Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Power To The People!

I discovered another hidden gem in the world of yoga studios today. Not really hidden as I have known about it for about a year but just haven't got my arse into gear and got there until now. Shame on me! And shame on you if you don't book yourself in and take a class with them as soon as possible. It may change your life...or it may simply change the way you feel about your hips if nothing else!
My lovely friend Lucy has been singing the praises of The Power Yoga Company for about a year now and telling me how it would be hugely up my street. You know, Dynamic alley, in Great Powerdom, Sweatsville! And what can I say but "Thank you Ms Corrin!". I had the best 60 minutes I have had for a long time, well excluding watching the Gwyneth Paltrow episode of Glee! (That show is pure genius from start to finish. I just love it!)
So, my friends Terri and Lucy and I have started to become yoga tourists. We have been trying out a few different places for inspiration. I think it is so important to experience lots of different styles of yoga with lots of different teacher because whatever you think of the class, you will always come out having learned something, even if its only "I'm not bloody going there again!" Now the aforementioned yoginis are also keen to check out other studios because they are embarking on a new project themselves which is very exciting. Soon there will be a fabulous new and hot yoga studio in Barnet, North London!
None of us were disappointed today, we got a lovely experience all round, in a simple, clean, inviting studio with a positive and encouraging teacher who challenged our bodies and our minds with a dynamic flowing sequence. The room was toasty warm, not malaria hot, which was just perfect. As Lucy and I discussed, sometimes when you are flowing you need to concentrate on just that, not the sweat that is running in rivers down your face, arms and torso, getting you all bothered and slippery so you couldn't do a down dog if your life depended on it! And dont get me wrong, I love the heat, my first four years of yoga were at Bikram Yoga in Merritt Island Florida and I was a complete obsessive. I think it is the dancer in me that likes a good sweat!     But when you need to be able to anchor yourself to a mat and move quickly in and out of poses, personally I like it just warm. Call me old fashioned!!
The studio at the Power Yoga Company is fairly small and mats are already laid out for you so no need to bring your own. Again, personally I thought they were a little close together but when you are running a business and you are in demand...I mean we all squash up on a tube train right?! I read an article actually I think it may have been in Yoga Journal saying people in cities are happy to have their mats really close together where as people living out in the sticks like a little space between them and their yogi neighbour. Makes sense I suppose. Don't we all move to the country to get a bit of distance?
The white washed walls and wooden floor made for no distractions, the music was current and funky and the flickering tea lights on the window sills added a touch of cosiness. But for me, the best part by far was the sequence. 
First off, how did the beautiful and knowledgeable, but far too skinny for my liking yoga instructor keep it all in her head?
Secondly, who knew you could go straight from revolving chair back into revolving side angle with a clench of the pelvic floor and a good deep inhale?
And what about taking hold of your big toe and opening up your chest after bird of paradise pose?
I was blown away at the excitement of the whole routine. As you can imagine, after putting this blog post to bed, this ex dancer is getting to work on her own flow! I think I just didn't realise you could have so much freedom with sequences.
Safe to say, I am a big fan of The Power Yoga company! Particularly because after class the three of us, bundled off to a lovely cafe round the corner for boiled eggs on toast and freshly squeezed carrot and parsley juice! Well not me actually, I was on tap water...I cant do the whole carrot juice thing for some reason, it just freaks me out to drink vegetables!
So go and check it out. You can book in on-line, pay by credit card, they have a mat for you there, it couldn't really be any simpler?
All you have to do is get off the sofa and get your butt to Parsons Green!
Believe me when I say, you won't regret it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Put a little spring in your step!

Today, it feels like spring has sprung.
my beautiful tulips
OK, OK, I am being a little over enthusiastic! After all, it is only Feb 16th and it is still bloody cold here in Blighty (roll on Easter in Florida) but the wind-flowers and snow drops are poking their beautiful little heads up in my Mum's Teletubbiesque front garden and I haven't worn gloves all week so far and as I sit here writing this at 4:30pm I see blue sky out the window, not darkness, so in my mind, something is definitely up! I think the real reason I am saying this is because after an absolute bastard of a seven days, where everything that could possibly go wrong did, I have to cast off the misery of the crappy week and the long winter. I bought some beautiful tulips, some amazing organic goodies and to welcome in the spring, I am about to make the most delicious tasty goodness you have ever had.
Well, excluding Dairy Milk and Dom Perignon and my Mum's roast potatoes!
My sister found this fanatstic recipe in a magazine she was reading in the hospital waiting room, ripped it out, got the ingredients on the way home and whipped it up. Now if you know my sister, this is quite funny because her and her husband must own about forty cookery books between them, they are total foodies and concoct incredible gastronomic delights on a daily basis, but never once from a recipe book I don't think! Their boys may grow up to be food critics...scratch that, they already are; "Dad you over did it on the lemon grass I think" and "Is there any need to add birds eye chillies to every meal?" and "Mum! If you ever try and stuff a marrow again I shall be packing my bags"!
Anyway, I went to Sainsbury's to shop for ingredients. I know I should have gone to the farm shop and the butchers but I had to get petrol for my car, even though it looks like it should be a clockwork vehicle, and it is so much simpler to do it all in one place: petrol then food then home, no parking fifteen different times! By the way, why do people get petrol, then go into the BP shop and do their weeks shop for forty minutes then wander out slowly, tart around for five minutes trying to find their keys, then another ten putting on their seat belts and checking their text messages before realising that there is a whole queue of irate drivers with empty petrol tanks waiting for them to bloody move?
Or is it just me?
I feel better about going to one of the big five by buying everything organic and free range and fair trade and all those things that make you feel very smug about your place in the world. This then also allows you to look at the person in front of you at the check out with slight disdain (which I love!) for having in their trolley, shock horror, a white loaf, or the very devil itself, a six pack of diet coke! Damn you aspartame!
Now you are thinking, "Shut up Sophie and get on with the bloody recipe!"

look at all the yummy goodness!
So here we go with...
Chicken and Barley Broth
For the broth you need:
around a 2.5lb chicken (please buy free range, poor things!)
4 bay leaves
a carrot roughly chopped
an onion roughly chopped
10 peppercorns (if you put in 11 I don't think you will ruin it!!!!)

It gets better!
You shove all these ingredients into a large pan, cover it over with water, bring it to the boil and let it simmer gently for 2 and a half hours with the lid on.
At this point you have time to crack open a bottle, get on the phone to your friends, write a blog...the options are endless!!
Then after your 2 and a half hours are up, you are going to have to grab some tongs and negotiate your way round a very overcooked chicken, trying to wrestle it out of the pan before it falls apart and you are left with nothing but one tiny bone in your tongs and the rest back in the pan but this time in pieces!
I suggest you put it through a colander. You then want to get as much chicken off the bone as possible in big chunks, then discard the carcass and other stuff.
Next, put the meat back into the broth along with 5oz pearl barley, season well then bring it to the boil and let it simmer for 45 minutes (You need to start this project in the morning!) After 20 minutes, add a head of fennel, chopped, 4 carrots, sliced, one onion, chopped and 3 leeks, sliced.
Now pretty much it is done. You can add a stock cube if you think it needs it (or some bouillon concentrate) and ten minutes before serving, add 5oz tiny pasta shapes (I like stars) and a good handful of chopped fresh parsley.
This is so delicious served with, you guessed it, crusty bread covered in think curls of cold butter!
Enjoy Freedom lovers!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back it up for goodness sake!

Why didn't I back up all the data on my computer? 
This is one of many things I am asking myself today. I feel so angry with myself and so fed up with bloody technology. I was just sitting in bed last night, minding my own business watching "Weeds" on my laptop when suddenly there was an annoyed sort of BEEP from my lovely, faithful Inspiron 1520. Was it upset by the bad language bandied about in the show I was watching or was it just tired having been working hard for me all day? Turns out, it was utterly fed up apparently because it plain gave up on me!
 There was me thinking of it as my friend when all the time it had been playing me like a fool. "I shall work like a charm for 4 years or so, then when she has got to rely on me and to love me and put her heart and soul into me, I shall crap out without a moments notice taking all her precious pictures and documents and music with me, never to be seen again. Mwaaahaaahhahahaha!"
My lovely, lovely techie friends (everyone needs a techie friend in their life) at CentraStage gave it their best shot this morning bribed with doughnuts and offers of free yoga classes. They took it apart, tried to get the hard drive to work on various other computers but I was soon told by lovely Nick, with a very long face and apologetic tone "It's not spinning Soph!"
So thats it then? My life, gone, in a beep? 
Of course I have an external hard drive but do you know where it is? In a shipment of all the physical parts of my life winging its way to Florida. I have not backed anything up for about a year because, "that won't happen to me". Like winning the lottery or love at first sight...yeah right!
I am here to tell you, it will! Back it up. All of it. Pictures, documents, music, the lot. It takes a minute and you will thank me one day!
So here I sit, puffy eyed from crying and twiddling my thumbs hoping above all hope that the bespectacled teenager that my sister suggested I call is going to phone me any minute and tell me he has recovered all my stuff. He seemed confident and annoyingly excited at the prospect of this challenge as he gingerly unscrewed the back of my laptop and wiggled out the offending object.
So if you can all send some good vibes my way I would be most appreciative and who knows...I may get to see my wedding pictures again!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dog days

A lovely friend of mine announced boldly the other night during a girly dinner, "I hate downward facing dog!"
Just to clarify, although she is French and therefore naturally a little bit mad, she didn't just make this statement out of the blue, we were in yoga discussion! Another one of my girlfriends always comes out of downward dog with tears running down her unnervingly healthy looking and perfectly made up face. Now, personally, I love down dog, the unmatched stretch through the whole back side of my body, the strength I feel through my arms, the way I can feel the breath and the energy coursing through every part of me, the calming feeling it inspires in me...blah blah blah! I am such a yoga bore sometimes aren't I? As my Mum would say," If only you had been as passionate and dedicated with your school work!"  Anyway, the girls got me thinking a bit more deeply about the down dog phenomenon. Obviously although supposedly a calming, resting posture, Adho Mukha Svanasana, (for all those tongue twisting sankrit lovers out there) apparently does not suit everyone.
Which is actually pretty cool.
Stick with me people!
For example, I feel really uncomfortable in back banding postures. Now from what I have read and been told, this is quite common in strong controlling types of people. No rude comments please! People who like to be calling the shots all the time, find it difficult to move in a direction that they can't necessarily see and that could put them out of control, off balance!
See, interesting right?! 
So then I got researching.
In ayurveda, every living thing is made up of five elements: air, ether, fire, water and earth. These elements then combine in pairs to form Doshas, or governing principles. So, in a nut shell each of us falls into one of the three Dosha categories and that determines what kind of person we are, physically, emotionally, in character, vitality etc.
Vatta, Pitta and Kapha.
 I won't drag this out and give you a lecture in ayurvedic philosophy but  it is pretty interesting that what type of person we are, more fire, than water, more earth than air, can determine perhaps which yoga poses suit us and which we just can't get to grips with. Now if you are more air you may find it hard to do an inversion. Or if you are more water you might prefer the flow of a vinyasa class to a more static Iyengar practice. Apparently you can balance your elements by pushing through the mental and emotional barriers in your practice and going for those more dreaded poses. As long as there is no physical discomfort, of course.
As with all yoga postures, we can react differently on different days, that is what is so unique and incredible about each of us. Downward facing dog can be merely a stretch one day and a heart opening emotional release another. It can be challenging one day and restorative the next. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Whatever it is today, live it! You can't change it. And once it is done, it is done and you move on, not dwelling on the why's and wherefores.
With such an array of benefits however, one thing is certain, you have to admire it!