so disappointed. It was a huge room full of people pedalling what can only be described as shite! Thai silk trousers in burnt orange with a low slung crotch that you would wear once, until someone laughed you out of the studio, overpriced potions for decreasing anxiety and increasing your overdraft, and 150 different  kinds of yoga mat all claiming to be the best yoga mat in the world! Fighting my way through the crowds and the very flimsy stands that shook if you slightly grazed one corner (as I did on numerous occasions with my large bag stuffed full of sweaty yoga gear), I found myself at a cafe. The organic, free range, eco-friendly, non biological, hormone free, no added sugar, egg and cress sandwich was the saving grace of the show along with the lecture on breathing techniques that I caught whilst chomping.

The final nail in the yoga show coffin was a very odd experience at the Sahaja yoga stand with a hobbit like man named "Uncle Jim" with his randomly shaved face and paint stripper halitosis. I will leave that story for another post!
I left Olympia very disappointed in what I thought was going to be a wonderfully enlightening experience. It turns out that no matter how many thousands of years old something is, there is always room for a good bit of commercialism and consumer madness.
My journey home was long and hot, I was still glowing red from the hot yoga class several hours previously and there was little air in the packed train compartment. Make up lady, report man and trainer girl were replaced with shopaholic, overweight senior citizen and surly teenager, who must have sent 500 texts between Marylebone and Chorleywood!

So I shall not be spending my hard earned cash on a ticket to Olympia next October, however I am very sorry that I don't live closer to Clapham so I can take advantage of all the gorgeous yoganess that Yogahaven has to offer.

If you get a chance, hop on the tube and see for yourself!
Namaste  x

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A note to the critics

We have a bit of a history of writing in my family. My brother Harry has been on the journey to being a prize winning novelist for some time now with his fantastic crime thriller and his most recent piece, documenting the months leading up to the birth of his first child. My brother, Matt, has put down on paper, or rather on laptop, his experiences of living and working abroad, most significantly with "The Romanian Diaries". He and his wife spent a year living in the mountains outside Bucharest just after they got married and the diaries are so witty and tell of a country that is fantastically corrupt and wildly different from anything we could imagine. 

Anyway last night my Mum finally caught up with my blog, (it's bad when you have to cajole your own Mother into supporting you isn't it?!) and she was commenting on how emotionally charged my writing was compared to Matt and  Harry's witty repartee and factual recounting. It wasn't said like it was a good thing! 


She saw my wounded expression and quickly backtracked saying it was just a reflection of my personality and that I am a heart on your sleeve kind of gal!

I have had another comment from someone who shall remain nameless saying that my blog was painting this perfect picture of a rosy life and was just unrealistic.

You can't bloody win!
Too emotional, not emotional enough. Bloody Hell! I am not good at taking criticism! 
Then I got over the pouting and feeling like I should jack in the blog as a light bulb pinged in my head.

Who gives a shit?!

I started this blog because I was inspired to write and like I have said before, this is MY baby! I can say what I want, I can lie if I want, I can pour out my heart if I want, I can write 2 posts a day or leave it 3 weeks if I want. It is escapism for me and I am in control. That is the greatest part, being in complete control of something in your life without any chance of it being taken away or someone messing it up or breaking it. Nobody but me makes the decisions here on this page! 

It is lovely to think that people want to read this blog. I know that my posts have made people laugh and even cry and just think, and say, "you know what, I totally feel that way too, thank God I am not the only one!" 
But if you don't like it or you have a complaint about it then get your own blogspot and write your own!
For me this is like therapy! I always feel better once I have written. I am so crap at meditation, this is like my meditation. An hour sat here typing leaves me refreshed and energised and happy!

So I think my message today Freedom Lovers, is don't let other people dictate what you do that makes you happy. If you love it, bloody keep on with it - unless it's robbing banks or dealing crack that is! Seriously, life is short and fragile and you have to take every ounce of happiness you can get however much it may not completely fit into someone's ideas of how you should be spending your time.
If you get your kicks from sitting in front of Farmville every night for an hour, harvest away! If you love to spend a Sunday afternoon watching the football and shouting at the TV like you run the team, nobody should take that away from you and if it makes you feel good spouting about yoga, food and life in cyberspace, you should blog to your hearts content.

Rant over!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweaty Betty!

I am a sweater! Not the kind you put on to keep out the cold but the kind who has to do merely a deep inhalation in a vinyasa class and the beads start to form on my upper lip! Nice! I have always thought how weird it is, how some people sweat and some really don't.
The other week I was in a particularly packed class and I got there later than usual so I had to squish in at the back, next to slightly ripe smelling goatee man and a very tiny Japanese lady who has no spacial awareness! It was quite a hot day, (when isn't it in Florida?) and the class was "yoga for athletes". It wasn't long before we were doing one legged vinyasas and holding revolving half moon pose for 12 breaths!
Have you done revolving half moon? Try it for 12 hundreths of a second! It is one of those killer balances where you have to engage every single muscle in your body and really concentrate hard on your ujaii breath and if you lose focus for one second you are on one hip on the floor with your other leg in the air trying to unravel yourself. (That could just be my experience of it of course!)
I always have a Yogitoes towel on top of my mat for two reasons, to help with slipage and to soak up the sweat! The problem was that much of this particular class seemed to have been designed so that often we were doing warrior 3 at the front of our mats, with our heads hanging above the bare wooden boards and before too long I had a lagoon of sweat on the floor in front of me. How nasty is that?! But what can you do? I didn't want to stop and keep wiping it up, really ruining the class for me and everyone around me so I kept flowing and so did the sweat!  At the end of the practice, the young pony-tailed man from .happyhealthyhuman who is a magnificent hippy in the loveliest way, turned to me and laughed. We were both dripping wet and frantically trying to mop up our pools of sweat on the floor so that nobody on their way out would have a Tom and Jerry moment and fall flat on their ass(ana!). The worst part was that the people walking past us looked fresh as daisies. "How come we look like we have had a shower and they look as glam as when they walked in?" I asked the Healthy Happy Human. He laughed and said in a very wise and yogic sounding way, "Because we are fitter!"
Now I though he was being sweet and trying to make a slightly neurotic, red faced, heavy breathing 30 something feel better about herself, being the type who preaches free love and world peace, love your neighbour and crochet your own granola, but do you know what, it turns out he was right!
Perspiration is how our bodies cool us down. It is sort of our own built in air conditioning system. Sweating is controlled in the hypothalamus and when our core temperature rises it sends a message to our bodies to start to thermoregulate by sweating and the evaporation of the sweat on the skin decreases our surface, or skin temperature. The more efficiently your body is working as a whole the better the cooling effects of the body, ergo, the more we sweat.
I am so happy to learn that I am not some freak of nature, but a finely tuned machine that is working to its maximum potential. 
OK, I am being a bit ambitious!
Lets just say, I am pretty fit and my body is working efficiently which is really great.
Another friend of mine who has been really getting into yoga said to me recently that she felt great but she was concerned that she seemed to sweat more in class. I gave her the good news and she went away with a smug grin and a spring in her very fit and healthy step!
So next time you feel a drip of sweat run down your cleavage (I have one of those now, very exciting!) or off your brow into your eyes, revel in how marvellous your body is at knowing exactly what it needs and allowing you to exercise without the potential of overheating.
Our bodies our wonderfully complex and completely amazing aren't they?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conversations with a ten year old

So, my ten year old Nephew, Will is quite a character. Dashingly handsome with a wicked sense of humour and very inquisitive with a good measure of eccentricity. He is always giggling and fascinated by everything which makes him great to hang out with because you can talk cars (his favourite subject), fashion, pop music, football, history...pretty much, he has an opinion on everything. I spent the weekend at my sisters and on Sunday morning Will and I ate toast and drank tea together in our pyjamas.

The greatest conversation ensued.

I have to share this bit of pure comic genius!

Will: Fee,(that's me) who is Luten Martha King?
Me: Who? (suppressing a giggle)
Will: Luten Martha King?
Me: Do you mean Martin Luther King?
Will: Whatever!
Me: Why?
Will: Well, at school, in our classroom we have pictures all round the walls of famous people from 1948 to 2010 and...
Me: Who is up there?
Will: The first man on the moon
Me: Whose name is...
Will: Buzz...?
Me: N n n n
Will: Niell Armstrong!
Me: Who else is up there
Will: Buzz....Lightyear... Buzz Aldrin!
Me: Yeah, who else?
Will: I don't know the name of the other man
Me: No you doughnut, not who else was on the moon, who else is up on the wall!
Will: (Giggling) Oh I see!! Dunno! So who is Martin Luther thingy then?
Me: He was a black man who fought for civil rights for African Americans. Back in the fifties and early sixties, black people had to use the seats on the back of the bus. They weren't allowed to go to the same schools as white people and they were treated really badly. So, Martin Luther King tried to help change that. He made a very famous speech, "I had a dream..."
Will: Hmmmmm!

We finished our breakfast as Louisa came in from her run (7am she went out!!! I hate her and her smug athleticism!) and she promptly dragged Will upstairs for a wash and to get dressed.

Louisa and Will drinking tea on the beach!
Will: Mum, do you know who Martin Luther King is?
Louisa: No!
Will: Duh!
Louisa: Well, who is he then?
Will: He was the first black man.
Louisa: What, ever? (snickering)
Will: (Laughing) No! I mean, he was the first black man on the moon!
Louisa: (Unable to speak because she is laughing too much!)
Will: (Also unable to speak through the giggles)
I come upstairs to see what the noise is all about and Louisa recounts the conversation
Me: Come on Will, you know who he is, I just told you
Will: Oh alright Fee, he was the first black man to drive a bus!

Don't you love him!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Falling in love again

Last Friday morning I had a frantic Facebook instant message (Does anyone use a phone for communication anymore?) from a lovely friend who owns a theatre arts school. She was desperate for a dance teacher, that afternoon. She had phoned everyone she knows and I was her last resort....NICE! Anyway, I have no dance stuff here with me, no docking station for my iPod, nothing, but I am not one to turn down a friend in need....or a job! I whizzed back to Prestwood, borrowed a dock from my friends son, threw on my sneaks at my Mum's and buzzed back out the door.
I haven't taught dance in 10 months and had no idea what I was going to do with these kids, but I was really excited and also, a little nervous! I have been living exclusively in yoga teacher mode, where I am composed and calm, encouraging and quietly passionate which I absolutely LOVE, but let me tell you, it was so great to be back to shouting "5 6 7 8..." over the top of blaring hip hop and jumping about like a mad thing. I didn't know how much I had missed that! The kids were so excited to have a new teacher for the day and they were all massively enthusiastic which always makes it so much more fun. I finished the evening sweaty and knackered and with a huge smile on my face. 
And now I am obsessed  with choreography again. I have no more dance teaching work coming up but I want to create and be prepared and amazing (obviously) when the next opportunity arises. The problem is that I have spent the summer being glued to "So You Think You Can Dance". This show has the most incredibly talented dancers and choreographers that I have ever seen. It is one of those programmes that is massively  inspiring because they are so unbelievable and at the same time hugely depressing...because they are so unbelievable! I dream of choreographing Emmy Award winning routines for world class performers, alas that is not my destiny I fear but I can take inspiration from the talent on this show. They are all so dedicated, work so hard and enjoy every second of what they do. Pretty good philosophy for life I reckon.
I went to see the tour of the show at the end of September and I was blown away. It was remarkable on TV but so much more amazing live.
And these dance numbers aren't just frivolous entertainment. Each choreographer has a story to tell and a point to put across and the dancers are the medium with which these artists communicate. Some are funny, some are full of hope, some are down right sad but pretty much all are works of art.
I really wanted to share a whole bunch of these videos with you but I am totally retarded when it comes to adding more than one video to this blog. I am sure it must be possible but I have googled it for about an hour now and I am high school educated, but for the life of me I cant bloody suss it out! Please let me know if you have the knowledge and are willing to share!
This one video I have managed to post here was my favourite number of the season.
"Fix You" is choreographed by Travis Wall, who came 2nd as a dancer on SYTYCD, season 2.
It is the story of his Mother's battle with cancer and how he supports her, and helps to keep her going when she loses her strength to keep on fighting.
Get the tissues ready. 
This is pure brilliance!

So you think you can dance - Fix you - Robert & Allison from Laura U on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh My Aching Dogs!

My body is in pain! Good pain I think but pain none the less!

I don't want to complain too much as I haven't just spent 69 days trapped 2000 feet underground in 30 degree heat and 90% humidity (Bikram would even baulk at that!) waiting, hoping, praying to be rescued. How amazing is that whole story?! I was in tears yesterday as one by one spectacle clad Chilean men appeared out of the ground and into the sunlight where they were reunited with their loved ones. Such a fantastic ending to a story on the news for once! (I have a couple of Chilean readers actually which is very cool.)

My body is hurting from yoga...eek! It has been a week since I practised because, I am not proud of it, but I am the worlds least motivated yogi when it comes to practising at home and I have been so busy catching up with everyone here in the Mother Land that I have had little time to get my butt into a studio and onto a mat. Shame on me! Anyway, last night my lovely girlfirends took me to their usual mid-week class at their very swanky health club. Lots of super skinny birds with the latest in Lululemon yoga togs and perfectly manicured toenails! I felt a bit like a scrungy old heffa but maybe that's just my own insecurities!!! Great studio with lovely space heaters up in the ceiling so it was toasty which was fantastic, as it was so cold outside. In England it is hard to get a good studio temperature in the colder months. In the New World, I am used to a studio where the heating is turning the AC off for a bit!
The class was pretty tough. Not fast but flowing at a fairly slow pace with some major poses thrown in the mix. We were targeting hamstrings with a strong emphasis on splits - split dog, standing splits and  of course humanasana, regular old one leg in front, one leg in the back on the floor. It was a killer! And I am pretty loose in that department (minds out of the gutter please!). The instructor was beautifully calm and enthusiastic and did I mention skinny?! I hate those kind of teachers! Kidding!

Today I felt great and hopped off to the class I used to go to here, with the lovely Julie Bealey. A wonderful teacher in Amersham who just gets it! She understands that all bodies are different and gives amazing modifications and variations and talks so intelligently and with such passion about the posture that suddenly there you are floating into Tittibhasana (fire fly pose) like it was the easiest thing in the world. It is all about lengthening the crown of your head towards her garden apparently! So another fab class and I was energised and relaxed on the way home singing along to Florence and The Machine in the car. Two classes in 16 hours, my Dog Days are certainly over!

I spent the evening at the theatre watching Swan Lake on Ice, which was the most graceful and beautiful vision you have ever seen. Especially if you saw me trying to get up out of my seat at the end to give them a well deserved standing ovation. I was like an old crone! My body had completely seized up! Stiff arms, achy back, tight hips, killer hammies and aching dogs! (feet for those of you who aren't weird New Yorkers!) I am hoping it is because I had ten days off yoga ( I bent the truth a little with a week!) and not that I am an old fart and my body is finally telling me, "No more Mrs!!"

I am now tucked up in bed writing this, hoping that a good sleep will bring new life to my creaky, overworked body. I am thinking a few ibuprofen wouldn't go a miss but I am trying to preserve my stomach lining and steer clear if I can! So instead, a couple of Ryvita and a cup of tea!
Rock and Roll!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Abstinence makes the heart grow... healthier!

I like to think that I have very few vices!
Stop giggling!

I am sad to say that  I stopped smoking 4 years ago. I could tell you the months, days, hours and seconds too if you like, that's how much I miss it. I bloody loved smoking! Everything about it was seductive to me and after 16 years of the addiction I finally and with a very heavy heart gave it up. I was bullied really by my nephews. After them nagging me for months I told them I would give up smoking forever if they would go to bed before 8:30 for a week. I think they may have got  the better end of the deal! I still think about cigarettes and dream that I have started smoking again and sometimes when someone is walking past me with a freshly lit Marlboro Light I have been very close to snatching it out of their slightly yellowing fingers and taking a long, deep inhale on the thing! I have to say, quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done and because it is massively bad for you, I would never ever start again. If I had even one tiny puff I know I would be hooked again instantly. You can't work that hard on something to just throw it all away can you?

Now the reason I am telling you this sad little tale of my nicotine addiction of old, is because I have been thinking about  the fact that a year ago today I gave up drinking coffee and diet Coke and eating crisps. Odd things to give up,  I know, but I will enlighten you!

I can't say that I was a coffee addict really but I did like a cup mid morning and a cup after dinner. But I drank the strong, black kind with a heaped teaspoonful of sugar that went half way up the handle too! The decision to give it up came when I was in Morocco. The villa where we stayed was pretty much stimulant free  but on our days off we ventured out into the real world to get our fixes, and for me that was a nice cup of strong, black coffee. Well any of you who have had a cuppa joe in Morocco can testify to the fact that strong is an understatement when it comes to their coffee. Delicious! That is until my heart started beating triple time and I got the shakes and the sweats and I went into full anxiety attack mode. It was such a horrible, out of control feeling and from then I vowed to never drink coffee again. 
Now diet Coke I am ashamed to say featured heavily in my life up until October 2009. Me, the organic, whole food, free range, home-cooking obsessed yoga fiend! It doesn't seem to go does it but I was on the verge of being one of those freaky eaters who always had to have a secret stash of Diet Cokes under the bed in case of Emergencies! "So giving up coffee Sophie? Then out with the Diet Coke too! Bloody hell! Really! Yes it will be a whole new you! A whole new boring me?..." (This was the conversation I was having with myself! I talk to myself a lot these days. I think I may be mad but apparently real mad people don't know that they are mad - moving on!) And do you know what, I have missed neither the coffee nor the Coke one iota! I thought it would be like the cigarettes and I would cry and crave those delicious goodies to which I was addicted. It turns out drinking coffee and soda is just a habit! Who knew?! And one that can be easily broken. 
The crisp thing is an odd one, I'll give you that! I was eating lots of them and they were making me lardy so I had one farewell bag of Walkers Ready Salted and said adios to the cheeky little fried potato snack! I thought why not, lets make it a trifecta of givingupness!
The question is, now that I have proved that I can live my life free from these things for a whole 365 glorious days, should I say, "been there, done that" and grab a bag of crisps to munch on while savouring my celebratory Diet Coke? Or, knowing that my body is healthier and free of a few more toxins than it had this time last year, do I continue with the ban and see if I can make it 2 years, whilst shining my halo?
The yoga lifestyle is all about cleansing and purifying and leading a healthy and balanced life. Do caffeine and junk food fit well into that? Not so much!  So I think I will keep up the abstinence and maybe even add another, go crazy with my bad self!
But what, you may ask?
I can tell you for nothing that the Shiraz and the Dairy Milk are staying. Non negotiable!
Namaste lovelies!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Precious lives

This weekend has been really fantastic, catching up with family and old friends.
I feel very lucky to have such a great set of people in my life, but I know that I tend to take all those people for granted. I can't ever imagine them not being there to have a laugh with, lend a shoulder on which to cry, offer their wisdom, enjoy our lives together. But this weekend I heard two heart wrenching stories about friends of my Brother and my Sister who have had their their worlds turned upside down. All those things that we all take for granted have been compromised and they have been placed in a world of uncertainty and upset.

Sam, a work friend of my sister, Louisa, was at her desk back in August complaining that she had this terrible sore rash on her forehead and asking if they thought maybe she should go and get it looked at. The following day she came into the office desperately upset saying that she had been diagnosed that morning with Lupus. After a Google session, she seemed to calm down a bit, realising that it was fairly common and treatable although incurable. You see lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself as it can't tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy substances in the body. Absent from work the following day, Louisa was worried and called to find out if she was maybe feeling down about her new diagnosis and needed cheering up. In fact, Sam was in the hospital, on a ventilator, completely paralysed. And this had all happened in 3 days, going from a rash to having Lupus to fighting for her life in ICU. She has now been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome which is very rare and only affects 1 in 100,000 people. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscle paralysis. Sam has been in the hospital now for more than seventy days. Her husband and six year old son visit her everyday and this week saw her able to speak very faintly and move the very tips of her fingers on her right hand. The drugs she is on to help her recover have left her swollen and have perhaps led to her kidneys recently failing. There is every chance that Sam will recover completely from this but it could take as long as a year.

Alex is the 3 year old son of my Brothers good friends, Ben and Miranda. He was complaining back in March or April that he had a pain in his leg. Finally after a week or so of this they took him to the doctors who could find nothing wrong. Another few weeks went by and the pain continued to bother little Alex. A blood test at the doctors in May revealed a high white blood cell count. He has since been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the cells involved in development of the nervous system which affects fewer than 100 children in the UK every year. He is going through aggressive chemotherapy but is responding well, even though it is stage 4 cancer. His father is writing a blog about his progress to keep family and friends updated, which is undoubtedly good therapy for Ben and achingly emotional to read.

The point of sharing these stories is not to depress you all, but to reinforce how precious life is and that we must celebrate our relationships with each other everyday. You never know what is around the corner to challenge you or to take your family or friendship into an unstable position, whether through illness, or something else completely. It also highlights the strength you need to have in life to be able to stand up to adversity and keep on fighting like Sam and her family and Alex and his family all are. Count your blessings, be grateful for the people close to you and thank whoever you thank in these circumstances that you are all enjoying good health and good fortune. And if you aren't then know that we have all been born with the strength in us to fight for our lives if needs be and to keep on fighting until our sea is calm and our ship safely docked.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Embrace the mucus

I have had a few questions about the Neti Pot picture on "Here's to my yoga friends" so let me take a little while to explain. I admit if you haven't done it, it looks a little bit strange to see a picture of someone with a dolly's tea pot shoved up their nose!
Lets go from the beginning! One of the "Niyamas" or the observances of the yogic way of life is "Saucha" which sounds like a kind of yummy Swiss chocolate bar but unfortunately there is nowhere in the yoga history that says that you should stuff as much cocoa into your body as possible! I am thinking of lobbying the yoga alliance about adding that to the eight limbs, but that's another blog altogether! Saucha actually means cleanliness or purity and this cleanliness operates on many levels, so not just making sure you take a shower regularly and blow the day out of your nose after a journey home from the city on the train. You should aspire to breathe clean air, keep a clean house, eat healthy non processed foods, drink clear water etc. This purity can also be extended into your thoughts and actions. Thinking good thoughts, not polluting our minds with negativity or harbouring strong emotions. Hard for me who is a tangle of emotionally charged fixations and obsessions and has a mouth like a sailor! Is life really worth living if you can't have a good swear?! 
me and the neti

Back to the matter in hand. The physical act of keeping clean is much more tangible for me (I shall leave the story of the colonic irrigation that I received as a 35th Birthday present for another day!) and the chance to get to grips with a neti pot seemed like a good challenge.
First get your neti! I got a little purple plastic one off the internet for a few quid but you can go all posh and spend some serious cash on a designer one. I don't know why you would want to as it is not really something you need to be sharing with anyone but each to their own. Victoria Beckham has probably got one in her spring 2011 collection!  If the Beckham route isn't for you then log onto for something cheap and cheerful that will do the job beautifully!
Laurent the neti pro!
I first experienced neti potting when I was on my teacher training. We all trotted off to various bathrooms after we watched our teacher demonstrate the pouring method and then the snotting all over the shop after effects! Loo roll factors largely in the neti experience! So, I diluted a teaspoon of salt in the body temperature water and was ready to go. Pretty much the key in this whole deal is that you have to relax and breathe (shocker!) otherwise you will experience something akin to water-boarding which is not much fun! (if you've ever been incarcerated in  Guantanamo you may know what I am talking about!) So you tip you head over to one side and slightly forward, shove the spout of the pot way up your snozzer, open your mouth and start to pour. It is such a  weird feeling but as soon as the water starts to come out the other nostril it is a very proud moment! Of course you can't get too excited about it because then you forget to breath and you choke and that is not a good look for anyone! I did it with my lovely French friend  Laurent and he is a net pot veteran. He was so sweet, "Yes! Petal you 'ave it! I see ze dribble! Good garl!" It was like a father excited about a first for his precious child! 
After the pouring, half the pot of water through each nostril, then you have to blow. Your nose! (Mind out of the gutter people, this is about cleanliness remember!) Not too hard though because then you get the most horrendous popping in your ears and I speak from experience when I say it bloody hurts! So gently does it and go on, have a look because you have probably never seen so much good snot in one tissue! Be proud, embrace the mucus!
Afterwards there is the feeling of achievement but also the lovely minty fresh feeling as the breeze whistles easily in and out of your nasal cavity with every deep breath.

As you can probably tell, I have become somewhat of a neti pot obsessive. Some love it some hate it. Some find it helps with allergy symptom relief some add a little eucalyptus into the mix to help with sinus pain. It is worth a go once as another thing to say you've experienced in your life. And you know what they say, don't knock it until you've tried it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turn your world upside down!

A newly inspired yogi friend gingerly asked me the other day "Can you do headstand?" Now there seems to be a mixed response when headstand is introduced to a yoga class. Either people freak out exclaiming that they could never do that in a million years or they go full pelt into it and often come out feeling worse for wear. Now I have only started incorporating headstand into my practice in the last year or so and I was one of those weeds who was a little frightened by it. Stand on my head? Won't that hurt...a lot? No thanks! However after a good few months of studying the pose and slowly getting my body used to the idea, I can say that without doubt it has good reason to be called the King of the Asanas. It is the greatest feeling to be perfectly balanced upside down and in fact have no weight on your head whatsoever! 
There are lots of reasons why inversions are incorporated into our yoga practice. In ayurveda it is said that the bodies impurities lay in our lower abdomen so when we raise our feet above our heads these impurities can drain towards our "Agni" or digestive fire located above the lower abdomen. Circulation is  a more apparent reason for our logical western minds. Getting the blood flowing back from the legs to the heart along with any other fluids that need to drain and getting the circulation going in the brain! It also is said to help with the endocrine system, the pituitary, pineal, thyroid and the parathyroid glands that are responsible for our very existence. The spine can be realigned by this posture, vital organs can be repositioned in the body and the whole body can be revitalised and re-energized. My favourite reason for doing this incredible posture however, is to simply get a different perspective on the world. I love that idea! Sometimes if you look at something from another angle, whether it be a problem, a puzzle, a picture or an idea you can often get a whole new inspiration. How about that!

The most important thing about headstand is that it is done with care and control under guidance of a great teacher who can lead you safely in and out of the posture. I have read two articles lately about really long term yoga practitioners who have suffered injury from practising Sirsasana purely because they had rushed in and not set a firm foundation every time. By a firm foundation, I don't just mean that you should get your hands, arms and head in the correct position, you need to have set yourself up with a good solid yoga practice before you venture into upside down world. Your body needs to be strong and relaxed to draw yourself up into headstand and to hold the posture in order to reap the benefits. In my experience the weight should be through the shoulders and the forearms, so that no weight is taken through your very delicate neck (Mine is very delicate!) and a piece of paper could be slipped under the crown of your head. 
So I say don't be afraid to stand on your head, but when you do, do it slowly and mindfully every time, listening to your body along the way. And when you get up there, which may take minutes or days or even years, as always, breathe and enjoy the incredible feeling.
Headstands rock!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Freedom Yoga blog is a month old! I am so excited, a) that I have managed to keep it going for a month and b) that people are reading it! My following is small but very loyal and mostly people that I know. HOWEVER! The big news is that I have a follower who I don't know. Thank you msbunnyone! This is a big deal! I also had someone from Russia read my blog! Only once, but Russia for goodness sake! I am obsessed with checking my stats: How many people read my posts today, this week, this month; how many different website referrals; where in the world is my audience; do they look at Freedom Yoga blog on their Mac, iPad, blackberry!
I know, don't say it. I know am a saddo!!!

Thank you to all those who are supporting my ramblings. You are gorgeous and obviously have great taste!

So my brother Harry, does this thing on Facebook every once in a while that he calls "Housekeeping". It is sort of like getting all his ducks in a huddle - Who has got my Duck Soup DVD? Why do my goldfish still smell? Mark my words, I will die of a heart attack/stabbing incident in a traffic jam unless I learn to keep my cool and Daisy just threw up on my freshly dry-cleaned suit.

I love these status updates so I hope you don't mind H, but I pinched the concept for my monthly round-up post.

My boobs are 34 B!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am thinking of getting some confetti launchers and hiring a marching band to follow me around. Too much?
Barb is still at Publix. She has however dyed her hair a fashionable shade of lilac and has lately been seen stacking shelves. Was the manager watching the rutabaga transaction I wonder?
Running is yet to start, however gorgeous jeans buying did happen! I still plan to run but need to buy trainers.
You see if I was Oprah...
If I was Oprah I would have someone to run for me!
My big toes are now back to smooth fabulousness after the 108 sun saltues. I have yet to teach a class with a sodding om in it and I bloody hate Smug Bird in yoga class who never sweats and effortlessly glides in and out of eight angle pose like a ninja!
The polygamy show is very controversial and totally rubbish but completely addictive, Gumbo is more delicious the next day and my gout is so much better since becoming very dull and laying off the red wine. By the way, my fantastic friend Luce has given me a homeopathic remedy for all you poor gout sufferers: The bottle says, tissue salts no 10 nat phos - which apparently neutralises lactic acid in tissues!
Finally, I know for sure that I love my blog, my followers, the people who share me on Facebook and anyone who has said anything nice about me or my blog in the last month! You see, I know something else for sure! WooHoo!

I am so looking forward to seeing what drivel will spill out of my brain this month. Hope you guys are too! After all, I have a trip to England and all the excitement that that will bring. Lots of catching up with family and friends in the Mother land will surely produce much material for this humble page. We have trees changing colour and cool weather, pumpkin soup and hot chocolate (my Sister-in-Law makes great hot choc.!)
Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that this is a yoga blog! I am excited to go to some new classes at home and get lots more inspiration. 

So thanks again September supporters and keep on checking me out because October is shaping up to be blogtastic!

Or the English translation,The light within me salutes the light within you!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What Do You Know For Sure?

Oprah has this page in her magazine every month entitled "Things I Know For Sure". She was talking about it during an interview with J.K. Rowling the other day and I though it was quite an interesting concept. So, I got a pen and a piece of paper, old school I know, and decided to write down the things that I know for sure.
Fifteen minutes later I was still sat pen in hand staring at the blank page feeling completely panicked.
Bloody Hell! This is harder than I thought!
As soon as you think of something, something  that you positively  know for sure, you can then counter it with a million questions and queries and it becomes something that you thought you knew but in fact you hadn't allowed for all the questionables. By minute 17 I had decided that I am a complete wreck with no clear ideas in my mind! No dependable consistencies! No "for sures"!
If I was bloody Oprah I could "Know For Sure" that I would never be worrying whether I could afford to replace my knackered pink Converse! Mrs 2.3 Billion dollars! I would also know for sure that false eyelashes are good at any time of day or night and that Tom Cruise is a little bit mental!
J.K. Rowling said she knew for sure that love conquers all! Lovely thought J. K. but I think what you meant to say is that you know for sure that a billion dollars can buy you a lot of botox.
Oooh! Harsh! I know, I am sorry! I do love her and her Harry potter empire and I think both her and Oprah are doing fantastic things for the female race. They are living proof that with talent, hard work and perseverance you can make a few bob even though you do have hormonal swings occasionally and wear skirts!
I was wondering how other people would answer this question.
Ghandi would probably have said that he knows for sure that he was pivotal in helping India gain it's independence from British rule and also that grit in your sandals can cause havoc in the way of blisters on a long march to the sea!
Katie Price knows for sure that she could never do better than Peter Andre and, bad publicity is still publicity!
Mark Zuckerberg knows for sure that you can be socially retarded and  yet still create a multi billion dollar empire with the worlds most famous social network. Great film by the way. (Sorry John Beagley but I am totally addicted to Facebook and shall not hear a bad word said about our 26 year old boy wonder and his creation!)

So back to the blank page and hovering pen at my kitchen table.
I put the pen down and decided to let the question wash over me for a bit to see what surfaced! Actually, I have pondered over this for a few days now.

This is what I have come up with:

  • I know for sure that I am a girl! Stick with me, it gets better!
  • I know for sure that being a girl comes with certain expectations and I am willing to accept that, live up to and perhaps surpass the good ones and try and help to dispel the bad ones.
  • I know for sure that the sun will rise everyday no matter how much you think it shouldn't or don't want it to and in fact the rising of the sun enables all sorts of fantastic adventures to unfold.
  • I know for sure that I am one day going to be able to take myself into eight angle pose, and hold it long enough  for me to breathe out!
  • I know for sure that I am going to continue to eat Dairy Milk with gay abandon, not caring about the calorific content!
  • I know for sure that if you take a moment and close you eyes and breathe, when you open your eyes you are much more able to cope with the situation in front of you.
  • I know for sure if I was Mark Zuckerberg and being in my mid twenties and worth 6.9 billion I wouldn't be living in a rented house and driving a clapped out old Honda!
  • I know for sure that if I learnt how to type it wouldn't take me so long to write this blog!
  • I know for sure that I am loving, lovable and loved!

So that's me.
what about you?
What do you know for sure?
Let me know. Maybe we can enlighten each other on this one. Maybe you know something for sure that will make somebody else's day.
Feel free to comment on here or on Facebook. We can start a new craze!

Namaste my fellow Freedom lovers and thanks Oprah!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Slow Flow by Candlelight

Now as you probably know I am pretty much a power yoga junkie. I like to flow and I like to move and I like to get hot. If there isn't a steady dribble of sweat coming off my nose, fingertips, and earlobes I am wondering what is wrong!

I started out in yoga about 5 years ago doing Bikram. Now for those of you not familiar with this super trendy style of yoga let me get you up to speed. You don't want to feel left out on the yoga buzz!
Basically you are in a big sweat box with a load of other people slogging your way through 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. I know it sounds awful but let me tell you, it is so addictive. I went once, and was completely hooked. I was dripping before the class started in 102 degree heat and 60% humidity. I know, some of you are thinking, "Sophie, that's not a yoga studio, that's a Swedish steam room for relaxing in!"

So after a few years of giving my money to Mr. Choudhray, multi millionaire behind the Bikram Yoga phenomenon, I decided I wanted to learn how to teach yoga. Bikram's teacher training is $$$$$$ so I did what everyone between the ages of 12 and 75 do these days when they want some information, I got on Google and searched. That was where I discovered YogaHaven, offering "The only hot yoga training in Europe", which was much more affordable than Bikram and so I signed up!
Now it was at my teacher training that my eyes were opened to so many styles of yoga of which I had no idea. I studied Iyengar and Scaravelli, Kundilini and yin and I was completely amazed by Vinyasa flow. How incredible that just by breathing and steadily moving through postures you can create the heat within your body. And you can sweat! No heaters or humidifiers required! Groovy!

I am now a complete Vinyasa fan. No more Bikram for me thank you very much - I am grateful to Bikram Yoga because if I had not studied that style of yoga I would never be where I am now, but from here on in, I choose to flow.

Back to the power yoga junkie thing!
I usually take "core yoga" or "yoga for athletes" or Ashtanga. You know, all those hard core ones but this week I couldn't make my normal practice times so I pitched up, mat in hand to "Slow Flow by Candlelight". OK then! Open your mind Sophie and see what happens. OMG!
It was the most gorgeous class I have ever been to! Can  a yoga class be gorgeous? The room was outlined with T Lights in different coloured glass votives and the lights were dimmed. There was a faint smell of incense coming from a larger candle on the front desk and the mood was so calm.
The wonderful teacher started us all in Balasna (Child's Pose) and explained the reasons for doing a slow flow. She talked about how we all tend to rush through our poses in class and don't often get to savour the feeling in a good deep Warrior or a lovely hip opening Pigeon. This coming from the woman whose classes usually consist of 85 sun salutes, every Warrior variation known to mankind, 300 kinds of psoas stretch and a million core strengtheners all slotted beautifully and effortlessly (by her not us!) into 60 non stop minutes of heart racing yoga flow.

So how was the slow flow I hear you ask?
It felt like floating. 
The music was beautiful, her voice was calming and encouraging and the pace of the flow was spot on. I think I got more out of that class than I have in any vinyasa class so far. Not to say that I am going to ditch the power stuff and go all soft on you! But it was so lovely just to be able to really feel the poses, or really not, and just put your knees down and simply feel the breath!

By the final relaxation I was blissed out like never before.

I have therefore sworn never to get obsessed with one thing and become blinkered again. I did it for 4 years with Bikram and I have now done it over this power class obsession. I am so glad that the planets aligned and my schedule changed so I got to experience this amazing class. Perhaps we all need to be a bit more open to new things and spread our wings a bit. Perhaps you need to break out from your usual routine! You never know what might happen and you might actually discover something new and fantastic!

And so, inspired, I have made a "Slow Flow By Candlelight" playlist here on my iPod on the side of my blog. (I'm not bragging , but that is pretty cool and techy of me isn't it?!) Check it out and please feel free to use it in your next class or even play it at your next  dinner party. Whatever you do with it, enjoy it, with my compliments!