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!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Practice what you preach!

I have an injury!

I am a pretty poor example of a yoga teacher right now and yes, before you say anything, I feel bad!
Imagine a squeezing feeling just at the left side of your waist with a bit of a tingle and every now and then a real "Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!" and that is what I have had for about five months.

Gasp in horror! Yes, you heard right, five months!

After a massive panic about two weeks ago that I might have some awful kidney problem (ever the drama queen!) I finally decided that I had to go and get myself checked out. My comedy Doctor told me it was a structural problem and that I should rest for two months!
Um, not an option Doc!
It was time to bite the bullet and so I found myself dialing an Osteopath who had been recommended by a friend on several occasions.
Paul Mitterhuber is a miracle worker! Well actually he is a body worker but he has healing hands and the most incredible anatomy knowledge of anyone I know.
After a short consultation it was kit off and straight onto the table. I was anxious and nervous as to what he was going to find and its always overly hot in those offices isn't it, so very unattractively, I was sweating! Paul's long years in the business have allowed him to develop a wonderfully gentle bedside manner. He seems to have a deep respect for his patients and doesn't miss a beat, whether its a sudden short intake of breath, a sweaty palm or a tense little toe. When he knew something potentially uncomfortable was upcoming he asked me, "So how did you come to be a yoga teacher?" or "What were the big 40 Birthday celebrations like?", anything to get your mind off the discomfort and a little more relaxed allowing him to work his magic without undue pain to his patient.

Love him!

So, I was sent home with some exercises, a tennis ball and some Biofreeze gel which by the way is something that everyone should have in their medicine cabinet!
(Nb. tennis ball is for self massage technique, I wasn't prescribed a game of singles!)

I felt absolutely great on day one and day two, by day three I was starting to stiffen up, by day four I was walking like I had a body cast on and day five I slept fitfully for approximately 4 hours in between popping 400mg of Ibuprofen!

My long sad face said it all when I hobbled back into Paul's office.

"Sophie! Its been five or so months in the making, you can't expect it to go away after one session with me!"
"But I did!" I wanted to cry like a sulky six year old!
"I've stirred everything up and your body wants to naturally go back to where it was so its fighting what I did. Don't worry, we can sort you out, but you have to be patient!"

Still love him!

During my second session of Osteo, being clicked and pulled and twisted I also found myself being lectured!
Not in a bad way, in a way that I needed, that was long overdue.
Paul asked me what I do for myself.
"I work! I love my job!"
"But you need to spend a little time doing something just for relax!"
"No time to relax Paul. I am building a business!"
Then he produced his trump card
"Sophie, the pain you are experiencing in your hip and your groin and your back and your shoulder is pretty much due to worry and stress. I know I have only met you twice, but I can see by your body that you are the sort of person who appears all happy and content with everything together on the outside while inside you are a mess trying to juggle a thousand balls. The whole of your left side has become so tight due to your emotional state that it is restricting you. I don't want to sound like your Dad lecturing you, but you have to find a little time in your schedule to look after yourself for a change. You are in a profession where you give to others, you hear about their problems and worries, you give them your energy and help them to feel great. You need to practice what you preach and do that for yourself too!"

Bloody Hell!A telling off at 40!

He is completely right of course.
Anyone who runs their own business spends so much time working hard to make it a success and they generally fail to remember that without a healthy and happy person at the helm, their business is nothing.

I Left Paul's office with my tail between my legs and a plan in place for de-stressing.

You want to hear my cunning plan?
I am going to take Sundays off!

There are so many things that I really love to do that I haven't done for ages because Freedom Yoga has muscled in on my entire life. I am going to start cooking again. I love to cook. I am never happier than with a wooden spoon in one hand and a glass of wine in the other! I am going to restore an old pine chest that has been sitting unloved in the garage for ages. I am going to go out for walks with my family and pick up beech nuts and interesting bits of bark, then leave them in my coat pocket only to find them months later! I am going to live outside of yoga practice and emails and updating facebook pages and preparing sequences!

Wow! I feel better already just writing that down!
My name is Sophie and I am a workaholic!

From now on, on Sundays I am going to get dressed in normal clothes and just being plain old Sophie from Prestwood!

Physically I obviously need to get back in touch with that girl and mentally too! I think the people around me need to see her once in a while as well!

Don't worry Freedom Lovers, during the week I will still play Sophie, Power Yoga Queen ready for world domination!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Confidence is Freedom

OK, there are definitely days when you get up and feel a bit pants and then there are other days when you feel pretty good about yourself, right? 

Today was a feeling good kind of day.

I sprung (well not actually sprung but maybe groaned a little less than usual) out of bed this morning, had a speedy hot shower and did the bravest thing that any girl over 40 (only a few weeks over 40 mind!) can do. I slipped my towel off my hot damp body (sorry, now its sounding like porn!) and positioned myself in front of the full length mirror. Gingerly of course, starting at one side of the mirror so as not to scare myself! As my body came fully into view I was actually not as horrified as I imagined. In fact, dare I say it, I was a little bit chuffed! So 40 (and a tiny bit), with no serious cellulite, an in and out sort of waist hip thing going on and what Dawn French would consider a "Tom Boy Tum"!

Yay for sun salutations and giving up coffee!

I got dressed in real clothes, which I rarely get to wear because I am always in yoga get up, and after a slick of mascara a bit of a blow dry and a spritz of Jo Malone I was headed out the door to a couple of appointments.

Appointment one was good. Appointment two, good too, but my "look at me all 40 and gorgeous" had been replaced with a "God I'm rubbish!"
I hate that, and it happens often. I get dressed look in the mirror and think, "you know what Fee? You're alright you are!" and then I go out, meet other people and think, "Why am I not like that? Why don't I look like that? Why didn't I say that/wear that/be that?"

Please tell me I am not alone in this!

Now, I know I have issues!
Bizarrely most people who first meet me think I am the most together person they know. It is only when they delve deeper and get to know me better that they realize I am absolutely and hopelessly lack of confidence personified.
Lets just say that my self esteem cupboard is bare!
I am also ashamed to admit that I am completely shallow and obsessed by appearance. Mostly other people's and how mine doesn't match up.

Now on the way home from lunch with gorgeous thing one and fashionable thing two, doing the whole woe is me thing, a funny thing happened. I actually stopped myself in mid thought and told myself off! Now I am sounding like a mad woman...stop nodding!
"Fee!", I said. "Stop it!" I said it a bit sternly actually. I frightened myself!
 "You are still as gorgeous as you were in the mirror this morning."
"Was that bird so beautiful? Was that other one so trendy? NO! They were both really really confident! They are both happy in their skins, with who they are, with no apologies and no doubts."
"And that my friend is what you need to be!"
I said this last sentence a second time to myself with a bit less anger than the first time, with my gentle voice usually saved only for savasana, adding an air of compassion and an encouraging smile!

I know I am not the only one out there who feels like this, but I think my lack of confidence limits me daily. I need to have the courage to remind myself of my acvhievment, of my decent size brain and my lack of cellulite.
I need to celebrate myself, not apologise for myself!
No, I may not be quite as fantastically leggy as X, but I bet she can't hold those gangly pins up in boat pose for very long. Y has amazing eyes but I wouldnt give up my smile for hers, not  in a million! And so what if Z thinks that Bikram Yoga is the only way to go. Its horses for courses and maybe if she was a little more open minded, LIKE ME, should would discover a whole new world opening up to her.
Confidence is beauty
Confidence is power
Confidence is freedom.
And because of my constant quest for freedom, in particular, I need to make some changes.
Do you want to hear my cunning plan?
I am going to start bigging myself up a bit, quietly, on the inside for starters, and then hopefully, like breathing in and out, it will eventually become an autonomic reflex. I won't have to gee myself up, I will know that I am lovely and intelligent and have a valid opinion and a big heart.
And then, if I persevere, one day as if by magic, I will be one of those elusive confident people!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wreck smeck!

OK so if you haven't already heard, Yoga can wreck your body!
Journalist and yoga student, William Broad made this controversial announcement recently in the New York times and since this bomb shell hit on January 5th, yoga practitioners the world over have been questioning their practice.

Yes, me too! Shocking I know because I am so secure!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The gist of the story is that this guy Broad some years ago, found he could alleviate the pain of a disc rupture in his lower back with a series of yoga postures which he practiced frequently until one day his back gave way in extended side angle pose. This one blip made him question his entire practice and the merits of yoga as a restorative practice on the whole.

He was pretty quick to turn on his trusted friend yoga who had helped him through the pain in his back for so many years!

The story continues with Broad seeking out renowned New York yoga teacher Glen Black to give him the skinny on whether yoga was damaging for the body. This guy seemed to be intent on proving that yoga, which has become so incredibly popular the world over not only for its physical benefits but also for the mental, emotional and spiritual journey that a practitioner travels, was very very bad for you indeed!

I am happy to say that the answer that really comes from Mr. Black is that lack of awareness is what damages the body, not yoga!

Take that Broad!

Were you working to your own personal edge in your side angle or were you looking at the bloke next to you thinking "If he can get there then I am sure if I push myself I can too"? Were you being led by your ego rather than letting go of its leash and being honest about your true capabilities? Were you just about surviving in your pose rather than backing off to a point where you were happy and comfortable and most importantly able to breathe?!

Now Glen Black is hugely knowledgeable and his message is "I make it as hard as possible. It's up to you to make it easy on yourself".
You have to, as Black says, "pay attention to your thresholds of pain". Its no good puffing and panting and shaking and shuddering and grimacing yourself into a posture only to find that you are in pain. As he says, that's not yoga. That's a bunch of physical exercises thrown together without any thought about the way in which you are approaching them.

Lets face it, anything can wreck your body if you allow it to: rugby, dancing, alcohol, food, pregnancy, the sun.

The list is endless.

But we have choices. We have in all of us the ability to either nurture ourselves and listen to all the messages our body sends us every minute of every day, or we can think ourselves invincible and push ourselves to the limit in every way.

Whatever you choose to do, you have to be willing to live with the results and consequences.
You cannot hold anyone else responsible for the outcome but usually if you are being aware and mindful as well as kind to your body and mind you won't have much to complain about!

So my job as a yoga teacher is to keep on reminding you of that. I tell all my students in every class that everything is an invitation, you don't have to come on the ride!
It is also my job to be as informed as possible not only about yoga but about my students. I don't claim to know it all, I don't even think Glen Black knows it all (William Broad may well do!) however I am committed to knowledge of my field and to the safety of my very lovely and very precious students!

Yoga makes you aware of your strengths as well as your weaknesses, it allows you to get to know yourself inside and out and realise your true potential, if you let it!
So don't become one of cynical Mr. Broad's statistics.
Next time you step into the yoga room, promise yourself that you will listen, be honest and most of all, breathe!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Indian Bells and Oms!

"You're not like a normal yoga teacher!"

That's what one of my clients told me last week. I obviously looked a little confused and crest fallen because she very swiftly added "Sophie, that's a good thing!"
OK so let me explain. To me, being "normal" usually means conforming and being pigeon holed and lets face it, a bit boring! I certainly have tried never to do that my whole life up until now, however when it comes to yoga, I want to be taken seriously.

Herein lies the question: Do I have to conform to the stereotype of a yoga teacher to be able to be impart good knowledge and helpful life enhancing practices to my students?

I am going to risk answering with a resounding "NO"!

Bear with me on this...
According to the aforementioned client who shall remain nameless, but who brightens my Saturday mornings with her Rock and Roll lifestyle when she flies into the room in her sunglasses often sporting a terrible hangover and a paint stained mat where her kids have been "creating art", the reason why she comes to me is because I am the very antithesis of a yoga teacher.
"If you suddenly got out some Indian bells and tinged them or started the class with Oms I would have to giggle and no doubt that would lead to me being chucked out eventually!"
I went on to tell her "Me too!"
When I was on my teacher training I really struggled when we started chanting and discussing the more spiritual side of yoga. So much so that in a bit of a melt down moment I had to question if this was really all for me. That's when I became friends with the lovely Terri, a down to earth Londoner with a wicked sense of humour and a bit of a WAG status. "Babe! why did YOU go to a yoga class in the first place? To get fit right? To heal injury, maybe? I am betting you didn't you go to hear about the roar of the universe or your buoyant heart connecting with  your higher self. And sure as eggs you didn't go hoping to learn about a coiled snake at the base of your spine or the sanskrit word for revolve? You went Babe, because you wanted a tighter bum and defined arms and to get a bit of a sweat on! And that, my friend, is why people will come to your class when you are a teacher. They will come to get fit and healthy. And if you decide you want to throw in a bit about the spinning wheels of light in your body or the fact that the sound of the universe is Om then you can with confidence. But its your class. You get to choose!"

You gotta love a Londoner, they say it as it is!

And of course, she is completely right. I was stressing that I had to become stick thin, build an altar to Shiva in my house, and spend my evenings dancing round a fire chanting in order to be a "proper" yoga teacher!
But in truth, all I ever needed to be is informed and genuine.

I am happy that I have the confidence to admit that I don't find it easy to meditate at all,  I am extremely intimidated when someone spouts on about the subtle body while I am struggling to breathe in shoulder stand and I frankly want to shout out "fake!" when a yoga teacher drones on about the importance of ahimsa (non Violence) with regards to animals during a class when you know they are about to slip on their sheepskin Uggs, pick up their Mulberry handbag and slink out the door for an eggy sandwich at M&S!

Yes, I am focused on the physical. On the core and the biceps and the hamstrings. I am focused on the aesthetics of a pose, on how the breath  can help you not only get into a posture but stay there comfortably and even, dare I say, happily! I want my students to feel energized and uplifted when they leave my class, to feel like they have worked their entire bodies, inside and out. And I do that, knowing that the calm and focus of the mental and emotional states will follow.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am well versed in yoga philosophy. I know my Shiva from my Shakti, my ajna from my anahata, my satya from my svadhyaya. I just choose not to bang on about it in class.
There's too much other juicy stuff to be talking about, like how if you press your little toes strongly into the mat whilst sending your little fingers towards the sky in Warrior I you get the most amazing energy and stretch through your whole body. Or, if you think about grounding the shoulder blades down to the mat and opening across the collar bones in Shoulderstand, all the time imagining your jeans are a little too tight around the waist you will get that extra lift you need to feel strong and confident in the pose.

This is me! I am an individual who has been transformed by my own physical practice enough to want to share it with others in a fun, non-intimidating and genuine way.
So thanks Jo (Ooops!) for giving me the courage to continue being myself...I also promise that you will never be thrown out for giggling!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don't go through life so fast you forget to smell the flowers!

Blimey! It has been nearly 2 months since I blogged. I have missed you all!
OK, so there are several reasons why you haven't read any inspiring life altering prose (she says with her tongue very firmly planted in her cheek!) from me in a while. Firstly, Christmas and secondly, New Year, thirdly work and fourthly lack of inspiration. Now, the first two are acceptable. I was away for a month over the holidays and decided that after a madly busy and very successful first year in business in the UK with Freedom Yoga I deserved some time out. As a human being living in the 21st Century I am proud to say (however as a yoga teacher I feel a bit embarrassed to admit) that I did absolutely bugger all between December 12th and January 13th but eat, drink and sleep.
And boy did it feel fantastic?!
2011 has been a complete rollercoast ride for me on many levels. It has been rewarding and inspiring, full of laughter as well as a good share of tears. It has left me exhilerated and completely exhausted and challenged my mind, my body and my heart. The great thing is that I made it through intact, by the skin of my teeth, but the universe was telling me that I needed my month off work to completely relax and re-energize myself for a new chapter of exciting adventures in 2012.
Now I absolutely LOVE my job, don't get me wrong, but frankly, it felt wonderful not to be preparing classes, sending emails, posting flyers through letter boxes and all the while beating myself up about how much more I should be doing.
You will be glad to know that 2012 has not brought me any more confidence and I am still showing all the usual signs of a neurotic obsessive!
Instead, I spent lazy mornings in bed drinking tea and afternoons walking on the beach or fishing (yes, don't ask!) or browsing around my favourite shops, then eating yummy food over a glass of wine and retiring infront of a good movie or a trashy episode of "Keeping up with the Pistachios" as my Nephew Will calls it!
I returned back home with renewed energy for life and lots of ideas for not only filling up my existing classes but for how I could add more yoga opportunities and help enhance the lives of the dedicated yoga community of South Bucks in the new year. Plus about 7 more pounds wobbling around my hips and arse than usual!
And there brings me to my third reason for not blogging. Not the size of my arse! I have been so freaking busy since I got home, having meetings and designing posters, networking and booking courses and obviously something had to give. For me it has been my beloved blog. And because I have been far too busy worrying about income and class numbers that seems to have blocked any creative flow I had (reason four!)
I lost my mojo!
I know that I totally bore my entire family and all my friends with yoga talk, and for that I must apologise!
I have been absolutely consumed by my business. I sleep (well hardly sleep right now actually. I have the joy of being an insomniac, hopefully temporarily, which is such a thrill at 4am when you know you have to teach your first class at 8am and you don't finish until 9pm!), eat and breathe Freedom Yoga. In fact to the point where last night I realized that enough was enough.
I was in a comlete funk!
And suddenly the old lightbulb pinged above my head...I need to get a balance.
I know I know, that is the root of yoga, balance. You see if I didn't practice yoga I wouldn't have realized that and I would be one of the many spiralling out of control in their professional lives with no yin to their yang!
My blog is therapeutic. It helps me put things into perspective and takes me away from the mundane apsects of running a business. I think we all need something like that of our own that no-one else has control over, no-one else can change no-one else can influence. And can I just say? am I allowed? I like to think I sometimes make you laugh which is the greatest feeling ever!
So here I sit, invoices done, classes prepared, yoga props ordered, emails sent, with a cup of tea at my side and a slighlty sheepish look on my face, hoping that my loyal freedom lovers will invite me back into their lives with my ramblings about yoga and observations of my slightly less than conventional life.
Here's to 2012 and all the possibilities that lie within, personally and professionally. But remember, "Don't go through life so fast you forget to smell the flowers"!